|PRESERVING-BREEDING-GENETICS-HISTORY-STANDARD/MORPHOLOGY-NORTH AFRICAN EFFORTS ARTS/CULTURE|
North African Efforts
Preservation efforts of the
Sloughi in the region of Bou Salem
Several years ago, in Spring of 1999, my sister and I visited Tunisia for the first time in our lives. During a round trip that took us from Ghardimaou in the far Northwest to Douz in the far South and back, we stopped among other places at Bou Salem, a town in Northern Tunisia, about 2 hours West of Tunis. We were introduced there to Raouf Ochi and his wife Lamia, and other hunters of the region. We saw 6 adult Sloughis in two different homes, 2 males and one female in each. The red fawn Sloughia, named Lisa, had a litter of very young puppies. All these Sloughis had colors ranging from pale sand to red fawn. At the time there were approximately 15 Sloughis owned by some 10 hunters within a radius of some 25 kms around Bou Salem.
Little did I know then that almost 13 years later, in December of 2011, I would take ten days of vacation and accept Raouf Ochi's invitation to return to Bou Salem. As Raouf Ochi took me and others to visit Sloughi owners in the region, a very different picture of the Sloughi situation unraveled before my eyes. The population has very much grown. In spite of the Tunisian Winter with its rain, puddles, mud, and its cold, people came out of their houses to proudly present many Sloughis and Sloughias of all colors and ages. There are now close to a hundred Sloughis in the region and many hunt with them. I was pleased to learn that several of the first Sloughis and puppies I had seen in 1999 had passed on their genes to future generations. Sloughis from other bloodlines coming from elsewhere had also been included and contributed to enlarge the gene pool. Some of the 1999 Sloughis came from Ghardimaou (Heinz Gert and Gisela Bergman' breeding) descending from Sloughis originating in Relizane (Algeria) and Tunisia (Meknassy, Tozeur) such as Skhab 1. Others were Skhab of Moulares, Douna of Hadjeb Layoun (a small town in the Kairouan Governorate) and their daughters Lisa and Mouja, Richa from the South, Mouja from Nomads. During the past decade the brindle male Ghazel acquired by Raouf Ochi in Djoumine brought that color to the region, Richa from a renown breeder in Mateur gave the black mantle in her recent puppies. The Sloughi Antar from the border to Algeria recently came to the region. The Sloughis of Bou Salem are kept away so far from interbreeding with bloodlines that have been mixed to French Sloughi/Saluki crossbreds in Tunisia. The Bou Salem lineages are being carefully followed to preserve their authenticity.
I come back from this trip much impressed by what is no doubt a very knowledgeable and passionate concerted effort that has taken place there during the past decade between Raouf Ochi and other local hunters. Not only does an interest in maintaining this breed include more people of various ages and in various locations, but the traditions regarding the Art of Hunting with Sloughis has also been passed on and attracts new adepts. All of these Sloughis seemed to be in good physical shape, I have seen scars resulting from injuries on only 3 of them, I did not see obvious injuries resulting from dog bites. A visit to an area in which a large group of male and female Sloughis of all ages was let loose on the neighboring field proved beyond any doubt that temperaments in these Sloughis are very sound, their social instincts intact, as I could witness no true sign of aggression. I recognized many subtle behavioral traits only found in dogs which know how to interact with each other. This applies to Sloughis among themselves and to Sloughis which I saw later on coming down a hill at dusk with other dogs .
Red Sloughia coming down the hill at dusk with other dogs.
A minority of the Sloughis had cropped ears, a Tunisian tradition which is fading in that region. The Sloughis, in particular the puppies, are being vaccinated to counteract a very much present and deadly Parvovirus, probably the worst health threat to the preservation of the Sloughi in North Africa at this time.
The future of the Sloughi in this region is in good hands at the moment. Some of the breeders and owners I talked to in Bou Salem, but also later on in Douz at the Festival, are against the importation to Tunisia of Sloughis from the West, and are at the same time weary of the exportation of Tunisian Sloughis to the Western World and Libya. They would prefer the Tunisian Sloughi population to reach a more stable level of recovery in its own country before some of its Sloughis leave the country and are lost to reproduction in Tunisia.
Brindle descendants from Djoumine's Ghazel
Second from left: Richa of Mateur