Breeder Interview

Farha al-Faifa

When and how did you get started in the breed?

I was born into a family that bred Dachshunds, so I grew up with dogs. I always knew I wanted to be a breeder, but it was not until the ripe old age of 8 years that I came upon The Right Breed the Saluki. My grandmother gave me the Swedish Kicki books, which chronicled the adventures of the Saluki bitch Tazi, and was mesmerized. It took 16 years before the circumstances were right for a Saluki of my own. The year was 1996 and the Saluki a bitch named El Hamrah Jacinth. It was a dream come true.

How did you choose your kennel name?

In -97 I was ready to apply for a kennel name, and submitted two: one was Shaairah, which means "poetess" and refers to my second passion, writing. The other, which the Finnish KC approved that year, was Qashani. It harks back to the pet name of my first Saluki, Akasha, and in Finnish means "my Kasha". It is also Arabic and means porcelain: beautiful, utilitarian and to be treated with care, like the Saluki.

Qashani Hosha Badawiyya

What Salukis have you had/do you have at home?

My first Saluki was the bitch El Hamrah Jacinth (Akasha, b. 20.3.1996). To my great sadness she died in a car accident on Christmas -97. In the spring of -98 I imported the Swedish bitch Ibriz Uzume (Asheerah, b. 26.2.1998). Around the same time I also gave a 6 year old bitch, Dyanitos Bazzia, (Zia, b. 8.2.1992), a new home. She was diagnosed with malignant tumors at 7 years of age and was operated on three times, but was feeling well the entire time. She spent her twilight years with my mother and passed away at 13,5 years.

In addition to Asheerah I have 7 desert bred Salukis at home: -the smooth bitch Farha al-Faifa (Farha, b. 16.6.1999); -the male Sami de Hamadan (Muhafhaf, b. 26.5.2001); -the smooth bitch Thurayah (Lublub, b. 6.5.2002); -the crop-eared bitch Basma (Basma, b. 15.1.2003); -the smooth male Khattaf (Khattaf, b. 5.10.2004); -Lublub's daughter, the smooth Qashani Nujaima al-Hasa (Nujaima, b. 17.6.2005), -and Basma's daughter Qashani Tayra al-Sham (Tayra, b. 30.5.2006), -as well as Basma's son, Qashani Talaqa al-Wajh (Iso H, b. 30.5.2006), who is still looking for the Right Home.

I co-own Farha's daughter, the smooth Qashani Habwa Min Farha (Habwa, b. 1.3.2003), whom I had to rehome as she was not enjoying life in a pack. In addition to Habwa I co-own the smooth male Idan Atiq Rafiq (Rafiq, b. 26.8.2002), and Lublub's smooth son Qashani Najm al-Saudi (Naali).

Qashani Nashwan al-Qafr

Have you imported Salukis and if so, what and why?

Most of my Salukis are imports and the reason for this is a desire to bring new blood to the Finnish gene pool. My first import Asheerah came from Sweden in 1998 precisely so that I could bring in slightly different lines. Her sire is my old favourite El-Cazzino Cajar, whose pedigree is mainly Knightellington/Windswift with some desert blood. Asheerah's dam Ibriz Raziza carries old Ibinores lines as well as fairly fresh desert blood through Sindah Manik. Due to Asheerah's brother's autoimmune disorder I have not bred from her.

I had always dreamt of a country of origin import and in -98 while reading the book "The Saluqi Coursing Hound of the East" I realized that obtaining a desert bred might be possible. After a couple of years' hard work Finland got its forst two desert imports in 2000. They were Farha al-Faifa, at that time 8 months old, and Zafran Asli, 4 months, both from Israel. The male "Safi" went to Seija Kotti-Rantala and Farha, Bedouin bred in the Negev desert, moved in with me to be my trusted companion and soul sister. These two became the parents of my H-litter.

In 2001 I imported Sami de Hamadan from France his parents are Bahraini imports. I had hoped he would be a stud dog, but he fell ill with epilepsy at age 1 and so he became purely a pet and a lovely one at that.

In 2002 I imported the tiny Thurayah aka Lublub, from Qatar her parents are Saudi Bedouin hounds. Lublub is a laugh a minute, good-humored and forward and a real lapdog. She's the dam of my N-litter and I hope to get more pups from her eventually.

In 2003 I was enchanted with the pictures of a smooth grizzle male called Idan Atiq Rafiq, and so my friends Mia Salmi, Sami Suomela and I bought him from Israel. He lives with Mia and Sami as their dog. He is the sire of my N-litter.

I had long dreamt of a Syrian Saluki and in 2004 the dream became reality when the then 17 months old Basma arrived in Finland. Her arrival was really a joint effort: my Syrian friend Basil Jadaan found Basma for me and gifted her to me, and the cost of the importation was shared between Kalle Rautavuori, Sirkku Moilanen, Katja Pellikka and myself. In return they can have pups from me or use one of my males for their bitches. Basma is the dam of my T-litter.

In 2005 Basil gave me another Syrian Saluki. Then 1 year old, the handsome and beautifully moving Khattaf arrived in October 2005 and I hope he will sire some puppies for me time will tell if that dream is realized.

Do you work with foreign breeders and if so, how?

No real collaboration, some tentative ideas here and there, but mostly we just keep in touch and share experiences through correspondence.

Qashani Nujaima al-Hasa

Tell us about the litters you've bred!

The H-litter, b. 1.3.2003, 3 males and 6 bitches, 1+2 feathered, the other smooth Zafran Asli (s) x Farha al-Faifa (s)


From the beginning Farha and Safi were imported for breeding. The idea was initially to use them with Western Salukis, but after getting to know these awesome desert Salukis I wanted to combine them. Both are from Israel and as such of very similar type, strong yet graceful, lightly moving, balanced and intelligent hounds whose relatives have been tested in the field. Farha's sire and doublegrandsire were particularly famous hunting hounds. An added bonus was the great love Farha and Safi had for each other even now Farha is thrilled to meet her mate.

I got pretty much the kind of look I expected: varied, but all typical, very well-moving Salukis. Lookswise I am quite pleased with the litter. It consists of three types, one solid, very old Sinai, the other daintier and slower to mature, the third something inbetween. I'm not entirely satisfied with all the temperaments some of the pups lack the unshakeable confidence I've come to expect of DBs. They are wonderful people dogs, very loyal and affectionate, but some have a certain insecurity that manifests itself as occasional dog aggression and in one of the pups as severe separation anxiety.

We experienced disappointments in terms of health. A couple of the pups had recurring ear infections which for one of them stopped when kibble was dropped from the diet. One, Hurra who went to England, was poorly for over a year with something that included weakness, bleeding gums and hematomas, but was never definitively diagnosed. She was treated with cortisone and then with doxycyclin as a tick borne disease was suspected. For a while it seemed that she was on the mend, and then she crashed again. She died at two years old of heart failure.

In the spring of 2005 the male Hajum had an infection of the lymph nodes, at that time thought to have been bacterial. He recuperated after a long treatment with antibiotics, but fell seriously ill in February 2006. The diagnosis was immunological polyarthritis, an auto-immune disorder. At present his cortisone treatment is over and we hope for the best. It now looks as though the previous lymph node infection was related to this illness, along with the tendency of the tips of his ears to bleed in very cold temperatures. In light of Hajum's condition it now seems fairly certain that Hurra's illness also was of the auto-immune kind. I will not breed on from the H-litter, nor will I breed Farha again.

After the pups Farha was allergy-tested because of a winter itch, and the test showed reactions to house and dust mites. Luckily this manifests itself only as occasional, fairly mild itching in wintertime and has not needed medication. Qashani Hiba Bint Farha has had her elbows and hips x-rayed unofficially, all was in order. Qashani Husn at-Tali switched homes in Denmark and escaped from his new owners and was hit by a car. He was 2,5 years old when he died. I hope all the H-pups will remain healthy from now on and that my other desert lines will have healthier futures.

Qashani Tayra al-Sham

The N-litter, b. 17.6.2005, 4 males, 2 bitches, all smooth Idan Atiq Rafiq (s) x Thurayah (s)

The parents of the N-litter were also aquired with an eye toward breeding. I waited for Lublub's birth for 3 years, but I got exactly what I hoped for. I fell for Rafiq when looking at pictures of his litter at the age of 8 weeks, and bought him specifically as a mate for Lublub. As a young pup he looked made for her and that feeling only intensified as I watched them mature. They too are crazy about each other! I expected very much of this litter. Both are similar in type, have wonderful temperaments and are very people-oriented, athletic and lightly and effortlessly moving Salukis Rafiq's trot in particular is light as a feather. Both are incredibly agile runners and their parents and other relatives are proven hunters. Lublub's sire for example was once known as a very good gazelle hound, despite his diminutive size.

I thought Lublub would be a wonderful dam, but I've never seen a dog enjoy her pregnancy so much. The birth and caring for the pups seemed equally effortless. With the H-litter Farha washed, cleaned and let her pups suckle her until they were 4 months old and Lublub too bravely cleaned the pee and poop and let her pups suckle until they were 10 weeks old.

The litter is still young, now 1 year old, but so far I'm immensely satisfied with it. I had great expectations but right now it seems the litter has exceeded those expectations. All the pups are self-assured, incredibly energetic and people-oriented. Their construction is imminently balanced and unexaggerated, yet they are very beautiful. Time will tell how they develop and if they remain healthy I hope all goes well!

Thurayah

The T-litter, b. 30.5.2006, 3 males, 2 bitches, all feathered Barak x Basma

I had intended to use an Iranian male on Basma, but changed my mind a month before the breeding, when to my joy I realized that it was possible to use a Syrian import, the 10,5 year old Barak, reciding in Switzerland. I've always admired the Syrian Salukis and the idea of doing a 100% Syrian breeding was very appealing. This was also the first time I used a Saluki that already had offspring. Barak is the sire of the Menjad litter born in France in -98 and the Achthamar C-litter bred in Germany in 2005. He has several grandchildren in the USA.

The criteria for the choice of breeding animals was the same as before: up until the breeding (I can of course say nothing certain about the future) completely healthy Salukis with wonderful temperaments from good country of origin hunting lines. In addition Basma and Barak have both hunted capably in the desert themselves before being exported to the West. They also compliment each other nicely. In type this is a very different breeding from the two I had done previously, but this is not a shift in breeding goals, but a continuation of my breeding philosophy I like all original types and do not wish to confine myself to one type in my breeding. It will be interesting to follow the growth and development of these pups.

We travelled to Switzerland for the breeding and spent a week with Barak's owner Susi Muehlemann (Tepe Gawra). Barak proved just as wonderful as I had hoped: a lovely temperament, medium size, handsomely built, and in good condition despite his age. Basma, as my other bitches, was also a wonderful mom and as I write this the pups are 6 weeks old and very outgoing and mischivieous. If my previous litters have been energetic, these pups are even more so they are also larger and more precocious. I was astonished when at well under three weeks they began to howl in unison daily like little wolves! Their coordination has developed quickly as well. As tiny blind pups they already did laps around the 2 meter long whelping box and at three weeks they were already well up on their feet. They have nice, balanced builds and have very pretty faces and expressions.

How do you plan breedings and how do you choose breeding animals?

The pedigree is paramount, even more important than the individual. I look for country of origin lines where hunting abilities are strong and where that ability has been consistently tested generation after generation. I trust that function-based breeding ensures and even demands correct structure, temperament, intelligence and instinct.

I try to choose individuals that complement each other, although I am not frightened of or deterred by heterozygosity in the genotype or even the phenotype. My goal is pups that are of the same quality, rather than the same type. There's a distinct difference. The combination has to "feel right". The prospective parents have to look balanced, like hunting Salukis, without exaggerated features. The whole is key and details secondary. The Western obsession with details is in my opinion a bit questionable, such as the much talked about "correct Oriental eye", which in the West is perceived as an eye of a certain shape, placement and colour the darker the better. Many Arabs and Kurds however don't place much importance on eye colour and if they do they often prefer a lighter eye that will give the dog "the look of eagles". The question then becomes what in fact constitutes the "right" Oriental eye? In Dan Belkin's words, probably the one that sees the best!

I understand the allure of breeding for details and conformation, and the temptations of linebreeding and even inbreeding. The traditional Western breeding philosophy of building pedigrees to produce one's own line is attractive and a linebred pedigree always makes for interesting and informative reading. It is always fascinating to read about the systematic work of a determined breeder, who seraches for a quality lacking in his or her line, and then anchors that quality into the line with skillful linebreeding. However, to me it is a practice that is best left in the past, particularly as it in practice entails a very limited use of breeding material. Especially in a breed as ancient and as stable as ours, I feel it is questionable to continue with inbreding or very tight linebreeding. There are many correct Saluki types and they are quite firmly established, which easily makes linbreeding tinkering with detail or a creation of a signature type, neither of which I can reconcile with preserving an ancient hunting hound. This of course is just my personal opinion.

Health and temperament are absolutely the most important factors in choosing breeding animals a difficult, very shy hound would not do well in the hectic lifestyle of the Bedouin, and a hound with poor health would not survive long in the desert. In our Western society too a dog of weak character is difficult, and a sickly dog a source of sorrow and concern. So naturally I strive to breed healthy, goodtempered Salukis. I also only use breeding animals that have been used sparingly or not at all, this to contribute to a wider genetic base. In the future I hope to mate Lublub with Khattaf, provided all stay healthy and whole.

How and when do you choose a promising puppy?

I refrain from making my final choice until the pups are about 6 weeks old and I can see how they move and carry themselves. I look for a harmonious balance in both appearance and temperament. I do follow them closely from birth, and a pup that is particularly strong and vital at birth immediately scores "bonus points" with me, and I follow that pup especially closely.

Basma

What is the importance of hunting ability in this day and age?

If we think purely of Finland, then we have an obvious problem. The breed's original function is key to preserving the breed. The Saluki is so completely the product and embodiment of that original purpose, and that purpose has been instrumental in ensuring that the breed has stayed unchanged for millenia. And yet in Finland it cannot hunt live game in the same way or with the same frequency as in the countries of origin. Racing and lure-coursing are fun hobbies, but can not measure hunting ability, and without adequate tests of hunting ability we cannot preserve optimal function in our hounds.

So what to do? I wish I knew! My answer is to try continually to bring country of origin hunting hounds into my breeding in the hope that that functional ability stays fresh in the gene pool. It's not the perfect answer nor is it a permanent and completely reliable solution, but it is the best I can do under the circumstances.

Some feel that the Saluki in the West should conform to the demands and limitations of modern society, and that it's original function is a thing of the past. I want to believe that we will get back our hunting opportunities. Above all I feel the Saluki cannot be preserved by altering its function. Shows leave too much room for interpretation and change, both deliberate and unintentional. The Saluki's purpose defines its conformation, temperament and intelligence, and vice versa. Its original function sets the parameters within which the breed must stay to function correctly and thus ensures breed type - exaggerations don't work in practice and are therefore naturally weeded out. In our society, without the parameters defined by function, there is too much room for "creative" breeding and that is a problem. Also, the things that make a Saluki a good hunter are often things that cannot be seen. Without hunting we have no way to test those things and that is the core of our dilemma, whether we start with desert or Western lines. You cannot change one aspect of the breed without affecting other areas as well at which point what we end up with is not a Saluki, but a Saluki-like dog.

How do you feel about the importation of country of origin Salukis, so called "desert breds"?

Clearly I am in favour of it as I started it here! New blood and the widening of gene pools is always a positive thing, whatever the breed. As we are lucky enough to have a breed that is still used for its original purpose in its countries of origin, it would be shortsighted not to take advantage of that while we still can.

I feel desert imports are a valuable addition to the gene pool not only for the new blood they represent, but also because they give us the opportunity to add tested hunting hounds to our lines. Hounds that have been tested and found functional in the field for countless generations, in a way that we cannot do in our part of the world. Hopefully they can help us retain that funtion or the potential for it, and that way also ensure the preservation of the right temperament and structure.

An added bonus is the harsh background of these hounds, which hopefully is beneficial in terms of vitality and resistance to disease. The mortality is high in the desert and far from our Western mollycoddling, which in terms of the population as a whole can only be a plus. No population is 100% healthy, that's a biological impossibility, but surely a system so affected by natural selection helps to weed out unsound structure, temperament, and individual disease and weakness. The mere fact that young puppies have to survive in difficult conditions, makes for a healthier starting point than in the West, where weak and sickly pups are often kept alive through extraordinary means.

How do you see the health status of the breed?

On the whole the breed is healthier than most other breeds, but I would like it to be healthier...Which lines ultimately proove healthier than others is no doubt largely dependent on chance and the luck of the breeder, but if certain problems crop up time and again in certain lines, then it is probably adviceable to start anew, as painful as that is. These are issues that all breeders of all breeds eventually have to confront. Luck and breeding choices determine how radical the required actions will be.

The Saluki rarely suffers from structural weaknesses of the bone. Autoimmune diseases are the breed's stumbling block, which is tricky as a correct diagnosis can be difficult and there is no test for carriers. This makes it difficult to draw lines and make reliable breeding decisions. Health considerations, along with finding the right homes for puppies, are the most difficult aspects of breeding. It is very difficult to make informed decisions based on scetchy diagnoses, particularly when dealing with diseases where the mode of inheritance is unknown. More information on these issues is needed for novices to have some kind of clue as to how to proceed. It would be wonderful to learn more from veteran breeders, their opinions and their solutions what health problems they've encountered, how they have reacted to those problems, and whether the decisions made have been succesful.

Describe your ideal Saluki. Name the best Saluki you've bred and the best bred by someone else.

Of the Western Salukis I've seen in the flesh, the following are examples of individuals that have made an impression: Ibinores Khashendi, Sahrai Ratima, Tadj Mahal Bali Gyalam, Kuriirin Diora Deverre, Wallaby's Qazz Qamaran, Lusaki Zitah of Abu Hakim, Halaah Dadaelis El Hamrah, Abu Hakim Aleya, and Nordwart Said Hakim. Nordwart Errai combined charisma and speed in a nice way.

My biggest favourites and closest to my ideal are country of origin Salukis. In Syria I met my friend Basil Jadaan's smooth tricolour bitch Tayra, no doubt the most beautiful Saluki I've seen anywhere. The quality of the Syrian Salukis was awesome the most amazing Salukis in the world!

Of my own Salukis my Farha from the Negev desert and my Syrian import Khattaf represent my ideal Saluki. The Salukis I've bred myself are still young and all are dear to me, but at this time the smooth bitch Qashani Nujaima al-Hasa appeals to me greatly. She is very balanced and moderate and a very agile and surefooted runner.

My ideal Saluki is a skillful, fast, agile and intelligent hunter. A square or slightly shorter than tall, longlimbed, graceful but strong sighthound with light, springy movement and strides that are not overly reaching or with a high kick in the back, but instead with steps that have a prancing lift. A reasonably wide back skull and a strong, not too long muzzle, high-set expressive ears and an intelligent gaze regardless of eye colour. Arched toes, strong pads. A moderately long, curved tail I don't pay much attention one way or another to how it is carried neither did the original standard. A deep and roomy chest and a beautiful tuck-up. A strong topline with an arch over the loin. Very moderate angulation, I want the legs under the dog both standing and trotting. A courageous, obedient, passionate, intelligent and loyal character, devoted to and gentle with its owner. That's it.

What do you think about the quality of Finnish Salukis at the moment, what are the most prevalent faults today? How do you feel the Salukis have changed in the last 10 years?

Quality in what sense? Finnish Salukis do well at shows even in hard international competition, but if I think of quality in the sense of how well Salukis have been preserved in the image of the original desert hunters, the answer is not as simple. There is a lot of exaggeration strange, overly long and refined, downfaced heads, weak toplines, overangulated rears often in combination with very straight fronts, inadequate tuck-ups especially in males... There are very narrow hounds that lack fill-in seen from the front, and on the other hand some very big and heavy pigeon-breasted Salukis. There's a lot of overextension at the trot and also some very sloppy "cycling" front movement, where there seems to be a lot happening but comparetively little actual advancing at least not very energy-efficient advancing. On the other hand there are also several moderate, beautiful, unexaggerated Salukis, that one can picture in a desert environment at the moment though they seem to be in the minority. In the last 10 years the time I've owned Salukis a broader spectrum of types has appeared in Finland, both historically correct types and newer types that aren't correct. There seems to be more exaggeration now than when I got my first Saluki.

What would you like to improve in the dogs you've bred?

I don't look at my breeding in terms of what details could be tweaked in one direction or another, but instead in terms of how to preserve the qualities of the parents and forefathers. The idea is to approach desert Salukis as a student rather than trying to steer them in some direction of my own making. So what I'd like to do with my breeding is preserve the agility, the athletisism, the moderation and structural balance, the working ability and intensity of character, the passion and the loyalty that I see in the parents and forefathers of the dogs I breed. All the purposeful funtionality of the desert hunters, both physically and mentally. And of course above all I hope for good health and temperament.

All dogs of course have their "faults", but I only consider characteristics that hamper function, or that I don't recognize has historically correct in terms of desert hunters, true and meaningful faults. The dogs I've bred aren't perfect, but as a group they don't have specific faults, which of course is understandable as their parents all represent very different lines.

Do you have some advice for novice breeders?

I've only bred three litters so I'm a novice myself, but the most important thing is to really study the breed properly before breeding your first litter, so you have a clear picture of what the breed is and has been, and you understand the responsibility you have to it, and can visualize what it is you want to achieve with your breeding. It's also important to choose your breeding stock with care your first, second , or even third Saluki may not be the best possible foundation, if its health or other qualities don't mesh with your expectations. In addition to that, if you stay open and honest, I'd say you're in pretty good shape.

What are your hopes and fears for the breed's future?

I'm fear the continued narrowing of the gene pool and stud books closing and no longer admitting country of origin imports, and continual tightening of import regulations. I fear increasing exaggeration and health problems. I fear that changing lifestyles in the countries of origin will lead to decreasing numbers of hunting desert Salukis. I fear that functional requirements will shift from those of the optimal hunter to favouring those that create the optimal lure-chaser. I fear that the correct Saluki intensity and pride will change due to the demands of modern society. I fear that in the future our dogs' opportunities and rights to free running and hunting will be even more restricted. And most of all I hope all of these fears are unfounded! I want to believe in a bright future and that the Saluki can stay true to its heritage for centuries to come. In conclusion I'd like to thank my puppy buyers for their sense of camraderie and the love and good care they give their dogs! Hugs to you all!

QASHANI SALUQIS, Micaela Lehtonen A BREEDER INTERVIEW

PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN THE FINNISH SALUKI-MAGAZINE 2/2006