Tazi: The Nomad's Sighthound of the Steppes

Tazi: The Nomad's Sighthound of the Steppes

Tazi Afghan hound

by Kyle Darnell    

The Tazi is a breed of sighthound native to the Central Asian steppes, found throughout the Stans, Russia, the Caucasus and all the way to Turkey.

Tazis are sighthounds, bred to hunt hare, fox, gazelle, boars, and even wolves in long distance chases across the desert sands or grasslands of the steppe. The Tazi has long been prized as a bread-winner (or meat-winner) by Central Asian Nomads, with similar-looking dogs depicted in petroglyphs and bodies found in graves over three-thousand years old. The saying goes that amongst nomads, "One Tazi is worth up to forty-seven horses."

The Tazi, meaning "pure", is a medium size dog weighing between fifty and sixty-five pounds, with a height of twenty-six to twenty-nine inches. The Tazi is a remarkably hardy dog, tolerant of both the bitter cold and the burning heat of the steppe. Tazis are running hounds extraordinaire, capable of loping up to 40mph at a sprint, almost as fast as their sprinter-cousins the greyhound (and much more agile). And yet it is over distance that the Tazi excels, running at 25 mph for chases up to three miles. In Central Asian nomad communities, Tazis are purpose-bred for their game of choice: those specializing in hare hunting bred more for the agile sprint, while gazelle-Tazis gazelle are bred for the long-distance course. While the Tazi is primarily a sighthound, it is said that they also have very good noses for air-scenting prey. The Tazi is a rare breed here in the U.S., but more and more dogs are being imported by hunters for use on coyotes and feral pigs.

The appearance of Tazis varies across their geographic range. In colder climates Tazis often have a longer coat, as well as a thick undercoat. In general, Tazis are skinnier, and have less hair, than you might expect in such athletic and hardy dogs. 

You might recognize the Tazi due to its similarity to its close, and more common relative, the Saluki. Like Salukis, Tazi dogs are relatively calm dogs, aloof with strangers, loving with family, and usually sociable with other dogs (though liable to chase anything that moves). Tazis are generally quiet and clean, and make great pets (if you could find one!), but as you'd expect, Tazis need a huge amount of activity; a fifteen minute walk around the block is not going to do it for these dogs, they need a good hard run every day.

The Tazi shares similarities in temperament, and some particular physiological characteristics, with wild wolves, contributing to speculation on the influence of wolf DNA in the breed. Beyond behavioral similarities, Tazi are monestrous, meaning they have only one estrus a year like wolves, but unlike most other dog breeds which experience estrus biannually. Check out this Youtube video for some beautiful footage of Afghan men walking and hunting with their Tazis through stunning landscapes! 





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