Petroglyph rock art found in Africa dating back to between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago depict hunters side by side with very tall and thin hunting dogs with their backsides being higher than their shoulders. These dogs still exist in the form of the African native Azawakh.
These thin and leggy sighthounds are between 24 and 29 inches tall (propped up on very long, very thin legs) and weigh only between 33 and 55 pounds. Their build is unique in that their hips seem to be slightly taller than their shoulders, their bodies are so thin that their bones and muscles are plainly visible through their skin, and they have “dry” muscles which lay flat on the bone rather than creating bulges.
Azawakh picture by Matej Pangerc.
Where Does The Azawakh Come From?
Azawakhs are believed to be the offspring of Pariah Dogs (feral and wild) found in sub-Saharan Africa called bush dogs. It’s been discovered upon extensive blood testing that Azawakhs possess a rare glucose isomerase allele (GPIB) that occurs only in foxes, jackals, Italian wolves, and some other unrelated dogs found in Japan. This common (and unusual) enzyme suggests that Azawakhs may come from a separate branch of the same initial animal as these other canines (such as a wolf) or perhaps are the outcome of cross breeding with one of the aforementioned types (more likely the jackal).
How The Azawakh Breed Is Used
In African countries south of the Sahara, such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and southern Algeria, this breed of dog has been used both for as a hunting dog as well as a guard dog. As a natural pack dog, the Azawakh dog is naturally very loving and protective of its family, being reserved with strangers and makes for an instinctual guard dog.
It also makes a fine hunter. With a top speed of nearly 40 miles per hour, the Azawakh is easily able to keep up with and overtake hares and with the help of a pack of other Azawakhs can not only overtake a gazelle and even larger creatures, but take them down as well. Keeping with the pack dog mentality, in the villages of Africa where Azawakhs are popular, the dogs often can be seen sleeping on the low straw roofs of the homes of their owners. If a hyena or other predator approaches, the first Azawakh to see it jumps down off the roof and is joined soon after by the other Azwakh’s in the villiage and they will form a pack to chase away the intruder, or kill it.
Azawakh: A Family Dog
In addition to hunting and guarding, the Azawakh hound makes a protective and loyal pet. It forms a very strong bond with its owner, but it’s independent spirit makes it too proud to look to its owner for permission or instructions. They are attentive to their surroundings, yet at the same time they have an air of disinterest. They’re affectionate with the ones they love, but fierce with intruders or when provoked. The animal is rugged by sheer nature of ancestry, yet it walks around proud and is considered to be a very refine animal.
Azawakhs are also very energetic and need a great deal of exercise. It’s best to give them space to run around in to their heart’s content, or take them for a long distance run as opposed to a walk around the block. These animals are extremely fast and even love to run in warm and hot weather (even running at full speed in 100+ degree weather, a feat which would kill a Greyhound which has a similar body as the Azawakh). When the weather is cold or wet, however, Azawakhs will prefer to stay sheltered and warm as they hate both being cold and getting wet.