Although confused with the Saluki, the Persian hound, the Sloughi is an ancient sighthound breed endemic to North Africa. For thousands of years the Sloughi has been the trusted hunting companion of the nomadic tribes of the Maghreb.
Evidence from petroglyphs in Algeria (6000 BC) to Roman mosaics found in Tunisian farmhouses to Koranic verses and poems written by Arab poets in the 800s, it is evident that the Sloughi has been a historic companion of the deserts.
Praised for its very fine but not frail bone structure and iron stamina thanks to its large heart, the Sloughi has been an ideal desert hunter.
In the 1800 the Sloughi experienced a drastic decline. Successive droughts caused nomadic tribesmen to migrate out of the deserts in search for work and so hunting practices with the Sloughi were reduced, subsequently a ban on hunting with Sloughis imposed by French colonialists contributed to its decline, until 1965 when only 210 Sloughis remained in Morocco.
Fortunately the hard work of several breeders (especially in Europe – and in fact now more Sloughis are found in Europe than in the Maghreb), has helped bring the number of Sloughis to a decent level; although it is argued that it is extremely rare to find purebred Sloughis.
Father and son, Chedly Nabile and Mohamed Nabile are one of such breeders. After crossing Tunisia to find and purchase over 30 of the best Sloughis they could find (including flying in an Algerian Sloughi from the desert, with a helicopter), Mohamed and Chedly have continued to selectively breed pure bred Sloughis from 2006.
This year, however, they have decided to stop thisbecause they are not being able to export their pups off to Europe, where the demand for Sloughis is highest. I am told that one of the main reasons for this is because of an obscure spinoff of the Tunisian revolution: an increase in rabies due to a corrupt implementation of rabies control and vaccination programs.
Attempts to export Sloughis in Europe or other countries for breeding purpose is met by extremely strict border regulations, which have become even stricter after the revolution.
Mohamed explains that even after blood samples are sent to Germany for testing against rabies, and when certificates are presented at the border which prove the dog has been vaccinated and is exempt from rabies, many European countries still refuse any dog originating from North Africa.
The skepticism is founded, because while pre-revolution, in 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture embarked in mass vaccination campaigns directed at the canine population, it has transpired that in post-revolution Tunisia, the Ministry of Agriculture has been falsifying vaccination certificates, with the complicity of vets.
Today the Sloughi of Tunisia is experiencing a new threat. The number of remaining purebred Sloughis is already low, furthermore only a handful of Tunisian Sloughi breeders remain, many of which are having issues related to consanguinity.
The increase in rabies and with it, strict border regulations, are making life hard for Tunisian Sloughi dog breeders.
Images taken by Linda Pappagallo for Green Prophet