Salukis have turned up in Britain from time to time in the past, but the continuous occupation of this country by Salukis began in 1895 when the Hon. Florence Amherst received a pair of Saluki bitches from the Eastern Desert of Egypt.
Up until the nineteenth century, the Middle East was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, which did not welcome explorers from Western Europe. The culture of the Bedouin tribes altered little over the centuries and neither did their prized hunting hounds, the Salukis, as can be seen by comparing Salukis in Britain in the 20th century with portraits containing Salukis of earlier times, and even representations of hunting hounds from Egypt of 3000BC or earlier.
In 1923, a meeting was arranged to take place after the Crufts Show in the Agricultural Hall, Islington, in order to set up a breed club for the Saluki. Rather than keeping the designation “Persian Greyhound” that had been widely used up to that time, it was decided that the name of the breed should be “Saluki”, an anglicised version of the Arabic word, with the added description, “or Gazelle Hound.”
The declared purpose of the Club was, and is, to “ensure the purity of the Saluki breed.” The Saluki has a line of succession reaching back to antiquity and the “purity of the breed” implies the preservation of this inheritance; that is, the Saluki of today should look and act in exactly the same way as the original imports from the Middle East. To maintain the hunting tradition of the Saluki, a Coursing Section of the Club was set up and, instead of the gazelles of the Middle East, Salukis chased the brown hare over the fields of Britain. Coursing was, of course, forbidden by Act of Parliament in 2004. The Club now organises lure coursing events instead.
Following Miss Amherst’s initial acquisition, she and other people began to import Salukis to Britain. At the end of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Western soldiers, diplomats and traders moved into the Middle East and many came home with Salukis. From the point of view of the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club, the most important of these was Brigadier-General Frederick Lance, whose Salukis came from Syria.
Florence Amherst was elected President of the Club and Brigadier Lance Vice-President. Lance’s wife, Gladys, was appointed Secretary. In a meeting held a fortnight later, a Standard of Points was agreed. This gave a wide range of heights in order to include Miss Amherst’s smaller desert type and the Lances’ larger Salukis from the hills of Syria. It also included both feathered and smooth coats. At the end of the year the membership of the Club stood at forty. By the 1980s it had risen above four hundred.
At the present time, the Club organises three shows a year – a Championship Show, an Open Show and a Limited Show (for members only). It also arranges Breed Seminars giving information about Salukis and the opportunity to handle a Saluki as a judge might in the Show ring.
Three Newsletters and a Yearbook are published every year, as well as the glossy Saluki magazine and the Saluki calendar. In 2007 members of the Club organised a “Festival of the Saluki” involving a variety of events and special prizes at Shows. The Club will celebrate its centenary in 2023. This was anticipated by the “90th”, with its two-day “Saluki Classic” and, following the Southern Counties Championship Show, an “Arabian Saluki Special Event”, where the Salukis were assessed, Arab style, by Hamad Al Ghanem, Director of the “Saluki of Arabia.”
By joining the Club, a member joins a community of Saluki owners who share the joys and disasters that go with ownership. And at Club events it is possible to pick up Saluki collars, memorabilia and information about this ancient breed.