menu icon

The Azawakh
An Ancient Dog out of Africa

Home »  Dog Breeds »  Azawakh
 Azawakh

This lean and elegant sight hound has earned its keep working to guard and protect the livestock and people of the Sahel region of Africa for millennia.

Here is the Azawakh at a Glance
Name Azawakh
Other Names Idi
Nicknames None
Origin Azawakh Valley of North Africa
Average size Long, tall
Average weight 33 to 55 pounds
Average height 23 to 29 inches at the shoulder
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Short, silky
Hypoallergenic No
Color Fawn with white bib on chest, white stockings and tip of tail
Popularity Very rare, not well known
Intelligence Average
Tolerance to heat High
Tolerance to cold Poor
Shedding Minimal
Drooling Not a drooler
Obesity A risk
Grooming/brushing Occasional brushing
Barking Not a big barker
Exercise needs Very high
Trainability High
Friendliness Wary of strangers
Good first dog No
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Yes
Good with other dogs Okay
Good with other pets Not great
Good with strangers Not great
Good apartment dog No
Handles alone time well No
Health issues Seizures, myositis, spondylosis
Medical expenses $235 average annual
Food expenses $120 average annual
Miscellaneous expenses $45 average annual
Average annual expense $555
Cost to purchase $2,000 to $2,500
Biting Statistics Unknown
Advertisement

The Azawakh’s Beginnings

The Azawakh is a desert dweller, living in the arid terrain of the Sahel in northwestern Africa—Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, the last of which is the land of the fabled city of Timbuktu. It is a dog favored by the Tuareg people, but it lived there long before they moved in, serving as a hunter and guardian of livestock and people. The dog gets its name from the Azawakh Valley of Burkina Faso. It is a sight hound, relying on its excellent vision to spot and track game across the open, arid landscape of its home country.

The origins of the breed are not known precisely, but it has roots in West Africa, especially Nigeria. It is related to another pair of equally ancient sighthounds, Salukis and Sloughis. Salukis are originally thought to be from that rim of the Mediterranean Basin known as the Fertile Crescent, a land that stretches from the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys in the north to the Nile Delta in the south, and is considered the birthplace of civilization. The Sloughi breed has roots in Ethiopia, but spread west over the millennia and now has its main home in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.

Take those two breeds, toss a few wolves and wild jackals into the mix, and stir for a couple of thousand years, and you have the Azawakh.

New Lease on Life

The Azawakh continues to be depended on in its home country for guarding livestock and people, although it doesn’t do much hunting anymore because there is so little game left in the Sahel. Until recent times it was essentially unknown outside of its native territory, partly because the Tuareg considered it a precious member of the family, and not to be sold or bartered to outsiders.

That changed in the nineteen seventies, when a Yugoslavian diplomat stationed in Burkina Faso became close friends with a Tuareg family who gifted him with a male Azawakh. A little later he earned a female as a reward for killing a rogue bull elephant that was wreaking havoc on local villagers.

Elephants in the Sahara Desert, you ask? Yep. There were quite a few once upon a time, although not so many now because, as is true in other parts of Africa, the poachers are voracious.

At any rate, the diplomat took his two Azawakhs back to Yugoslavia and began breeding them, and in the nineteen eighties a few were transported to the United States.

The Azawakh is still one of the rarest breeds around. There are at most about three thousand in the world, with approximately 300 of those in the United States.

The Dog You See Today

The Azawakh is a very tall, slender dog with a strong flat musculature and a chest that is deep in relation to the abdomen. In height it ranges from twenty-three to twenty-nine inches, and weights anywhere from thirty-three to fifty-five pounds. The muzzle is long and tapered, and the eyes are dark.

The Azawakh’s coat is very short and silky, and the belly is close to bald. The colors tend to run from light to dark fawn, although some of these hounds are brindle. There is typically a white bib, and white stockings.

The Inner Azawakh

Temperament

An important thing to understand about this breed is that if you do bring one into the family, you need to be able to keep it for life. This is a dog that bonds very strongly with its initial family, and will likely never bond with anyone else.

Given that, the Azawakh has centuries of breeding as a hunter and a guard dog. It is not innately aggressive, but it is protective of its family and wary of strangers, and will need early socialization and training to help it get along with other people.

Advertisement

Azawakhs are very much pack animals, and their families are their packs. They want to be with them as much as possible, and don’t handle time alone well. Left to themselves for very long they will very quickly make it clear that neglect is not acceptable to them. Yards, fences, furniture, among other things, will pay the price.

Living with an Azawakh

Training the Azawakh

Azawakhs are sensitive to strong emotions, and this needs to be respected. Training and discipline are important, but need to be in a positive vein. Harsh feedback, shouting, and certainly physical punishment, must be strictly avoided. Otherwise, you will wind up with a fearful, even aggressive, dog on your hands.

An Azawakh is probably also not the best choice as a pet for someone who is new to owning and working with dogs. Azawakhs can be stubborn and have a strong drive for dominance. Training will be difficult for this dog. They need an owner who has experience handing such animals, and who has the time and energy to devote to the discipline and training that will be necessary.

How active is this dog?

Azawakhs are also loaded with energy. They need a lot of exercise. They can run for miles. As sight hunters in an arid country, they were bred to be able to chase down fast-moving animals like hares and rabbits at high speed, even at temperatures approaching the hundred-degree mark. They were also bred to be working dogs, obedient to their handlers, and able to learn a job. This is still built into them, and they do well at skills training and field sports.

Not surprisingly, this fast-moving, far-ranging desert hound will be a disaster for an apartment dweller. An Azawakh needs space, room to move. It should have a sizable yard to roam, and then will still need to be taken out for frequent and intense periods of activity. It could easily become destructive, chewing and tearing things up, in the close confines of an apartment.

Caring for the Azawakh

Grooming needs

The grooming and maintenance of the Azawakh is necessary but not excessive, in fact this dog has low needs in that respect. It is low shedding so there is little hair around the home to deal with and brushing can be done once or twice a week to keep the coat healthy and clear of loose hair and debris. A bath should be given just when the dog is really dirty or has a strong odor otherwise you can damage the oils in its skin. As well as maintaining the coat there are some other regular duties you need to see to, in order to take care of your dog properly. Clip its nails or have it done by someone who understands dog nails should they get too long. Check the ears for infection and wipe them clean once a week. Brush its teeth at least twice a week to prevent dental problems.

Feeding time

This dog if being fed dry dog food will eat about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups a day, split into at least two meals. The dry food should be of excellent quality so that it is better for it. It is important, by the way, not to overfeed an Azawakh. Like any dog, it will always be happy to eat, but it is genetically conditioned to thrive on a minimal diet. In the Sahel, it ate what its people ate, which was mainly millet and whatever game was available. It is not difficult for an Azawakh to overeat and become obese. It is up to the owner to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Getting on with children and other animals

Also, as pack animals, Azawakhs must have a leader. If you don’t fill that role, the Azawakh will. And you won’t be able to lead the pack just by being there, because Azawakhs also have a strong drive for dominance, as most pack dogs do. That means that you will need to provide early and firm socialization and discipline, and then maintain it, because some part of your Azawakh will always be looking for permission to take over. If there are other dogs in the family, this can be a problem, and so it is usually best that the Azawakh be the only dog, or at least the first dog, in a family.

Otherwise, Azawakhs actually make very good family pets. They will bond primarily with one person, but will also be affectionate and loyal with the rest of the family. They are good with children, and playful with them. They love going places with their families, and if they have been properly socialized and trained, they get along well with other dogs they meet. They are, after all, pack hounds.

With other critters, maybe not so much. Cats and other smaller pets fall into the Azawakh’s definition of prey, and the hunting instinct is strong in this dog.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Azawakhs are strong, hardy dogs, toughened over the millennia by a harsh desert environment. They don’t get sick easily, and they recover well from injuries. They are, however, genetically susceptible to some disorders.

With some Azawakhs you may find you have to deal with seizure disorders. If this occurs frequently or severely, treatment with seizure medication may be necessary.

Another possible problem is masticatory muscle myositis. This is an inflammatory disease that affects the chewing muscles, and shows itself through swollen jaw muscles, heavy drooling, and trouble chewing. It can be treated with corticosteroid medication such as prednisone.

A third potential disorder is spondylosis deformans, a form of spinal degeneration that happens mostly in older dogs. In this case there is disc degeneration that leads to bone spurs. This often does not actually bother the dog, but if it does, it can usually be handled with pain medication. In more severe cases, surgery may be advisable.

Advertisement

Biting Statistics

The Azawakh is not mentioned in the data that covers reports of dog attacks dating over the last 30 plus years. While this dog is not aggressive in general it does have hunting and guarding instincts and any dog can become aggressive given certain circumstances and conditions. Make sure you choose a dog that suits your lifestyle and one you can meet their needs for mental and physical stimulation. If you do not have experience with dominant dogs this is not a good match for you and something could go wrong. All dogs, from small to large should be given early training and socialization, be raised well, loved and respected. In this way you can avoid having any problems with incidents of aggression.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

First of all, of course, there may be no price tag because there is no dog to be had. As noted already, Azawakhs are extremely rare, and a lot of those that are around are not for sale at any price. You are not at all likely to find one in an animal shelter, and a rescue outfit also isn’t a probable solution. Given that, if you can locate one, you are probably looking at a price tag of somewhere between $2,000 and $2,500.

But let’s say you do find one. Then the next step is having your new pet spayed, if it is female, or neutered it if is male. That will typically cost around $200. Add to that the routine medical procedures for a new puppy—inoculations, de-worming, and the like—for about another $70. Then of course you will need a license for $15 or so, and a leash and collar for another $30.

Given the constant upward pressure on veterinary fees, many people these days are purchasing pet insurance, and that is probably a good idea in the case of the Azawakh. Depending on how comprehensive the coverage is going to be, you are looking at $225 or more a year for insurance.

Next step is obedience training, which is a necessity for this breed, and which is not a do-it-yourself task unless you have a lot of skill and experience at dealing with large hunter and guard breeds. A beginning set of obedience lessons will usually cost around $110; after than you may want to be involved in more training, such as skills and agility, where the price will vary.

Next is food, and even though the Azawakh is bred to get by on not a lot, it still has to eat, preferably a diet that is a little lower in calories that what you might get for other breeds. Figure on an annual cost of about $120 for dog food, and maybe another $40 to $50 a year for doggie treats.

Overall, you can expect to spend about $555 a year keeping your Azawakh well and happy.

Names

Looking for a Azawakh Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

  • Male Azawakh Puppy Names
  • Female Azawakh Puppy Names
  • The Azawakh is an ancient breed that lives and works mainly in the southern strip of the Sahara known as the Sahel. It is a sight hunter, able to chase small prey for miles over arid terrain. It has a reputation for close bonding with, and loyalty to, its family. It is good with children and very protective of them. It is hard to find one, and if you do it will be really pricey. But if you manage to track one down you will have a very special pet.

    More to Explore

    Dog Owner Reviews