Article first appeared on Saluki International issue 8 - Spring/Summer 1996
An Italian’s view of CRUFTS 1996
Until recently Salukis have been a rarity in Italy, nut now they are becoming more popular. People are becoming interested in this elegant and exotic breed and we hope this interest will spread in the future. Many people are fascinated by the beauty of Salukis, by their charming good looks and they are bewitched by the mystery, uniqueness and grace of the breed.
Breeding in Italy is not a well difined tendency at the moment, but it can rely on enthusiastic, trustworthy individuals who do not hesitate to travel to far away places in order to admire famous Salukis and to meet renowned breeders.
On March 16th 1996 at 14:30 hrs, I left cold and rainy Rome for London where, unusually the weather was better. I spent four wonderful days in England completely absorbed in the famous English Salukis so praiseworthy (but criticised too) all over the world.
I took the opportunity of visiting Crufts - the largest, most famous and spectacular dog show in the world. I was immediately struck by the perfect organisation and great order - undoubtedly a sign of long experience in organising the event - wich I could not find either at the World Dog Show FCI in Switzerland or anywhere in Italy.
When judging started in ring #26, I was pleased to discover that 155 Salukis, with a total of 166 entries, would be judged by Mrs Zola Rawson; a well renowned international judge and a worthy breeder of quality Salukis as well. The competition started at 9am and continued well into the afternoon.
I had decided to come to Crufts as I believe the English breeding to be one of the best and my expectation was not let down. I noticed that the overall quality of all the Salukis shown was really high - maybe there are not many outstanding Salukis in England at the moment (especially amongst the dog), but nevertheless there were really very few poor speciamens at Crufts. The winner were amazingly beautiful: Best Dog - Ch. Jazirat Iskandraya and the Best Bitch/Best of Breed - Ch. Al Caliphs Erianthe.
I especially loved some of the specimens shown with the distinctive smoky muzzle (even if there were very
few); for example, the Best Dog Ch. Jazirat Iskandraya. Such a feature is a rare characteristic in Western Salukis, despite being greatly appreciated in some countries of origin.
The presentation was very professional (taking into account that most of the Salukis were shown by their owners). Only a few of the younger Salukis at first refused to stand for the judges examination. On the whole temperament was good.
Although my generai impression was positive, I have to underline some general imperfections, for instance: tails too short, rough coat, incorrect front movement. Moreover, I noticed too much straight angulation, too many ‘round eyes’ that gave an uncongenial expression and even subjects that were too heavy or unfit. It is also true that some of the Salukis exhibited lacked ‘elegance’ or rather, the western idea of elegance.
However, it was encouraging to see that in Britain people are still trying to maintain the original ‘type’ (even if only one type). Unlike other countries where, at a show, there is a variety of types; in England I was struck by the great homogeneity of the specimens. This is good because on one side it allows the creation of one breeding mould and above all it gives breeders the possibility of co-operating towards a common aim. On the other side, homogeneity destroy one of the most important features of the breed - it’s variety. Unfortunately in some countries, variety is misunderstood for a great range of morphological defects or exaggerated features. In the countries of origin, variety is a consequence of surviving in hard climate and different terrains. The very idea of maintaining such a variety in our well-organised western world is hard to achieve.
Maintaining such a variety within the modern concept of breeding is nothing but an Utopia.
English people imported a variety of types of Salukis from countries of origin, which were different, but which all showed similar characteristic, from these Salukis the breed standard was compiled. However, one man and one dog strongly affected English breeding, namely Brigadier Lance and Sarona Kelb. In fact, even today the outstanding type in England is the Kelb one. It is surprising to see the many similarities between some of the modern Salukis and Sarona Kelb. For instance, when comparing photos, the main features of the Salukis are the same. Even today, Kelb would not look out of place in the show ring. This is good, the ‘inevitable’ evolution of our breed must not obliterate it’s past - especially as the past has such a glorious history.
From what I have experienced (and my idea is supported by what I saw at Crifts), I could define an English ‘type’ as follows: medium size, strong and sturdy, abundant in feathering and quite marked fringes (sometimes there is even continuity between the parts of the body with long hair and those with short hair - for instance, you can find specimens with profuse hair on the neck and/or spread diffusely on the body), slightly open angulation, free and composed and not exaggerated movement and a well proportioned rectangular body shape. To sum matters up, the English Saluki resembles what, in the past, was called the Syrian Saluki - undefeated hunter on rocky and hard ground. These are my impression, wich I have gathered both as a ‘scholar’ of the history of the Salukis, and from my experiences in Italy and abroad.
Moderation and Preservation is indeed the real aim in Britain. The English Salukis still keep that particular exotic distinguished look - thanks to the English people's natural spirit of conservation.