Friday, August 18, 2006

Hot Dogs!

I was feeling the itch to get out hunting today, so I emailed friend, author, and hound authority extraordinaire, Dutch Salmon in New Mexico to see if the recent, and way overdue, monsoon in the southwest had done much for the jackrabbit population and habitat. The news is good and bad for Dutch, who's also an avid angler: Too much water to fish, but a lot of the rain is hitting the Lazy E, a place we love to hunt. He also sent me this puppy story, (which appears under his byline in several southwestern newspapers). Some of you are going to be real interested in this:

Country Sports

Beware the Man with Eighteen Puppies


Dutch Salmon

On July 4th my dog Comet, a rough-coated Greyhound, had nine puppies. She was bred to Kyran, a full-blooded Tazi imported from Uzbekistan (more on this later). It was a planned breeding.
On July 24th my dog Mona, a ½ Tazi X ½ Greyhound, also had nine puppies. She was bred to Samson, a ¾ Greyhound X ¼ Saluki, but in this case Samson slipped through the fence and the puppies were a shocker. It was my fault, the first unplanned breeding in many years, yet it may turn out the best one in the end. But the sum is, I suddenly have 18 puppies in my life!
Not to panic (though initially I did!), half the pups are already promised to good homes and with the canine benevolence of other like-minded dog lovers who want a “one of a kind” dog, the rest – excepting the one or two I’ll keep -- will also be homeward bound in the next couple of months. But the experience has been an education in the derivation of our most ancient hunting breeds.
Various authorities surmise that the man/wild dog relationship began to form way back in the Paleolithic period when we were still hunter/gatherers living in caves. A mutual benefit of hunting and defense was a natural derivation of their talents and ours; little by little certain wolves or wild dogs were at least partially domesticated, hunting hip by jowl with our own wild ancestors. But the selective breeding process that produced types or strains of domestic dogs that we would recognize today as breeds didn’t begin until well into the Neolithic period when agriculture, stock raising, and “civilization” was upon us.
The first recognized type – generally credited – was what we today call the Saluki, an AKC recognized breed. The Saluki formulation was centuries prior to the advent of firearms (and thus “gundogs”) and indeed all the early hunting strains were swift hounds, generally called sighthounds or gazehounds, which could take game like hare, rabbit, fox, deer, antelope etc. without the aid of the human hand or weapon. Numerous ancient artwork from the Middle East clearly indicates that such hunting hounds were at work in the field at least several thousand years before Christ.
But the Saluki had a wide geography, and while all were used for the same general purpose – running down game – they would vary as to topography, tribe, or the game pursued. And in places they became known by another name.
According to Gail Goodman, author of the monumental “Saluqi – Coursing Hound of the East,” as the Saluki evolved from the Arabic countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Syria -- to the more eastern Asiatic domains like Turkey, Turkistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, it took the name “Tazi.” Again, different terrains, tribes, and exigencies of the hunt produced somewhat different types, but all were similar enough that the Tazi/Saluki became a recognized breed.
Over many centuries, these seminal sighthounds were selectively bred to become the Afghan of Afghanistan, Borzoi of Russia, and the Greyhound, Whippet and Scotch Deerhound of the United Kingdom. Other selective breeding creativity by hunters produced today’s bird dogs and trail hounds. But the middle-eastern sighthounds were the first recognizable breeds.
Did the Tazi or the Saluki come first? I’ll let those more expert than I sort that out (I’ve witnessed some heated arguments) and even then the best of them would be guessing – we’re talking about thousands of years of history. But there is no guessing about where most of the hunting Tazi/Salukis are now.
Hunting in the Arabic Middle East has fallen on hard times. The desert terrain meant the game was always sparse. Modern hunting methods, not Salukis but guns and mechanized pursuit, have taken an even greater toll on the wildlife, leaving the ancient pursuit with little to hunt and the hounds that much more rare and esoteric. There are still some good “desert breds” but overall the quality of the hounds has suffered.
In Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the old ways have survived, both in coursing and falconry. Magdalena author Steve Bodio, like me an enthusiast of the archaic, made several trips to the brutal steppe country of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, where it boils in summer and grabs you with iron cold in winter. At considerable expense and effort, the result was the falconry book, “Eagle Dreams,” and the acquisition of three full-blooded Tazi hounds, duly imported to New Mexico. He said all the Tazi of the steppes were hard-boiled hunters, mostly for hare and a large subspecies of the red fox, and fine and valued companions. All eighteen of my puppies are the beneficiaries, to a greater or lesser degree, of this “blood.”
The breeding is apparent in the performance. Last winter Mona, barely a year old, and two other hounds did what the Tazi has done for thousands of years, pursue a hare (jackrabbit). The pursuit was sprint, jink, dodge and turn for 4 ½ minutes – an extreme course -- whence the hare, sensing the end, left them all gasping by ducking down a badger hole.
Showing her youth, Mona, one half of a Tazi import, was slightly slower in the early going, just as strong at the end, but the difference came after we had watered and cooled the pack. The other two hounds, a Greyhound and a Greyhound/Saluki cross, were content to follow in my footsteps as we hiked back to the truck. They’d had it. Within five minutes Mona was back at a strong lope, working out ahead like a bird dog, pure exuberance, using her nose as well as eyes and hoping to jump another jack. I was just as glad we didn’t.
You can’t teach that, or force it. You can inherit it from a line of hounds that have done nothing but work at their trade, and bond with their hunting masters, for thousands of years.
Most of our dogs, like most of us, have gone soft. I “work out,” but I could no more keep up with Jim Bridger or Ben Lilly than this year’s “best” Saluki at Westminster could keep up with Mona.
Now I have eighteen puppies. I have added some Greyhound blood, for that extra dash of speed, to the heritage of the Tazi/Saluki. I know from experience that most of the hares will still be too much for us. But win or lose, as the puppies mature, that link to the ancient and archaic will provide all the satisfaction I could ever want in the field.

Interested in one of these pups? You ought'a get in touch with Dutch muy pronto. Email me to find out how if you don't already know.

If you want to see Steve Bodio's Tazi pups, (it's a population explosion out there in New Mexico!!), go here . I'll have a picture of Dutch and Mona up here soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reprinting the article for those of us in the East to enjoy! They sound like amazing hounds.