Coursing and Racing Dogs
by Freeman Lloyd
published in the American Kennel Gazette, April 1931
The old wood cut representing or illustrating
a coursing and hawking scene, was purchased in a "rag and
bone" shop in the not very aristocratic neighborhood of
Somers Town in northwest London, at the price of four pence
(eight cents). The picture was the one article in the marine
store dealer's window, all of the other stock being on the floor
of the dingy and evil-smelling room.
I was unable to identify the country and the
costumes of the hunters, so I asked the Hon. Miss Florence Amherst,
herself an Egyptologist and excavator, if she would kindly examine
the print, which she did. It was Persian. The print, an old
one, was graciously accepted by Miss Amherst who, it will be
remembered, was principally responsible for introducing into
England the Saluki, or slougui greyhound.
These Saluki greyhound dogs are fast becoming
popular and fashionable in America. Of the coursing dog of Arabia,
there is a good deal of interesting matter recorded in the works
of adventurers, explorers, and hunters.
Who, when looking upon a single Saluki greyhound
exhibited at a bench show, would think there is so much "behind"
that elegant dog and its history! No author, says George R.
Jesse in his Researches into the History of the British
Dog (1866), has done more grateful justice to the character
of the Saluki dog than Burchell in his Travels in Africa,
who states the people of the Sahara (of Northern Africa) have
great love for the slougui or greyhound. There, as in all Arab
countries, the dog is looked upon as a servant in disgrace,
troublesome and cast off, no matter how useful he may be i guarding
the douar or in looking after the flocks.
The greyhound alone enjoys the esteem, the
consideration, the tender attention of his Arab master. The
rich as well as the poor regard him as a companion of their
chivalrous pastimes, while for the latter, he is also the purveyor
that supplies him with food. They do not grudge him, therefore,
the most assiduous care. The breedings are as scrupulously superintended
as those of their horses.
A Saharene will go twenty or thirty leagues
to couple or mate a handome greyhound bitch with a dog of established
reputation, for one that is really famous will run down a gazelle.
"When the dog perceives a gazelle cropping
a blade of grass, he overtakes her before she has time to swallow
what she already holds in her mouth." This, says Burchell,
is a hyperbolical expression, no doubt, but still based on a
certain degree of truth.
This same Burchell - after whom the now well-knwon
variety of zebra is named - relates many interesting stories
regarding the slougui or greyhound of the Sahara. According
to this traveller, hunter, and writer, when the bitch has whelped,
the litter is never lost sight of for an instant. The women
will sometimes give their own milk to them. Visitors arrive
in troops, the more numerous and eager according to the reputation
of the mother.
They surround the owner, offering him dates,
kouskoussou and other gifts. There is no sort of flattery they
will not lavish upon him in the hope of obtaining a puppy. "I
am thy friend. Prithee, give me what I ask of thee. I will attend
thee in thy hunts." "To all these solicitations,"
says Burchell, "the owner usually replies that he will
not decide on which puppies he means to keep for himself until
after seven days."
This reservation has its motive in the observation,
or fancy, of the Arabs. In every litter one of the puppies gets
upon the backs of the others. Is it a sign of greater vigor?
Or mere chance? To ascertain this point, the Arabs remove it
from its habitual position, and "if it returns to it for
seven consecutive days, the owner builds upon it such extravagant
expectations that he would not accept a negress in exchange,"
declares the author.
A prejudice causes the Arabs to attach the
greatest value to the first, third, and fifth puppies. Slougui
whelps are weaned at the end of forty days, but are still fed
with goat's or camel's milk, thickened with dates or kouskoussou.
In the Sahara, the flocks are so numerous and milk so abundant,
that it is not at all surprising that wealthy Arabs, after having
weaned their greyhound puppies, should set aside so many she-goats
for their nourishment.
When the puppies are three or four months old,
their education commences. The boys drive out of their holes
the jerboz rats, and set the puppies at them. The puppies, by
degrees, get excited, dash after the rats at full speed, bark
furiously at their holes, and only give up the pursuit to begin
At the age of five or six months, they are
assigned a prey more difficult to catch - the hare. This would
seem an early period to set such a difficult task before a loose-jointed
and altogether awkward and undeveloped young dog - especially
of the long-dog kind.
However, Burchell says that the Arab men lead
the slougui close to the form where the hare is couched. Then,
by a slight exclamation, they set on the young dog, which rushed
at the hare, and soon acquires the habit of coursing with speed
and intelligence. From the hare, they pass on to young gazelles.
When a year old, the slougui has very nearly
reached his full strength. His scent is developed, and he follows
the gazelle by its slot. Nevertheless, he is kept under some
restraint, and not until fifteen to eighteen months is he regularly
allowed to hunt.
Each and every country appears to have its
own stories about the speed and aggressiveness of their dogs
of the greyhound varieties, be they long, curly, or short-haired.