As of January 1, the Azawakh—one of the most expensive dog breeds in the world, according to The Dog Digest—has gained full recognition within the American Kennel Club (AKC), making it eligible for competition in the organization's dog shows. Here’s what you should know about the breed.
1. The Azawakh is leggy.
These pups are tall and lean—so much so that, according to the AKC, a dog’s “bone structure and musculature can plainly be seen beneath his skin.” Males can stand nearly 2.5 feet tall and weigh up to 55 pounds, while females can grow to 2.25 feet tall and weigh up to 44 pounds. They live 12 to 15 years.
2. The Azawakh is an ancient breed from West Africa.
The sighthound, used for hunting, hails from the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger (and the Azawakh Valley). “This wonderful breed has been around for thousands of years, and we’re happy to introduce it to dog lovers in this country,” AKC executive secretary Gina DiNardo said in a press release.
3. The breed made its U.S. debut in the 1980s.
According to the American Azawakh Association (AAA), the breed made its way to Europe first, in the 1970s. The first litter was born in the states on October 31, 1987; all the pups were red or fawn and had white markings.
4. Its name is pronounced Oz-a-wok.
It’s also known as the Tuareg Sloughi. The Tuareg nomads—who are among several tribes that traditionally own this breed—call it idii n’ illeli, which means “sighthound of the free people.”
5. It has a short, fine coat.
Unlike with other breeds, no color combinations or markings will disqualify the Azawakh from competition. According to the AKC, its coat “may come in any color or color combinations: red, clear sand to fawn, brindled, parti-color (which may be predominantly white), blue, black, and brown. The head may have a black mask and there may be white markings on the legs, bib, and at the tip of tail.” Its short coat means it’s easy to groom; according to the AKC, it needs just a brush once a week. You probably won’t even need to bathe it if it gets muddy; just wait for the mud to dry, then brush it off.
6. It’s a very active breed.
In Africa, these speedy dogs chase down fleet-footed prey like hares and gazelles—so they need a lot of exercise. According to the AAA, “The Azawakh is always on the alert for moving objects; even a leaf in the wind will trigger a chase.”
They’re a good pooch for runners and need at least 30 minutes of playing with another dog or owner every day. The other dog or owner is key, though: Left on its own, the Azawakh won’t exercise.
7. They’re loyal to their owners, but can be standoffish with strangers.
These smart, independent dogs are have a strong bond with their owners. They’re also protective: In addition to hunting, they’re used in Africa to protect encampments and herds of animals. The AAA notes that “when approached on their own turf, they are vocally intimidating. In situations where their duty as guardian isn’t necessary, their reactions may range from friendly, to mildly curious, to arrogantly indifferent. … A well socialized Azawakh is affectionate, gentle, playful, subtle, and very loyal to its owner … Azawakhs are usually cautious with strangers. They typically observe for a while before approaching.”
8. It’s part of the AKC’s hound group.
Also in that group are the greyhound, the saluki, the beagle, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback, among others.