Azawakh: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Adult Azawakh Dog

Cynoclub / Getty Images

The ancient and elegant Azawakh originates from the West African Sahara Desert. They are generally fiercely loyal and calm around the home, but can be aloof or wary around strangers, and have a high prey drive.

Group: Hound
Height: 25 to 29 inches (males); 23 to 27 inches (females)
Weight: 45 to 55 pounds (males); 33 to 44 pounds (females)
Coat and Color: Short, fine coat that comes in a wide variety of color options
Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Azawakh

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  High
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Azawakh

The Azawakh is a Sighthound who originates from the West African Sahara Desert. They were first bred primarily to guard the livestock of their nomadic pastoralist owners, particularly the Tuareg people. They were also highly regarded for their companionship and hunting skills, and often worked in packs. Their breeding means they are well adapted to living in the harsh desert climes.

Their name comes from the Azawakh Valley which lies in the desert between Mali and Niger, and it translates to 'Land of the North.'

In 1970, a Yugoslavian Diplomat was gifted a male Azawakh from the nomadic people he had developed a relationship with, and then he also bartered to receive a female. These were believed to be the first of the breed to be exported.

Further dogs were then exported by French civil servants and military forces stationed in the region. They then began to be introduced across other parts of Europe and into the United States.

They are closely related to another African Sighthound called the Sloughi and, when they were first exported, they were referred to as the Sloughi-Azawakh. In 1980, they were recognized solely as Azawakhs.

They were only recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club in 2011 and are still relatively rare outside of their native Sahel region.

Azawakh Care

Azawakh are known for being intelligent, and affectionate and exceptionally loyal with their family members. They are still often independent in spirit, though.

They are probably not the best dog for novice owners. Their unique personalities mean they can require a lot of additional training, and they don't always suit homes with young children.

They can sometimes become overly protective of their territory and humans if they feel threatened. Their reaction to strangers can vary from friendly, to uninterested, to wary or aggressive. Early and appropriate socialization, and ongoing positive reinforcement training around new people will be important to avoid them developing an extreme reaction to strangers.

If they do take on the role of protector, they can be quite vocal too.

Azawakh usually have a strong affinity towards those of the same breed. It is not uncommon for lovers of Azawakhs to have more than one, and they typically have a very close bond. They often get on well in a multi-dog household, although they can be dominant.

Their hunting instincts mean that they can have a high prey drive. Although they can get on well with cats, careful introductions should be made to ensure their chase instincts are not triggered.

You may have to work extra hard to achieve a solid recall if they are driven to chase. You should not allow them off-leash in open spaces until you have achieved this.

Like some other Sighthounds, they can be referred to as speedy couch potatoes. Providing they get enough daily exercise, and the opportunity to release some of their energy, they will often then be happy to laze around on the couch.

They have a low maintenance grooming regime and their coat will only need a rub down around once a week to keep it shiny and in good condition. Their thin coat, minimal body fat and desert origins mean they don't like the cold. In the winter months, you will need to make sure they are kept warm of their walks.

Azawakh head shot
The elegant azawakh comes in a varety of colors, including brindle. Luigi Panico / Getty Images
A trio of Azawakh dogs
Azawakh are often devoted to other four-legged family members, especially if they are other Azawakhs. Animalinfo / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Azawkhs are regarded as a generally healthy and robust breed. Given their rarity though, it means there is a small gene pool. You should find a breeder that carries out health tests on parents to minimize the chances of your puppy developing an inheritable condition they are prone to.

Some of the conditions they are known for developing include:

Hypothyroidism: This is when the dog's thyroid is underactive and their metabolic rate decreases. This can lead to weight gain, loss of general condition, fatigue and changes in behavior. Once diagnosed, it can be managed well with medication.

Idiopathic Epilepsy: Azawakhs are prone to sudden, seemingly spontaneous seizures. These can range in their severity and reoccurrence rate. Depending on their nature, they can often be successfully managed through medication and changes in lifestyle and diet. You should always consult your vet if your dog suffers from a seizure.

Auto-immune mediated diseases: The breed can suffer from several diseases triggered by an abnormal response from the immune system. These can include the skin condition Demodectic Mange, muscle wastage, and it can even trigger their Hypothyroidism.

Diet and Nutrition

It is important to feed any dog a high quality and appropriately portion-controlled diet. The breed is naturally very slim, and there can be a tendency to overfeed them to "fatten them up". Just because you can see their ribs, it does not mean they are overweight. If you overfeed them, this can lead to obesity. This can result in a whole host of further help problems, and it can put a strain on their delicate joints. If in doubt, it is worth seeking advice from your Vet or a qualified Canine Nutritionist.

Pros

  • Very affectionate with their family members

  • Calm in the house if they are given enough exercise

  • Low maintenance grooming regime

Cons

  • Can be aloof, even wary around strangers

  • Can be territorial and prone to barking

  • Can have a high chase instinct

Where to Adopt or Buy an Azawakh

As with any dog, if you are buying a puppy, you should do your research and find a good breeder. Always make sure that you can see mum and her puppies together in a secure home environment. The puppies should not be released to their new homes until they are at least eight weeks old and fully weaned.

Because of the scarcity of the breed, you may need to be on a waiting list, or travel further afield to secure a puppy.

A good place to start your research would be with the American Azawakh Association.

It would be unusual to find an Azawakh in a rescue. Don't forget there are lots of other wonderful Sighthounds looking for their forever homes in shelters across the country. Many could slot into family life more smoothly for a first-time owner than the challenging Azawakh.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you are interested in dogs similar to the Azawakh you could also consider the following:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there; by doing your research you will find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.