The sighthounds are possibly the world’s oldest type of dog. Evidence of sighthounds has been found as far back as the eighth century B.C.E. Originating in the Middle East and Asia, these dogs were bred to hunt by sight and to course prey. They retain these abilities, making them the runners of the dog kingdom. All of the sighthounds look quite similar, elegant with long, narrow bodies and deep chests. Most of them are quite large: think Greyhounds, Afghan Hounds and Irish Wolfhounds. They are active and keen in the field but restful in the home. Sighthounds will run after anything that moves, whether it’s a rabbit or a radio-controlled car, so they should always be leashed or confined to a securely fenced yard. Many of these dogs are not trustworthy with small animals such as cats.
Like scenthounds, sighthounds are incredibly single-minded. That combined with their amazing speed can spell danger. Owners caution that sighthounds must always be on leash when in unfenced areas. Despite this, sighthounds make excellent companions. They are lovable dogs who can easily switch between work and relaxation mode.
In health matters, the sighthounds are often sensitive to anesthesia as well as being susceptible to bloat — also known as gastric torsion — because of their deep chests. The very large members of the group, such as the Irish Wolfhounds and Scottish Deerhounds, tend to be short lived.
Dog breeds that are considered sighthounds are: the Afghan Hound, Azawakh, Borzoi, Chart Polski (Polish Greyhound), Greyhound, Ibizan Hound, Irish Wolfhound, Longhaired Whippet, Magyar Agar (Hungarian Greyhound), Peruvian Inca Orchid, Pharaoh Hound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound, Silken Windhound, Sloughi, Spanish Greyhound and Whippet.
Pariah dogs are often grouped with sighthounds. These are primitive dogs who tend to live at the periphery of civilization. They are the closest to being wild among the species Canis familiaris.
Some of the pariah dogs, such as the Carolina Dog, exist as feral dogs with some domesticated individuals. Others are largely domesticated, such as the Basenji, a quick, clever, and highly mischievous dog that has become an increasingly common choice for a family pet.
The Canaan Dog of Israel was documented as a domestic breed more than two thousand years ago. After the exodus of the Jews, it became feral except for individual dogs kept by the nomadic Bedouins. In the twentieth century, it gained popularity among Israelis and is again kept as a domestic dog.
Pariah dogs tend to have similar looks, being of medium size with prick or rose ears, curled tails, and compact feet. Many of them are described as catlike, fastidious, and primitive in their behaviors. For instance, female pariah dogs tend to come into estrus only once a year rather than twice a year like the typical domestic dog.
Pariah dogs are not for every family. They require an experienced dog owner. Although some pariah dogs have a long history of domestication, others are closer to their wild roots and may have problems adjusting to a home life without concentrated socialization and training.
Excerpt from “The Original Dog Bible” with permission from its publisher, Lumina Media. Purchase “The Original Dog Bible” here.