Thesis for the veterinary PHD (National Diploma) of Dr Roussel 1975

Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse

Year 1975                                                               No. 101

Contribution to the study of sighthounds in the southern Sahara



Submitted and defended publicly in 1975
Before the Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse

François ROUSSEL
Born 4th August 1947 at GUER (Morbihan)

(Translation in english : Susan BAMFORD)


Members of the Panel

President: Mr. GAYREL
Professor at Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse

Assessors: Mr. QUEINNEC
Professor at Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse

Professor at Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse




1.   Geographical boundaries
2.   Climate
3.   Vegetation
4.   Fauna
5.   Human population


1.   In Gourma
2.   In Azaouad
3.   In Adrar des Iforas
4.   In the Menaka circle
5.    Numerical importance


1.   Mali sighthound
2.   Berber sighthound
3.   Saharan sighthound
4.   Sudan sighthound
5.   Oska
6.   Sahel-Saharan sighthound
7.   Touareg sighthound

Chapter IV - ROLE

1.   Hunting
2.   Guarding


I. Definition of the Touareg sighthound using Baron coordinates

1.   Profile
2.   General proportions
3.   Size

II. Morphology

1. General appearance
2. Head
3. Neck
4. Forequarters
5. Body
6. Hindquarters
7. Tail
8. Coat
9. Height

III. Measurements

1. Principle

A.      Sampling
B.      Equipment
C.      Method

2. Definition and result of measurements

A.    Head and Neck
B.    Trunk
C.    Limbs and tail

3. Statistical analysis

A.    Results

1)  Head and neck
2)  Trunk
3)  Limbs and tail

B.    Comparison of averages between males and females
C.    Interpretation of results

1)  Head and neck
2)  Trunk
3)  Limbs

D.    Study of linear of results between features

4.  Growth curve


1.  Genetic factor
2.  Environmental factor


I.   Selection of pups by nomads

1.  Objective criteria
2.  Criteria associated with beliefs

II.  Names given to pups
III. Feeding
IV. Training
V.  Contraceptive practices

1.  In the male
2.  In the female

VI. Decoration of hounds


1.  A series
2.  B series
3.  E series
4.  S series
5.  C series
6.  D locus
7.  M locus
8.  T locus


I.   African sighthounds

1.  Sloughi
2.  Tessem
3.  Other African sighthounds

a)  Mauritania
b)  Eastern Africa
c)  Northern and north-eastern Africa

II.  Other sighthounds

1.  Galgo
2.  Podenco
3.  Greyhound
4.  Whippet
5.  Italian Greyhound
6.  Sighthounds from the Near and Middle East




The purpose of this work is to study a canine population about which very little is known to date.

It concerns the sighthounds that are encountered among the nomads in the Sahelian regions of the Mali and Niger republics.

The reasons for this lack of knowledge are multiple since their area in which they exist has only very recently been opened up to European penetration.

However, if the Touareg sighthound is not well known, the reasons for this should perhaps be looked for in the confusion which has forever existed in North Africa. We will look into the causes of this in the morphological study that follows.

Considered to be a mongrelised and degenerated cousin of the Sloughi by the Western dog fancy, the Sahel sighthound was therefore not thought worthy of attention, and the prejudices of the majority of European dog fancy circles could only ratify this notion.

We will try to show in this study that the Touareg or Sahel sighthound is a product of its environment, the result of selection or more simply the breeding of subjects intended for hunting and for guarding flocks among nomadic populations living in semi-desert areas under conditions of existence that were as hard for the people as they were for their animals.

We will attempt to define and reveal the principal characteristics of the breed obtained in this manner. Let us say simply here that, from a functional point of view, these sighthounds are remarkable for their speed, their endurance and their sobriety of appearance.

From a morphological point of view, we will see that the Touareg do not have such strict perceptions as European breeders, and that is maybe the main interest of this study which is above all to understand a breed of dog living in its original environment, among its traditional owners, before it is taken over and disfigured by conventional dog fanciers.



1. Geographical boundaries

The habitat range of the canine population that we are studying here is located in West Africa and, more specifically, in the desert, pre-desert and sahelian areas of Mali and Niger.

For zoogeographers, this covers part of the Sudanian province, strictly speaking itself part of the overall Ethiopian area (i.e. excluding Madagascar).

For geographers, it covers the area centred by the middle eastern Niger basin.

This map can only show the basic main features. What are its boundaries?

To the south, we have the Mossi country, more specifically with the Upper Volta border.
To the east, Aïr and Ténéré.
To the north, Ahaggar and Tanezrouft.
To the west, Timetrine and Azaouad.

It covers an area much bigger than France with its million square kilometres, including fairly varied regions that can be broadly grouped into two distinct sections: a lowland area bordered to the north by a mountain range.

The mountain area from west to east includes Adrar des lforas, Ahaggar and Aïr.

Lowland areas hollowed out by the Niger include:

-    Gourma, a bare open plain with localized areas of dunes.
-    Gao basin, group of low plateaux partially covered with sand, cut through by the Tilemsi (fossil wadi).
-    Tamesna.
-    Azaouak, low plateau chiselled out by the wadi which has given it its name.
-    Dallol region (dallol = valley in the djerma language).

2. Climate

Except for northern regions, i.e. those located to the north of the 18th parallel, the sector has a climate which is a combination of Saharan and tropical types. This is the hemi-eremic (semi-desert) climate of Banyouls and Gaussen. It is always associated with scarce rainfall; its limit is defined, to the north by the 100 mm isohyet and to the south by the 500 mm isohyet.

This is a climate of contrasts with two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season which lasts from 1 to 3 months spread around June; this is the wintering period.

This climate, which is specific to the semi-desert regions of the southern Sahara, is characterized, in addition to its low rainfall, by the dryness of its air and contrasts in temperature which, although they do not quite reach those of the central Sahara, are nonetheless very high.

In Gao, for example, the average temperature varies from 22°c in January to 34°c in May, with minimum temperatures of 12°c and 25°c respectively.

Relative air humidity which fluctuates around 15 % but can fall to 5 %, only exceeds 50 % during the rainy season.

These various climatic characteristics can vary through the years, so for example 1971 - 1972 and 1973 were marked by severe drought.

3. Vegetation

Vegetation is very variable from one sector to another. From almost total desert to open savannah, all intermediate climates are possible. The most frequent appearance however is steppe land with its two most common aspects:

-   grass steppe,
-   shrub steppe.

The plant families most often represented are:

-   Graminaceae (Panicum turgidum, various Aristida, Artemisia herba alba),
-   Brassicaceae or Cruciferae (Farsetia, Zilla spinosa),
-   or Compositae,
-   Boraginaceae.

Thorny type shrubs belong to the following families:

-   Mimisoideae (different types of Acacia),
-   Salvadoraceae (Salvadora persica),
-   Zygophyllaceae(Balanites aegyptica),
-   Tamaricaceae (Tamarix aphylla).

4. Fauna

Wildlife varies considerably in accordance with the latitude, ranging from Saharan to Sahelian type.

In the desert aero-type, although the addax (Addax masomaculatus) has almost completely disappeared, there is still a great abundance of gazelles (Gazella dorcas), fennecs (Fennecus zerda) to cite only the most typical animals seen.

To the south, it is the Senegalo-Nilotic aero-type with the following being most frequently seen:

-   red-fronted gazelles (Gazella rufifrons) or gazelle corinne,
-   dama gazelles (Gazella dama).
-   warthogs (Phacochaerus),
-   hyenas (Hyena crocuta),
-   giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis),
-   aardvarks (Orycteropus afer),
-   desert hares. In Niger, hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibius) and manatees (Hanatus senegalensis). Elephants (Loxodonta africana) and lions (Panthera leo) are also plentiful in Gourma.

5. Human population

This unwelcoming country, hostile to all those living in it, has only an impoverished population most of whom are gathered together on the banks of the Niger. For the most part, these are sedentary black people working as fishers, farmers and herders.

To the west, we find mostly Bambaras and Dogons. Starting from Timbuktu, the Sonray are dominant, replaced to the south of Gao by the Djermas, to whom they are closely related.

To these various groups can be added, to a greater or lesser degree, such peoples as Peuls, Hausas, Bellas and Moors.

The numerically far smaller population of nomads occupies all of the hinterland and is only really concerned with livestock farming. Convoying and hunting for them are only very secondary activities. Their herds are made up of goats, sheep, donkeys, zebus and dromedaries, and guarding all this are the dogs that we are interested in. Leaving aside the Moors (few in number), the Peuls (often semi settled) and the Bellas, we are left with the Kountas (Arabic language) who live nomadically in Azaouad, but above all the Touaregs who are classified by ethnologists as lforas, Kel Ahaggaret or Ouilliminden. These latter, most often of noble birth, live mainly in Tamesna and Azaouak. It was among them that we encountered the most beautiful specimens of dogs.



When travelling through the different regions of Mali (Gourma, Gao region, Ménaka, Azaouak valley) we were struck by the homogeneity of the canine population. This is made up almost exclusively of sighthounds.

The few rare mongrelized dogs that we saw were in the towns where recent European presence had brought in various dogs, often of herding type.

The sighthound is considered to be a noble animal. We find a description of it in a Tamahaq text about the eastern Ouilliminden people, Francis Nicolas provides a literal translation: ... "they are short-haired, their coat, in some, is red, their muzzle is black, the stomach is white, some have white socks or stockings, some are completely white, including their toenails are white" ... "our hounds run behind gazelles, Oryx, ostriches, giraffes or warthogs."

This text, with its wealth of morphological details, also provides information on hunting, on the feeding of this sighthound, its standards and its value.
This great homogeneity of the Circassian type does not however exclude a morphological variability in line with the areas being travelled across.

1. In Gourma

There are many sighthounds here. These are powerful dogs, well-muscled and stocky, where their relatively thick skin and strong bone structure give a relative "heaviness" in general appearance.
Average height is 65 cm for the males and 60 cm for the females. Ears are always carried hanging down, either flat or semi-folded. The tail is either hanging down, or rolled up over the back, with a turn and a half. Some nomads consider that the coiled tail confers a character of nobility. Others that we have asked, consider it unimportant.

The most common coat colours are red or sand, white stockings are frequent, uniformly white or speckled. One also sees, although rarely, a few piebald coats.
True single colour coats do not exist; one always finds white markings either on the toes or on the chest.
We have noticed that red coated hounds were slightly bigger than those with sand colour coats.

2. In Azaouad

This is the area to the north-east of the loop of the Niger river. The canine population here is more restricted, which is easily explained by the fact that the human population is smaller. The sighthounds here are of lighter build than in Gourma.

3. In Adrar des lforas

In addition to the sighthounds which are found here at certain times of the year during nomadic travel, there are also large sighthound type dogs where height at the withers is often greater than 70 cm.

4. In the Ménaka circle

When we questioned the nomads, whether in Gourma or Adrar des lforas, i.e. in areas that were several hundred kilometres apart, they all invariably replied that it was necessary to go into the south of Tamesna and in particular in the region of Ménaka in order to meet "the most beautiful hounds".

The Ménaka circle, as big as half of France, holds a population of 35,000 inhabitants, for the most part Touareg and remaining until now shielded from any foreign influences. European penetration into Ménaka goes back to the beginning of the century and was arrived at by a certain amount of fighting. However, this brief warlike episode did nothing to disturb the traditional balance, since it was not followed by European occupation. The absence of foreign influence and the regular pattern of nomadic wanderings within the same zone, unchanged over the centuries, have made this region a biological isolate.

Recent work carried out with the assistance of ethnologists using haemo-typology, shows that one particular tribe (Kel Kumer) in which endogamy is strict forms a genetic isolate. Since the history of domestic animals and, in particular, dogs is linked to that of mankind, one can reasonably think that the dogs also form a genetic isolate for which the dominant nature cannot be masked.

And it is in the sense of adaptation to coursing that the canine population here has been evolving for centuries.

As soon as one arrives in the Ménaka region, one is struck by the number of dogs to be seen there. Canine density there is clearly higher than in other regions. However, in addition to such density, these dogs stand out for their remarkable morphological uniformity. Undeniably these are the most typical specimens encountered by us. Their features are more refined and their gait lighter than for the others.

The morphological uniformity of Touareg sighthounds is explained by two facts that have contributed towards fixing the type today:

First of all, over the centuries, they were used for hunting, in particular chasing wild antelopes and it therefore naturally follows that any selection is on aptitude to coursing, thus eliminating the best marked Circassian type specimens. [1]

Next, as we have already emphasized, since the population consisted only of sighthounds, even if reproduction took place randomly, which was not necessarily the case, there was no risk of discordant crossbreeding between dogs of different morphologies.

It can be seen therefore that the Touareg sighthound's isolation in its environment has preserved its genome, by endowing it with the morphological uniformity that we can still observe today.

Numerical importance

It is difficult to put a number to the canine population of the Sahel region that we have outlined above. We know that it is linked to the nomadic population. And for that reason alone, we can affirm that it is shrinking. Nomadic life is in the process of disappearing little by little, for two reasons:

- the first is administrative, with nomads being too free and able to escape from the various constraints imposed by the State, and many methods are used to try and get them to lead a settled life;
- the second, no doubt temporary, is due to drought which has badly affected the herds, thus depriving the nomads of their sole means of subsistence.

We should also add that the appearance of firearms has contributed towards reducing the sighthound's importance.
In the present day, our estimation is that several thousand sighthounds are living in the southern Sahara




Various terms were suggested for designating the sighthounds that we are studying. The multiplicity of names suggested shows the difficulty that lies in finding a satisfactory one. We will give a critical summary of some of these:

1.  Mali sighthound

The name is incorrect for two reasons:

- these sighthounds are only found in the northern part of the country, i.e. the Sahel region;

- these hounds also live in certain parts of Niger and Chad.

2.  Berber sighthound

This name was created to mark a distinction in relation to the Arabian sighthound which is the sloughi. Such a designation seems wrong to us from a geographical point of view and incorrect from an ethnological point of view.

From a geographical point of view first of all, the Berber culture covers North Africa and Libya and does not therefore correspond to the range of distribution of the dogs being studied.

From an ethnological point of view, the Touareg who own these sighthounds are considered to be a branch of Berbers having emigrated to the Sahara, but the great majority of Berbers today live in Morocco.

3.  Saharan sighthound

We shouldn't forget that the Sahara is an area of true desert, and, because of this, it is uninhabited.
Uninhabited by people, and also by dogs. Any, very few in number, encountered here, are just passing through.
It is therefore wrong to speak of a Saharan sighthound.

4.  Sudan sighthound

In canine literature, one sees this term. It designates sighthounds from the former Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, an area to the east of that being studied here.
It is in a part of former French Sudan that the population of interest to us is found. However, we reject the term "Sudan sighthound" for the same reason that we also refused "Mali sighthound".

5.  Oska

"OSKA" is a Tamacheq term used by Father Charles de Foucauld, to designate sighthounds of the Hoggar and is defined as follows: "sighthound, purebred dog, long in leg, thin in body and a fast runner".

If Father de Foucauld speaks of purebred dogs, this allows us to assume that, in the Hoggar, there were also dogs that were "impure" in breed. Indeed, one finds two types of dog here: sighthounds on the one hand, as well as dogs with long and woolly coats, for the moment known as "dogs of the mountains".

"OSKA" is only used in the Hoggar dialects, in the region to the extreme north of the area of distribution of these sighthounds.
In all other regions, the sighthound reigns alone and it is under the name of "Eidi" that the Touareg speak of it. However, the literal translation of "Eïdi" is the word "dog", since the concept of breed cannot exist for people who only know of one type.

The word "Oska" is therefore not sufficiently representative to be retained.

6.  Sahel-Saharan sighthound

This term is relatively satisfactory since it describes a geographic area intersecting the area of distribution of the sighthounds that interest us. However, it remains vague and above all not very easy to use.
We prefer Sahel sighthound to this one.

7.  Touareg sighthound

This is the term that we shall use since this sighthound is the hound of the nomads. And, across the vast area that we are studying, the great majority of nomads are represented by the Touareg.
The others: Peuls or Bellas living as nomads, have adopted Touareg customs, to such an extent that one talks of "targuisation" (arabisation).



1. Hunting

The prime quality of the Touareg sighthound is above all knowing how to hunt. It hunts, of course, for its owner but also for itself. Its start off is so fast that it enables it to surprise many species of birds as they take flight. It hides behind any bushes, so as to launch itself at the last possible moment onto open ground.

Guinea fowl are the easiest to catch. They only lift themselves a few metres above ground level and remain easily accessible to a leaping hound. The bustard is also easy game, as its takeoff is heavy and very slow. The partridge is a more difficult prey, but its capture is not exceptional.

Among the small mammals, the main prey concerned is the hare whose rapid flight obliges the sighthound to use all its coursing abilities. Although its scarcity is making itself felt, as has been the case in recent years, the prey taken may be less "noble", such as small rodents, Barbary ground squirrels, gerbils as well as, in very unfavourable circumstances, lizards or small tortoises.

However the noblest chase, without any doubt whatsoever, remains that of the gazelle. One encounters 3 types of gazelle in these areas - Gazella dama, Gazella rufifrons, and Gazella dorcas. This very spectacular hunting by sight, described by many Saharan writers, has been practised for centuries in accordance with the same rules.

Hunters go off, accompanied by one or more sighthounds, at the coolest time of the day, i.e. early morning. The gazelles are tracked by their droppings and footprints left by them in the sand. From down wind, the hunters then cautiously move towards them. They hold back their hounds. At a moment that is thought right, they release them. Capture is far from being immediate, well to the contrary in fact: the gazelle's departure is very fast and, in the first few hundred metres, it leaves the dogs a distance behind. Then, little by little, it starts to tire and this is shown by a track that is no longer in a straight line.

It changes direction more and more frequently, thus following a broken line with segments that are increasingly short. The trajectory of the hounds is, of course, shortened by the swerves that accompany such changes of direction. Their speed is always steady and little by little they thus catch up their lost ground. They help each other in order to turn the gazelle. Soon, they get closer to it and the end of the chase can be achieved in two ways:

Either the hound catches up and runs alongside the gazelle. It gives it a bite in the flank area which most often causes a tear in the abdominal wall with evisceration.

Or the hound tackles its prey perpendicularly and hits it hard in the chest like a battering ram. The shock is then such that the gazelle is thrown off balance and falls to the ground, often with fractures to its limbs and spinal column.

It is interesting to note, on the subject of coursing, that the Touareg sighthound is not a "sprinter" like the whippet or greyhound. Performances of the latter two breeds, in pure speed, are considerably faster. On the other hand, the Sahel sighthounds, rather like the Sloughi, have remarkable qualities of endurance that enable them to maintain an average speed of 50 km/h over several kilometres. This feature makes it a "middle-distance" runner. Another characteristic of running is associated with certain anatomical proportions: long limbs, its very short back and loin make the Touareg sighthound a leaper. Its method of running becomes a sort of succession of bounding leaps making up the "sighthound gallop" as opposed to the "horse gallop".

2. Guarding

In the camps, the Touareg sighthound is also useful for guarding. This is not a minor consideration for the nomads since most legal disputes concern the thefts of animals. The stature and particularly hostile attitude that the dog adopts at the time of any outside intrusion, confers upon it a role of efficient guardian. Their barking drives away any nocturnal predators that may be lurking around the flocks.



While studying sighthounds of the southern Sahara, we observed that there were morphological variations across the various regions.
We will now try to describe the conformation of the best-established type. This is the one found in the Sahelian regions centring on the Niger/Mali border.
As a general rule, it is difficult to produce a dog's description. Indeed, in the vocabulary used, terms such as broad, slender, thick, big, long or strong are utterly subjective if used alone.
That is why, in order to better place the Touareg sighthound from a morphological point of view, we will be defining it by Baron's descriptive trigram. We will then provide a description of the different areas of the body, in the manner of a breed standard. Finally, we will do a biometric study on a sample of subjects that seemed to us to be the most representative of the type being studied.


Baron designed a classification system based on stable morphological characteristics concerning mainly variations in profile, general proportions and size.

1. Profile

If one observes the head profiles, one can see the presence of marked, convex characteristics such as a pointed muzzle, almond-shaped laterally placed eyes, lips that are thin and fine.
However, compared with other sighthounds, the skull is only slightly domed, even almost flat, the stop relatively apparent. The same goes for other areas of the body where one does not see the standard convex profiles of the Circassian type; for example, the back is not arched but, on the contrary, straight or level; as for the limbs, they are not over-at-the-knee but straight.
The Touareg sighthound's profiles take their lines from both the convex type and the straight type, we will therefore say that this dog is sub-convex in outline.

2. General proportions

Different areas of the body vary together in the same manner. This observation must however be qualified. We thus note, for the Touareg sighthound that the intensity of lengthening varies in line with the anatomical areas under consideration. While a greyhound can be placed in a horizontal rectangle, and a galgo into a square, the Touareg sighthound's originality lies in the fact that it can be placed in a vertical rectangle. In fact, the length of its limbs is far more obvious than that of its body which is not very elongated.

The Touareg sighthound therefore presents itself as tall and slender in its proportions, with the particularity of having ultra-longilineal limbs and a mediolineal body.

3. Size

It is in the canine species that we find the greatest variations in size, also influenced by environment and food intake. With an average weight of 18 kg, the Touareg sighthound is classified as eumetric (average build). This ethnic characteristic is only of secondary importance.


1. General appearance

This is a fairly large sized hound, with a thin and slender silhouette, where its muscular leanness is emphasized by the absence of subcutaneous adipose tissue.

2. Head

The head, carried proudly, is long, fine and harmonious despite the presence of certain visible bony contours.

- nose: it is pointed but with nostrils well opened, the colour is black or dark brown;
- muzzle: it is long, narrow, straight or subconvex;
- lips: thin, fine and tight, black or dark brown in colour;
- jaws: well developed, long and strong;
- stop: compared with other sighthounds, it is conspicuous;
- cranium: almost flat, rather elongated, the superciliary arches and frontal furrow are not very noticeable, however the occipital crest is clearly prominent;
- eyes: the colour is dark or burnt topaz. They are almond-shaped and placed laterally; their expression is nostalgic, sometimes sad. The eyelids are sometimes pigmented so that they seem to be wearing mascara: this is the "gazelle eye";
- ears: they are always drop ears, flat or semi-folded. Their shape is that of a triangle with rounded point. They are not flattened against the skull and their base can lift slightly when the hound is in a very attentive state of mind.

3. Neck

It is well set, long, fine and muscled; there is no dewlap.

4. Forequarters

The shoulder is well let down, leanly muscled; the scapulo-humeral angle is very open.
The forearm, carpus and metacarpus form a long, fine and vertical limb, the bone structure and tendons are clearly visible.
The foot, rounded in shape and with slender toes, resembles a hare's foot.

5. Body

- the brisket, very keeled, almost sculptural due to its muscular leanness and bony contours, is aerodynamic in shape since relatively narrow;
- the chest is that of a long distance runner; wide, high and deep;
- the ribs are arched and visible. The sternal keel widens behind, thus increasing the thoracic volume;
- back and topline. The back is relatively short and straight. The withers are prominent;
- the loin is short, lean and stocky. The coxal crests (pin-bones?) are clearly visible and higher than the withers;
- the pelvis is very raised, the hips are high and very prominent. The croup is oblique but not dropping away.

6. Hindquarters

The thigh is long, not very rounded despite its prominent musculature. The coxo-femoral and femoro-tibial angles are very open. The direction of the thigh-leg assembly is very vertical when compared with other sighthounds (greyhound for example). The stifle does not show a marked discontinuity between thigh and leg. The tarsus and metatarsus are straight, lean and fine.

7. Tail

This is long, slender, mobile, and the coccygeal skeleton is apparent. Tail carriage is variable; it is either drooping down, or rolled up over the back from half to two turns.

8. Coat

Hair is short and fine, silky in appearance and soft to the touch.
One finds coat colours ranging from very pale sand through to self black. Those seen most frequently are sand, fawn and red. The presence of a black mask and brindle stripes is frequent.
The coat is always parti-coloured. The distribution of white markings is as follows:

- blaze on head +
- collar +
- socks or stockings +++
- white markings to brisket + + +
- ventral decolouration + + +
- white tip to tail ++

White markings are sometimes tiny: small mark on brisket or white hairs on toes. Piebald coat itself is extremely rare (less than 0.5 %).

9. Height

The average height for males is 65 cm, and for females 60 cm. Heights of more than 70 cm are exceptional.


1. Principle

A. Sampling

Our measurements were carried out on twelve individuals comprised of 6 males and 6 females. The choice of these individuals was determined by the certainty of their geographical origin:

A. KAKO          5 years, originating from Kako marsh in Gourma (Mali) belongs to Dr Gaussen, Bordeaux.
B. AHOURA     3 years, originating from Ménaka (Mali) Dr Gaussen, Neuvic-sur-l'lsle (24).
C. ABARO        3 years, originating from Ménaka (Mali) belongs to Dr Larüe de Charlus (Biarritz).
D. AZOUAK      18 months, originating from Ouaritefulit (Ménaka district, Mali) - Dr Meneau, Parthenay (79).
E. DEMBA       3 years, originating from Anderaboukane (Niger/Mali border) - Mrs Mesnard, Parentie (24).
F. OUAED        2 years, originating from the lndelimane region, belongs to Mr. Guy Mazel, St-Germain-les-Corbeilles (Essone).
G. TAHOURA   2 years, originating from Ménaka, belongs to us.
H. FATOU        originating from Bourem, belongs to Dr Gaussen, Neuvic-sur-l'lsle (24).
L. MENAKA      2 years, originating from Ménaka, belongs to Dr Kerotre, Bordeaux (33).
J. LAILA           2 years, originating from Anderaboukane, belongs to Mrs Larüe de Charlus, Biarritz (64).
K. TASKOI       3 years, originating from Hanouziggen, belongs to Mr. Hama Ousmane, Gao (Mali).
L. TALFI          2 years, originating from Tamassa, belongs to Mr. Guy Brachet, Limeyrat (24).

B. Equipment

We decided to use a number of instruments: a measuring stick, a sculptor's compass, a soft tape measure.

C. Method

So as to avoid introducing errors linked to the interpretation of measurements, we carried out all measurements in person.
On each individual, 39 measurements were taken, 3 times each, at different times, and we retained the average value of each of such measurements.
These were measurements of the head, the neck, the body, the limbs and the tail.

We collated the results in 3 tables.

2. Definition and results of measurements

A. Head and neck


  1.  total length of head (tip of nose, occipital crest),
  2.  maximum width of cranium,
  3.  length of muzzle (nose, eye),
  4.  width of muzzle, at level of canines,
  5.  height of muzzle, at same level,
  6.  maximum height of cranium,
  7.  height of stop,
  8.  maximum perimeter of cranium,
  9.  perimeter of muzzle,
10.  length of ear,
11.  height of ear in relation to the outside corner of the eye.


12. length of back of neck at withers,
13. height of neck where it is joined to the chest,

TABLE OF RESULTS (expressed in cm)

B. Trunk

14.  scapulo ischial length (point of shoulder - point of buttock),
15.  chest length (point of shoulder -  middle of rib),
16.  length of topline (withers - point of pin bones),
17.  height at withers,
18.  height of chest,
19.  height at angle of hips,
20.  height at point of buttock,
21.  maximum height of the sub-abdominal gap,
22.  width of chest,
23.  width at final rib,
24.  width at angles of hips,
25.  width at points of buttock,
26.  maximum perimeter of chest.

TABLE OF RESULTS (expressed in cm)

C. Limbs and tail

* Front limbs

27.  length of shoulder (point of shoulder - top of shoulder),
28.  length of arm,
29.  point of shoulder. Point of elbow,
30.  height at point of elbow,
31.  distance between the front toe and the vertical passing through the point of elbow,

* Hind limbs

32.  length of thigh (point of buttock - stifle),
33.  length of gaskin (stifle - hock),
34.  height at stifle,
35.  height at hock,
36.  distance to ground between the vertical of hock and the front part of the toes,
37.  length to middle of thigh,
38.  space between hocks.

* Tail

39.  length of tail taken underneath.

TABLE OF RESULTS (expressed in cm)

Diagram showing a male whose measurements would have the average value of those in our sampling

3.         Statistical analysis

A. Results

                        1) Head and neck

                        2) Trunk

                        3) Limbs and tail

B. Comparison of averages between males and females

The variability in the spread of results obtained depending on the trait under consideration led us to test the difference in averages in accordance with the method of "comparison of the expectations of two normal laws of unequal variances".

The significant differences between the averages have been marked in bold in the attached table, with a significant level of 99 %.


C. Interpretation of results

1. Head and neck

The lengths measured are significantly greater in the males than in the females in particular for the muzzle.
However, the width and height of the cranium, together with measurements concerning the ear, are not significantly different.

2. Trunk

Heights and lengths are greater in the males, except for the height at the sub-abdominal gap, which tends to prove that the tuck-up is more marked in the females.
With regard to the widths and perimeters of the trunk, differences are not significant. Therefore, despite their very tucked up appearance, the females are more "stocky" than the males.

3. Limbs

Only two measurements appear to be significantly different; the height to point of elbow (30) and the length of gaskin (33).

D. Study of linear correlations between features

The existence of correlations was noted in the following table, the values shown in bold letters correspond to features linked to each other in a linear manner.
The following are therefore linked in this manner:

- height of chest and maximum height of sub-abdominal gap in males,
- width at angle of the hips and maximum perimeter of the chest in males and females,
- width at angle of the hips and length of topline (withers - point of pin bones) in females,
- maximum perimeter of chest and height of chest, in both males and females, even at level p = 0.05.


4. Growth curve

We studied the monthly weight increase of 10 individuals; five males and five females coming from five distinct litters.
To measure the growth of the dogs, we chose weight, since this represents the overall result from the different areas of growth in the organism.

Where M1, M2, M3, M4, M5   males
and      F1, F2, F3, F4, F5        females



When a bitch is in whelp, her future offspring are reserved in advance, since very often her litter will only be one or two pups. This situation, which seemed strange but was often confirmed to us, since we often observed it ourselves, may be explained by a number of possible theories.

This low fecundity is linked to either heredity or the environment, or else a combination of both.

1. Genetic factor

Genetic determinism cannot be excluded. The nomads consider that there are "noble" brood bitches, those that bring into the world a single pup, sometimes two, exceptionally three. The others, those that produce litters with four pups or more, are considered to be from a line that is less "pure".

The existence within the same canine population, under the same living conditions, of lines with significantly different levels of fecundity, leaves one to suppose that this is indeed a trait linked to heredity.

2. Environmental factor

The influence of environment, food in particular, has an effect on the physiology of reproduction at different levels.
We know, in fact, that as a general rule, the correct functioning of the reproductive system is dependant on a balanced intake of food.
However, in times of drought, people and animals suffer from under-nourishment in terms of both quantity and quality.

Vitamin deficiencies, A and E in particular, are a real problem. The reproductive physiology therefore finds itself affected at least at two levels for the female:

- first of all at oestrus: there are fewer ovulations in a female suffering from underfeeding and vitamin deficiency due to a sort of "anti-flushing" process,
- next, after implantation, for as long as the maternal organism has priority over the foetus, persistent underfeeding leads to a higher embryonic resorption than under normal conditions.

This is confirmed by our observations on brood bitches having already whelped which, when bred in France with constant correct feeding, gave birth to two additional pups on average (for lines with normal fecundity: litters of 4 to 6 in the Saharan south, litters of 6 to 8 in France).

However, in France, bitches from lines with low fecundity only gave two pups.
The two factors, genetic and environmental, would therefore seem to have a role to play in fecundity.
We have also observed, fairly frequently, an interesting fact that takes place during whelping.

When on the point of giving birth, the bitch digs a hole in the sand, in the shade of a shrub or thorny bush, in order to place her offspring in it.

This hole allows the pups to avoid feeling the extremes of temperature: torrid heat during the day, very cool nights. In this way, the pups remain in an area with a constant temperature, because the sand on which they are lying does not have the time to get cold or hot during the nyctohemeral cycle.
This digging of a hole for whelping has also been pointed out to us in southern Morocco (lfni region) where there are "little sloughis" living wild. They give birth in holes dug in the sand on the empty beaches at the edge of the ocean.
The choice of such a place for whelping is also found with other species in semi-desert regions (warthogs, fennecs, many rodents).




The selection of a pup is made in line with various criteria, some of which are objective, while others are much less so.

1. Objective criteria

The aptitudes of parents and ancestors are taken into consideration; speed and courage at hunting are sought after.

If mating took place when the camp was isolated and if there was only one possible male genitor, paternity can be established. However, if mating takes place at a time when all the nomads have come close to a watering place, fertilization takes place with one of the males present in the area, without being able to know which one.

Examination of the pup itself is important. If there are several, their finer points are compared by considering the tail's width at its base as well as its length.

Feet are subjected to close examination and the nomads look very carefully at both sides of the foot to see if it is well constructed.

Lastly, the coat is taken into consideration; a black mask is appreciated, brindle pattern as well, piebald is very rare but not much prized although other white markings (socks/stockings, blazes on head, collar) are very acceptable; with regard to the hair, the finest and silkiest possible is preferred.

2. Criteria associated with beliefs

As we have already mentioned above, the pup or pups coming from a bitch with low fecundity benefit from an aura of "nobility". Similarly, a pup is considered to be "noble" if it doesn't yelp or cry when caught and lifted up by the scruff of its neck.

The young hound is taken away fairly quickly from its mother, after about a month, sometimes even sooner. Once arrived in its new camp, it will be given a name.


Among the Touaregs, sighthounds are generally given their own name which is most often chosen for its physical qualities or features, such as coat colour amongst others.

It is in this way for example that the frequently encountered name of AHOURA is given to hounds with a pale yellow coloured coat, AZRAF applies to hounds with white markings on the coat, AENBEL designates an animal with black mask.

We will list below the names most used among the nomads of the Niger/Mali border:

AHOURA: pale yellow.
ABARO: grey sand.
AENBEL: black mask.
AZRAF: with white markings.
EGHRI: white collar.
EZAGAH: red.
AZABOR:  piebald.
EHEOUEL: dark coloured.
TABLAT: rifle bullet.
ABOURIT: only son.
AMAIAS: leopard.

It is to be observed that, among the Kel Ahaggar whose dialect was translated by Father de Foucaud, the term ABARO applies to dogs of any breed, so the meaning of words varies even within the Tamahaq language, depending on the dialects and the tribes.


It is usually a teenager, a young herder of sheep or goats, who looks after feeding the sighthound.

The hound's food depends on the means of subsistence at the time, and corresponds to what is eaten by its owners. If times are prosperous, this is based on milk and cereals (rice, millet, sorghum) presented separately or in the form of a gruel.

At the time of a hunt, the internal organs and then the carcase of the animal that has just been killed are shared among the hounds. In times of scarcity, from March until the first rains which rarely start before July, life remains vegetative, and the hounds make do with a gruel of bran from cereals.

We will give separate mention to the case of an early weaned pup, which requires special treatment. As in all newborn animals, in some areas and more particularly in a hot and dry climate, the dehydration of a young organism is fast and with serious consequences. In order to avoid such a problem, the Touareg leave the pup in the shade and sprinkle it with water frequently during the hot hours of the day. As a substitute for its mother's milk, it is given cow's or camel's milk as one large serving in the evening. The Touareg themselves only eat one copious meal in the evening.

We have in fact observed that a pup of about 15 days old that was offered to us in Ménaka, refused milk offered to it during the day and, on the other hand, drank greedily as soon as night began to fall; this is logical, since it is at that time that the body needs calories.

During the day, it fought against dehydration by lying on a guerba (goatskin water container), which kept it appreciably cool.


As a general rule, nomads are very good at rearing pups. Training starts very early; this is a delicate matter since this sighthound with its very independent character submits poorly to constraints. In this way, simple obedience to recall is difficult to obtain. In order to call their hounds, the Touareg tap on the sand with the flat of their hand saying "Kourk-Kourk", without ever raising their voice.

On the other hand, an aptitude for hunting is very easy to develop, since it is served by natural gifts. Very quickly, the young sighthound thinks it a game to chase after small prey animals shown to it, such as rodents or sand squirrels.

This training does not exclude strictness, sometimes even brutality in reprimands. While the Touareg sighthound is considered to be a noble animal, it is nonetheless not sacred.


1. In the male

Castration of the male is often carried out at the age of about 3 to 5 months.

Deprived in this manner of its reproductive functions, the sighthound presents several advantages for its master. Firstly, from a psychological point of view, castration makes the male gentler and more docile. Next, from a morphological point of view, size and power are superior to these qualities in non-castrated males, which is better for hunting.

Lastly, if there is a bitch in the camp, systematic pregnancies can be avoided.

2. In the female

Contraception is carried out in the female through a surgical method which consists of inserting, through the lips of the vulva, 4 to 5 metal rings of about 25 m/m in diameter.

Pregnancy may be undesirable for two reasons:

- the bitch is not available for hunting over a long period,
- the owner considers that the males likely to mate his bitch are not suitable.

This last reason is less frequent, since in the minds of many nomads, the essential of genetic potential is represented by the female; which is why the choice of a stud dog is of little concern.


The decoration of Touareg sighthounds proves that this was not merely a domestic animal.
From the first days of its life, a small collar is placed around its neck made from fabrics or thin strips of cord or leather.
Later on, when adult, the collar will be made from more decorated leather, often adorned with hunting trophies, such as the feet and testicles of gazelles.
Certain Touaregs sometimes also attached a large leather belt, tightened around the hound's belly, they thought that this would make the hound's silhouette even more tucked up.



Genetic determinism of coat colour is a complex matter. It depends on genes belonging to several series (A, B, E, S) and loci D and M. We will define the role of each of these series, noting the loci that carry the genes that are present in the Touareg sighthound.

1. A series

There are five genes in the A series listed in the order of their successive dominance:

- A - predominantly black coat colour,
- aw - agouti or wolf grey coat colour,
- ay - predominantly yellow coat colour,
- as - black coat on back, fawn markings on limbs and head,
- at - black or fawn bicoloured coat.

In the Touareg sighthound:

- A and aw are represented but very rare,
- ay is represented very extensively
- as and at are absent.

The allelic pair ay/ay forms the greater part of the genetic formula with regard to this series.

2. B Series

There are 2 genes B and b with B dominant over b.

            B: black colouring,
            b: chocolate colouring.

The allelic pair exists in the Touareg sighthound with the predominance b/b. Mahogany or chocolate coat colours are much more frequent than black.

3. E Series

This series is responsible for the distribution of black pigment as opposed to yellow pigment.
According to Little, there are four alleles:

Em: yellow coat with black mask,
E: predominantly black coat colour,
ebr: brindle coat colour,
e: yellow colouring without black mask.

According to other writers, Whitney in particular, brindle may be due to an independent gene in the E series.
Studies have been carried out on the boxer and the whippet showing that brindle is dominant over fawn but homozygosity for the brindle characteristic is lethal.














The 4 alleles described by Little exist in the Touareg sighthound.

4. S Series

It is in this series that one finds the genes responsible for the presence of white in the coat.
There are 4 genes; listed in their order of successive, as follows:

S: self-coloured coat,
Si: white markings at extremities,
Sp: piebald coat,
Sw: white across almost the whole extent of the body.

The dominance of S over Si, Si over Sp and Sp over Sw is in fact incomplete. In addition, the extent of white is increased or decreased by the interference of other so-called "modifier" genes.

Careful examination of individuals belonging to a population of more than two hundred individuals shows that:

- S is not represented,
- Si is in the genetic formula of a very large majority,
- Sp is extremely rare,
- Sw is absent. If it did appear, this characteristic would be very poorly suited to areas of intense sunlight. It is most likely that individuals carrying this gene would have been eliminated by natural selection.

The range of modifier genes produces intermediary forms. Some subjects appear almost self-coloured while others to the contrary have high-reaching stockings (up to elbow level), large "scarf" markings on neck, blaze on head, tip to tail, etc.

In conclusion, one can say that only Si and Sp are represented and that the Si/Si pairing is very much higher numerically than Si/Sp since, according to our calculations, the piebald coat (Sp/Sp) represents at most 1 % of the population.

Observance of sighthounds in the southern Sahara does indeed confirm the dominance of Si over Sp and tends to predict a decline in the piebald coat colour, since this corresponds to homozygosity of a recessive nature, the expression of which is neither suited to the environment, nor the subject of selection by breeders.

5. C Series

The C series includes the gene responsible for albinism; the others are involved on other particularities of pigmentation such as density. They are four in number, in the following order of dominance:

C: full colouring,
cch: chinchilla coat colour,
ccd: acromelanic factor,
c : total albinism.

C, cch, ccd, are represented in the Touareg sighthound.

6. D Locus

2 alleles:

D: full colouring gene,
d: dilution of pigmentation.

The 3 combinations obtained from these 2 genes are present in the Touareg sighthound.

7. M Locus

This does not exist in the Touareg sighthound.

8. T Locus

The dominant T allele is responsible for coloured flecking in depigmented areas. It exists in the Touareg sighthound.






The sighthound is the type of hound best adapted for coursing. This aptitude could only start and develop in areas with vast flat landscapes, sparse and scattered vegetation, forming what is generally known as steppe. Now, there are many such places in the northern hemisphere of Africa, on the edges of the Sahara and the Libyan desert. It is in these areas, delimited by the 100 and 250 m/m isohyets, that these African sighthounds have lived.

We are now going to compare the Touareg sighthound, first with other African sighthounds and then those of other continents, but limiting ourselves to short-haired animals.


Knowledge of existing African sighthounds is fairly recent, dating from the last century, during which naturalists and travellers went off to discover the African continent. Even today, it remains incomplete.

The difficulties involved in studying them come from the extent of the territories envisaged and the problems that still exist when travelling through them.

With regard to the study of ancient African sighthounds, this relies solely on the observation of a few engravings, paintings or writings by writers in olden times, whose descriptions permit only limited interpretations.

Nonetheless, based on reliable characteristics, we will try to compare the Touareg sighthound with other African sighthounds that have existed in the past or still exist today.

1. The Sloughi

Still known as the Arabian Greyhound, or sometimes Maghreb Greyhound, its presence in north-eastern Africa seems to be recent, linked to the Islamic migrations towards the 6th century AD.

The Sloughi's origins are understandably controversial; from which population of sighthounds does it come? Many plausible theories have been advanced, among which we will retain the Sloughi's Asian origins (more precisely from the Near or Middle East) and African origins (central and east Africa, in particular the Land of Punt, Ethiopia, Somalia).

We should also add that, before the Sloughi's arrival, there was already a native lupoid (wolf-like) sighthound in North Africa which the Sloughi is thought to have absorbed or eliminated. This lupoid sighthound had a tail coiled over onto its back, although there may have been other sighthounds with a drooping tail. At the Bardo museum in Tunis can be seen a mosaic dating back to the 3rd century BC and therefore very much earlier than the start of Islam. This represents a scene from hare hunting, showing two sighthounds, one black and the other fawn in colour, with a drooping or hanging tail. It is therefore difficult to reach the conclusion that sighthounds with drooping tails arrived with the Arabs, since the Sloughi may have already been present before their arrival.

From a morphological point of view, the Sloughi is well known and has a breed standard. Its conformation is very close to that of the Touareg sighthound and we will focus only on the details that differentiate them.

- the Touareg sighthound's general appearance is finer and more delicate, since its skeleton is more slender: for an equivalent height, the Touareg sighthound's skull is narrower than the Sloughi's by at least one centimetre.
- proportions: due to its limbs, the Touareg sighthound has a more longilinear outline than the Sloughi, so much so that it can be drawn in a vertical rectangle. The Touareg sighthound's height at the withers is significantly lower than at its hips;
- the Touareg sighthound's limbs are straighter and more upright, giving it the appearance of leaning forwards
- the tail, coiled over its back, that we see in the Touareg sighthound, does not exist in the Sloughi;
- coat colour: as we have already indicated, the basic self-coloured (single colour) coat does not exist in the Touareg sighthound.

2. The Tessem

This is the ancient Egyptian sighthound depicted in many old frescos and bas-reliefs. There were several varieties, depending on tail carriage, ear shape and coat colour.

The type most commonly depicted has erect ears and a spiral tail coiled over its back. Lortet and Gaillard who have studied mummified Tessems describe it as follows: "tall sighthound with long legs, elongated body, no belly, narrow chest, spinal column relatively curved, long head, wide and domed forehead, medium-sized straight or pointed ears, long tail coiled one and a half times, short hair of a pale yellowish grey colour".

This Tessem was not the prerogative of Egypt, it is certain that it existed in Somalia and Eritrea during the same period, since it was part of the treasures brought back from the Land of Punt.
In the rock paintings and carvings of Tassili n'Aijer and Fezzan, we find representations of sighthounds which, because of their erect ears and coiled tail, are strangely reminiscent of the Tessem.
Did the Tessem appear in the Sahara, or did it arrive there from elsewhere?
It is impossible to answer this question with the current level of information available to us.
It is thought that, on the Balearic islands, which played the part of a closed biotope, it continues to exist in its ancient shape.

The following points appear to bring it closer to the Touareg sighthound:

-    the silhouette, relatively short body on long limbs,
-    a coiled tail that is found in certain sighthounds from the southern Sahara,
-    white markings on the coat (one can see them clearly depicted on Egyptian predynastic paintings.

However, the Tessem's conformation of short pointed head and erect ears are characteristics that clearly differentiate it from the Touareg sighthound.

3. Other African sighthounds:

Here we will mention other sighthounds the existence of which is reported in literature:


there is a human tribe known as Nemadi which, in the Aser language, means "master of hounds". This tribe lives only from hunting and its sole wealth is the ownership of hounds. These are large in build, slender, relatively tucked up; it is difficult to know whether they are pure sighthound or sighthound crossed with other heavier dogs.


De Schaeck, at the start of the 20th century, described in detail other sighthounds living on a similar latitude, in former British Sudan.

These were the sighthounds of the Chillouks, a tribe living in Kordofan close to Khartoum. In fact some writers have seen a link between "Chillouk" and "Suluk" which is thought to be the plural of "Sloughi", itself derived from "Salak".

Schweinfurth describes the hounds of the Chillouks as follows: "... their conformation is that of a well-built sighthound; it is rare for them to reach the height of a pointer or setter, almost all of them are a fox-like red in colour with a very long black muzzle"...

He specifies that, in the vast expanses around the Khartoum sector, even as far as Ethiopia, most tribes own sighthounds and this is confirmed to us by other writers, such as Brehmet Pertermann.

These descriptions match up with each other and one can conclude here again that they involve short-haired sighthounds, with coat colours ranging from pale yellow to reddish brown. Appreciated by the nomads, they are used for guarding and hunting. The measurements of one example were recorded in Schaeck's book; they are not very different from those of the Sloughi or the Touareg sighthound.

The basenji encountered in the High Nile region to the north of the former Belgian Congo also has erect ears and corkscrew tail. It is only distinct from the Tessems by its smaller size and the fact that it does not bark.


Frobenius has observed paintings at Fezzan showing sighthounds at a "flying gallop", with limbs extended and tail coiled round; it is in this same area that Espérandieu encountered sighthounds that he attaches to the type "Canis familiaris y etulus", i.e. the Tessem.

On the edges of Egypt's desert regions, in particular towards Libya, there was a wild sighthound type known as "wns".


1. Galgo

This is the Spanish sighthound; the type that exists today is without doubt the result of crossbreeding. Indeed, to start with, the Galgo took its features from two sighthounds - the Sloughi and the Berber sighthound. The first, brought by Arabs into the Iberian Peninsula, absorbed the second that had been introduced by the Berber and Punic peoples in Spain and the Balearic Islands.

Later on, the Galgo was infused with Greyhound in order to improve its top speed.

It is easy to distinguish between the Touareg sighthound and the Galgo. The Galgo's hindquarters show a conformation that is much closer to the Greyhound while at the same time having less tuck-up. It is closer to the Sloughi and the Touareg sighthound through its short and stocky back. The coat here is also parti-coloured.

2. Podenco (or warren hound)

This is the sighthound of the Balearic Islands, the Majorcan or Podenco. This sighthound's originality stems from its erect ears and its tail turned over its back when it is in action. Many writers see in this sighthound the perfect descendant of the Tessems. Indeed, the latter would appear to have remained pure in type in the Balearic archipelago, a closed biotope which has only allowed inbred reproduction. This might explain the persistence of its original features through the millennia. It can be described in the same way as the Tessem that we have already compared with the Touareg sighthound.

3. Greyhound

This hyper-type sighthound with a sprinter's body lines is easy to tell apart from the Touareg sighthound. Far more longitudinal through its body and neckline, its head is very narrow, with very little stop, and a rose ear. It is taller and lastly, with regard to its hindquarters, the outline is sloping and dropping away.

4. Whippet

The same general observations as for the Greyhound; except for height which does not exceed 47 cm at the withers.

5. Italian Greyhound

This tiny sighthound, the height of which is between 32 and 38 cm, is also said to have originated in Egypt, but does not resemble the Tessem in any way, having rose ears, its tail set very low and carried between its legs.

6. Sighthounds from the Near and Middle East

Ancient literature and contemporary observers tell of the existence of sighthounds in Arabia, lraq and Syria. Their appearance is very close to that of the Sloughi, which does not surprise us since a serious hypothesis makes the Sloughi a sighthound originating from these areas. The best known and described of these is the Persian greyhound or Saluki. Its distinctive feature lies in its coat - short-haired and silky on the body and feathers on ears, limbs and tail. Its head, apart from any feathers, is far closer to that of the Touareg sighthound than of the Sloughi.

Lastly, we mention a variety of sighthounds from Afghanistan known as "Afghan hairless Tazi" bred by the Kuci nomads near Bakwa. Jûngeling thinks that these were sighthounds coming from the steppes of southern Russia (Russjkaja stepnaja borzaja). These sighthounds, despite their distant origins, are very similar to African sighthounds.



Determining the origins of a breed is difficult since a very high number of factors are involved. Firstly, one needs to consider the morphological similarities and differences between the various breeds existing in the present day; secondly, it is necessary to understand the history of the human populations, basically their travels, because the history of their hounds is closely linked to this.

In the previous chapter, we have seen the differences and analogies existing between the various breeds or varieties of sighthound.
Similarity between two breeds can be explained in two ways:

-  either by relationship,
-  or by a phenomenon of convergence (resemblance resulting from similar living conditions in different places leading to a similar specialization, in this case running).

Divergences between several breeds result:

   either from the different genetic origins of the populations being considered,
   or the variability of a particular genetic strain depending on environment and domestication.

Bearing in mind this information, one can understand that it is difficult to determine the origins of a dog and that different hypotheses may be put forward.

The problem is even more complex, when one takes the movements of populations into consideration.

In North Africa, for example, Islamic invaders would have brought their own hounds with them. However there was already an indigenous hound known as a lupoid sighthound.

According to some people, the Sloughi as it is today is thought to be of purely Asian origin, which presupposes that there was no crossbreeding with native dogs. This theory seems difficult to maintain.

For others, the Asian sighthound is thought to have absorbed the lupoid sighthound to produce the sloughi. In order to know which of them did, in fact, absorb the other, we would need to know their numerical proportions in relation to each other, about which we are totally in the dark.

The critical analysis of any theory on parentage demonstrates our lack of knowledge and can therefore only lead us to hypotheses. Among theories that are in direct opposition, we often find complicated explanations, in particular for sighthounds, the presence of which in a given region is explained by their arrival from far distant steppes. With regard to Africa, there is such an abundance of steppes and desert expanses, that sighthounds could have appeared there, and then continued to exist until today.

With regard to domestication, it is normal to consider sighthounds as derived from ordinary running dogs that man has improved and specialized towards racing, giving them the types that we know today.

Mr E. Dechambre thinks that sighthounds existed as such in the wild, in regions of wide open plains, and were only domesticated at a later date.

As far as we are concerned, we adhere to that opinion.

The Sahara is an area with a prehistory of which little is known. The desert appearance that it shows today has not always been the case. Several millennia before our times, relatively plentiful water sources and a more humid climate enabled Neolithic civilisations to live and flourish there. Many vestiges of stone tool production coming from the driest of today's Saharan regions (Tanezrouft, Ténéré), and works of art (the best-known of which are the rock paintings and engravings of Tassili des Aïjer, Hoggar, Adrar des lforas) are proof that the Sahara has known a civilisation with no cause to envy those existing on the Mediterranean coast or in the Nile valley. At present, we do not have any osteological documents on Neolithic African sighthounds, which of course makes any affirmation impossible. One can however reflect that today's deserts were once savannas stocked with flourishing and varied game. Sighthounds were among the wild canids whose natural prey, such as gazelles, would have served to hone its coursing abilities.

Indeed we know that adaptation to the chase of necessity involves alterations to several of the body's organs. Among the most significant transformations that one can observe, for the musculoskeletal system, is the lengthening of various segments of the limbs and the widening of the joint angles that form it.

The respiratory system is modified by increased pulmonary capacity leading to an enlargement of the thoracic cage while at the same time respecting the body's aerodynamic lines. Lastly, the volume of digestive viscera, already reduced by the digestion type of carnivores, is pushed back into a tucked up belly.

In this way, we believe, a stock of Neolithic sighthounds was formed which gradually become domesticated.

Then, as desert conditions took over, men and beasts alike moved away to take refuge in the peri-Saharan regions in their search for water and pasture lands.

Populations moving away to either the north or the south, took the sighthounds with them.

To the northern Sahara, they gave what has been called the lupoid sighthound. To the south, in the Sahel, natural selection and perhaps human selection have created the different varieties that exist in the present day, such as the Touareg sighthound.

Due to its climate and its history, the southern Sahara is a region where life has continued without change for thousands of years, preserving living conditions from foreign influences. This is why we think that the Touareg sighthound that one encounters today is a purely African sighthound, identical to those that lived in the Saharan steppes more than 5,000 years ago.


Here we are at the end of this study which has shown us the existence, across a vast territory in the Sahelian region, of a sighthound that we have named the Touareg sighthound.

This is indeed a sighthound; its physiology, its morphology with the measurements and analyses relating thereto, are proof of this.

The unity of this ethnic entity is also apparent through other characteristics that we have not mentioned since they involve considerations of a less objective nature. This concerns the psychology and behaviour of these sighthounds. In this regard, one of the most significant facts is comprised of their extreme nonchalance often simulating a deep sleep. This virtual continual attitude is however interrupted once or twice a day by a need to relax expressed by fast and violent running that lasts for several minutes. This fact of running is also a sign of contentment but lasts for a much shorter time.

This shows us that what we considered in principle to be a canine population is in fact a breed. This fraction of the canine species is in a stable state of genetic balance, it is well suited to the surrounding environment and corresponds perfectly to the services required by its owners.

Seen: Director of the École Vétérinaire
Professor R. LAUTIÉ

Seen: Professor of the École Vétérinaire
Professor QUEINNEC

Seen: Thesis Chairman
Professor GAYREL

Toulouse, 19-6-75
Chairman of the Université Paul-Sabatier
Professor LARENG

[1] I think this means "beauty of appearance" as opposed to functionality


© Groupe de Travail Azawakh
Dernière modification 1 Mars, 2018 17:48