AKC Miscellaneous Class
Originally from the Sahel region of Africa, including the Azawakh Valley in the arid border region of Mali and Niger, the Azawakh is a sight hound and companion to the Tuareg and other nomadic peoples of the region. The Tuareg call the dogs “idi n’illeli,” or “Sight Hound of the Free People,” and consider them full and trusted members of their families. The dogs fill multiple roles, including guarding herds, protecting the camp, and hunting small game and antelope.
A Yugoslavian diplomat stationed in Burkina Faso was first to bring these dogs out of northern Africa. Because they couldn’t be bought, he received his first, a male, as a gift and his second, a female, in exchange for killing a bull elephant who had been terrorizing the tribe. French civil servants and members of the French military also brought the dogs out of the region, which was a French protectorate until 1960.
The first Azawakhs came to the United States in the mid-1980s. The AKC officially accepted the breed in its Miscellaneous Class on June 30, 2011.
Tall, lean, and elegant, the Azawakh conveys an air of nobility. The eyes are large and almond shaped; eye color may vary, depending on the color of the coat. The flat, triangular ears are drooping and set high, though they are mobile at the base when alerted. The skull is rather long, almost flat, and fairly narrow, with a back skull that is not too wide and a stop that is not prominent. The muzzle is long and straight, without exaggeration. Nose color varies in keeping with coat color. The lips are tight; a scissor bite is preferable.
The neck is long, fine, and muscular leading to straight, muscular shoulders; the topline is nearly straight or rises toward the hips, which protrude distinctly. The length of the body should be approximately 90% of the dog’s height at the withers (an upright rectangle in format); the height of the chest is approximately 40% the height at the withers. The ribs are long, visible and curved toward the sternum; at ideal weight, three to five ribs are visible under the skin. The chest’s underline is curved “like a keel” and the belly tucks up dramatically. The tapered tail sits low and reaches the hock, with the tip curved up. When the dog is excited, the tail might be carried in a sickle, ring, or saber above the horizontal. The feet are somewhat rounded with tightly closed, knuckled-up toes.
The skin is tight and the hair is short and fine. Any color is acceptable, including shades of brown, brindle, blue, black, and white, although most Azawakhs are red to fawn. The gait is graceful and elastic. At the trot, the Azawakh should give the “appearance of floating effortlessly over the ground,” according to the standard, with the front foot not extending past the tip of the nose. The gallop should be “leaping.”
- Height: 25 to 29 in. (male); 23 to 27 in. (female)
- Size: Large
- Weight: 44 to 55 lbs. (male); 33 to 44 lbs. (female)
- Availability: Difficult to find
- Talents: Jogging, hunting by sight, watchdog, lure, agility, tricks
Dewclaws may or may not be removed. Seizures, hypothyroidism, demodectic mange, spondylosis (a form of osteoarthritis), auto-immune conditions such as eosinophilic myositis (an inflammation of the skin and muscles), and autoimmune thyroiditis are present in the breed.
These agile, athletic dogs tend to be reserved with (and very vocal toward) strangers but are intensely loyal and affectionate toward their families. Azawakhs need to be socialized and trained early on due to their intelligence and their relatively primitive temperaments, which can make them more reactive than other breeds. Their athleticism makes them excellent competitors in a wide range of dog sports, including lure coursing, hunting, and agility. Regular exercise (including a chance to run off leash) is crucial to keep these dogs mentally balanced, as is a firm hand (but positive approach) in training. Because their hunting instinct remains strong, they are not a great choice for families with other pets, and they also may chase running children. Because they love running and chasing prey, they need to be kept on leash anytime they’re outside a fenced-in area. With a very high level of protectiveness and guarding instinct in general, this breed makes an excellent watchdog.
- Children: Good with children only when raised with them from puppyhood
- Friendliness: Moderately protective
- Trainability: Somewhat difficult to train
- Independence: Fairly independent
- Dominance: High
- Other Pets: Not generally trustworthy with other pets
- Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
- Noise: Average barker
- Grooming: Very little grooming needed
- Trimming and Stripping: None
- Coat: Short coat
- Shedding: None or very light
- Docking/Cropping: None
- Exercise: Needs lots of exercise
- Jogging: A good jogging companion
- Indoors: Relatively inactive indoors
- Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
- Outdoor Space: Best with acreage
- Climate: Best in warmer climates
- Owner: Not suitable for novice owners
- Longevity: Moderately long-lived (about 12 to 15 years.)