To describe this breed, I refer to the very good official standard (in Italics), and present my writing as a letter from a
breeder and an Azawakh judge to his colleagues. I write this, not
only thinking about the future of the breed, but also to the judges
desirous of understanding what an Azawakh is, and how we
should judge this uncommon beauty to preserve its uniqueness.
I have not found it necessary to dwell on the obvious aspects, but rather to emphasize the important points that make the difference between a good judge and a great judge. If you want to judge the Azawakh, first of all try to forget all the other breeds, as well as the shapes and proportions to which you are accustomed. You must also try to forget classic dog temperament and behavior, and be prepared to accept something different.
As judges we are used to refer to a common model which all dogs must fit, but in this case the model does not exist. To perceive the right type of Azawakh, you will have to devote time and broaden your aesthetic criteria. I remember I was walking in town with one of my dogs, a very young girl saying to her mother "Mom, look, a little horse." I knew then, that without mental preconceptions, this is what our eye sees: a little horse. The similarity between the Azawakh and the Arabian horse, especially in gait, is obvious. Please remember the preceding comparison, remember that nature creates diversity and that the "canis lupus familiaris" is one of the best examples. We are not here to change it. Rather, we must understand the modern man’s reasons for loving this breed are its elegance and its pride, not its unconditional loyalty and obedience. The Azawakh is not a slave but can be a lovely partner. We must appreciate the qualities that make the Azawakh great for its owners not for us, the judges.
”BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY: It is an African sighthound descending from the types pictured in the wall paintings of the Central Sahara which date back thousands of years. The ever- increasing aridity of the Sahara caused Tuareg, Dahoussahaq and Peul shepherd-hunters to migrate with their dogs to the more hospitable lands of the Sahel: in areas suitable for farming and hunting along the dry valley of the Azawakh. Belonging to the culture of peoples who domesticated and shaped it, it is known as Oska in the Tuareg language. European enthousiasts discovered the breed with admiration and selected with the help of the breeders who owned the first lines exported to Europe, as of 1968.”
The first pair imported in 1968 into Europe was R'Eheouel and Reylane, by Gervais Coppé, then another pair (including Gao), was brought back by a Yugoslav diplomat from Mali to be delivered to Marshal Tito. This pair was at the origin of Mrs. Sekalec's lineage. Other dogs were imported later in France, and even today we import dogs of varying quality from Mali, Niger, Algeria and Burkina Faso. There is a lot of controversy between breeders and clubs because of the recent imports which brought not just new genes, beneficial to the genetic health of the breed, helping the European breeders to surmount the inbreeding crisis, but also new colours, not yet accepted by the standard. As judges we cannot have more than personal opinions about it. The French Breed Club is the only club authorised to change the standard. Some of the dogs imported in the recent years are of excellent quality but not all of them. In the rush to introduce new genes, dogs of less quality have been used for breeding and the result can be seen in shows : over angulated hindquarters, tail set to high, short tail, long coat, too wide head, atypical expressions, atypical movement, and the worst : wrong type.
Particularly high in the leg and elegant, the Azawakh sighthound gives a general impression of great fineness. His bone structure and musculature are transparent beneath fine and lean tissues (skin). This sighthound presents itself as a racy dog whose body fits into a rectangle with its longer sides in vertical position.
IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS: - Length of body/height at the withers = 9 : 10. This ratio may be slightly superior in the bitches. - Depth of chest/height at the withers = about 4 : 10. - Length of muzzle/length of head = 1 : 2. - Width of skull/length of head = 4 : 10. 2
This is a short, a very short, the shortest dog, and the body proportions are a very important point in the standard, specific to this breed. It is high on the legs, dry, an architectural beauty with gothic lines. An Azawakh in show condition must have almost zero fat tissue and at least 2,3 ribs should be visible. An Azawakh must be elegant. There is no other word to describe it better
BEHAVIOR / TEMPERAMENT: Quick, attentive, distant, can be very reserved with strangers, but it can be gentle and affectionate with its family, and people whom it is willing to accept.
The Azawakh is closer to the proud <domestic wolf> than to the fully obedient dog. One must have a strong personality to be accepted as the master. It is hard to believe for those who have never had an Azawakh, but it can be very affectionate with its owner, when no <enemy> is within sight. True, this dog is very suspicious, but personally I like this trait. It might take some days before an Azawakh habituates itself to a new person, and even more for its acceptance [of the new person] in its environment. The Azawakh is the one that makes the approach and never the opposite. This is the reason it is not good to touch them when we judge them, especially the young ones, because it stresses them and makes them detest dog shows from the very beginning. If a judge cannot understand how or why anyone would accept this behaviour in a dog, it is only because he has never had an Azawakh. Personally I cannot imagine a totally and unconditionally obedient Azawakh, or one which is too friendly. I like this temperament, and this is one of the reasons I love this breed. Nobody likes fallen beauties, but we all love the mystery and dignity of natural beauties, even wildlife. Let’s keep them pure.
HEAD: Long, fine, lean and chiselled, rather narrow, without excess.
Skull: Almost flat, rather long, its width should be significantly less than half the length of the head. The line of skull and the bridge of the muzzle are sometimes slightly divergent. The superciliary ridges and the frontal furrow are slightly marked. The external occipital protuberance is clearly pronounced.
Stop: Very slightly marked.
Nose: Black or dark brown colour is obligatory; the nostrils are well opened.
Muzzle: Long, straight, tapered without exaggeration towards the end.
Lips: Thin lips tightly fitting, colour is black or dark brown, no hanging lips.
Jaws/Teeth: Jaws are long and strong; scissor bite. Complete set of teeth.
EYES: Almond eyes, rather large, slightly oblique palpebral opening, colour is dark, sometimes amber, never blue. Eye rims well black or dark brown pigmented.
EARS: Set quite high. They are fine, always drooping and flat, broad based, lie flat against the cheeks, never "rose ear".Their shape is that of a triangle with a slightly rounded tip. Their base raises when the hound is attentive.
NECK: Good reach of neck which is long, fine and muscular, slightly arched. The skin is fine and does not form a dewlap.
Top line: Straight, approximately horizontal or slightly rising from the withers towards the point of the hips. Hips clearly protruding and placed at the same height or higher than the height of the withers. Withers: Distinctively prominent.
Loin: Short and dry.
Croup: Oblique (ideally 45 °).
Chest: Deep, well-let down almost to the elbows, sternal region gently narrowing. Fore chest fairly narrow. Ribs long, slightly visible, gently and evenly sprung.
Underline and belly: The sternal arch is pronounced. The underline rises smoothly into the belly which is tucked up very high.
The withers are protruding like the hip bones, which must stand at the same level or higher than the withers. The hip bones placed below the withers is a desqualifying fault. In a dog with less subcutaneous tissue, the loin is sometimes more arched than usual and this should not be penalised so long as in movement the dog retains a good, straight top line. The croup does not have an accentuated slant but is definitely oblique, and more often the fault is too horizontal a croup rather than one which is too steep.
Set low, long, thin, lean and tapered. Covered with the same type of hair as the body, it often has a white pencil hair on the end. The tail hangs with the tip slightly raised, but it can rise above the horizontal when the dog is excited.
General appearance: Long, thin, vertical. Perfect stand.
Shoulder: Long shoulder blade, with dry muscles and only slightly oblique viewed in profile.
Upper arm: The scapulo-humeral angle is very open (about 130°). Metacarpus (Pastern): Slightly oblique.
Forefeet: Rounded, with slender digits, tight and well arched. The pads are pigmented.
General appearance: Long and lean legs, viewed from behind, perfectly parallel.
Thigh: Long with dry protruding muscles. Coxo-femoral angle is very open (about 130°).
Stifle (Knee): Femoro-tibial angle is very open (about 145°). Metatarsus (Rear pastern): Tarsus and metatarsus lean, without dewclaws.
Hind feet: Rounded, toes well arched, pads pigmented.
The Azawakh has front angulation which is as open as its rear angulation but it should never have totally straight hocks. The metatarsus should be vertical, but in dogs that have a little longer second thigh, the angle between the metatarsal bone with the second thigh is less than 145. Obviously the metatarsal is not more vertical. This should not be considered a major fault if it does not affect the general appearance and the gait. Hocks that are too straight or have too much angulation that affect the distinctive type of Azawakh movement are not desired and should be penalised. The front legs should be perfectly straight, but more often are turned outward about 5-10 degrees as in many other desert dogs, which should not be considered a serious fault. The hind legs are perfectly straight.
Long, fine, lean and chiseled, rather narrow, without excess and with almond shape eyes.
Over coiled tail set too high, poor top line and croup. / Well set and carried tail, correct croup.
Too Pronounced Angulations / Correct Angulations / Straight Angulations
The Azawakh gives a great impression of lightness, even elasticity. The movement is
an essential point of the breed.
GAIT / MOVEMENT: Always very supple (lissom) and with particularly high action at the trot and the walk. The gallop is bouncy. The Azawakh gives a great impression of lightness, even elasticity. The movement is an essential point of the breed.
The Azawakh has very open angulation which makes it impossible for a great extension of its limbs, but this is offset by the long legs that allow it to cover the terrain. An over-angulated dog may also have a spectacular gait but will not have the characteristic movement and should not be preferred. Looking at the front legs (at the trot) we see that they have a high action due to the extension of the humerus (upper arm) and not due to an exaggerated flexion of the radius that would be a ”hackney action”
SKIN: Fine, tight over the whole of the body. COAT: HAIR: Short, fine, down to none on the belly.
COLOUR: Fawn, with or without brindles, with white patching limited to the extremities. All shades are admitted, clear sand to dark fawn (mahogany). Brindles should be black as excluding any other shade. The muzzle can present a black mask. White patching: The blaze is very inconstant. On the fore chest, white may be present as white patches, more or less extensively, confined to the base of the neck. Yet, a narrow white stripe is permitted on the forepart of the neck, on the forechest and on the lower part of the chest. The bib should not extend past the point of the shoulder or go up on each side of the neck. A small white spot on the nape of the neck, of reduced size, is tolerated. As a continuation of the fore chest, white spots can appear below the chest, but must not in any case go up the ribs. Each of the four limbs has a white stocking, at least as a trace on the feet. On a subject having excellent morphology, the lack of white on one limb is allowed. The white marks on the forequarters, often irregular, should not extend beyond the elbows, or encroach on the shoulders.
Regarding the amount of white in the dog coat, this is determined by the "Self" allele which in order of dominance is: "S" – self = no white, "si" – self irish = up to 20% white, "sP" –piebald = between 20% and 80% white and "sw" – white = more than 80% white. In the Azawakh, the only acceptable allele is "si". No white at all, allele "S", as well as more than 20% white, allele "sP", are both disqualifying faults. Note: If the dog has white on the chest and/or neck, and 2 or 3 limbs, most of the time the white is present on the other limbs and on the tail too, but not in the same amount. The gene responsible for this is the same "si" and if you will check carefully, you will find probably just a few white hair between the toes or pads. This is not to be considered a fault. As well, the presence of a small white spot on the back of the neck, on the muzzle, on the sternum are allowed. The white stripe on the forepart of the neck it is very characteristic and present in many top quality individuals as it was present in many influential dogs over the time. Always remember that what the standard wants is to preserve the "si" and to exclude the "S" and the "sP" genes. It is your ability as judges to put this in context, to balance the anatomical qualities and any pigmentation faults and decide accordingly. This is what we were thinking about when deciding to change the standard.
SIZE AND WEIGHT:
Height at the withers: Males: 64 –74 cm
Females: 60–70 cm.
A margin of 2 cm above and below the standard is tolerated.
Weight: Males: 20–25 kg. Females: 15–20 kg.
FAULTS: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
• Head heavy lacking elegance.
• Tail thick and hairy, very curled tail.
• Body too long.
• Level bite.
• Aggressive or overly shy dogs.
• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities.
Lack of type.
• Overly small chest and extreme general thinness.
• Underbite or overbite.
• Nose, eyelids and lips other than black or dark brown.
• Light eyes or blue eyes.
• Rose ears.
• Hips lower than the withers.
• Non-accidental anatomical deformation (e.g.: asymmetrical
junction of the ribs at the sternum).
• Presence of dewclaws or traces of removal of dewclaws on
• Wired or semi-long coat.
• Non-standard coat colours (invasive white, white collar,
brindle other than black). Beware of diluted colours such as
: blue, lilac.
• Every dog which shows traces of a surgical intervention
meant to correct or repair an esthetical or morphological
fault will be excluded.
• Size deviating more than 3 cm. from the standard.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully
descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical
conformation, should be used for breeding.
When you are judging the Azawakh, before making the decision to disqualify a dog for being agresive please remember what was written in the previous FCI standard : « ... distant, reserved with strangers and may even be unapproachable.» If the dog is aggressive or attack without a reason, you should disqualify it, but do not try to touch it if you see it is not willing to be touched. DO NOT CHALLANGE IT !. This applies to many sighthounds, but for the Azawakh, it is almost a rule. When you are judging young dogs which are not yet used to the crowds around our show rings, please remember that this breed is accustomed to large, open areas and fewer people. Our shows are not like their natural habitat, but the opposite. Also please consider handling errors. Sometimes, probably most of the time, this is the major problem and for this reason the dog «cannot be judged» but should not be disqualified for a behaviour fault.
And last but not least, please remember that ”Hips lower than the withers” is a DISQUALIFYING FAULT.
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