Introduction Of Azawakh Dog
Tall and elegant, the Azawakh, also called the Idii n’ Illeli, Tuareg Sloughi, Rawondu, Hanshee, Aidi n’Ailluli (meaning “Noble Dog of the Free People”) or Idi, is a rare West African sighthound that comes from the countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. “Azawakh” means “land of the north.” This exotic breed is named after the Azawakh Valley in Mali. These long-legged sighthounds were originally bred to protect livestock. They then became prized as hunters of large, dangerous prey, working as a pack rather than alone to bring down their targets and provide food for their families. A defining characteristic of this breed is its fluid gait. The Azawakh’s physical structure allows it to cover extremely uneven terrain swiftly and almost effortlessly. Its short, smooth coat requires little upkeep. However, Azawakhs need lots of exercise, every day. They can withstand high temperatures but don’t do well in cold weather. Befitting its heritage, the Azawakh is an excellent guardian and a highly successful lure course competitor. It is increasingly popular as a household companion. Extremely devoted to their owners, Azawakhs are reserved around strangers but should never be aggressive.
Azawakh Dog Breed Quick Facts
Azawakh – Appearance & Grooming
The Azawakh is an exotic, elegant and extraordinarily rare African sighthound. It is long, lean and leggy, built for speed. At first glance, Azawakhs seem skinny and, to some, may look under-nourished. Don’t be fooled. These are powerful animals with exceptional strength, stamina, eyesight and hunting instincts. In profile, they resemble other sighthounds, such as Salukis, Whippets and Greyhounds, except that they are a bit taller than they are long, which is unusual. Azawakhs have large, darkly-rimmed almond-shaped eyes, long slender muzzles and extremely narrow physiques. Their triangular ears should lie flat against their cheeks. Their chests are deep but should not reach below their elbows. Azawakhs are extremely graceful and have a spectacular, seemingly effortless gait. They can cover ground with bursts of speed up to 40 miles per hour. This is the cheetah of the dog world, both in terms of speed and cat-like agility.
Size and Weight
Mature male Azawakhs range from 25 to 29 inches at the withers and weigh between 44 and 55 pounds. Females typically stand 23 to 27 inches tall and weigh 33 to 44 pounds. These are tall dogs that are light for their height. It is a serious fault for Azawakhs to deviate more than one inch from these height standards. When they are fully grown and in correct weight, 3 to 5 ribs should be plainly visible. This does not reflect malnourishment; rather, it indicates that the dog is at the right weight for its build. In the show ring, an overweight Azawakh will still look skinny to people not familiar with the breed, but it will be seriously faulted by the judge.
Coat and Color
The Azawakh’s coat is soft, short and fine. Its stomach is usually hairless or only sparsely-coated. They come in a range of colors, the most common of which are various shades of brown, ranging from light tan to deep chocolate. They also come in gray, white, black, brindle, cream, sand, grizzle, parti-color, red and blue fawn. White markings and black masks are common. White usually appears on the legs, chest and tip of the tail. Although the American Kennel Club standard for this breed does not exclude any coat colors or markings, other breed registries have more stringent requirements. For example, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) only allows Azawakhs of certain colors, including fawn, brindle and red, to compete in its events. The United Kennel Club (UKC) disqualifies any Azawakh that has a long or harsh coat. Of course, companion Azawakhs don’t need to meet any coat or color requirements, other than the preferences of their owners.
Because of its short coat, the Azawakh is easy to groom. The breed isn’t a heavy-shedder. A good brushing or wipe-down with a damp cloth about once a week usually is all that is necessary to keep the Azawakh’s coat in good shape. Another option is a “hound glove,” which is used to groom many smooth-coated breeds. One side of the glove is covered with rubber bristles, while the other contains a sticker brush. Frequent bathing is not necessary, because Azawakhs don’t have a doggy odor. However, they do have thin, sensitive skin. When they are given a bath, a gentle, unscented shampoo should be use. Clipping the nails once every few weeks, starting from puppyhood, is usually sufficient.
Azawakh – History and Health
The elegant Azawakh dates back to the early Nigerian civilization in West Africa. It was developed in the countries of Mali, Niger and Burkino Faso, but now is found world-wide. These beautiful sighthounds initially served as guard dogs, companions and hunting partners of nomadic people in the southern Sahara desert. They were prized by the Tuareg and other ethnic tribes living in that area. To these people, Azawakhs were true family members. They were given names and used to protect the family flocks from potential thieves and predators. They were also trained to guard the camps and hunt with their owners. They were prized for their ability to take down wild boar and gazelle, not killing their prey but holding it until their owners arrived. If they killed their targets, they would spoil in the hot desert heat. Today’s Azawakhs retain their preference of hunting in a pack, under the leadership of a single alpha dog.
The breed was imported to Yugoslavia in the early 1970s by Dr. Pecar, a Yugoslavian diplomat who had been stationed in Burkina Faso. At that time, these dogs could not be bought. Dr. Pecar received his male as a gift from the nomads. He later acquired a female Azawakh after he killed a bull elephant that had been terrorizing the tribe. The French military and civil servants played a significant role in bringing Azawakhs to Europe. France is the patron country of the Azawakh under FCI rules. The Azawakh made its debut in the United States in the 1980s. The first litter in America was whelped on October 31, 1987, by Gisela Cook-Schmidt (Reckendahl). The puppies were all red or fawn, with white markings. Brindles arrived in America in 1989. The first American brindle litter was whelped in November of 1990, by Deb Kidwell (Kel Simoon). In 1990, a parti-colored male was imported from Burkina Faso. In 1997, a parti-color and sand litter that was bred in Mali was born in Alaska. Fanciers of the Azawakh hope that an even larger selection of dogs will find their way to the United States from Africa, to increase the genetic diversity of this amazing rare breed.
The Azawakh’s unique history has resulted in some interesting genetic diversity. It is not closely related to other sighthounds, most of which were developed in Europe rather than Africa. Genetic analysis ties the Azawakh more closely to wild jackals and wolves than to other domestic dogs. Nomadic dogs and wild canines probably did interbreed thousands of years ago. However, the basic genetics of the Azawakh have remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years.
Azawakhs are still uncommon in Europe and North America. The American Kennel Club accepted them into its Miscellaneous Class in 2011. The American Azawakh Association, Inc. (AAA) is the parent club for the Azawakh in the United States. The AAA was founded on February 7, 1988, with the goals of promoting the pure Azawakh and guaranteeing the breed’s future in America. The Azawakh was recognized by the United Kennel Club as of January 1, 1993.
The Azawakh is a relatively healthy breed, with an average life-span of about 12 years. Breed health concerns include autoimmune mediated thyroiditis, eosinophilic myositis, bloat, heart problems, hypothyroidism, seizures and skin allergies. Owners of Azawakh should know that, like most sighthounds, they are sensitive to anesthesia. Their deep chests also make them prone to bloat (gastric dilitation and volvulous), a disorder in which the stomach and maybe also the spleen twist over and restrict their own blood flow. Symptoms of bloat include pale gums, excessive drooling and pacing.
Azawakh – Temperament & Personality
Azawakhs are the edgiest of all sighthound breeds. They are loyal and fiercely protective of their families. However, they usually are indifferent, cautious and guarded around strangers. Sometimes described as being more like cats than dogs, Azawakhs are reserved, observant and extremely independent. They are calm, self-confident and clever, and they definitely like to have things their own way. They should not be aggressive or overly timid. But, Azawakhs that are raised in kennel situations or poorly socialized can be achingly shy. They may be nervous, frightened or panicky to the point of freezing in place or trembling when faced with unfamiliar situations or people. If pushed, they may snap or bite, not out of aggression but out of fear. Unfortunately, some Azawakhs are aggressive. These are smart dogs that certainly can overcome their shy or dominant propensities with help from kind, patient owners. Even properly raised Azawakhs tend to be touchy and startle easily. However, they watch their owners and usually will follow their lead.
With family, Azawakhs are faithful, gentle and affectionate. They often bond closely with one family member, rather than dividing their affection equally. Because of their unique dispositions, Azawakhs do not change owners with ease and can be extremely difficult to rehome. Some Azawakh fanciers are trying to breed more stable, approachable dogs, to increase their popularity and reliability.
This breed only left the African desert a few decades ago. It still has its native hunting and guarding instincts, including its extreme prey drive. Bred to live and hunt in packs, Azawakhs develop clear hierarchies with other dogs, and there always is a definite alpha leader. These dogs express their intentions and moods to one another through a repertoire of sounds and postures that remain mysterious to the humans who love them.
Azawakhs are very active animals that require 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous running or play every single day, and make the perfect companion for bikers, runners or other active, outdoorsy people. They are bred to run and they must be allowed to do so on a regular basis. When playing, Azawakhs like to run in spurts, and then nap on a couch or lounge in front of the fire. They should have a large, well-fenced area where they can stretch their legs, but they probably will need to interact with people or other dogs to get enough exercise. Leaving them alone in the back yard won’t do the trick; unless they are chasing something because despite their need to run, Azawakhs can be lazy when left to their own devices. Finding a securely fenced ball field is perfect for play dates. Tossing a ball, paying fetch and retrieve or hiding and chasing are great ways for Azawakhs and their owners to burn off energy and stay fit.
Azawakhs don’t do well kept in crates. If unattended for long periods of time, they become bored and will look for their own forms of entertainment. They can shred furniture and dig giant holes in short order. They also can be escape artists. Azawakhs generally make terrific travelling companions and also enjoy hopping in the car to accompany their owners on short local errands. Azawakhs excel in competitive canine sports, including lure coursing, field hunting, agility, utility, jumping, freestyle and obedience, among others. They also thrive just hanging out with their family – playing, hiking, jogging and swimming. They are not well suited for apartment living.
Azawakhs are independent-minded, strong-willed animals that can be dominant despite their tendency to be touchy and a tad timid. This is not the breed for people who are passive or meek. This dog’s owner must set the rules and enforce them kindly and consistently. Otherwise, the Azawakh will try to assume the role of pack leader, which must not be allowed to happen. These are smart, sensitive dogs that respond best to reward-based positive reinforcement. They don’t respond well to yelling or harsh, heavy-handed treatment. Loud scolding or physical punishment can damage the delicate trust between dog and owner and cause an Azawakh to become fearful or aggressive. For owners who understand their disposition, socialize them properly and train them from puppyhood with a firm, fair hand, Azawakhs can make wonderful companions and show-ring competitors.
Azawakhs detest cold, wet weather. They are easily chilled and need a coat or sweater if they are out in the cold – especially in rain or snow. They can become overweight and lethargic, or hyperactive and destructive. if they are not given proper outlets for their energy. Some Azawakhs are reliable off-leash, if they have been taught a strong recall. Azawakhs generally get along well with other dogs in the household, as long as they are raised together. This is not a good breed for homes with cats or first-time dog owners. It also is not the best choice for homes with young children or children who are not well-supervised. Azawakhs are extremely protective and suspicious of strangers. Although they are not usually very outgoing, Azawakhs have served as therapy dogs in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.