Five ancient dog breeds from the Middle East

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Five ancient dog breeds from the Middle East

The Middle East, a region steeped in rich history and diverse cultures, is also the birthplace of some of the world’s most fascinating dog breeds. From ancient civilizations to modern homes across the globe, these breeds have journeyed through time, each carrying unique characteristics and remarkable histories. This article explores ten dog breeds that originated in the Middle East.

Saluki (Egypt)

The Saluki, also known as the Persian Greyhound or Royal Dog of Egypt, is one of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dogs. They are believed to have their roots in the Middle East, specifically in regions that now encompass modern-day Egypt and Iran. Historically, these elegant canines were held in high esteem by nomadic tribes who utilized them for hunting due to their exceptional speed and endurance.

Key Characteristics of the Saluki Breed

Appearance

Salukis are known for their graceful, gazelle-like appearance. They are typically tall and slender, with a deep chest and long legs designed for fast, enduring runs. Their coat can be either smooth or ‘feathered’ (longer hair on the ears, tail, and the back of the limbs). They possess a variety of colors and patterns, including white, cream, fawn, red, grizzle/tan, black/tan, and tricolor (white, black, and tan).

Size

On average, male Salukis stand between 23 to 28 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, standing between 21 to 25 inches. They weigh between 40 to 60 pounds, with males being generally heavier than females.

Temperament

Salukis are known for their gentle, independent, and reserved nature. Although they can be aloof around strangers, they form strong bonds with their family members and can be quite affectionate. They are intelligent dogs but their independent streak may sometimes make training a challenge.

Health Issues

Salukis are generally a healthy breed with a lifespan of 12-14 years. However, like all breeds, they can be prone to certain genetic health concerns. These include cardiac issues like heart murmurs, and eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy. It’s important for potential Saluki owners to ensure they’re getting their dog from a reputable breeder who tests their breeding dogs for these conditions.

The Saluki is an ancient breed that carries its rich history in every stride. Their unique combination of grace, speed, and endurance, coupled with their distinctive appearance and personality, makes them a truly remarkable breed.

Afghan Hound (Afghanistan)

The Afghan Hound, with its distinctive silky coat and eastern look, is a breed steeped in history and tradition. This breed’s origins trace back to the cold mountains of Afghanistan, where it was bred for its excellent hunting skills in rough terrains. With a lineage that’s believed to date back thousands of years, the Afghan Hound is considered one of the oldest dog breeds, treasured for both its unique physical attributes and its companionship.

Key Characteristics of the Afghan Hound

Appearance

Possessing an aristocratic bearing, the Afghan Hound is most recognized for its long, thick, fine, and silky coat. This coat, which comes in all colors, serves as a protection against the harsh climates in the mountainous regions they were originally bred in. Their striking features include a narrow, elongated head, almond-shaped eyes, and large, high-set, droopy ears.

Size

Afghan Hounds are large dogs, with males standing about 27 inches at the shoulder and females slightly less. Their weight ranges between 50 to 60 pounds, giving them a tall and lean physique well suited for agility and endurance.

Temperament

Known for their independence and aloofness, Afghan Hounds can seem reserved and standoffish, especially with strangers. However, they are also known for their deep loyalty and affection towards their families. They’re intelligent animals, but their independent nature can sometimes make them appear stubborn or indifferent during training sessions.

Health Issues

Generally, Afghan Hounds are a healthy breed with a lifespan of around 12-14 years. However, they can be predisposed to certain health conditions like hip dysplasia, cataracts, and hypothyroidism. Therefore, it’s crucial for prospective owners to work with reputable breeders who screen for these health issues.

In summary, the Afghan Hound is a dignified and ancient breed that captivates with its regal appearance and unique personality. Their distinctive characteristics make them a standout among dog breeds, embodying a blend of elegance, strength, and affection.

Anatolian Shepherd (Turkey)

The Kangal Shepherd Dog, also known as the Kangal or the Turkish Kangal, is a breed that hails from the Sivas province of Turkey. Bred originally as a livestock guardian dog, the Kangal’s primary role was to defend sheep and goats from predators such as wolves and bears. This ancient breed is renowned for its strength, courage, and dedication to its duty, traits that have been passed down through generations.

Key Characteristics of the Kangal Shepherd Dog

Appearance

Kangals are robust and powerful dogs, instantly recognizable by their large size and unique coloration. They have a dense double coat that ranges from light dun to gray, and their most distinctive feature is the black “mask” on their face. Their ears are also typically black and are medium-sized, triangular, and droop forward close to the head.

Size

The Kangal is a giant breed. Males typically stand between 30-32 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, standing between 28-30 inches. Their weight can range from 90 to 145 pounds, reflecting their role as a protector of flocks against large predators.

Temperament

Despite their imposing size, Kangals are known for their gentle temperament, especially towards children. They are protective, loyal, and can be reserved around strangers but are not typically aggressive without cause. These dogs are intelligent and responsive, making them relatively easy to train, especially when training begins at an early age.

Health Issues

Kangals are generally healthy and hardy dogs, often living up to 15 years. However, like any large breed, they can be prone to certain health issues. These include hip dysplasia, a common condition in large dogs that can lead to mobility problems, and entropion, a condition where the eyelid rolls inward. Potential owners should ensure they work with reputable breeders who screen for these and other health conditions.

In conclusion, the Kangal Shepherd Dog is a breed that embodies strength, loyalty, and gentleness. Their unique blend of physical attributes and temperament makes them excellent working dogs and loyal family companions.

Canaan Dog (Israel)

The Canaan Dog, also known as Kelev K’naani, is a breed that traces its roots back to the biblical times of the Middle East. These dogs were originally used for herding and guarding flocks in the harsh desert environment. Over time, many Canaan dogs became feral and developed survival traits that are still observable in the breed today.

Key Characteristics of the Canaan Dog

Appearance

Canaan Dogs have a medium build and a square profile. Their double coat, which can be either short or medium length, comes in a variety of colors including white, black, brown, and red, often with various patterns. They have a bushy tail that curls over the back when alert, and their ears are erect, giving them an alert and vigilant expression.

Size

Canaan Dogs are medium-sized dogs, with males standing between 20 to 24 inches at the shoulder, and females slightly smaller, ranging from 19 to 23 inches. The weight of a healthy Canaan dog can vary between 35 to 55 pounds.

Temperament

Known for their intelligence and adaptability, Canaan Dogs are often described as alert, vigilant, and territorial. They tend to be reserved around strangers but are very loyal and affectionate with their families. Canaan Dogs are highly trainable and excel in various dog sports such as obedience, agility, and herding events.

Health Issues

Canaan Dogs are generally a hardy breed with few breed-specific health problems. They have a lifespan of around 12-15 years. However, like all breeds, they can occasionally suffer from conditions common to all dogs, such as hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy. Potential owners should ensure they work with reputable breeders who screen for these and other health conditions.

The Canaan Dog is a breed that embodies resilience, loyalty, and adaptability. Their unique history and characteristics make them well-suited to a variety of roles, from devoted family pets to diligent working dogs.

Basenji (Democratic Republic of Congo/Middle East)

The Basenji, often referred to as the “Barkless Dog,” is an ancient breed that originated in Central Africa. Known for their distinctive vocalizations, which sound more like yodels or howls than the typical dog bark, Basenjis have a rich history dating back thousands of years. They were originally bred for hunting, using both sight and scent to track game.

Basenji

Key Characteristics of the Basenji Breed

Appearance

Basenjis are small, elegant dogs known for their smooth, shiny coat that comes in a variety of colors including chestnut red, black, brindle, or tricolor. One of their most distinctive features is their tightly curled tail. They also have almond-shaped eyes, giving them a somewhat worried expression, and large, erect ears that stand tall on the top of their head.

Size

Basenjis are small dogs, typically weighing between 22 and 24 pounds. Males stand approximately 17 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, standing around 16 inches.

Temperament

Known for their intelligence and independence, Basenjis are often described as cat-like in their behaviors. They can be aloof with strangers but are usually affectionate with their families. Basenjis are energetic dogs that require regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. They also have a strong prey drive, so they’re likely to chase after small animals.

Health Issues

Basenjis are generally healthy dogs with a lifespan of around 13-14 years. However, they can be prone to certain health conditions, including Fanconi syndrome, a kidney disorder, and progressive retinal atrophy, an eye condition that can lead to blindness. It’s important for potential Basenji owners to work with reputable breeders who test for these and other genetic diseases.

In conclusion, the Basenji is a unique and ancient breed that offers a blend of keen hunting abilities, independence, and affectionate companionship. Their distinctive appearance and vocalizations set them apart, making them a fascinating addition to any family.

The Basenji, often referred to as the “Barkless Dog,” is an ancient breed that originated in Central Africa. Known for their distinctive vocalizations, which sound more like yodels or howls than the typical dog bark, Basenjis have a rich history dating back thousands of years. They were originally bred for hunting, using both sight and scent to track game.

Breed

Origin

Key Characteristics

Basenji

Central Africa

Small and elegant with a smooth coat, tightly curled tail, and distinctive vocalizations. Weighs between 22 and 24 pounds. Intelligent, independent, and energetic. Prone to certain health conditions like Fanconi syndrome and progressive retinal atrophy.

Saluki

Middle East (Egypt and Iran)

Tall and slender with a deep chest and long legs. Weighs between 40 to 60 pounds. Gentle, independent, and reserved. Potential health concerns include cardiac issues and progressive retinal atrophy.

Afghan Hound

Afghanistan

Large breed with a long, thick, fine, and silky coat. Weighs between 50 to 60 pounds. Independent, aloof, but deeply loyal and affectionate towards their families. Possible health issues include hip dysplasia, cataracts, and hypothyroidism.

Anatolian Shepherd (Kangal Shepherd Dog)

Turkey

Robust and powerful with a dense double coat. Weighs between 90 to 145 pounds. Protective, loyal, and gentle temperament. Can be prone to health conditions like hip dysplasia and entropion.

Canaan Dog

Middle East

Medium build with a double coat in a variety of colors. Weighs between 35 to 55 pounds. Known for their intelligence, adaptability, alertness, and loyalty. Generally a hardy breed with few breed-specific health problems.