The Azawakh is a large breed of dog that belongs to the Hound group. Taller than it is long, this racy breed originated in West Africa and was originally used to guard livestock. It is closely related to the Sloughi, also a member of the sighthound family. It is particularly higher on the hips than the withers and its bone structure and musculature are characteristically well defined through the skin because of flat muscles, giving it a thin appearance. The head is long, lean and chiseled with an almost flat and rather elongated skull. The almond-shaped eyes are quite large and come in hazel to dark brown in colour. It has triangular, rounded-tip ears which are always drooping and flat and a long, straight muzzle tipped by a generally black or brown nose. The head is supported by a long, fine and muscular neck that is slightly arched. A nearly straight topline that rises towards the hip is an attribute of the breed. It has a long, thin tail, carried low with the tip slightly raised when the dog is at rest. The front legs are long and vertical with round-shape feet and pigmented pads. The back legs also are long with lean muscles on the thighs with very open stifle. It has a fine coat that covers the whole body made of very short hair that comes in a variety of colours and markings including clear sand to dark red, white, black, blue, gray, brindle and all shades of brown with a white bib and a white brush at the tail tip. The belly is void of coating. A male Azawakh height is between 64 cm to 74 cm while a female is between 60 cm to 70 cm. Typical weight is between 20 kg to 25 kg for males and 15 kg to 20 kg for females.
Named after the Azawagh region of Africa where it hails, the Azawakh is a true African sighthound in appearance and in spirit. Its early ancestors are depicted in several Holocene-era petroglyph rock arts found in sub-Saharan Africa – particularly the pariah dogs or bush dogs of Africa. Dog bones were also found in Saharan settlements dating from 8,000 to 10,000 years old. DNA studies also showed that the Azawakh has a rare gene composition that is only found in foxes, jackals, Italian wolves and Sloughis, suggesting that this breed has a true ancient origin.
In recent history, the Azawakh played an invaluable guardian of livestock and protector of its owners. It was bred by the various nomadic tribes of the Saharan and sub-Saharan Sahelian zone of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and southern Algeria. The semi-arid climate of this region produced a dog that is both elegant, rugged and independent. It was used to hunt game such as gazelles and hares when these animals were abundant in those regions. This breed is a pack hunter, often alerting other members through unique vocalisation lead by an alpha dog and will ward off or attack would-be predators as a pack. It is still a relatively rare breed outside Africa but there is a slowly growing number of Azawakh aficionados introducing the breed in Europe and UK.
The Azawakh breed has a variable temperament, ranging from quite docile, lap dog to relatively aggressive. It is typically a reserved dog with an intense suspicion of strangers but is not inherently aggressive. It has a strong guarding instinct owing to its lineage as a guardian of livestock. It is very loyal and extremely affectionate to its owner and to those it is familiar with. This is a pack-oriented breed and does everything in packs. It has a very good memory and is able to recognize a dog it has grown-up with even after being separated for many years. An Azawakh can tolerate extreme heat conditions but will not do so good in a cold, wet environment because it has no thick coat to protect it.
The Azawakh needs lifelong socialization from a firm but gentle owner to raise a well-balanced dog. If well-socialized and trained, this breed can be great with other canines as well as children and strangers.
Brushing with a hound glove once a week will keep the Azawakh’s coat healthy, including the skin. Regular bathing is not necessary but when given a bath, use of a mild, hypoallergenic brand is recommended because this breed tends to have a sensitive skin.
This dog is an incredibly healthy breed even for its large size and it heals very rapidly from injuries. Unlike other large breeds, the Azawakh is not affected by hip dysplasia, although there are rare cases of adult-onset epilepsy and cervical vertebral instability attributed to a diet that is high in protein.
The Azawakh has a very high energy and incredible endurance so it needs an equally high amount of exercise. It is an excellent running partner to someone who likes long jogs or runs on a daily basis. It will do best in a home with a large, enclosed yard where it can run off lead until it decides it had enough. It is not recommended for an apartment living but if is with an active owner, then it will do just fine as long as it gets enough daily exercise.
Although the Azawakh was bred to protect livestock, it is generally good with other dogs and does not have an inherent aggression towards other pets, unless it is threatened. It is not a dog for first time pet owners and is not recommended for a family with small children who are not familiar with proper dog handling.