History of The Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis

by Elizabeth Al-Hazzam Dawsari


Many breeds have a documented man-made origin. The Saluki does not.  Many breeds of dog can be traced to an irrefutable source.  The Saluki cannot.  The Saluki’s origins, geographic location, time, predecessors—all remain a mystery.  What is accepted as fact is that the Saluki has been associated with the Near and Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia since antiquity, and that in pre- and recorded history it has been used for hunting.

Salukis traditionally have been recorded chiefly in their owner’s oral as opposed to written history. Oral tradition, since antiquity, provided the means of disseminating information and unified the patchwork of separate nomadic and sedentary groups throughout the region.  In many areas of the Middle East, particularly the Arabian Peninsula prior to the 1960s, no written systems of property deeds, livestock registration, or other technical, financial or legal resources existed with possible exceptions in certain cities formerly administered by the Ottoman Empire.

The social fabric of the entire Middle East and North Africa, and the Arab world in particular, was dramatically affected when the national and per capita incomes of oil producing countries changed spectacularly during the 1970s due to increased revenues derived from petroleum. Ancient lifestyles were altered by the establishment of strong central governments which provided opportunities for expatriate employment and housing in rapidly developing urban and industrialized areas.  These lifestyle changes created a population shift from desert and rural areas to cities. Modernism, in the guise of Westernism, crept into the areas where the Saluki had been indigenous since ancient times.

The Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis would not have any critiqued Desert Bred Salukis if petroleum had not changed the economics of the Middle East radically in the last half of the twentieth century. The Saluki did not change. Late twentieth century Saluki imports were not noticeably different from originally registered British Saluki foundation stock imported during the early years of the twentieth century. What has been altered is the means by which Salukis have been acquired by Westerners. The American oil industry made it possible for non-military non-British personnel to interact with “native” peoples (Arab, Iranian, North African, Kurdish, Turkic, etc.). Had economic conditions not thus influenced the Middle East, Americans would have had no reason and, thus, little opportunity for contact with tribal peoples and, consequently, few if any Desert Bred Salukis would have been acquired for import to the United States.

Petroleum has proven to be the catalyst for direct American acquisition of Middle Eastern foundation Saluki stock—hence, the initial paper problem Desert Bred Salukis experienced in the United States vis-à-vis registration of imported country of origin Salukis (Salukis from the area known as the historical birthplace of our breed) without pedigree by the American Kennel Club. COO Salukis and their descendants exported to countries with FCI-affiliated kennel clubs were assimilated into registered Saluki stud books following three generations of controlled Western breeding. By contrast, Salukis exported to the United States remained in registration limbo until the twenty-first century due to AKC rules and regulations requiring a three-generation written pedigree issued by a recognized kennel club.

Commencing in early 1970s, a group of Saluki fanciers joined forces to locate and evaluate Salukis imported to the United States directly from the Middle East. Mrs. Eugenia Kissinger spearheaded this nation-wide effort. And, thus, the Desert Bred Saluki Critique Program, based on an FCI model, was designed and commenced recording data in 1974.

By 1982, the Saluki Club of America was involved in the effort to find a solution to enable imported Middle Eastern Salukis and their progeny to gain entry into the American Kennel Club’s Saluki Stud Book.  During the 1980s, the Parent Club put the question of recently imported Middle Eastern Salukis to the membership for a vote. While the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of opening the studbook, it failed to meet the AKC requirement of 2/3s of the membership voting by less than 10 votes.

In 1989, the four members of the Saluki Club of America’s Desert Bred Committee (Eugenia Kissinger, Carl Rodarty, Elizabeth Al-Hazzam Dawsari and Gail Goodman) were encouraged to remove the Desert Bred Saluki Critique Program from the Parent Club and establish a separate organization, the Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis.  With the consent of the Parent Club, all records of the Desert Bred Saluki Critique Program became the sole property of the Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis.  The 1994 By-laws defined the responsibilities of the Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis to owners of Desert Bred Salukis.

During the early years of the 1990s, the Society’s Critique Program became a registry recognized by most, if not all, Sighthound performance clubs, including the National Open field coursing Association (NOFCA), effective June 16, 1991, and The American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), which commenced accepting the Society’s registry on January 1, 1992.

Some of the most impressive Salukis competing in Open field coursing were perceived as potentially too valuable to American breeding programs to be left out of the AKC Stud Book simply because of their places of birth. The time was appropriate to advance discussion of the Desert Bred Saluki’s AKC registration in light of the best interests of American Salukis. AKC recognized FCI affiliates had open studbooks, meaning they had established procedures detailing how unregistered country of origin dogs could be registered and entered in their studbooks. The AKC accepted descendants of COO dogs with three generation pedigrees from these foreign registries.

The year 2002 marked the acceptance of the Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Saluki’s Stud Book as a U.S. Domestic Registry by the American Kennel Club after a favorable ballot by the Parent Club supporting the Domestic Registry. As an AKC recognized domestic registry, the Society proposed that it could provide this same service for COO and COO descent Salukis in the United States.

Work on this acceptance started in 1999.  With the assistance of the Saluki Club of America’s administration and AKC Delegate, the Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis refined and tailored the then existing Desert Bred Saluki Critique Program to adhere to AKC standards in order to be in compliance with other AKC-recognized domestic United States registries.  Thus, the Society provided the mechanism by which Middle Eastern Salukis imported directly to the United States, and their descendants, might be deemed eligible for full entry into the AKC Saluki Stud Book. Provisions from the AKC SPECIAL REGISTRY SERVICES (SRS) sections III and V were employed. The applicable part of the AKC’s Special Registry Services is Section III, in which is stated:

“A dog whelped in the United States that is individually registered with one of the Domestic Registry Organizations listed in Section V of this pamphlet may be eligible for registration. A three-generation certified pedigree issued by a domestic registry organization must accompany the application for AKC registration.”

The Desert Bred Saluki Critique Program of the Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis then and still requires each Desert Bred Saluki to meet specified criteria through the Critique process including physical examination by three qualified judges who must examine individual Salukis according to AKC standard.  Please note that the AKC standard, drawn from the 1923 British standard, was adopted in 1927 and remains unchanged from that time. These standards were based on Middle Eastern imports and their immediate descendants, i.e., foundation stock.

Desert Bred Salukis are evaluated by three qualified judges as defined in the Society’s By-laws.  Upon presentation of applicants for critiquing, it is the responsibility of the judges to decide how each Saluki is to be moved, and at what point they choose to make their hands-on examination. Each judge, independently of the other two judges, writes in detail his or her impressions of the Saluki.  Each judge is asked to indicate whether or not the Saluki is typical of the breed, then sign and date the form.

The Saluki forever carries the Critique Registration Number appearing in its paperwork. Additionally, the Society requires DNA profiling of all Critiqued Desert Bred Salukis entering the breeding population. Photographs document the Salukis presented for evaluation. Upon successful completion of the Society’s critique process by each Generation 3 Saluki, owners can apply to the AKC for admittance to the AKC Stud Book. For more information about the SPDBS registration process and the requirements, please visit the SPDBS Registration page.