An African sighthound of Afro-Asiatic type, the Azawakh originated in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Raised in the Sahel region of the Sahara desert, they are named for the Azawakh valley. Azawakh means “land of the north”. They are the guardians, hunters and companions of the Tuareg and other ethnic tribes of the southern Sahel.
The breed was first imported to Yugoslavia in the early 1970s by Dr. Pecar, a Yugoslavian diplomat stationed in Burkina Faso. The dogs could not be bought, however, Dr. Pecar received his male as a gift from the nomads. He later bartered his services as a hunter, by killing a bull elephant who had been terrorizing the tribe, in exchange for a female Azawakh. 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 under FCI rules.
The Azawakh made its debut in the United States in the mid-1980s. The first litter was whelped on October 31, 1987 by Gisela Cook-Schmidt (Reckendahl). 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 by Deb Kidwell (Kel Simoon). In the mid-1990s, a parti-color male was imported from Burkina Faso and in 1997, a parti-color and sand litter which was 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.
The show history of the Azawakh began very soon after its original importation to Europe. 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 bona fide breed and were referred to as “Sloughi-Azawakhs”. In 1986, the Azawakh was finally recognized for the unique animal it is, when FCI dropped the word “Sloughi” from the name.
In the US, the Azawakh is recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), the International All Breed Kennel Club of America (IABCA), the States Kennel Club (SKC), the American Rare Breed Association and many other smaller registries. The breed is registered in AKC through AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (AKC FSS). By June 30, 2011, the Azawakh breed has advanced to the Miscellaneous Group and can participate in all events permitted in this group.
The American Azawakh Association is the parent club for the breed in the US. Although the AAA does not recognize the FCI Standard for the breed because of its color limitations, the dogs can be shown in any FCI recognized country under FCI rules which allow only sand to dark red and brindle, with all other colors disqualified. Their history as show dogs is in its infancy, but their natural regal presence demands recognition.