Early Dog Breeds: The Basenji and the Saluki

Since the dawn of civilization, dogs have been part of man’s life. Dogs have been part and parcel of man’s hunting, looking for prey together and alerting man when he was sure he had obtained his target. The dog was useful thanks to his well refined sense of smell, which is almost 100000 times better than that of man. The dog would then get part of the kill, and the symbiotic relationship benefitted both parties.

Some of the earliest dogs to be domesticated are the Saluki in the Fertile Crescent and the Basenji in the Congo forest. The two dog breeds are well adapted for their environments and have unique characteristics that made them extremely useful to their owners.

On the one hand is the Basenji, often called the soundless dog. The dog is small in stature and hardly ever barks, so when he does it’s for a good reason. He makes other sounds though, such as whines, screams, howls and yodels commonly known as baroo. This silence of a basenji was useful to the hunters of the Congo forest where he originated.

These hunters needed a dog that would hunt in silence but alert them when he had sighted prey. On the other hand, in the villages, they didn’t need a dog that would attract attention to the villages from enemies.

Early Dog Breeds: The Basenji and the Saluki

The ancient Africans would take this dog for hunts, and some still do. The Basenji’s small suture helped him maneuver with ease in the dense forests of the Congo. Since he is a sight hound, he could easily follow anything that caught his eye and drive the prey to nets for his owner to capture.

Today, the Basenji is recognized by the American Kennel Club, although the breed did not get this recognition until 1944. This breed has been around for many years and as such is instinctively a survivor. He likes to think over what he is told to do and see how the command benefits him and not how the command is useful to his owner.

If you are telling a Basenji to stop chasing after a pet such as a hamster which he sees as food, he will develop selective hearing. Why? Because what do you mean he stops chasing after food which will benefit him? This quality of being an independent thinker makes him the second most difficult dog to train, and some even consider him only partially domesticated due to this hardheadedness.

If you want to train a Basenji do as you say, do so with positive reinforcement and you also need a lot of patience. If you try to force him to do as you wish, he will only get more stubborn as he tries to get his way.

They get emotionally attached to only one human, and don’t get along with other non-canine pets in the household. If you have a household full of non-canine pets such as cats and birds, a Basenji is not the ideal dog breed to introduce to this family. Their strong prey drive may lead them to wanting to chase, and eat, one of your other pets.

The Basenji is small in stature at a weight of 20 to 24 pounds, but don’t be fooled- he is more powerful than he looks thanks to his square body(as long as it’s tall) The females only give birth once a year just like their counterparts in the wild, unlike most domesticated dogs. They have tightly curled tails that straighten when the dog is on full speed to provide balance and have erect ears. Their short coats mean you need to provide warm beddings in cold weather and avoid overexposure to the elements during winter.

Other physical characteristics include a wrinkled forehead and almond-shaped eyes. They have a confident gait that goes well with their hard headedness, and their coats come in red, black, tricolor, and brindle. All Basenji have white marking on their feet, chests, and tail tips.

The Saluki on the other hand has lived for thousands of years as part of the Bedouins. Whereas most dogs rely on their sense of smell as their greatest asset, the Saluki relies on keen eyesight. In the desert where there are miles and miles of open space, it’s hard to spot prey hiding behind a bush. But not for a Saluki. This dog can see prey as far away as one and a half kilometers away and then the other of this breed’s strengths come to play.

The saluki has a slender frame and a sharp snout, features that are ideal for a sprinter. This dog has a unique running style, where sometimes all of his feet are suspended midair to maximize on his speed. To watch a Saluki run is to behold some of nature’s finest works.

Salukis, together with Whippets, are on record as the fastest dogs over long distances. They can accelerate to a speed o 68.8 kilometers per hour.

The Saluki’s physique makes it easy for him to achieve those remarkable speeds. The breed has a long and narrow head, a feature even a bullet train needs to reduce resistance. They also have long legs that make for long strides. In addition, they are deep-chested to maximize the oxygen needed to burn calories to provide energy needed in running. Their heavily padded feet are adapted for the desert, just like a camel’s, to avoid sinking in the sand.

At such speeds, the prey in question stood little to no chance when a group of four to five hounds is released to capture it. They were kept to hunt for small animals such as hare, fox, and jackals. Other animals hunted by these dogs were gazelles, which is probably why Salukis were also referred to as Gazelle Hounds.

Salukis have a weight range of 40 to 60 pounds, and the females are slightly smaller than the males. Their coats have either a smooth or a feathered texture, and come in white, cream, fawn, tan, red or a combination of white, black and tan. Their tails are long and curved, completing a look of symmetry and elegance.

Some Bedouins still keep Salukis, but not necessarily for hunting purposes as most game is protected from poaching by the government. They keep these dogs as pets, and the dogs are full members of the family. The question I had on my mind was how you exercise an animal that can outrun the fastest man on earth without breaking a sweat. Well, the modern day desert dwellers have found a way. They tie the dogs to the backs of their trucks and take them for runs in the desert at least twice a week. This ensures the dogs are adequately exercised. The dogs are also engaged in shows where they compete in races, and the best dog get prizes.

Closer home, the Saluki is part of many households in America. When socialized early, they fit well in a family and are affectionate towards family members. Train them early to avoid shyness, and make sure to use only positive reinforcement as the breed is sensitive; if you keep yelling and trying to subdue the dog, he becomes shy and withdrawn.

Due to their high energy, Salukis need regular exercise, so a large backyard where they can run free is ideal. They also have a strong prey drive so they are not a good fit for a family with small pets such as rabbits. They can co-exist amicably with other dog breeds, as long as the said breeds are non-dominant in nature.

In conclusion, these early breeds were useful to their owners due to their physical attributes. Both breeds are sight hounds so they could easily spot prey from a distance. Because they were among the first breeds to be domesticated, they both still have some of their wolf ancestors’ instincts, such as strong prey drive, so they are not ideal for households with small pets because they see those pets as food. Both breeds need intense exercise to keep them happy and healthy because initially, they were bred to assist with an outdoor activity, hunting. And yet, they have differences too. While the Saluki is shy, the Basenji is confident and does what suits him not others. While the Saluki’s main asset in hunting is speed and sight, the Basenji’s greatest strength is stealth and sight.

Both animals are beautiful and have admirable strengths, making them perfect pet for owners dedicated to appreciating their unique personalities and needs.

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