During the medieval period the hounds of Cyprus, were none other than the Salukis, the famous dogs of the Lusignan court:
“Of black colour with short and smooth hair, have long thin hair at the tail and ears which can be compared to silk and which ends in yellow patches over the eyelashes as well as in stripes on the muzzle; they have a good shape and the best of them are those of an average height, these are the most agile to chase after hares.”
Ludolf Von Suchen, who visited Cyprus sometime between 1336 and 1341 wrote that “I knew a certain count of Japhe (Hugh d’ Ibelin) who had more than five hundred hounds and every two dogs have their own servant to guard and bathe and anoint them, for so must dogs be tended there”, whereas another traveller tells us that the hair on the dogs’ ears were painted with colours of the coat of arms of their owner. So, the ancestry of these dogs is long. Petroglyphs and rock art from central Iran depict dogs that look very similar to Salukis hunting alongside humans. These petroglyphs date anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 B.C. There are newer pictures of them on pottery and in some of the first pyramids. They also travelled up and down the Silk Road with trading caravans.
Kings have valued their companionship. They’ve been owned by Egyptian Pharaohs and Alexander the Great. They were originally bred to track prey by sight, and they’re so fast that they were used to hunt gazelle, the fastest of all the antelope. The Saluki temperament is dignified, faithful, and gentle, but these dogs can also be very independent. An Arab saying tells how God sent the Arabs to the desert but blessed them with the Salukis. These dogs are the fastest dog breed of all.
The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.