Also known as the Slughi, the Sloughui, the Slougui, the North African Gazelle Hound or the Arabian Greyhound, this breed is thought to have acquired its name from the Arabic word meaning ‘fast as the wind’. Alternative theories suggest that the name comes either from the Yemeni towns of Saloug or Saluk, or from the Saharan settlement of Slouguia. (A different explanation, of course, is that these localities acquired their names from that of the dog.) It has been used since ancient times as a desert sightbound to hunt down bares, gazelles and even the small fennec foxes. In Germany it is the Arabiscber Windhund, in Spain the Iebrel Arabe.
This ancient greyhound breed is viewed by some authorities as no more than a short-haired, North African desert version of the Middle Eastern Saluki. Sloughi enthusiasts disagree, regarding their favoured animal as a distinct breed in its own right. They point out that its body is heavier and bigger-boned than that of the Saluki, and that it has been known for thousands of years as a distinctive and separate entity.
The Sloughi’s sandy-coloured coat helps to camouflage it in the arid environment in which it is traditionally used for hunting small game, and its long webbed toes give it a good grip when moving fast on the soft sands.
It almost certainly originated in the Middle East and then spread westwards across the Sahara and along the North African coast, in the service of nomadic Arab tribes. Today its main centre is in Morocco, but it is also found in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
Although dogs in general are despised by Moslems as unclean animals, an exception is made in the case of the Sloughi. It is revered by its male owners, who treat it as a family member and mourn its passing with due ritual. In some respects it is treated with more respect and given higher status than the female members of the tribe.
In temperament it is friendly and affectionate to the known members of its human group, but is usually hostile towards strangers. It has been described as a noble animal, independent, highly strung, vigilant and proud, and not suitable as a children’s pet.