THE PERFORMING SLOUGHI
By Dominique Crapon de Caprona, Ph.D.
Where do Sloughis come from and what were they originally used for?
The North African Sighthound we know as the Sloughi originates from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. In the old days the Sloughi hunted gazelle, desert hare, antelope, fennec (desert fox), hyena and ostrich, sometimes boar, and jackals. Today the breed is used to hunt gazelle, desert hare and fennec; its main role in some areas being to control the jackal populations which attack goat and sheep herds and poultry. In Tunisia, the traditional hunt represents a Berber rider galloping behind his Sloughi chasing prey. In Morocco, Sloughis on a coupler accompany riders for jackal hunting.
It is of course difficult to offer this kind of hunting to Sloughis living in Europe and in the USA/Canada, so testing the functionality of Sloughis has been replaced by various sports: sprint racing, oval racing, coursing with or without obstacles (steeple chase style) and open field coursing. In Europe, particularly Germany and Holland, and to some extent the South of France and Italy, the Sloughi is well established and has been active in all these venues (except open field for legal reasons) since the 1970's.
In the USA /Canada, the history of the Sloughi in performance events is relatively new. The Sloughi is recognized by the National Open Field Coursing Association and the North American Coursing Association and to my knowledge 2 Sloughis have been seen to participate in these events since then. The breed was officially recognized by the National Oval Track Racing Association in December of 1994, and started to participate in oval racing in 1995. Eight Sloughis launched the first official race of the newly founded Large Gazehound Racing Association in Utah, June 1996. Several Sloughis are now Oval Race Champions and Gazehound Race Champions and have placed in the top ten all breeds. 1996 also saw the creation within ASFA of the Miscellaneous Stake over 18", and the first entries of Sloughis showed up at the April 1996 trial of the Nebraska Coursing Association. They have since then competed actively every year in many trials across the country, including two International Invitationals. Eight Sloughis to date have completed their Field Champion titles and 14 (1 in Canada) have succeeded their certification runs. Since 1996, each year a different Sloughi captured the # 1 miscellaneous over 18" position.
What is the running style of a Sloughi?
Although capable of tremendous starting power in sprint, the Sloughi is typically a long distance runner. Because of its squarish proportions, it cannot flex its back as much as the Greyhound, but can take much sharper turns. The general look of a Sloughi racing is that of a tight and smooth runner with tremendous leaping power.
In lure coursing, Sloughis typically work the lure together, changing places as the lure turns, hunting the lure more than simply chasing it. Sloughis always keep track of their bearings as they run: they often turn their heads to check where the other Sloughis racing are and sometimes to see where the owner is. This is not to be confused with interference, as such behavior is not accompanied by other behaviors hampering or interrupting the course of another Sloughi. This turning of the head is also seen in young Sloughis during their first oval or straight races, and should not be confused with a DQ. A Sloughi simply checks things out all the time, and turning the head to see what is going on around him is an intelligent way on keeping track of things.
At all times the Sloughi is aware of everything happening in its field of vision, and although a coursing Sloughi can be very focused on the lure, it can be distracted by another piece of plastic floating in the wind, a horse riding near the field, a commotion of dogs barking, or other fun furry things to chase. Sometimes, in courses which comprise a loop within a loop, some individuals will stop as the first loop comes close to the starting point, probably thinking this is the end of the course as they come close to their owner -and everything else which identifies the start and end of a course, namely people and lure-coursing equipment - not realizing that the course is not yet completed.
The leaping skills of Sloughis are documented in steeple chase coursing events in Europe. In the USA, sometimes the oval , straight or coursing tracks will provide for such opportunities. There is nothing more impressive than a heat of Sloughis leaping in unison over a big puddle of water in their way, and resuming the race without missing a beat. In general the breed is not prone to injuries.
How does one train Sloughis for coursing?
Although some individuals react to the plastic lure the first time they see it, most require some convincing to do so. Enticing a Sloughi puppy to play with a piece of white plastic is a good idea to get them used to the feel of the plastic. A good way to "start" Sloughis in the sport is to enter them first in LGRA events, where the furry lure with a squeaker is usually irresistible, then in NOTRA events where they learn to follow the white plastic lure, and finally ASFA events. Although Sloughis can take time to decide to course the best they can, they are usually consistent over several years provided they are always kept "hungry for the sport". Sloughis loose interest when coursed too many times in too short a period of time. They also slow down in very hot weather.
In Europe the situation is slightly different as Sighthounds are presented with fur lures or pieces of rabbit skins, not plastic. In the USA some coursing and racing clubs use such lures in addition to the white plastic, and it is revealing to see the Sloughis then pouncing on and grabbing the fur, not the plastic, at the end of the race or course.
Where do the American Sloughis come from?
American Sloughis descend from some of the oldest
European bloodlines (the French d'Ymauville Sloughis from the 1950's),
some of the top show/racing bloodlines (the German Schuru-esch-Schams Sloughis
for example) and old or recent country of origin Sloughis imported from
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. All the Sloughis competing in NOTRA,
LGRA and ASFA events in the USA and Canada belong to members of the Sloughi
Fanciers Association of America. The SFAA has worked hard since 1988 to
integrate the Sloughi in all Sighthound events in the Western Hemisphere.
© Dominique de Caprona 1999
I have both judged and run the lure for Sloughis
since they were accepted by ASFA as a Miscellaneous breed. Obvious sighthounds
both in form and in function, they have a running style that is distinctive.
They are very keen on the lure, and exhibit an efficient compromise between
speed and agility on the course. Sloughis possess "...the natural
beauty, grace, speed and coursing skill of the sighthound" that the ASFA
is committed to preserving, and I think that there is no question that
both the breed and the ASFA would benefit from their recognition.
I have had the honor of judging Sloughis since
their acceptance into the ASFA's Miscellaneous Class. There has never
been any doubt in my mind that these sighthounds should receive full recognition
by the ASFA. They are unmistakable as sighthounds in their physical
appearance, as well as their running style. They are keen pursuers
of the lure, agile, and possess great speed. They will make a fine
and honorable addition to the ASFA's family of recognized sighthounds.
For the last several years, I have had the opportunity
to witness, and judge, a number of Sloughis in the field in the Midwest.
Watching these sighthounds run, any coursing enthusiast can not help but
be impressed with their spirit for the chase, their keen feel for the terrain,
and the huge heart they give to the pursuit. These fine sighthounds belong
on the field with all others and deserve to be a full participant in the
sport of lure coursing.
Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity
to operate the lure for a number of Sloughis in competition. Their
exceptional speed, agility, and endurance is matched only by their enthusiasm
for the chase. It has also been my pleasure, on occasion, to be afforded
the opportunity to handle the Sloughis at trials, which has helped me achieve
a greater understanding of this magnificent breed. The entire coursing
community would benefit greatly from the inclusion of the Sloughi breed
Since 1995 it's been my pleasure to watch and
operate the lure for quite a number of Sloughis. Their love of the
chase is beautifully exhibited in their speed, agility, intensity, and
stamina. Their running style is one of a true hunter, working as
a team to capture their prey. The Sloughi's grace and beauty are unmistakably
that of a sighthound that the ASFA should welcome with open arms.
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