When we think about sighthounds, we generally think about our own native British and Irish dogs, such as the whippet, the Irish wolfhound, and the greyhound. However, there are almost twenty different recognised sighthound breeds worldwide, and unless you are a real sighthound enthusiast and expert, most people would be hard-pressed to name more than a few of them, much less be able to tell them all apart!
In this article, we will introduce you to four of the more unusual sighthound breeds from across the world that are not so common within the UK. Read on to learn more!
A sighthound is a dog that hunts by sight, and these dogs almost always have a very strong prey drive and an instinctive tendency to pursue potential prey. The sighthound can vary in size from the tiny, delicate Italian greyhound right up to canine giants such as the Irish wolfhound, but one thing that all sighthounds share is their lean, lithe physical shape, and long legs in relation to their build.
Sighthounds are also of course incredibly fast runners, and top the tables of the speediest canines when running flat out. However, apart from their short sprints and bursts of speed, they tend to be quiet dogs the majority of the time, and in some cases, are outright lazy!
There is some debate among canine professionals about what specific breeds of dog are considered to be sighthounds, and not every country agrees on the exact dog breeds that make up the number! In order to avoid debate, the dogs that we have included within this article are some of the sighthound breeds that are almost unanimously considered to be true sighthounds.
The hortaya borzaya is a dog that hails from the historical eastern bloc countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania. They are considered to be a very robust, healthy and long-lived dog, and it is not unusual to find dogs as old and eight or nine still in perfect health and fit for breeding.
Unlike many other sighthound breeds that no longer have a significant working role, the hortaya borzaya is still very much kept as a working dog within the former Soviet countries, and is used for hunting hares and foxes, and even wolves and antelopes! They are incredibly useful and adaptable, and in some areas fulfil an important role in helping to hunt for food, and protect remote settlements against wolf packs.
The Azawakh is an African sighthound, which is incredibly lean and lithe and looks positively skeletal when in good health, even compared to other sighthounds! They are also incredibly tough and sound, and have a unique double suspension galloping gait not shared by many other breeds.
The Azawakh was historically bred by nomadic African tribes such as the Tuareg and the Fula in Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa, and served the dual role of both being a guard dog and being used to hunt prey such as gazelles and antelopes for meat. Unlike most other sighthound breeds, the Azawakh can be classed as a pack hound, and often works in groups with other dogs to pursue and bring down large prey.
The Rajapalayam is an Indian sighthound from the town of Rajapalayam, which was historically the favoured pet of Indian aristocracy and royalty.
They are very much recognised as a sighthound breed, but their appearance is fairly distinctive from most other sighthounds, having a more rounded head and less pronouncedly angular body. They are commonly cream or white in colour, with pure white Rajapalayams being the most highly prized. Their facial appearance and general shape has more in common with an underweight-looking Labrador retriever than most sighthound breeds, and they may have been one of the founding breeds of the modern Dalmatian dog.
Historically, they were bred by the Nayak dynasty, and were used for protection and guarding rather than hunting in the main part. They are renowned for their fearless natures, and were actually used during the Polygar and Carnatic wars to attack the British cavalry!
The Spanish greyhound or Galgo Español is one of the most ancient recognised dog breeds, and is widely believed to be one of the founding breeds of today’s British and Irish greyhounds. They are similar in both temperament and appearance to the greyhounds commonly kept within the UK as both pets and as racing dogs.
While the Spanish greyhound, like most domestic sighthound breeds, was historically used for hunting and coursing to provide a source of meat for their owners, today, they are also widely used in racing, and are becoming ever more popular as pets both within Spain and across the world.