Sloughi - Deerhound - Dobermann


SLOUGHI - The Arabian Sighthound







'The Slougui: Judging Criteria'

Dr Yassine JAMALI


A breed standard is the detailed description of its morphology, i.e. of its form and structure. It has a twofold purpose:

  • it serves to assess an individual's conformity with the ideal model, and to grade competitors at a show for example.
  • Above and beyond any aesthetic considerations, the standard also seeks to maintain the aptitudes based on which a breed has been selected.

In the slougui standard, certain points (coat, skin, neck, tail) deserve to be emphasised to the extent that they are the foundations of its talents as a hunter.


The slougui is a domestic predator. Selection over a thousand years or more has modelled it, generation after generation, for optimal adaptation to its terrain - steppe or desert - and to its different preys - hare, gazelle, jackal. Its technique is simple and effective - it hunts by sight. The slougui sees its prey, pursues it, catches it and kills it. The aim of selection in breeding has been solely towards specialisation based on this sequence, the sobriety of which is reflected in its morphology. The same terrain and the same specialisation have produced another archetypal predator - the cheetah - often described as a sighthound in a feline's skin.

  • The slougui's skin is extremely fine, covered by hair that is as short as possible, and revealing its skeletal and muscular structure with an accuracy that permits no defect whatsoever. The fineness of skin and shortness of hair are evidence of its need for a shape that is lightweight and aerodynamic while at the same time eliminating heat. In the most purebred of subjects, the sternal face of the thorax is almost completely hairless .
  • The skeleton is slender but robust, with particularly long bone radii enabling even greater extension/release via the suppleness of the  spinal column. Two types of photos illustrate the amplitude of movement in a slougui's stride:
    • The slougui collected together, with spine rounded and hind limbs engaged well under the body to gain maximum purchase.
    • The slougui flying forward, fully extended above the ground. Both these positions are also classic in the cheetah's movement.
  • The neck must be long and supple, for several reasons. For spotting its prey among the grass and bushes this periscope-neck is vital. However, this is not always enough and one sometimes sees the slougui up and pivoting on its hind legs to widen its field of view when its prey has escaped from it.

    Next, during the chase, the pendulum movement of head and neck contribute towards the momentum.

    Lastly, for capturing its prey while on the chase or after having knocked it off balance with a flying kick, the usefulness of a long and supple neck is only too obvious.
  • The length of its muzzle can also help it to "harpoon" its fleeing prey, but is above all explained by the need for cooling and humidifying the air as it passes through the sinuses.
  • The tail: during a pursuit both speed and endurance are obviously necessary, although the need for manoeuvrability in following the prey in all its feints to dodge away is no less important. The slougui needs to change direction in a fraction of a second, if possible without losing speed, and any change of direction requires a counterweight in order to keep its balance. As in the cheetah, its feline alter-ego, the tail plays the role of balance arm. In chases filmed in slow motion, the tail's windmill movement is characteristic. That is why the owners of a slougui whose tail has been amputated after an accident can see how much the dog is handicapped, for several yards at each tight bend. In Morocco , hunters use a systematic test - they pass the tail between the thighs and then up the outside of the leg towards the pin bone. The extremity of the tail must reach the pin bone on the side to which it is raised, or even the pin bone on the opposite side.

    However, length alone is not enough. A balance arm is more effective with a weight at its extremity: the end of the tail needs to bend back over itself and form a ring, which the Moroccan hunters call "sfenja". Similary, the hunter's stick has a bulge at the end which helps to project it with greater force and accuracy. A legend illustrates this feature which is not sufficiently detailed by the standard - it is said that in order to test the persistence of this ring, hunters inserted it into the tube of a flute. They waited forty years and, as soon as it was removed from the tube, the ring instantly sprang back into shape. This has become a proverb to describe someone whose character it is impossible to change.

The slougui is definitely not lacking in character. He even has plenty to spare, a cat-dog character. The word "independent" is often used as an undesirable cliché. And yet the slougui is more aloof than independent. He loves his master, but that is not reason enough to obey ridiculous orders that have nothing nothing to do with hunting ("come here", "sit down", "give your paw"). On the other hand, at the slightest "tssst", or "heyy heyy" - onomatopoeic sounds that can be translated as "over there, over there" - indicating an animal to be hunted, every slougui is at the starting blocks. In other words, he is not disobedient, but merely selective.


Apart from that, there is a wide diversity of temperaments in the slougui. He has been selected solely for his aptitude for the hunt, which has enabled the development of varied personalities. One finds slouguis that are guard-dogs, house-dogs, retrievers, a few pointers, dominant pack-leaders… and many melancholics who seem dissatisfied with their canine condition. Virtually all slouguis have an innate taste for luxury and comfort, even though one most often comes across them in conditions that put their rusticity and hardiness to the test.


This specialised hunter with its versatile character is spread across the whole Arabic/Muslim area. Its cradle remains Morocco , but it has been photographed hunting in the 1960s as far away as the high plateaux of Afghanistan alongside its cousin, the Tazi. The relationship between the Slougui (Arabian greyhound), the Tazi (Afghan hound) and the Saluki (Persian greyhound) can be seen in linguistic terms - the term "slougui" is just a transformation into the Moroccan dialect of the Arabic etymology "Salouki", repeated the same as for the Persian greyhound. Tazi means "Arab" in the Persian language, used in part of Afghanistan .  So there is food for thought for everyone…


Nowadays the Slougui's area of distribution has become dramatically reduced. Rendered useless by the increasing rarity of game, debased by anarchical crossbreeding, indirect victim of drought and the rural exodus, it is on the point of disappearing and all because of man: a French law in 1844 banning hunting with sighthounds was extended to the colonies and protectorates of North Africa. Kept on even after the independence of such countries, it imposes, on the slougui, a status of vermin or pest susceptible to being destroyed by a forest ranger or to incurring heavy fines for its master. The resulting fall in numbers of slouguis has led, in Morocco , to the import of Spanish sighthounds (Galgos). These are in the process of absorbing the last few slouguis, by cross-matings.


A second chance is given to the slougui as a companion animal or pet in Europe , although here it runs the risk of turning into a museum piece, an aesthetic object pursuing trophies in dog shows, like so many other hunting / guarding / sled breeds cut off from the very functions that created and maintained them in the past.


Enlightened amateurs let them compete in lure-coursing events but nothing can truly replace real hunting under normal conditions. This activity needs to be restored in Europe and the Maghreb , as a test bench for the slougui, under rules to avoid any cynegetic abuse.


The increasing rarity of the slougui in Morocco , the resulting inbreeding, the crossbreeding with galgos point towards an uncertain future in this cradle of the breed. Its selection in Europe using morphological criteria based more on appearance than functionality together with a balanced and (over) plentiful diet is leading to an increase in stature - somewhat welcome - but also to an overly heavy bone structure and overly fleshy muscle structure, sometimes a thick skin, a tail often too short, or lacking a ring at the end. However, this is distancing the slougui from its true purpose - the chase, based on endurance and speed. Judging requirements, (entirely justified) in terms of ear carriage, silhouette, head shape, etc… should also encompass criteria considered as secondary in dog showing although essential in the choice (judgement) of Moroccan hunters - skin, coat, neck, tail above all, tissues in general; and, in particular, the "dictatorship of the measuring stick" must cease since it automatically eliminates certain subjects that may be "too big" or "too small" even though they would be excellent hunters and highly appreciated in their country of origin. A male measuring "only" 66 cm can be an excellent stud dog, the same as for a "giant" of 75cm and over, if in other respects they are harmonious, well-proportioned, in conformity with the empirical criteria of the hunters who use them.


As for inbreeding, this must be the exception even if it means mating a bitch with a male that has done little winning but is genetically distant, and exchanges of stud dogs and matings need to be encouraged between the different regions of the Maghreb as well as between the Maghreb and Europe.

(Translated by Susan BAMFORD)



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