Statuesque and graceful, the Azawakh is a rare variety of a Sight Hound from the Sahel area of Africa, a reasonable prolific land south of the Sahara that is spread from Mauretania in the West to Sudan in the East. In its homeland this unusual breed is bred for multiple purposes including protection of a livestock and hunting large and ferocious African animals. At the same time its population in European countries still remains fairly scarce.
There is a strong likelihood that the ancestors of the Azawakh were eastern-Asiatic dogs, which accompanied Hamitic people on their way to the African continent. This unique canine variety owes its existence to the natural selection and partially to the breeding efforts of theprogenitors of modern-day Tuaregs. Recent genetic research showed that the Azawakh is much closer related to wild jackals and wolves than other domestic dogs. For centuries it was an integral part of the mode of life of lots of African folks and mainly operated as a guardian of their livestock and settlements and secondarily (and largely in the earlier period of its existence) as a hunting dog of the indigenous game.
Majority of Azawakhs doesn’t have permanent residence as they travel with their nomadic owners from one grazing ground to another in accordance to seasonal changes in weather conditions. Few of these dogs are kept by settled stock-breeders and millet growers of the oases, the Songhai fishermen on the shores of the Niger and in the Haussa villages (intermediate area between the regions where nomadic lifestyle prevails and regions of constant settlements and agriculture).
The political and social changes that Africa underwent in the 90s of the XX century had a serious effect on attitude to the dogs. Younger generation turned away from such traditional occupations as herding and cattle breeding and started seeking employment in other areas and countries. Lots of native Tares focused on less labour-intensive camel breeding. Since camels no longer had natural threats in this country and didn’t need herding, their breeders didn’t require guard dogs. Today the fate of the Azawakh in the Sahel strongly depends on how many of its native inhabitants will continue to earn their daily breads by breeding and herding goat, sheep and cattle.
The first Azawakh that left its homeland was brought to Yugoslavia in the early 70s of XX century by Dr. Pecar, a Yugoslavian diplomat who had worked in Burkina Faso. At that point it was impossible to buy its specimen. Nomads gave a male pup to Dr. Pecar as a present. Military and civil servants from France greatly contributed to the establishment of this breed in European countries. According to Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) regulation, nowadays France officially patronises the Azawakh.
The breed found its way to America in the 80s of XX century and its first American litter was born on October 31, 1987. The Azawakh still retains status of an exotic canine in Europe and North America. Nonetheless it has already gained provisional acceptance of the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2011. The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognised it in 1993. In its homeland the Azawakh still serves as an exclusively working animal but in the West it almost always plays the role of a companion and show dog.
The personality of the Azawakh represents the combination of an unshakable devotion and absolute independence. It develops very strong bonds to its human family. However most of these dogs become incredibly attached to one of its member although the breed strives to protect from all sorts of dangers all special people. It’s highly difficult to rehome the breed since it has stern problems with forming new affinity to humans in its adulthood. The Azawakh usually avoids close contact and doesn’t like to be petted even by a familiar person. Once properly socialised the dog is commonly reliable around children. Nonetheless hectic actions of kids may stimulate the dog’s hunting instinct, which will end up with a chase and knock over.
Even the best trained Azawakh demonstrates noticeable restraint and coldness in the company of strangers. It’s very hard to make friends with the vast majority of these dogs but in general it tolerates the newcomers in its house. Half of Azawakhs is highly bashful and timorous with unfamiliar people, while the other half displays outright hospitability. This breed is characterised with strong desire to protect its territory and human masters so it can be turned into a first-rate guardian. Vigilant and attentive, this dog usually becomes a very effective watcher.
In its native land the Azawakh got used to life in a large pack of other dogs so it’s no wonder that it’s commonly on the good terms with those canines with which it has been brought up since its puppyhood. However this dog has a very competitive nature and it’s prone to question the alpha status of every dog it comes across. Keep your pet away from strange dogs or at least monitor closely their acquaintance. Because of its incredibly strong prey drive, no amount of training and socialisation will make this breed to be friendly towards stray cats and other non-canine creatures. But it’s quite possible to keep the dog alongside an individual cat if they have grown up together.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· Wobbler’s disease;
· autoimmune disorders;
· a myositis-type disease
· autoimmune thyroiditis
· cardiac problems;
· cold intolerance.
The Azawakh needs fairly common grooming. Short coat of this breed should be brushed rather infrequently in order to remain tidy. It sheds very little and this process is much less visible in comparison with other similar canine varieties.
Make sure to train your dog to such basic maintenance procedures as nail trimming and teeth’s brushing in a young age since a grown-up dog is usually fearsome of them. Moreover this breed detests water and its bathing requires lots of patience and coaxing.
The training of the Azawakh is a very tough job. Its striving for domination and great intelligence calls forth severe obedience issues. This dog likes doing its own things rather than following someone’s orders and will never look up to an indecisive or meek trainer. Besides it doesn’t show sufficient interest in learning and it tends to get bored very quickly from repetitive tasks.
Remember that heat of the hunt can take over this dog in a flash so it will be virtually impossible to get its attention back to training. Lots of food incentives and encouraging words are required to motivate the Azawakh to obey your commands. On the other hand this breed must never be physically punished for its mistakes since such a treatment commonly causes even more wilful and even defiant behaviour.
The light-footed and athletic Azawakh has very substantial exercise requirements. As a bare minimum it must be taken on a long and vigorous daily walk although it really longs for a regular chance to roam and play in a well-fenced territory.
This dog should give a vent to its excessive energy on a systematic basis otherwise it will find its own way to amuse itself and become destructive, hyperactive, highly strung and even aggressive. It’s worth to emphasise though that this breed is prone to be tranquil and calm indoors once properly exercised.