...I am posting it here because this interview clearly defines my breeding philosophy, goals and concerns about the future of the Azawakh.
[published in 2006 in Norsk Myndeklubben by Kristin Roass and Eva Kristine Viik]
The Spirit of the Sahel
* First, could you give a brief introduction on who you are and where you live, and why you have chosen to breed azawakh?
I am David Moore but I prefer to be called by my Muslim name Daoud Abdullah Abdullah. I live on a small farm in the piedmont of northeast Georgia in the United States, near Toccoa, the small town where I was born. I saw my first Azawakh in 1990 and knew immediately that I must have this dog. I believe at that time there were fewer than a dozen Azawakh in the States. It took some convincing to get an excellent older male from the German-born artist/Azawakh breeder Gisela Cook-Schmidt, whose bitch Al-Hara’s Hiba was the first Azawakh to whelp in the United States in 1987 in southern California (the bitch was flown over from Europe with her whelps in utero, Hiba having been bred in Germany to Faysal Ushi of Silverdale, bred by Azawakh breeder Werner Roeder, Azawakh of Silverdale). When I made contact with Gisela she had four bitches and her one male Isesi. It was understandably difficult for her to have an intact male around so many females so I convinced her to let me purchase Isesi from her. He was three years old when I took him (he was a whelp from this first American born litter): before we left in the car he was Gisela’s but when he realized he had left Gisela for good he switched his loyalty to me without hesitation. This is one of the primary characteristics of the Azawakh. They MUST have one master. They can switch their focus...but they will not divide it. My first female Azawakh, Al-Hara’s Tarada, came to me when she was seven months old. She had been chosen from a litter in Switzerland by Gisela for a new owner here in the states, but this potential owner rejected Tarada because her front legs were not perfect. I discovered her in a holding pattern at a friend’s home, waiting for her shipment back to Switzerland, and fell in love with her at first sight. Her great beauty and primal allure more than compensated for any minor physical shortcomings. Isesi and Tarada laid the foundation for my breeding program. Both were genetically half ”Yugoslavian” and half ”Old French”; the Yugoslavian line having been founded by three Sahelian bred imports, the French line by seven original desert bred imports from the Sahel.
* What is your goal as a breeder?
My primary mission as a breeder of Azawakh is to conserve the aboriginal type of the dogs; not to change them, but rather to find clients who have the temperament required to adapt themselves to the particular needs of the Azawakh. The dogs exist today as they have for thousands of years as an integral element of certain west African (Sahelian) cultures. I continually struggle to improve the quality of my thinking about the dogs: in order to increase my potential for breeding dogs who closely resemble their African relatives I believe it is necessary to learn as much as possible about the culture, history, and environment of the dogs in the Sahel. To put them in context is of utmost importance if one hopes to maintain the integrity of the race. Out of context they are nothing more than beautiful dogs....and there are many beautiful dogs. There is only one Azawakh.
* Could you describe the azawakh? How is the azawakh around strangers, other animals, in bad weather, their personality (typical of their breed?), etc...
It is a challenge to describe the Azawakh with words. Perhaps if I were a poet....but alas. Certainly they resemble some of the other African and middle eastern sighthounds. But there are both profound and subtle differences that set them apart. It is these very differences that must be first noticed if we are to have any hope of preserving the archetypal dogs. In almost every sense the Azawakh represents a paradox: they are at once gentle and fierce, curious and avoidant, intelligent and simple, fine and strong. Their internal struggle with these opposing forces represents the greatest challenge to our understanding of them.
* What do you consider the most fascinating about the azawakh?
To answer this I will quote a famous American equine artist (Edwin Boguki) who upon seeing them exclaimed ”there is nothing they do that is not absolutely fascinating.”
* Does the azawakh have a ”sense of humor”? Please tell.
Some of them have a sense of humor, some do not. Some are deadly serious, some just let things go.....it is all a matter of individual temperament. Not unlike any other type of animal. Each has its own unique personality and responds to stimuli accordingly.
* How many azawakh are there in the US today, and what is the breed's history in the US?
I don’t know the total number of Azawakh in the US today. I would venture fewer than 200. But I may be off. The American Azawakh Association would have a better idea of the total number. In my opinion the Azawakh got off to a very bad start in the states; they were placed with the wrong people who did not understand the dogs. I am still working to overcome some of the initial impressions made by these first owners, their actions, and their dogs. Having said that, I must note that I have also miscalculated and placed the dogs incorrectly....hard lessons have been learned.
* How many breeders of azawakh are there in the U.S., and is there great variation within the current lines used in breeding?
There are only three or four people breeding Azawakh here in the states, but some additional dogs/lines have been imported from Europe and Africa over the years. There is some genetic variation in the lines between the breeders but all are breeding forward from a very limited gene pool, whether from initial imports bred from European bloodlines or from lines based on dogs more recently imported from the Sahel.
* Could you mention some breeders that have played a significant role in preserving the azawakh; historically and today?
This is a very tricky question, though I know you did not mean it so. Many breeders have played a significant role in breeding forward from the original thirteen (we now include the three dogs brought out by Gerard Coppe who formed the second French line: the Kel Tarbanassen Kennel, as one of the three classic European lines) desert bred imports to Europe. Their interest in or success in maintaining aboriginal type is open to interpretation. In my opinion there has been an overriding and ultimately damaging drive to ”improve” the dogs. This has led to a basic change in the phenotype and temperament of the dogs; so much so that many of the dogs today called Azawakh in the west barely resemble either their ancestors or their contemporary ”cousins” in Africa. If you were to ask who most profoundly influenced my breeding program I would say the most influential breeder has been Ingrid Aigeldinger, Al-Hara’s Azawakh, Switzerland. The second most influential breeder would be Ayad ag Inachanan, Tin Akoff, Burkina Faso. And the third would be Gabi Meissen, Tombouktou’s Azawakh, Germany. Each of these breeders produced or imported bitches who were the foundation females within my breeding program for my three dominant dam lines: Lara (Sahelian import to Yugoslavia), Hatshepsut (Sahelian import to me), and Taytok (Sahelian import to Germany).
* What traits do you emphasize in your breeding plans? Do you attempt to make the azawakh more suited for a “western way of life”, or do you attempt to preserve the more primitive and protective instincts?
Again, I am interested solely with preserving the aboriginal Azawakh. A Chihuahua can be primitive and protective; this is just part of what a dog is. But there is no reason why a puppy raised in a pack environment, learning basic societal behavior from the mature pack members, cannot make a seamless transition to being a dog in a different home, in different circumstances. In my experience if they are bred and raised to be strong and are encouraged to overcome challenges as young puppies they will be able to transition quite easily. The most important thing is the willingness of a new owner to try and understand the intelligent and sensitive nature of the dogs and to adapt accordingly.
*How much focus do you have on using hounds from the country/countries of origin?
I work constantly to integrate fresh desert bred stock into my basic European bloodlines. I consider this to be of prime importance in preserving type and maintaining health, Insh’Allah.
* The FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) has a very specific breed standard for the azawakh when it comes to color. What are your thoughts on this?
The Azawakh in the Sahel come in a much greater variety of color. I am absolutely against standards of any sort. I would encourage breeders and owners to do their homework and find out about the dogs in context as we discussed earlier. There is no way to understand the Azawakh from a standard. And also the current standard is replete with misinformation and incorrect data.
* Could an azawakh function well/live in a city? In an apartment? What should a potential puppy buyer living in a city look for?
An Azawakh can live in a city or in an apartment but in my opinion no dog should live as the sole dog in any household…..it is in a way a form of solitary confinement…..especially the Azawakh have a need to be with their own kind…to be with another who speaks their own language as it were. If the owner is able to be at home much of the time then this is wonderful for any dog….since intelligent animals are easily bored and nothing but problems can come from a bored dog.
* What should one expect when meeting an azawakh for the first time?
I always advise people to ignore the dog, as if they do not see them…this takes the pressure off the dog and frees it up to investigate and come to its own conclusions RE the newcomer…..and the most likely result is a desire on the part of the dog to make contact (after wondering why the person is not interested in them!)
* How are they with kids? Are they good family dogs?
They can be of course. But again it depends on many factors; the age of the children, the temperament of the puppy/dog, etc.
* What should a potential owner of an azawakh consider?
Are they are willing to learn from a dog? If not they should not consider an Azawakh for any reason.
* Lure Coursing: Are azawakh used in LC and how do they hunt compared to the other sighthounds?
From what information clients and friends have shared with me Azawakh are very good coursers but are better at open field coursing. Apparently they figure out the lure thing pretty quickly and typically lose interest.
* what do you consider to be the greatest challenge for the azawakh as a healthy and strong breed in the future?
Changing the attitudes of breeders from breeding for show dogs and thereby changing the race to meet the demands of a market to learning more about the culture of the dogs and breeding to preserve the qualities which make them unique. A more holistic approach is absolutely required if the race is to survive.