The Azawakh is an elegant and slim West African guardian breed. Bred to guard livestock and hunt, they are an ancient breed that is still found today in countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. They are named after the Azawagh Valley, which spans across the aforementioned countries, and they can trace their ancestry to over a thousand years ago. Art that features Azawakh-looking dogs has been dated to over 8,000 years ago.
Azawakhs are likely the descendants of the ancient bush dogs of West Africa. They have remained remarkably unchanged over the centuries and still retain a certain primitive and ancient appearance. They are tall, thin, and graceful. People can see their rich history in their expressive and intelligent eyes. But don’t be fooled by their slender appearance. Unlike many sighthounds, which are gentle and rely on their even temperaments and patience to work with their masters, Azawakhs were primarily used as guard dogs. As a result, they have the capacity to be a great deal more protective than some of their sighthound counterparts. Despite this, they are generally gentle and intelligent dogs, as long as they do not feel threatened. They will do well with other dogs and cats if socialized with them early enough, and they are intensely devoted to their family. This devotion translates into a love for children within the family, though they may be reserved and aloof with strangers initially.
Azawakhs are not very popular outside of their native Africa, but this is slowly changing. They are slowly gaining a loyal fanciers in Europe and North America, as they are so valued for their unique looks and dignified personalities. They are remarkably adaptable and can make good apartment dogs with proper exercise. Although they are not small dogs, they are reminiscent of the greyhound in that while they can achieve great speed and endurance while working outside with their masters, they are equally happy to curl up and relax with their owner in the home. They will be very happy competing in doggy sports, such as lure coursing or agility.
Because they are such a rare breed, Azawakhs may be very hard to come by in the United States. People will likely need to do a great deal of research and perhaps even put their names on a waiting list in order to bring an Azawakh into their family.
Azawakhs still retain many features that are indicative of their connection to ancient dogs. They are suspicious of strangers, have unusual vocalizations—somewhere between a bark and a yodel—and they are expert den diggers.
Explore some Embark dogs that share Azawakh ancestry.