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By Bernd Fritzsch, Ph. D
© B. Fritzsch 2010..

Bensekrane's Rsassa at Shi'Rayan and Bensekrane's Saff at Shi'Rayan
© Dominique de Caprona 2010

They are here!

      Entering the Chicago O’Hare airport after a trip through rain and fog, I realize that the plane has another 15 minutes before it will land.  Pacing up and down between exit A and B so as not to miss anything, I finally see the dials telling me that the plane has landed and the exit will be number B.  There I am standing and waiting until some 20 minutes later I see Joseph and Joel Mangelsdorf coming out with the boxes carrying two young Sloughis from Bensekrane, Algeria.  The arduous trip is almost over, but first we have to get out of the Chicago area before the traffic makes this impossible.  So, the boxes go in the van, the people jump in and off we go to the first rest area on I-80.  Here we take the little guys out and walk them on the grass.  Meanwhile the weather turned beautiful, sunny and mild and they enjoy every bit of it. 
      I am watching them move around, for the first time on a strange ground after multiple hours of travelling in boxes to come all the way to the USA.  They are sniffing and finally the little bitch decides to pee. They are careful and walk on the leash like pros, despite the fact that they never have been on a leash before.  We let them walk another 20 minutes, but the little male decides not to do anything.  My first impression: they have an outstanding conformation with perfect angulations, ear and tail positions.  In the end we clean the boxes, add now blankets and drive on to the first overnight resting place, my condo at Iowa City.  After the car is parked in the garage we walk them on the lawn, but only the little girl, Rsassa, decides to pee. We finally take them in the house and here, in the end, the little boy, Saff, relieves himself for several minutes on a piece of rug.  Clearly, he does not yet understand the concept of peeing on the grass.  Saff and Rsassa get some toys to play with while we are going upstairs to relax.  Within a few minutes, Saff, the little male appears in the kitchen: he has understood how to walk up stairs.  In contrast, Rsassa stands on the other end of the stairs and tells us in unmistakable terms that she feels unhappy about this.  So we lead Saff back down to her, step by step.  Once down, he rushes back up, and Rsassa imitates him.  One more down with Saff and Rsassa and both have understood how to run up and down the stairs.  At just over 4 months and a grueling trip just completed it already indicates how bright those guys are, precisely what is needed to maintain the wits of the Sloughi  before it gets bred down to a simple minded show dog that will not be able to learn to run up and down stairs in a heartbeat. 
      After a nice dinner (canned food) our Sloughis exercise their newly acquired skills, dashing up and down the stairs and come for treats and cuddling into the kitchen.  Finally they go to sleep until early the next morning when a high pitch little voice wakes me up:  time to go out.  I walk them and both do their business on the grass, fast learners.  We get everyone in the cars and drive the final stretch to Sloughi heaven in Crescent, Iowa.  A smiling Dominique awaits us, caressing the two little guys, they are home now.  It is a beautiful day, windy, sunny and cool.  They play in their play pen and three grown-up people are watching them, amazed how they took this entire ordeal apparently with great ease.  After some relaxation time we introduce them to our Sloughis in small groups, separated by the play pen grid.  What an excitement on both sides.  Our little Moroccan import manages to dig under the fence within minutes to be closer to the new puppies.  Amal and Rsassa will get along well, no doubt.  The afternoon is spent sleeping, drinking, eating, talking until everyone is exhausted. 
      Dominique and I are studying the little guys, outstanding specimens for the breed.  The little male, Saff (which means straight in Arabic) is very careful,  moving around gently. In contrast, Rsassa is a little bullet (the meaning of her Arabic name), ‘attacks’ him, and is the center of the action.  Both are light redsand, her with a faint mask, him without.  They are perfectly angulated, as to be expected out of a hunting dog line and are of squarish build.  In the evening we let them run in the several acres big fenced enclosure, Joseph and Dominique taking images to document the first free running of the little Algerien Sloughis in their new home.  Saturday and Sunday go by and as of today I am positive they are feeling fully at home.  This morning they were introduced to the ultimate treat for Sloughis, fresh bread with a thin spread of ‘Leberwurst’.  As it turns out, Joseph is feeding his Sloughi way back in Germany also ‘Leberwurst’. 

The reckoning of our doing.
      Some 6 years ago, Joseph had contacted Dominique to discuss the outlandish possibility of perhaps importing Algerien Sloughis to the USA.  As it turned out, getting the logistics of this worked out was more than anybody could have anticipated. Only the persistence of Joseph and his knowledge of the local customs finally enabled him to succeed.  One has to understand, simply finding Sloughis in Algeria is more than going to a pet store in Algiers.  This land is huge and he had to go way out of Algiers to the far West to finally find a small town with Sloughis, Bensekrane.  These Sloughis were kept, as is the tradition, for two purposes:  hunting and defending the herds against the jackal.  Hunting is typically done with the younger, faster Sloughis.  This is not easy as the ground is uneven, stony and harsh.  Sloughis have to be soundly built to sustain a high speed chase after a hare without being injured.  Once older and not fast enough for the hunt any more, Sloughis are used to defend the herds.  Both of these Sloughi activities are essential for the people who keep them, a true working dog where the benefit for the family from the Sloughi is what they are bred for.  Selecting along these lines generates Sloughis that have a perfect conformation (form follows out of perfect function).  For locals where the Sloughi  plays this important function, showing the Sloughi in a showring is beyond comprehension.  What could be the purpose of such events?  They already have assessed the function, know who is the fastest to catch the hare and who is the bravest to attack a jackal.  That is what matters, that is what they have been selected for and that is their function in their original environment.  And that is why Dominique and Joseph agreed to go through all the trouble to get those Sloughis to integrate their sound physic and mental stability into the Western breeding to breed Sloughis that are closer to the North-African original in every respect. 
      As pointed out some 3 years ago, the Western Sloughi breeding suffers from cross-breeding with dogs of uncertain origin as well as deliberate cross-breeding with unrelated hound breeds such as the Middle-Eastern Saluki and even such distant breeds as rare smooth Afghan hounds.  In part, this was driven by the concept of lumping all smooth hounds remotely resembling Sloughis  together.  In part, this problem stems from the ignorance of people to understand the vast geographic distance separating the Sloughis from West- Africa from those in Iran (Persian sighthound or Saluki) and Afghanistan.  Be this as it may, many of the Western bred ‘Sloughis’ contain the genes of those other breeds and it was proposed in the discussion driven by Dominique’s original posting to dilute those genes out through breeding with original North-African Sloughis.  Of course, this is a problem in its own right as some North-African Sloughis are already mixed with Western-bred Sloughis, reflecting the old Western colonization of North-Africa and dominating the African heritage, ultimately aiming at destroying a legacy from thousands of years to generate such a hound  by replacing the Sloughis with a non-functional Western bred hound.
      Luckily, the move that is now sweeping through the Western breeding to outcross to true bred North-African Sloughis is following the initial publication of this insight in Sloughi World.  Of course, one has to keep in mind that simply getting a Sloughi from North-Africa with the largely unknown possibility of cross-fertilization of pure African lines with Western bred Sloughis might not do the trick as they could be carrying some Western-bred non-Sloughi genes.  Unfortunately, the easier the Sloughis can be accessed by the Westerners, the more likely that possibility will be.  So, to be sure, given the inaccuracy of book-keeping in these countries, one would need to go to a remote area likely to never have had Western contacts.  And that would be a place like Bensekrane where traditional Algerian Sloughis were bred as before the European colonizations.  Integrating those lines into the already outcrossed lines kept at Shi’Rayan, containing Moroccan and Tunisian lines might get closer to the true African Sloughi than any breeding in the West in the last 50 years.  The hope that kept all parties involved going is that such an addition should help restore the Western bred Sloughi to fit genetically speaking more closely to the North-African original while at the same time providing a broad genetic basis covering lines raised across the vast expanse of the North-African continent for added genetic diversity on a similar phenotype, a functional genetically diverse Sloughi that is sound in its instincts and body.

The future looks bright.
      The next ten years will be crucial for Western Sloughi breeding and will determine whether the Sloughi as a North-African breed will survive. The alternative will be to turn the Western bred Sloughis into a ‘SINO’ (Sloughi in name only).  Such ‘Sloughis’ typically reflect the limited insight of self-declared ‘breeders’ who may have had one or more litters of randomly associated dogs with limited to no understanding of the pedigrees and perhaps even breed multiple times the same dog to further limit the gene pool.  It will be crucial to sort out the people that do more than lip-service and are actively engaged in the conservation of the North-African Sloughi,  from those who are only interested in propagating their variety of Western-bred Sloughis, to move forward.  Luckily enough, with the internet it is only a matter of time and even the least informed Sloughi owner will begin to understand what is at stake:  the conservation of one of the few ancient dog breeds that is still today bred in certain areas of North-Africa much like the hound that was developed in these areas hundreds and thousands of years ago to protect the herds and hunt. 

      I am confident that the propaganda used by some to sell their puppies from lines that have not been performance tested for multiple generations will not succeed with those people educated enough to grasp the graveness of the situation for the Sloughi.  If the restoration of the true African Sloughi as attempted now will fail, the Sloughi will become a SINO, an empty shell that superficially resembles that dog but is neither in temperament nor function even close to that ancient breed. Let alone in its genetics.  I trust that the truth will prevail and the Sloughi will be bred in the West to resemble in all aspects the traditionally bred Sloughi of North-Africa.  My hope it that Saff and Rsassa mark the beginning of a new era of enriched breeding along thsee traditional lines in the West. 

Algeria meets Morocco in the USA.
Rsassa, and Saff playing with Moroccan Amal
©  Dominique de Caprona


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The contents of these pages, including texts and images, are copyrighted by Dominique Crapon de Caprona and Bernd Fritzsch.  Reproduction of these materials is prohibited without expressed, written permission.