History and Development
The Azawakh is an African sighthound of Afro-Asiatic type. The original homeland of the Azawakh is the endless arid region of the south Sahara and Sahel, which encompasses the countries of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Azawakh means “land of the north,” and the breed is named for the Azawakh Valley. They are the guardians, hunters and companions of the Tuareg and other ethnic tribes of the region.
The Azawakhs are called, “idii ‘n illeli,” which means “sighthound of the free people.” Other sighthound-type dogs, called Afazo or Abaikor, are common to the region, but the differentiation is important. These dogs do not attain the nobility and type of the “idii,” whose prototype sets the standard.
The breed was first imported to Yugoslavia in the early 1970s by Dr. Pecar, a Yugoslavian diplomat stationed in Burkina Faso. However, the dogs could not be bought. Dr. Pecar received his male as a gift from the nomads. In exchange for a female Azawakh, he later bartered his services as a hunter by killing a bull elephant that had been terrorizing the tribe. The French military and civil servants also played a significant role in exporting the Azawakhs to Europe. France is the patron country of the Azawakh.
The Azawakh has a show history in Europe that begins very soon after its original importation. They were first shown in the early 1970s under FCI rules as a variety of Sloughi. On January 1, 1981, they were accepted as a bonafide breed and were referred to as “Sloughi-Azawakhs.” In 1986, the Azawakh was finally recognized as a distinct and different breed when the “Sloughi” prefix was dropped.
The Azawakh made its debut in America in the mid-1980s. The first litter was whelped on October 31, 1987. These first American Azawakhs were all red or fawn with white markings. The first brindles came to America in 1989, with the first brindle litter whelped November 27, 1990. In the mid- 90’s, a parti-color male was imported from Burkina Faso. In 1997, a mixed parti-color and sand litter, which had been bred in Mali, was whelped in Alaska. It is hoped that an even larger selection of colors will find their way to the US from Africa in the near future.
In America, the Azawakh is recognized by the AKC Foundation Stock Service, the United Kennel Club (UKC), the International All Breed Kennel Club of America IABKCA the American Rare Breed Association, and many other smaller registries. The American Azawakh Association is the parent club for the breed in the U.S. Their history as show dogs is in its infancy, but their natural regal presence demands recognition.
Lure coursing in the U.S.
As with most sighthound breeds, many Azawakhs love to lure course or open field hunt. The American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) has given Provisional recognition to the Azawakh beginning January 2000. Full recognition of the breed should occur in 2001.
Prior to 1996, Azawakhs were frequently seen at field trials running as test dog and at practices. In 1996, they were finally recognized to run in the newly created Miscellaneous stake. The first Azawakhs to be certified to run at an official trial were Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad, CGC, TT, Therapy Dog and Tezma Kel Soulleret.
At the ’96 International Invitational in South Carolina, the Azawakh was named the official breed to run as test dog for the first time in ASFA history. Dogs that ran at that trial were: Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad, Amastan Kel Air, Kel Simoons Cinnamon, Celie, Djenabá, and Diallo.
BISS UCI Int’l, Natl. Ch.
Kel Simoon Essari, FCH
In that same year, Deb Kidwell and Rhonda Mann gave a very well received breed presentation to the Annual Convention of Delegates in Houston, TX. Azawakhs present at the ACOD were Kel Simoon Afella (Kesia) and Amastan Kel Air, both owned by Deb Kidwell.
In 1999, after running in the Miscellaneous stake for three years, three Azawakhs were awarded the newly created Foundation Coursing Champion certificate. Those three were: Multi. BISS UCI Int. Natl. Ch. Kel Simoon Cinnamon; SBIS ARBA Grand Ch. Kel Simoon Celie; and BISS UCI Int. Natl. Ch. Kel Simoon Essari, who is Cinnamon’s daughter. Essari was also the first Azawakh to run officially with recognized AKC breeds for the Presidents Cup in Virginia (a non-regular Best in Event).
Of the three dogs that were awarded the FCC certificate, only Kel Simoon Essari is still actively competing. Kel Simoon Celie sustained a serious back injury during the 1997 I. I. in Kentucky, when she fell and hit her back on a pulley in the first course. She can no longer run competitively, but still enjoys outings to coursing practices. She had earned her FCC prior to her injury. Kel Simoon Cinnamon was killed in a tragic accident in early 2000.
During the Provisional year of 2000, several Azawakhs from different breeders finally appeared on the scene and are listed in the Top Ten standings. Those are: Tagalas, Kel Simoon Essari, WNS Ketoto Mateeka, Al Hara’s Lafia Lo, Talempt Al-Ifriqiya, WNS Magic Mirth, Fada Faranda Bohemia and P’Akasha de Garde Epee.
The Azawakh is also recognized by the National Open Field Coursing Association (NOFCA) as a rare breed. There have also been supportive offers for recognition with the National Oval Track Racing Association (NOTRA); however, at this time, no Azawakhs are participating in this sport.
General breed characteristics
The Azawakh is an active breed with incredible endurance. They should have a large yard or open area where they can stretch their legs on a regular basis. More importantly, however, they need interaction with the owner or another dog to encourage them to exercise. Finding a securely fenced ball field is perfect for play excursions. This breed will become fat and lethargic or hyper and destructive without proper energy outlets.
When discussing the temperament of an Azawakh, consideration should be given to individual personalities and contributing backgrounds, both genetic and environmental. However, there are several general characteristics common to the breed. Azawakhs are gentle and affectionate with those they are willing to accept. They constantly solicit physical affection. However, they may be distant and reserved with strangers, and could even be savage or aggressive. Generally, they distribute their affection and seek to be recognized as a member of the family; therefore, they are not kennel dogs. Interestingly, in their countries of origin (COO), the Azawakh prefers not to be touched by strangers, however, is not aggressive. Unprovoked aggression toward a family member or guest would never be tolerated.
Described in Dog World as a “warrior class dog,” they have the intelligence and heart to protect. When approached on their own turf, they will usually bark ferociously. In situations where their duty as guardian is not necessary, their reactions may range from friendly and exuberant, to mildly curious, to arrogantly indifferent.
Multi SBIS UCI Int. Nat’l, Ch. Kel Simoon Cinnamon, FCC
Although generally not outgoing, several of the breed in the U.S. and Europe are making social contributions as therapy dogs in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
They seem to possess an uncanny combination of total loyalty and independence. Each new situation presents the potential for the struggle between the dog’s natural desire to please his owner and his prideful desire to do things his own way. A firm, fair hand is called for.
The Azawakh with children and other dogs
Much discussion has been given to the guardian nature of the Azawakh, but we must remember that this is a sighthound. As a rule, they seem to accept other dogs, though sometimes grudgingly, as protected members of their own pack.
The Azawakh is a very dominant breed. Within a household pack, they will almost always aspire to the alpha dog position. If there is an existing dominant dog in the pack, this can sometimes cause conflict within the pack.
No one can predict the individual personalities of all dogs in any breed. There are some situations that should be avoided with guardian and sighthound dogs of any breed. Children playing together sometimes squabble, and it is natural for a guard dog to protect “his” child from their playmates.
Chase or prey behavior is another situation that can be a problem. Children or other pets running away from the hound can activate the prey drive. The hound may try to “take down” the child or other pet from be hind, as they would prey while hunting.
Because comparatively few generations have been removed from the need to hunt daily for personal and family survival, the hunting instinct is very strong in this breed.
A good rule of thumb is never to leave the Azawakh with children while unsupervised by an attentive adult. There are individual dogs of all breeds that do not like children.
The Azawakh, as a breed, with care given to the situations mentioned, should fit well into any family structure.
The Azawakh is easily trained, using positive training methods. They respond very well to gentle, yet FIRM corrections and are usually food-motivated. Extreme dominance-type training, such as alpha rollovers, is NOT the training method of choice for this breed. The Azawakh has an amazing amount of dignity and must be treated with mutual respect and honor. Rough treatment and training can result in a hound that is either broken in spirit or very aggressive and impossible to handle. An Azawakh broken in spirit is a sad sight in deed!
Many Azawakhs can be reliable off lead. This characteristic makes the breed an enjoyable companion for people who like to run, hike, and camp or just hang out!
Health and nutrition
The Azawakh is generally a healthy breed. In medical treatment of the hound, natural, holistic methods work very well. They heal amazingly well from cuts and scrapes. However, the Azawakh is a natural, primitive breed whose immune system could be compromised by the injudicious use of chemicals and over-vaccination.
The Azawakh, as a breed, does have several health issues. The most common of these health concerns are Hypothyroidism, Spondylosis (a degenerative spinal disease), seizures, and several autoimmune-mediated diseases, such as Eosinophilic Myositis, and autoimmune thyroiditis.
Cardiac problems, though not common, can be found in the breed. Bloat and gastric torsion, though rare, have been known to occur. Hip dysplasia is virtually unknown in the Azawakh because of its upright, open- angled structure and high hip profile. There are no known eye diseases in Azawakhs at this time.
Weight maintenance of Azawakhs is an important area to consider. They should be slim. In proper weight, some ribs and vertebrae, and the hipbones should be visible. It’s not to say they should be skeletal, but Azawakhs are structured to be on the thin side. Overfeeding will adversely affect the joint structure of the hound, especially in puppies. Azawakh puppies should never be fat and roly-poly. Keeping them slim as they are growing permits the joints and other body parts to grow properly, without additional stress, wear and tear. Slim pups are less prone to growth plate problems.
General impressions and
key points of the breed standard
Azawakhs are elegant, tall dogs of proud bearing. The appearance of the dog is marked by its slender, rectangular form, with dry muscles and moderate limb angulation. This sighthound presents itself as a rangy dog whose body fits into a rectangle with its longer sides in a vertical position. The length of the body is 90% the height of the hound. This ratio may be slightly higher in bitches. This “format” may seem extreme when compared with other sighthound breeds.
The height for males ranges from 25-1/2″ to 29’, females from 23-1/2″ to 27″. Weight ranges from 33-55 pounds. Life expectancy ranges from 12-15 years.
The narrow head, with its pendant ears, is carried loftily atop a slender, gracefully arched neck. The big, dark and almond- shaped eyes appear quite expressive through darkly pigmented rims. Its tail is proudly carried above the line of the back. The skin should fit tightly over the whole body. The coat is short and fine.
The height of chest is 40% the height at withers. Well developed and deep, the chest should not reach the elbow in a mature specimen. The brisket maybe rounded or angular, but should rise abruptly to an extremely tucked up and muscular belly.
The back is short, with a flat topline or it may have a slight rise over the loin. The hips must always be at the same level or higher than the level of the withers. It is a fault to have hips lower than the withers.
The forequarters and hindquarters should exhibit very open angles. The shoulders should be at about 130 degrees, the hindquarters at about 145 degrees.
Their movement is spectacular to watch, always very supple and elastic. At the trot, they are light, feathery and floating; the gallop is leaping, and they cover ground in great strides. At the trot, the forelegs should not extend beyond the level of the hound’s nose. The movement is an essential point of the breed.
SBIS ARBA Jr. Grand Ch.
Amastan Kel Aïr
The FCI standard admits only sand to dark red and black brindled. In the U.S., the American Azawakh Association recognizes all colors that naturally occur in the Azawakh’s countries of origin. These other colors include: white, black, gray, blue, dilute brindles, grizzle, parti-color and all shades of brown, to include chocolate. The hound should have the requisite white markings to include a white bib and white brush at the tail tip. Each of the four limbs must have compulsorily a white “stocking,” at least in the shape of tracing on the foot.
FCI standard eliminating faults
Lack of type (in particular translating as a recent crossing with another breed).
Size deviating from more than three centimeters (a little more than an inch) from the norms of the standard.
Prominent non-accidental anatomical de formation.
Non-acquired disabling anomaly. All spotted crippling defects.
Ribs curving in reverse at the bottom of the chest which gives the aspect of a
Overshot or undershot bite.
Harsh or semi-long coat.
Coat not identical to the standard.
Absence of any white marking at the extremity of one or more limbs.
Light eyes; i.e. bird of prey eyes.
Timid character, panicky or aggressive to the point of attack.
Sources and resources
The American Azawakh Association, Inc. (AAA) is the parent club for the Azawakh in the U.S. The AAA was founded on February 7, 1988. The club’s goals are to promote the pure Azawakh and guarantee the breed a permanent future in the U.S. Further information may be obtained by writing to the: American Azawakh Association, 30083 Rows Mill Road, Rhoadesville, VA 22542 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The club publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Azawakh Aegis, which is available by subscription to interested persons.
There are also several books that have small sections about Azawakhs, or deal with the nomads who breed them in the countries of origin.
Dog’s Best Friend: Journey to the Roots of an Ancient Partnership Ursula Birr, Gerald Krakauer, Daniela Osterlander
The Pastoral Tuareg: Ecology, Culture and Society Johannes & Ida Nicoloaisen
Der Azawakh: Windhund der Nomades in Mali (in German) H.J. Strassner, E. Eiles
Wind, Sand and Silence: Travels with Africa’s Last Nomads. Victor Englebert
SBIS ARBA Grand Ch.
Kel Simoon Celie, FCC
KEL SIMOON AZAWAKH
Interview with Deb Kidwell & Rhonda Mann
How long have you bred/owned Azawakhs?
Have you ever bred/owned other breeds?
(DK) I got my first Azawakh,. Reckendahl’s Kiffah, in Spring of 1989 and bred my first litter (A) in late 1990. I grew up with Doberman Pinschers and bred one litter many years ago. My first show dog was a Cardigan Welsh Corgi and I bred one litter of those, but found it just wasn’t the breed for me. I had Dobes in my mid 20’s, then I got a Pharaoh Hound. I was very successful with the Pharaohs and bred three litters over an 8-10 year period, but the barking made me crazy and I placed all of them, except for my first female who lived to be 13 years old. I got Kiffah while I still had the Pharaohs, but never bred another Pharaoh litter after that. I knew from the beginning that the Azawakhs were very important to me, but importing Kel Tarbanassen Etambo and Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad, really sold me on the breed. Their temperaments were so much easier than my Kiffah.
(RM) I acquired my first Azawakh (Kel Soulleret Tezma) in 1992 from Susan Sills/Andy Meier (Kel Soulleret Azawakh). At that time, I owned two Borzois and a German Shepherd Dog. I have only been involved with breeding Azawakhs.
Where do your foundation dogs come from? More specifically, from which kennels? And on which basis did you choose them?
(DK) My first Azawakh was Ch. Reckendahl’s Kiffah (Ch. Mali .x Al Hara’s Hiba) from Gisela Cook-Schmidt. About six months later, I imported Kel Tarbanassen Etambo (C’Babasch x Kel Tarbanassen Bijou) from the Coppés in France and a few months later, Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad (Yaris x Dazol in Chenan), from Ursula Arnold in Germany. I started with the clear idea of my dogs having a strong African influence. Though at that time, I admit, I didn’t know much about Azawakhs! I only knew I’d found the breed I wanted forever and it was important to me to breed excellent Azawakhs with good temperament and health. Though Kiffah and Etambo came first, I consider Dayyat and Yssa (Kel Tarbanassen GuerouGuerou) to be my true foundation.
Kel Tarbanassen GuerouGuerou
(RM) Deb was very much in the process of developing the Kel Simoon breeding program when I became involved. She owned both of the foundation dogs. Deb was generous enough to let co-own Yssa, who produced our first litter in the new partnership. At that time, I had more free time for socializing and training puppies. My involvement has always been geared more toward the development of the puppy’s temperaments.
Are you satisfied with your first choice? Or would you make a different choice now when you are more experienced?
(DK) That’s a hard question. I loved my Kiffah very much, but she was very difficult in temperament, and later, not very healthy. I bred her to Etambo (before the health problems started!) and my A litter was born. In my opinion, it wasn’t a very good litter, though the temperaments were an improvement on Kiffah They were a bit short on leg, weren’t very elegant and later, there were health problems. I never bred from that litter, although two other people did. Following the A litter, I started over with the importation of ‘Yssa’ Kel Tarbanassen GuerouGuerou (Kel Tarbanassen Eladi x Cenerentola des Nomades Bleu) who was a full sister to Multi Ch. Kel Tarbanassen Firhoun. She was later bred to Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad (Yaris x Dazol in Chenan), our foundation sire. This produced our very successful C litter, and from there, I continued my breeding program line-breeding on Yaris and Dazol in Chenan with the careful introduction of mostly French line dogs. I like the Yugoslavian line very much, but the line I work with seems to produce better with the French influence in both type and temperament.
(RM) I was lucky that I became a partner in Kel Simoon after Deb had completely changed the breeding program. The first litter I co-bred was the Kel Simoon C litter, of which I am extremely proud.
Have you inserted dogs of direct African origin in your breeding programs, and if so, why?
(DK) I’ve used dogs of African descent from the beginning. I feel it’s very important to breed with the original dogs found in the Sahel for a more calm, rational and original temperament. We have a little female, Tagalas, whose mother was actually bred in Mali, though she was born in Alaska. She has produced two nice litters for us and is very successful in lure coursing. She’s also a very sweet and kind little girl, as many Africans seem to be.
I would prefer that the dogs in Europe and the US retain more of their African phenotype and I feel that the inclusion of the direct African dogs is very important to the breed, especially to improve the general health of the Azawakh.
I also feel that the FCI standard should include all the colors found in the Sahel and the requirements for white markings be dropped, to allow for all color patterns with or without white. Limiting the gene pool to only shades of sand to red and black brindle is detrimental to the breed, in my opinion. In the US, the American Azawakh Association uses the FCI standard, but we accept all the colors found in the Sahel.
(RM) I believe very strongly in using the direct African dogs. In America, we have very little access to different lines. The African imports and their descendants allowed us an opportunity to avoid doubling up genetically on some of the same health and temperament problems that had developed here. The African dogs live as part of multiple family communities where aggression would not be tolerated.
Kel Simoon Elkem (blue) & Tagalas
What influences your choices in the breeding of your dogs? Are your decisions always scientific? How much do you value the pedigree?
(DK) Sometimes, it’s a whim, but for the most part, Rhonda and I extensively discuss who we will breed. I also talk to Ursula Arnold quite a bit about our plans, and other friends who are familiar with the dogs. I like a dog with a bit more bone, and not so narrow or two-dimensional as some breeders are going for. I value pedigree quite a bit as I said before, since I line-breed on the original African imports of Ursula Arnold and the French line. We’ve also imported a few dogs with a strong African heritage. For instance, Fada Faranda Bohemia (Griss Griss x Djanet Faranda), Rima ak Ilaman (Taikoussou’s Ashak x Jegalah de Garde Epee), Ifalan ‘n shat-ehad (Amanar X Edawi ‘n shat-ehad), and Jeloun ‘n shat-ehad (Biyanou x Kel Simoon Cafya). However, that said, I will not breed to a dog with poor temperament and we health test our breeding stock extensively (eyes, thyroid, autoimmune, hips). I’ve thought about using one of the more popular studs before, but have not, either because of temperament and/or the fact that no health testing had been done on the dog or their ancestors.
(RM) Temperament, health, function and construction, hopefully, in that order. It is my belief that first you must be able to live with the dog. Then the dog must be healthy enough to live. The more physically sound and functional the dog, the better it’s quality of life. But you could have these qualities in a mongrel. It is the format that makes it an Azawakh!
Have you ever done repeat breedings between a pair? What is your opinion of this practice?
(DK/RM) NO! We personally, think the idea of repeat breedings is a waste of time. Your breeding program does not progress by repeatedly breeding the same combination! Once you have puppies from the first litter, it’s only making puppies to repeat the breeding no matter how successful the puppies are in the show ring or in the field. The only reason we would consider a repeat breeding is if the first litter had only one or two puppies, and they were really excellent examples of the breed in every way. However, we would still only repeat it one time, not more.
I think you agree with me upon the relative dishomogeneity of this breed, in Europe as much as in Africa. Would you retain or diminish this dishomogeneity?
(RM) I don’t believe there is a simple answer to this question. As I stated earlier, you must have a certain format or phenotype or you don’t have a breed. There are some variations within a phenotype that gives each dog or line a unique appearance. These variations occur in Africa primarily as a product of function being the number one priority. It would appear that they occur outside of Africa as the result of individual interpretation of the standard. In order to diminish this dishomogeneity, we would basically have to choose one line and have all the world agree that that this line represents the ultimate Azawakh. Then, we would have to make all the breeders line-breed on that line. We have not yet been able to agree on the shape of the chest or the planes of the head. For this reason, diminishing the disparities is impossible.
And on a single breeder’s scales, would it be advisable to seek an inner homogeneity, a sort of kennel trademark? In this regard, how do you handle this in your kennel?
(DK) Of course, most breeders breed for what they find attractive in their interpretation of the standard. However, I don’t feel that one breeder should diverge wildly from the standard or seek to have the standard changed to fit their dogs. I don’t really work at a specific type, but I guess overall, it’s easy to find our dogs, or descendants of our dogs, since I work along the same bloodlines. Some judges seem to like them very well, other judges do not. The two most important things with which I would like to stamp my breed program are Azawakhs that are temperamentally sound and healthy, yet also maintain the essential essence of the breed.
Kel Simoons Diallo & Deva
In your opinion, what are the fundamental features of the breed that cannot be missed?
(DK) Format. Without the correct format, it’s not an Azawakh in my opinion. I don’t like the dog’s chest to make up a major part of its height. The legs should be long, and the body not such a big percentage of the total height. The standard calls for the body to be 40% of the total height. This distorted ratio is becoming more common in the show ring today, in my opinion. Movement is also very important. It must he light and graceful; like a dancer. The ”flying trot” has no place in an Azawakh!
Eye shape is also important to me. I like them to look almond shaped or of a Chinese type. Slanted, darkly pigmented and expressive. Another point to consider is underline. When I became involved in the breed, two underlines (or chest shapes) were considered correct; round and angular. I prefer the more angular underline in my dogs, though both occur in our breed program. Both types seem to occur in Africa too. I was disappointed when the latest version of the FCI standard eliminated the more angular chest, in favor of the round aspect. The standard also calls for a chest that does not reach the elbow. I’ve seen many big winners in the show ring with a chest that drops well below the elbows. Actually, I feel that most points of the standard are important, but these are things that I see first when I’m looking at Azawakhs.
Kel Simoons Cinnamon (foreground) & Essari
Among the features that are not strictly necessary to define the breed, which are those you are working on, and particularly those you are trying to develop?
(DK) I feel strongly that health testing should become the norm in the breed and that it should be made public. It’s good for the breed, but not so good for the breeder’s ego, and that is the problem. It’s easy here in US to register your dog for their thyroid function, eye testing (PRA), heart (Cardiomyopathy and other things) and hip dysplasia. One can go to the appropriate registry, enter the dog’s name or registration number and get the dog’s rating for each category. It’s possible to make an ”informed” decision about breeding! Here in the US, it is considered normal and ethical to do this. Sometimes, we don’t go to the added expense of registering the results, but we’ll discuss them openly with people.
Temperament is another area that I feel is extremely important. I know in Europe, you have begun to have problems with aggressive dog laws. Now it’s the Mastiff breeds and the Pit Bulls, but if Azawakhs bite some people, then the Azawakh will come under attack by the press. Then, things will begin to get very difficult for our dogs. In the US, if your dog bites a person, then maybe that person owns your house and everything you have, your dog is in danger and you may go to jail. I think the Azawakh must have a calmer temperament. I like them to be easy with people in public and when we have visitors, but it’s also OK if they don’t want to be touched. However, they must not bite!
Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad & Kel Simoon Afella (“Kesia”)
As far as I know there is no single kennel club in the USA and the recognition of a breed is a procedure characterized by different steps, with specific morphology and coursing contests. Would you describe to us Europeans the situation of the Azawakhs from this point of view?
(DK) The situation in the US with conformation shows is really bad. There are several rare breed clubs/registries that hold shows, but there is no uniformity between them and no governing body to oversee what they do. The organizations are mostly individuals trying to make money and they come and go every few years. Most of the rare breed shows are very small (under 50 dogs total, some are much smaller), the judges are inexperienced or are Working breed experts. Many never saw an Azawakh before, and some don’t bother to read the standard before they judge them. In general, the entries at rare breed shows are 75% Working (Molosser) dogs, 25% all other groups. Sometimes, there are one or two shows each year where there is an experienced sighthound judge, then I enter my dogs, but sometimes they change the judge after you enter and the club won’t give your money back! Most of the time when you enter, you only get a list of judges that will be there, not when they are judging, so you must enter ALL the shows. It’s very expensive and not very professional! There are usually two shows each day, because the shows are so small. They hold one show in the morning, then another in the afternoon. So a single weekend comprises four shows. A very expensive endeavor, if you enter multiple dogs at $20 – 25 for each dog, in each show! And next month, the Championship you attained with that group may be worth nothing, because the group goes out of business.
We are very active in lure coursing our hounds and we are starting to do other activities (agility, canine freestyle, obedience, etc.) The Azawakh is fully recognized by the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) for lure coursing as of January 2001, and are supposed to get AKC recognition for performance events starting August 2002. I believe the breed is recognized by the open field coursing organization as well, although we’ve not competed in that venue.
The American Kennel Club (the major dog registry in the US) is starting to take some of the particular rare breeds into their shows, but it’s slow and we don’t know when the Azawakh will be recognized to compete in shows. Even so, they can’t compete for Best in Show with the normal groups. It’s a kind of exhibition-only type of competition. Also, the AKC judges don’t know the breed, so it will be hard to get a fair judging for the Azawakhs or the other rare breeds. It’s important for the breeders to volunteer to give judge’s seminars to educate them on the points of the Azawakh breed standard.
To get full recognition of a breed by AKC is a long process. You must have certain numbers of dogs (600, I think) distributed equally around the country, a strong breed club, and a breed standard in AKC format, as well as other requirements. I don’t understand why the AKC doesn’t just accept those breeds recognized by the FCI countries, but they don’t.
Is there an Azawakh club in the States?
(DK) Yes, the American Azawakh Association (AAA) has been in existence since the mid 1980’s. There was another club that was formed a couple of years ago by Corine Lundqvist (Azawakh Club of America), but it’s no longer active. The AAA has about 50 members and newsletter subscribers from the US and other counties.
Can you tell us whether the American standard will differ from the FCI standard and how?
(DK) The American standard is exactly like the FCI standard, with the exception that we allow all colors found in the Azawakh’s countries of origin.
Several European breeders and amateurs think that blunting the harsh temperament of this breed is a mistake, considering it is a characteristic feature, that was molded – just like physical features – by it’s original environment. On the contrary, in consideration of the welfare of both dog and owners, others find it better to try to modify the dog’s character to suit it to the novel environment where they live. Taking into account the fact that Americans are very exacting about dogs’ good manners and docility, what’s your position in this debate?
(DK) As I said earlier, I think a calm temperament is very important! At this point, I’d like to ask, “what would happen if the Azawakh in Africa attacked and bit a guest of it’s nomad owner?” Isn’t it true that once a guest is invited into one’s tent that the person is under the protection of their host? What do you think would happen to the dog that attempted such an indiscretion?
During my visit to Niger and Burkina Faso with Ursula and Reinhard Arnold in late 1997, I never felt threatened by any of the dogs we met along the way; some were obviously friendly with those they knew, some were just plain friendly, and others avoided us. In particular, in the village of Meriza in Niger, there was an older male that was very easygoing and sweet. Think about it; those dogs in the villages receive more socialization than any dog that lives in one’s house, or sits in one’s backyard or kennel run! I don’t think that many of the dogs in Europe or in the US are anything like the dogs in Africa!
Perhaps, some breeders feel that I carry the socialization of my dogs to an extreme, but I don’t want to worry about my dog biting a person and ending up dead by the hand of the animal control officer! I think that in future, you will begin to see a tempering of the attitudes of Azawakh breeders with relation to their dog’s temperaments. The temperaments of many of the Azawakhs in Germany are already much different than they were the first time I visited more than 10 years ago. The laws of dog ownership are changing and with that, in my opinion, the Azawakh will have to change with the times.
Personally, I feel that people should be able to visit our house and be safe in our home. Of course, if an uninvited person entered our property, our dogs would react swiftly and make them leave, FAST! Just because they are friendly and easygoing with people who are invited guests, doesn’t mean their instinct to protect their territory is dead, nor do we discourage this behavior! Those people who visit, that the dogs do not like, are treated with suspicion by us. We trust their instincts, they are rarely incorrect in their opinions.
Are there other American breeders you agree and/or collaborate with? And in Europe?
(DK) I don’t collaborate with many breeders in the US, quite frankly. At present there are only two active and serious breeders here. I do collaborate closely with Ursula Arnold and I’ve purchased dogs from Michael Rackl (ak Ilaman) and Dana Kupkova (Faranda). I converse with many Azawakh breeders and owners by email, of course. We also have a Kel Simoon email list which is open to anyone who is interested in joining.
And finally, what are the achievements of your dogs and with your dogs, officially and unofficially that have pleased you the most?
(DK) That is a hard question! We are certainly happy when our dogs are successful in shows, coursing, racing and such, but it makes us very happy when our puppy people really love their dogs. When they feel that their Azawakh is the best dog they have ever had in their life. This is our best reward, I think. We love to hear that our dogs are visiting old folk’s homes, or doing other activities that show that they are good dogs! We are also happy to hear about the success of the dogs that we’ve rescued and fostered. We are proud of a few particular dogs for success in show/racing/coursing and breeding.
Our old man, Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad, CGC, TT, Therapy dog, is our foundation sire. He has a wonderful temperament and is my dearest and constant companion. The CGC is an AKC title known as the Canine Good Citizen. For this test, the dog must do some basic obedience, be touched and handled by strangers, and several other requirements. This is the basis of the requirements for a Therapy Dog title, which also involves being around people in wheelchairs or on crutches. The Temperament Test involves many of the exercises of the CGC, but with the addition of walking on strange surfaces, being approached by both a friendly and threatening person, stability during gun fire, and tests such as this. Dayyat was the first Azawakh to be awarded the TT title in the US and was the first registered Therapy Dog in the US.
Ursula Arnold’s Kel Simoon Cafya made us very proud when she won BOB at the World Show in Belgium, among her many other titles. Cafya (Nettie) also fulfilled all the requirements to become an International Champion, but it was never awarded because she lacked a three generation pedigree. Nettie’s three litters have been very successful in the show ring and in performance events.
Kel Simoon Chenan, owned by Tobias Joesch, won the Hessen-Thuringen cup two years and was the first coursing champion, among his many titles. Chenan was the sire of the Al Hara’s L litter that produced some really nice dogs. Of note, was Al Hara’s Liyat, who was awarded the CAC at the Hunstetten specialty and Bad Homburg in 2001.
Kel Simoon Dayasha, owned by Christiane Bergmann, was the World Racing Champion for two years and is also successful in shows.
Kel Simoon Emecheta, owned by Marion Weislaug, is a German Champion and won the World Racing Championship in 1999.
Kel Simoon Essari, owned by Rhonda Mann is a specialty Best in Show winner and a Field Champion. Essari is the dam of our G litter.
Kel Simoon Cinnamon was a multiple Specialty Best in Show winner and a Field Champion. Cin was the dam of our E litter.
Kel Simoon Celie, a Specialty Best in Show winner from the biggest ever Rare breed show (over 500 entries) in the US under Judge Brody from Hungary, is also a Field Champion.
Kel Simoon Elkem, owned by Andra Walters of Canada, has been very successful in shows and has quite a following at shows and coursing events with his smiling and clowning around.
Tagalas, FCh, our little African, has produced two lovely litters and is very successful at coursing.
Amastan Kel Air was a Best in Specialty show winner under knowledgeable Azawakh judge, David Miller.
Some of our upcoming stars are Rima ak Ilaman, Kel Simoon Gleti, Hasani and Hanisi and Jeloun ‘n shat-ehad.
“IN GIVING, WE RECEIVE”
By Deb Kidwell
Pet therapy or pet-facilitated therapy as it is more formally called, refers to any treatment in which interaction with an animal is used as part of the healing process. This therapy can take many forms, from the use of horses for handicapped riding programs, to the use of dogs and other small animals for therapy visits to nursing homes, hospitals, mental institutions and prisons. Even brightly colored caged birds or aquariums located in strategic areas in nursing homes encourage conversation and mobility among the residents.
Pet therapy got its start in 1792 in England at the York Retreat, where they used animals as part of a living environment and encouraged patients to care for them. In 1867, a treatment facility in West Germany called Bethel was founded, where they had pet animals, a wild game park and an equestrian program in which patients improved coordination and motor skills by riding horses. Modern pet therapy, as we now know it, began in 1953 with a dog named Jingles belonging to child psychiatrist, Boris Levinson. He found that previously withdrawn and uncommunicative youngsters opened up in the presence of Jingles. The impact of the friendly dog on the doctor’s patients paved the way for extensive use of animals in psychotherapy. In the interest of space and brevity, I will deal only with the therapeutic use of dogs in the nursing home/hospital environment in this article.
While there are many pet therapy programs in existence with varying objectives, the most heavily emphasized area of usage is with the elderly. Trained volunteers from the community bring their pets (which have been evaluated both physically and behaviorally) for visits with patients. The companionship that a visiting pet provides an elderly person has been proven to promote physical, social and emotional health. One of the many benefits that a pet can bring to this setting is that they provide unconditional emotional support because they are attentive and are not critical. They minimize loneliness and give the patient something to look forward to and can sometimes fill the void created by the loss of loved ones or friends who have either died or moved away. Animals also have a role in treating those who can no longer be helped by other people. The depressed and withdrawn, which have been hurt by the actions and judgments of others, can safely interact with an animal that uses no words and makes no value judgments. A dog is not sensitive to wrinkles, smells and the debilitated condition of old age or the alarming impairments of the handicapped. The dog’s unconditional acceptance of each person provides a belief that the essential identity of the individual is unchanged.
You might ask, is my dog suitable for these visits or am I suited to this kind of volunteer work? A therapy dog does not require obedience training, but must be cooperative and able to walk calmly on lead. It must interact in a friendly way with strangers and not show aggression towards people and other animals. A therapy dog must accept all kinds of people: men, women, children and peoples of all races. It should not associate friendly strangers with anything negative. Training for this kind of work requires a lot of cuddling, petting and other positive touch experiences. It is important that the therapy dog never be mistreated or taught to distrust humans. Last but not least, all working dogs need and deserve the best of care. A therapy dog must be healthy and clean, free of external and internal parasites and up to date on all vaccinations. It should have regular veterinary examinations, especially for those diseases that can be transmitted to humans (zoonotic). It is also important not to use chemicals and pesticides on your pet prior to a therapy visit because the chemicals could harm the patients.
The handler’s first job is to protect the dog. She must be able to judge whether the dog should be a therapy dog at all, what kind of facilities that dog is suited to visit and how often. Poor handling can ruin the best therapy dog. Watch for the “relaxation response” on the dog’s face, your body language and voice. Let your love for your dog I shine through! Demonstrate how you relate to your dog by petting and talking to it. A person’s skillful handling of their dog often helps to improve staff-patient interactions and reduces tensions. Seeing the handler work with the dog serves as a reminder and inspiration to staff members when they get tired and frustrated with the residents.
Now you ask, what do I get out of all this? You are enriched by the trust and love you receive and by the wonderful moments of communication that happen by magic when you and your dog do a therapy visit. You can see that these are just people who want to share a memory and be loved. That beneath the disabilities that they are people just like you. People who yearn for affection, who experience fear and hopelessness, who feel sadness, anger, joy, love and longing. The dog allows you to “bridge the gap” between two people and to address the person within. You are touched and overwhelmed by the affection you receive and more, by the affection you feel.
Finally, a most significant outgrowth of the recognition of the human-animal bond is a new awareness and view of animals. In a society where anti-dog legislation is rampant, these moments of communication between the pet and the elderly go a long way in promoting good will towards our animals. Albert Schweitzer once said that we need a new and wiser concept of animals, one that accepts them as living beings who share the earth with us and have a right to exist without exploitation. As the world population increases and resources shrink, we have a tendency to be selfish and discount anything that is not in our self-interest. However, it is in our best interest to love and care for the animals for they make us happier, healthier and link us to the natural environment.
And perhaps, most importantly, they link us to each other better than we can ourselves. As the whole therapy dog concept illustrates, with dogs as intermediaries, we can care for and accept each other with the same wholehearted and unconditional love that they do.Giving an hour a month is such a small amount of time to receive such a wonderful reward. It is a lesson in sharing that lasts long past the visit and proves that it is “in giving that we truly receive”. It makes your heart sing!
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
When I first started my pet therapy visits, I used my Corgi and my Doberman Pinscher and later, my Pharaoh Hounds. All of them had outstanding friendly characters and were excellent therapy dogs. Later when I came to love the Azawakhs, a breed known for its suspicious and unfriendly nature around strangers, I thought that my time doing therapy work was at its end. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the two African dogs that I imported from Europe, (Kel Tarbanassen Etambo from the Coppes in France and Dayyat ‘n shat-ehad from Ursula Arnold in Germany) were excellent candidates for therapy work. Both make regular visits to nursing homes and are well loved by the residents for their calm and loving natures.
In a recent newsletter from Therapy Dog Int’l, a U.S. based organization dedicated to the promotion of therapy dog work, there were some statistics published on breeds that were listed with their registry. Of a total of 3954 dogs listed, only 1.9% was from the sighthound group. I was really surprised since most sighthounds are known for their easygoing, laid-back personalities. It is my hope that this article will help to educate sighthound lovers both in the U.S. and in Europe to the joys of therapy dog work and get more people and their dogs involved in this most wonderful of activities. Peace.
By Deb Kidwell
Born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1875, Albert Schweitzer was a man of many talents — philosopher, physician, musician, theologian, author and builder. By the time he was 21, Schweitzer had decided on a course for his life. For nine years, he studied science, music and theology. Then, he reasoned, he would devote the rest of his life to serving humanity. Before he was 30, Schweitzer was an accomplished musician, a respected writer of theology and an authority on the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach. During his lifetime, he was a prolific writer and published many books on the subjects of theology, philosophy and humanitarianism.
Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 in recognition of his humanitarian efforts at the hospital he established in Africa. His idea for the hospital began after reading an evangelical paper about the need for medical missions. He studied medicine from 1906-1913 and became a doctor, then traveled to French Equatorial Africa with his wife, Helene, and established the hospital of Lambarene in the province of Gabon. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he said, “there could be no peace, no harmony among men and nations unless prejudice and nationalism were laid aside, and all human-kind recognized and embraced the universality of life – specifically, all living creatures.”
Dr. Schweitzer’s most important and lasting legacy is his basic philosophy: Reverence for Life. From an early age, Schweitzer was sensitive to the plight of the animals of the late 1800’s. As a child, when he said his prayers each night, he added his own words, “Oh, heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath; guard them from all evil, and let them sleep in peace.” He went out of his way to protect and defend animals of all species.
“Dr. Schweitzer grappled with the paradoxes of the man-animal-nature relationship as no philosopher had done before.” His philosophy resulted in the enlightenment of attitudes, which led to the passage of laws protecting animal rights in many venues, to include the humane treatment of slaughter animals and laboratory animals.
Schweitzer had a huge following around the world. Many organizations, such as schools, hospitals, and humane societies, to name a few, were formed and dedicated to keeping Schweitzer’s spirit and philosophies alive. Although Dr. Schweitzer had a broad base of philosophical ideas and beliefs, this essay will focus on his feelings on the human-animal bond.
In researching the life and times of Albert Schweitzer, I found particular sympathy and feeling in the book, Animals, Nature & Albert Schweitzer, edited by Ann Cottrell Free. The book explores Schweitzer’s life through his love of animals and also includes an in-depth analysis of his basic philosophy and how it relates to his feelings about animals and nature. He felt that western ethics had been largely limited to the relationships between men and that it was important to have ethics which also included the animals.
Schweitzer had strong feelings that the 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes, had greatly damaged our ethics with regard to animals and nature. He said, “It would seem as if Descartes with his theory that animals have no souls and are mere machines had bewitched all philosophy.” He went on to say that Descartes’ philosophy, “I think, therefore, I am”, was too abstract and not useful in the real world. Schweitzer felt that one must proceed in the most basic and direct way to, “I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live.”
Schweitzer’s philosophy of Reverence for Life, at first glance, may seem too general to provide an ethic to truly live by, but he felt that the ethic of Reverence for Life was the ethic of love, widened into universality. His philosophy keeps us watching for ways to bring about relief and to compensate for the misery that man inflicts on animals.
In his life, he carried out the “law of necessity” in his dealings with the wild animals of French Equatorial Africa. He felt that, to cause injury or death to any kind of life, he had to be quite certain it was necessary. Schweitzer said that, “To the man that is truly ethical, all life is sacred, including that which from the human point of view seems lower in the scale.” It falls to man to decide which of two lives must be sacrificed in order to preserve the other and that man bears the responsibility for the life which is sacrificed. Dr. Schweitzer lived his philosophy every day of his life. When called upon to make a life or death decision, he always considered each case separately, always hoping that the continuation of life could be justified.
Schweitzer felt strongly that we must never be callous about the taking of life and that, through a reverence for life; we should feel the consequences of our action more strongly and profoundly. In keeping with his philosophy for killing only for necessity, he abhorred hunting for sport and felt that animals should be killed only if they were destructive to man and crops, and that they must be killed quickly and humanely. He asked, “When will we reach the point that hunting, the pleasure of killing animals for sport, will be regarded as a mental aberration? We must reach the point that killing for sport will be felt as a disgrace to our civilization.”
For Dr. Schweitzer, life without animals was barely worth living. He spent his life surrounded by a variety of tame “wild” animals: antelopes, monkeys, chimpanzees, birds and the more traditional dogs and cats. One of his favorite pets was a pelican named Parsifal. He wrote a small children’s book about Parsifal, in which the pelican tells his life story.
Dr. Schweitzer’s philosophy extended to the plant kingdom as well. He abhorred the planting of flower gardens, because he didn’t want to harm the plants by cutting them to bring them inside. When building roads, he was also known to transplant entire groves of palm trees so that they could continue living. When constructing buildings in his hospital compound, he was always careful to avoid injury to any small creatures that may have been harmed by the construction process.
He stated his philosophy in a variety of ways. One story involved a tree that grows, bears fruit and, after a certain time, it ceases to bear, withers and dies. This is a problem of roots that were not sunk deep enough. He felt that humanity has the same problem: our roots are not deep enough. He writes, “It [humanity] has not found sustenance and fresh impetus, because the ethical code on which it was based was too narrow and didn’t have a deep enough foundation.” Our ethics have given only cursory attention to our relationship with other living beings and, in so doing, has put down shallow roots in our humanity. Dr. Schweitzer continues, “For only if we have an ethical attitude in our thinking about all living creatures does our humanity have deep roots and a rich flowering that cannot wither.”
I find Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy to be a refreshing note of sanity in an insane world. I marvel at the diversity of the philosophical views within his basic philosophy: Reverence for Life. Dr. Schweitzer’s philosophy is neither right nor left wing; it fits right in the middle of how life “should” be lived. I feel that, if all of humanity lived by Schweitzer’s simple belief, the world would truly be a better place. What if we all lived with a reverence for each other, for each living creature? If we, on the whole, had greater concern for the well-being of each individual on Planet Earth, there would be less fighting and suffering, and greater effort expended on pursuits that would lead to love, peace and harmony among people of all cultures, all races.
Dr. Schweitzer’s view on euthanasia, or mercy killing as he calls it, is also a philosophy that I can embrace wholeheartedly. Schweitzer believed in euthanasia. He stated that, “to put an end by mercy killing to the suffering of a creature, when that suffering cannot be alleviated, is more ethical than to stand aloof from it.”
What could be more humane than to end suffering that could not be alleviated? Many “humaniacs” (my word for people who believe that life should be preserved at all costs) believe there is no reason for euthanasia of animals, regardless of the degree of neglect, pain and suffering.
Having been involved with animals in some capacity for my entire life, I’ve seen the suffering and neglect endured by many of our animal friends. One incident in which I had to make a decision to end suffering and pain involved my beloved dog, Kesia. Kesia had a problem with swallowing, but it was intermittent. I had taken her to veterinarians numerous times, and their diagnosis was always the same: “There is nothing wrong.” At times, Kesia would start to swallow convulsively, and then chew and swallow indiscriminately. This extended to the corners of blankets, articles of clothing, and other inappropriate items, during the episodes described above. Finally, when she was nine years old, my roommate Rhonda traveled with her by train to my sister, who, at the time, operated a veterinary hospital in Wisconsin. My sister performed an endoscopic examination of Kesia’s throat and found that her entire throat and larynx were deeply cancerous and very painful. A flap of cancerous tissue was closing her throat, which caused the convulsive swallowing episodes, and it was her attempts to push that flap of cancerous tissue down that caused her to eat the inappropriate things. My poor girl! The three of us made the decision to put her to sleep immediately while she was still under anesthesia from the procedure. Was it the right decision, the humane decision? I have to believe that it was. It is my belief that reverence for life does not relieve me of my responsibility to end suffering.
I greatly admire Dr. Schweitzer for the effect he had on the development of the Animal Welfare laws of today. In 1966, the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was enacted, albeit without the specific pain reduction measures that Dr. Schweitzer endorsed. Amended three times in 15 years and now called the Animal Welfare Act, it primarily regulates acquisition and care of selected species of animals. Humane groups still lobby for stronger pain reduction regulation and the discontinuation of the use of laboratory animals, but it was Schweitzer’s beliefs that made these kinds of laws a reality. Many Animal Welfare societies worldwide were created following Schweitzer’s philosophy. People saw Schweitzer as a leader and spokesperson for animal welfare and, thus, others were able to pick up the ball and work for the more humane treatment of the animals of the world. A Schweitzer medal was cast in 1954 by the Animal Welfare Institute that included one of his outstanding quotes, “We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.” The medal has been awarded almost every year thereafter for outstanding service to animals.
Albert Schweitzer died at Lambarene on September 4, 1965, at age 90. He knew on his death that, by answering the questions he asked as a young boy, he had given guidance to those whose hearts were hurt by the suffering of animals and the destruction of nature.
Schweitzer had the satisfaction of living long enough to know that his philosophy made a difference to the world. He knew that the truth of his philosophy would one day change human thought; however, it was one of the surprises of his life that he was able to see the promotion and progress of his ethics in his lifetime.
He left this quote for a new humanity, “Our civilization lacks humane feeling. We are humans who are insufficiently humane. We must realize that and seek a new spirit. Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy.”