The dogs of ancient Egypt were well-respected and much loved by their owners. We know this to be true because archeologists have discovered art depicting dogs as companion animals. The Egyptian dog breeds we enjoy today are descendants of these dogs. Known as loyal, even-tempered dogs, today’s Egyptian dog breeds have retained the exact same physical and character traits as their forefathers.
All the Dog Breeds that Originated in Egypt: An Introduction
Below we’ve compiled a list of dogs known to have originated in Egypt. Some like the Basenji are well-known among canine enthusiasts, while others like the Sloughie are not. As they’re sight hounds, they are bred to not just run, but chase, and it’s this chasing instinct that can pose a problem. For you see, these Egyptian dog breeds should never be let off a leash unless they’re in a fenced in area as there’s a huge chance they won’t return when called. Oh, and did we mention that fence best be at least 6 feet tall, as Egyptian dog breeds also love to leap over obstacles.
However, despite their speed and agility, did you know that most of these breeds are couch potatoes? It’s true. They love nothing more than to stretch out over a large, comfy bed or sofa. That being said, they still require time to run. As such it’s a wise move to consider investing in a doggy treadmill for those rainy days when going for a run isn’t feasible.
1. Ibizan Hound: An Ancient Egyptian Dog Breed Untouched by Time
The Ibizan (ee-BEE-than) Hound is an agile, streamlined hound of great beauty whose roots trace back to Egypt. In fact, images of this breed appear on the walls and artifacts of ancient Egypt. While it’s generally accepted that the place of origin for the Ibizan is the Balearic island of Ibiza, it’s believed that these Egyptian hounds actually originated in Egypt, then found their way to the island of Ibiza via Phoenician trading ships, where they were used extensively as coursers.
This low-maintenance breed lives an average of 14 years. Size-wise, the male can attain a shoulder height of 27 inches and weight of 55 pounds. Like the Pharaoh Hound, the Ibizan bears a strong resemblance to the Egyptian god Anubis. Although most photos show the Ibizan Hound with a short coat that lies close to the body, there also exists a wire hair variety. In this variety, the coat is rough to the touch and can reach a length of 3 inches.
With regards to personality, these dogs are extremely affectionate when it comes to family. They adore both adults and children, and are considered cuddly couch potatoes when grown. However, that being said, they do love to run. It would be great if you had a large enclosed yard or access to a fenced-in dog park where they could stretch their legs at a good gallop. If you don’t have access to such amenities, do you know that they sell treadmills for dogs? Well, they do. So, if you have your heart set on one of these breeds, then look into doggy treadmills.
They are Jumpers
One last thing, these dogs aren’t just fast runners, they are also excellent jumpers. So, knowing this, it might be a good idea to invest in a tall privacy fence at least 6 feet in height. After all, with its hunting instinct still alive and well, just one look at a squirrel, cat or small dog scurrying across the lawn, could be enough to have your Ibizan leaping the fence in chase–and not come back.
2. Saluki: Strong, Refined and Elegant
After just one look at the refined and elegant Saluki, one could say that it’s the fashion hound of the dog world. With its tall, slender body, smooth gait and aristocratic air it comes across as a confident, lithe, and watchful breed. The stunning Saluki comes in a wide variety of colors due to ancient breeding practices.
Named after the city of Saluk in Yemen, these dogs have an ancient history, having traveled with Bedouin’s as companions and even sleeping in their tents. Centuries ago Bedouin’s refused to allow Saluki’s to breed with any other dog in order to keep their bloodlines pure. As the Bedouin’s traveled from region to region, so did their Saluki’s. This resulted in the many color variations we see today as Saluki’s were bred to other Saluki’s from different areas.
Sadly, modern times have seen a decreased interest in this hardy dog of the desert. Thankfully, that’s all beginning to change due to an increased interest in the breed. It seems the Arabian Saluki Center in Dubai is set on re-establishing the breed in its homeland. Their efforts seem to be paying off as the Saluki is again reclaiming its place as a noble dog of the desert.
The athletic Saluki may look as if it’s a high-energy dog, when in reality it’s a docile and devoted family pet. This is a sensitive breed that’s rather quiet and calm, that appears to love cuddling rather than play. When it comes to grooming, you’ll just have to make sure you groom their long ears so they don’t get mats.
The only thing you may have difficulty with is its picky eating habits. As if the dog wasn’t skinny enough, it tends to turn its nose up to foods it doesn’t find palatable, so patience may be required here. Finally, It still has retained its hunting instinct, so be watchful if you have small animals in the home.
3. Pharaoh Hound: The Personification of the Ancient Egyptian God Anubis
The Pharaoh Hound is an absolutely gorgeous breed. It’s robust, streamlined body is not only built for speed, but also endurance. Whether speeding over grass or rubble, this dog can handle it and handle it well. Nothing lacks with this breed. It’s vision, hearing and scent abilities are all strong. Students of ancient history will automatically see the resemblance between the Pharaoh Hound and the Egyptian god, Anubis.
Indeed, images of the Pharaoh Hound are found in much of ancient Egypt. A case in point is the tomb of king Antefaa II of Egypt where lies the burial place of a Pharaoh Hound named Abywtiyuw (yes, that is the correct spelling). Abywtiyuw was the kings guard dog who received a royal burial. This royal burial would secure the dog a place in the afterlife, so he could be with his king. It is believed that the Phoenician traders of old introduced the Pharaoh Hound to countries outside of Egypt, such as Malta where they are known today as their National Dog.
Regarding home life, the Pharaoh Hound is quite the relaxed fellow, lounging on the sofa with the family. However, that doesn’t mean regular exercise can be slighted. On the contrary, this breed does need to run, so keep that in mind if you develop a fancy for the breed. As long as you’ve an enclosed yard or treadmill where it can go full throttle, you’re good to go.
Another thing, the Pharaoh doesn’t bark much and truth be told, might not be the best watch dog. A hound of moderate means, the Pharaoh is quite content with a comfy place to sleep, good food and lots of hugs. While it’s good with kids, it’s best to keep it far from any small pets, as the hunting instinct is strong in this breed.
4. Basenji: The Devoted, “Barkless” Yodeler of the Dog World
Alert, energetic and loyal, the Basenji or “dog of the bush” is known by some as the barkless dog. While they don’t bark per se, they do make growling noises and yodeling sounds. Regarding appearance, the Basenji is a medium-sized dog with males reaching a shoulder height of 17 inches and a weight of 24 pounds. Their long legs and curled tail give the Basenji a squared, solid appearance.
Regarding place of origin, many sources state that the Basenji originated in the Congo, where ancient owners tied bells around their necks, to locate them as they didn’t bark. However, due to discoveries of similar dogs in ancient Egyptian tombs, many experts believe this breed to have originated in Egypt. This argument stands since the Basenji’s depicted in Egyptian art look just like the Basenji’s we have today.For instance, if you take a look at this image, you can see the dog depicted has a build similar to the Basenji as well as the tightly curled tail.
The Basenji has a reputation as being a smart and intuitive pet, but also aloof and quite stubborn. This means that owners need to take their time with this breed and not expect them to be Lassie. While they’re not disobedient troublemakers, you will need to look out for a few things. For instance, the Basenji does have a propensity for digging in the garden or chewing up a random Sunday slipper or two.
Finally, these are active dogs that do require exercise. In fact, they aren’t just fast, they’re agile and do well in agility competitions. Temperament-wise, the Basenji is great with their own family, but wary of strangers making them good watchdogs. As for maintenance, they are a low-maintenance breed, meaning they aren’t fussy eaters and are easy to groom.
5. Armant: Herder Extraordinaire, Protector and Companion
One thing is for sure, the Egyptian Armant certainly doesn’t look like a breed that originated in Egypt. Whereas most of Egyptian breeds are short-haired, streamlined dogs, the Armant is anything but. The reason being that the current Armant was developed in Egypt from European herding dogs that arrived on Napoleons ships. These dogs then mated with Egyptian dogs, giving us the Armant.
However, there are those that dispute this theory and just believe they are the result of Egyptian farm dogs mating, which doesn’t sound quite right as the Armant doesn’t look like typical Egyptian breeds. Nonetheless, whichever theory one prescribes to, the result is a shaggy dog that resembles your everyday bearded collie.
In Egypt, these dogs are known to take the task of guarding sheep seriously. Farmers in Egypt swear by the herding skill of these dogs as well as their ability to protect their flocks. While they are protective with their herds, they are sweet and gentle with their families when at home.
Since this is a working dog and not a sight-hound, the Armant is easy to train and eager to learn. They are known to develop a deep bond with their owners and have no issue with children or other family pets. Due to its shaggy coat, the Armant will require daily grooming in order to avoid tangles and mats.
6. Baladi: The Official Street Dog of Egypt
The Baladi Rescue Organization of Ontario was established in 2021 and works tirelessly to assist the street dogs of Egypt, which includes encouraging Canadians to adopt them. The Baladi is not technically a breed. It is the name given to all street dogs of Egypt. These strays wander the streets of Egypt, living on handouts and whatever else they can find. Known to be sweet and gentle dogs that adapt easily to any given situation, the Baladi is currently becoming known to dog enthusiasts throughout the world.
According to the Baladi Foundation, this is a “Free Spirited” dog that absolutely loves kids. These dogs are descended from the original dogs of Egypt like the Pharaoh Hound and Saluki. There is a great sadness in the lives of these precious creatures due to the severe abuse they endure on the streets of Egypt. “A lot of kids throw rocks or stones at them, chase them and often hurt them real bad. They get thrown off fifth floors and beaten with a metal rod. Dogs get hit by cars, are in need of amputation surgeries, get poisoned, or abused.”
If you wish to help these beautiful dogs, you can contact the organizations mentioned above or donate to them directly. After all, these are kind-hearted, sweet souls that deserve to experience real love, a soft warm bed and the love of a family.
Honorable Mention: The Sloughie: Swift and Up to the Chase
The Sloughie (SLOO-ghee) or Egyptian Greyhound, is not as commonly known as other Egyptian dog breeds like the Saluki. The Sloughie resembles the regular Greyhound that we’re familiar with, except for their floppy drop ears. These are tall dogs with males reaching a shoulder height between 26 and 29 inches and weigh up to 50 pounds.
Recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club or AKC in 2016, the Sloughie is a gentle dog. Great with kids, adults and other dogs, its sweet nature belies its original function as a courser. Also known as the Arabian Greyhound, it’s believed that the Sloughie originated in North Africa, yet there is also evidence of these dogs in Egyptian artwork, plus they were used in Egypt as coursers as well. Perhaps they are what people mistake as today’s Greyhound? After all, for decades people believed that the Greyhound was of Egyptian blood based on archeological evidence. However, in 2008 DNA evidence stated that Greyhounds had no such connection with the Middle East, but in fact were connected to Europe.
DNA testing proved that the common Greyhound is of European descent and not from the Middle East. So, what about the archeological evidence of dogs who resemble modern day Greyhounds? Since it’s not the Greyhound, perhaps it is the humble Sloughie which is depicted in ancient Egyptian imagery? Who knows, only mitochondrial DNA testing and time will tell.