The Azawakh is an ancient breed over a thousand years old. The breed only achieved full American Kennel Club recognition in 2019, due to its rarity. The Azawakh is currently ranked 193 in breed popularity. Azawakhs are sighthounds and, like other sighthounds, are lithe, lean and built for speed. With incredible long legs, it’s no exaggeration to say this dog is a supermodel of the canine world.
The Azawagh region in West Africa is the basis of the name for the dog known as an Azawakh. The region is a dry basin made up of flatlands, covering areas of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and southern Algeria. The Tuareg, a nomadic tribe reputedly bred the Azawakh for hunting and as a livestock guardian and companion dog.
The Azawakh excelled at high-speed hunting across the flatlands and desert of the Azawagh region. With the ability to run at speeds of up to forty miles an hour, the breed hunted both hare and gazelle. Sighthounds have a laserlike vision. They see even the tiniest movement of the smallest prey in the far distance.
The correct pronunciation for Azawakh is Oz-a wok although the Tuareg people call them Oska.
At first glance, the Azawakh physical characteristics may appear like other sighthounds such as greyhounds or Salukis. They do share the slim athletic build, but there are significant differences. Azawakhs have longer legs, short, flatbacks with hips higher than the withers. Eyes are almond-shaped. They carry very little fat, so can look bony. Their closest genetic relation is the North African Moroccan sighthound, the Sloughi.
A standard male Azawakh weighs between 44 to 55 pounds; females range between 33 to 44 pounds. The breed stands 25 to 29 inches high at the shoulder for males, with females from 23.5 to 27.5 inches.
The American Kennel Club states that the Azawakh may come in any color. The breed is usually brown, with colors ranging from clear sand and fawn to red and brindle. Some have dark markings on the face or white markings on the paws legs, the tip of the tail and chest, known as a bib. Some countries disqualify dogs with white stockings or certain color coats from show competition. In the United States, this is not the case.
Due to its desert origins, the Azawakh is able to tolerate heat well. It has thin skin and little body fat so does not like wet or cold. If the Azawakh must go out in the rain and cooler temperatures it should wear a sighthound breed-specific coat. Due to their dislike of cold and wet weather and lack of body fat, the Azawakh will do better in a temperate or hot dry climate.
There is a particular sighthound temperament that may come as a surprise to a new owner, even experienced owners of other breeds. Whilst it may take some time to adjust to, the sighthound temperament is one in a million. Azawakhs are no exception to this rule, in fact they take some sighthound tendencies to a whole new level. Noble and reserved, the rewards an owner earns from their Azawakh are immeasurable.
The Azawakh has an independent nature, which some may describe as aloof. In some ways, their natural reserve is more feline than canine. This does not mean that they do not form a strong bond with their owner, as they very much do. It does mean that many of the breed do not enjoy the approach or touch of strangers. They make affectionate and loyal pets.
It is also important to ensure that the dog socializes from an early age to build up their confidence. The breed is not naturally aggressive, although it can be somewhat fearful of the unknown. This means that commitment to early and effective training is crucial. Training should take place in a range of environments to familiarize and build the dog’s confidence. Positive reinforcement through gentle but consistent training is necessary with this sensitive breed. Loud voices and lots of change within the home environment are unsettling for the Azawakh. For this reason, families with young children are probably not the best homes for the Azawakh. With good training in place, the Azawakh will do well with children, families, strangers and even cats. However, no sighthound should ever be trusted alone with a cat. Mature rescue sighthounds should never be placed in homes with cats, due to the strong prey drive.
Azawakhs are intelligent and have a good memory. The Azawakh is a pack hunter and they will often cuddle up with each other, or on your lap for warmth! They communicate vocally with their owners which makes them great characters to have around.
Grooming and Exercise
The Azawakh has minimal grooming needs. It has no strong dog odor and its coat is short and thin. Bathing is rarely needed, a weekly brush with a rubber grooming mitt or soft brush is sufficient. The breed is thin-skinned so needs gentle brushing only. As with other breeds, ensure weekly teeth cleaning and regular nail clipping.
Grooming the Azawakh is simple, but exercise requires more owner input. With its desert hunter genetic inheritance, the Azawakh has both endurance and stamina. Combined with its strong prey drive, the Azawakh owner must commit to long walks or runs on a leash. The ideal Azawakh owner will also ensure their dog has regular access to a secure paddock for running exercise.
The Azawakh has a double suspension gallop, a beautiful sight to behold at full speed. Consider local facilities for the Azawakh to exercise at full speed safely e.g. a lure coursing clubs.
Due to the prey drive, a recall will need extensive training, reinforcement and patience. Never let the Azawakh off-leash where it is unsafe to do so and only when the owner has established solid recall.
Azawakhs are pack animals and enjoy the company of other Azawakhs or sighthound breeds.
In the optimum climatic conditions the Azawakh is a robust and hardy breed with few health problems. With good health maintained it has an excellent life expectancy of 12 – 15 years.
The breed may inherit a some conditions including hypothyroidism and seizures. As a deep-chested dog, it is also susceptible to gastric bloat. This is a serious and fatal condition that can develop quickly and swift veterinary treatment is essential.
Unfortunately, some individuals may also develop a blood clotting genetic disorder called Von Willebrand disease. This may become apparent after vaccinations or neutering procedures. Some cases can be fatal but it is manageable with veterinary treatment and lifestyle advice. Pet health insurance from puppyhood will provide peace of mind for the owner.
What Azawakh owners say
‘Wonderful but specialized.’
‘They seem to be the image of calmness, gentleness, and trust. But one should not be deceived about this. In the deepest place of their soul resides something wild…’
‘Stunning. The breed always makes my heart skip a beat!’
‘Been an Azawakh ‘servant’ for almost 20 years. I thought I knew a little bit about dogs before having my first. LOL.’
‘They are like nothing else in the world…’
Azawakh owners agree this breed makes a pet like no other. Owners who have the time and sensitivity to train and exercise these stunning dogs are smitten for life.
Whilst the breed may face some health issues during their lifetime the worry of veterinary bills is not needed with pet insurance. For convenience, visit Pet Insurance Quotes to compare reputable pet insurance quotes in one place and enjoy stress-free Azawakh ownership.