The Sloughi is one of the oldest of all domestic dog breeds, dating back at least to the 13th century, and probably much earlier. Although the exact origin of the breed remains a mystery, authorities believe that it was developed by nomadic Berber tribes in the arid North African deserts that covered what now are the countries of Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. An alternate but less well-accepted theory is that the Sloughi originated in the Middle East, and made its way westward along the North African coast. Either way, these desert sighthounds were used to hunt rabbit, fox, jackal, deer, gazelle, wild pig and other desert mammals to provide for the tribespeople, and for themselves. They also helped to protect community encampments, serving as both guardian and family friend.
The Sloughi became favored by the rich and royal as structured civilizations and organized hunting became more common. These dogs were so revered, especially by men, that unlike all other dogs of the time they were invited into the tents and allowed to eat and sleep inside as a family member. Ancient artifacts, including paintings, carvings and rock etchings, confirm how treasured the Sloughi was in its countries of origin. It was bred and raised with the same care and respect as the prized Arabian horse. Anecdotal stories refer to Sloughi owners who would forsake their own blankets on frigid desert nights in order to ensure the warmth and comfort of their dogs. Local women would feed puppies from their own breasts to assist nursing Sloughi bitches that could not care for their litters. There are records of ritual branding of Sloughis in order to display their membership in a particular family unit. Past and present nomadic tribespeople decorated these dogs with jewels during life, and mourned them as lost family members after death. Reportedly, the Sloughi was King Tutankhamen’s favorite breed; many of these striking dogs are depicted among the priceless artifacts found in his tomb.
The first detailed descriptions of the Sloughi’s importance in North African cultures reached Europe in the middle of the 19th century. These came through the writings of a French general, who was stationed in Algeria, and also from the reports of travelers. Sloughis actually arrived in Europe in the late 1800s, first in France and then in the Netherlands. This happened even before the Afghan Hound and Saluki made their appearance, despite the fact that today those breeds are considered to be more common and recognizable by most people. The original Sloughi breed standard was published by the French Sighthound Association in 1925. Since France occupied Algeria at the time, Sloughis were considered a French sighthound until Algeria gained independence in the 1970s, after which Morocco became the representative country for the breed.
The World Wars drastically affected the Sloughi, as they did many other breeds, nearly leading to its extinction. Longstanding breeding programs were disrupted or disbanded. France outlawed hunting with sighthounds in any of its occupied countries or territories, which decreased their popularity and value. Sighthounds caught participating in hunting activities were shot on sight. To make matters worse, a rabies epidemic decimated the domestic dog population. Despite the best intentions and efforts of dedicated breeders, Sloughis dropped dramatically in numbers, both in Europe and North Africa.
The Sloughi arrived in the United States in 1973. It is recognized by many international purebred dog registries, as well as by the Canadian Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club. At this time, Sloughis can participate in all AKC sanctioned events except best of breed championship conformation competition. They are eligible to compete in conformation shows with a Hound Group designation as a member of the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class. The Sloughi Parent Club is taking concerted steps to have its breed accepted by the AKC for full registration status and membership in its official Stud Book. It is highly likely that their efforts will be successful.
The Sloughi is considered to be an especially healthy breed, with an average life expectancy between 12 and 15 years. Unlike some purebred dogs, Sloughis have relatively few known genetic medical disorders. Health concerns in this breed include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can eventually lead to blindness in affected animals. Other breed health concerns may include heart murmers, intolerance of certain vaccines, anesthesia or medications, and primary hypothyroidism.