The Top 8 Amazing Cat and Dog Breeds of the Arab World That You Want to Know About!
By: Claire Boyle/Arab America Contributing Writer
“Ruff, Ruff! Meow, Meow!” For many people, having pets whether it be a cat or dog can provide years of friendship, funny moments, some challenges, and comfort in their lives. Dogs and cats are both unique animals in their own way whether it be their looks, behaviors, household roles, temperaments, health, and how they relate to family life. Did you know that dogs and cats come from places all over the world? Were you aware that one of the world’s oldest dog breeds comes from North Africa? I am sure some of you may know this but not all. In this article, we are going to explore the Arab World and learn about the eight dog and cat breeds that you want to know about! We will also go adventuring to learn about their original purposes whether it was protection, companionship, herding, deity-like figures, and beyond.
You may like to know how I picked these eight cat and dog breeds. I explored numerous breeds standard websites such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), The International Cat Association (TICA), and various other sites detailing cat and dog breeds that are endemic to the Arab World. The cat breeds that we will be exploring are the Egyptian Mau, Shirazi Mau, Arabian Mau, and the Bahraini Dilmun. As for the dog side, we will be learning about the Saluki, Sloughi, Aidi Atlas Mountain Dog, and the Baladi Dog. In no particular order, let us go to the Arab World to learn about these magnificent animals!
1. Egyptian Mau:
The Egyptian Mau as the name implies is most likely from Egypt; however, there is some debate about its origins as well. This is because there are stories that perhaps the cat breed was preserved by an Egyptian ambassador in Italy. Another rumor is that its first ‘breeder’ got it from a “boy on the street who originally received the cat from another diplomat” working in the area. Who knows if any of these stories are true, but for me, it’s the markings on the cat’s fur that are amazing! The Egyptian Mau has a unique spotted pattern that is not seen in any other cat breed. The Egyptian Mau’s breed standard is recognized by such organizations as the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA). An interesting fact about Egyptian Maus is their name. Mau is the old Egyptian word for ‘cat’, and it is possible that our cats’ signature call of ‘Meow’ is derived from that word which would make it onomatopoeic which is a made-up word for an animal sound that sounds like what we hear them say.
Furthermore, this cat breed has an interesting history. We know that the ancient Egyptians loved cats. In fact, some were even considered to have deity-like status in that these animals were worshipped by the people. The breed itself is considered rare as there are not too many running around in the world; however, it is recognized by all the major cat associations. Finally, the cat has a nice temperament, is extremely active, and they believe they are in control of everything. Well, that’s what happens when you give them deity-like status anyway—don’t tell all the other cats this! They’ll be wanting more!
2. Shirazi Mau:
The Shirazi Mau has its roots in Egypt as well. However, it does not carry the same breed standard recognition that the Egyptian Mau has. This is because the Shirazi Mau’s origins consist of it being an Egyptian Mau/Persian Cat mix which is seen as a semi-domestic, stray, and potentially feral cat in Egypt. As you can see, the Shirazi Mau is quite beautiful with its reddish-blonde fur, long quill-like tail, and these cats are larger than most. There are really two types of Shirazi Mau; the street-bred kind seen in Egypt, and a selectively-bred kind found in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Shirazi Mau as mentioned above is sometimes bred more selectively to avoid certain health issues, but despite that, there is no breed standard because there are no registries in the UAE. They are known to be gentle, fluffy, beautiful, sort of majestic-looking, and they come in numerous colors. These include camouflage, bronze, strawberry-blonde, and any other colors that can help them blend into the deserts of the Arab World.
3. Arabian Mau:
The Arabian Mau is a type of cat that is indigenous in numerous Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Because of a cat show in Dubai in 2005, this breed has been internationally recognized. The Arabian Mau traces its lineage to “street” or “desert” cats, and in the Gulf countries, you may still see some of them walking around like this. However, they are an official cat breed that is recognized throughout the world. The Arabian Maus also have incredible heat tolerance given that they mostly live in a desert. As you can see in the picture, their fur tends to be sandy-colored (like their natural environments) with some stripes, a triangular-shaped head, and beautiful green eyes.
They are very happy cats with a nice temperament, active (sometimes, at night), get along with other pets and children, and are known to be extremely talkative and vocal. The Arabian Mau is also excellent at catching animals that would normally be considered pests such as “flies, snakes, rats, mice,” and other things. The Arabian Mau is a natural breed meaning that they are from the place they originated and that the standard was developed there as well which is promising for their health. They are known to have excellent health because of their status as a natural breed, and they also have good immune systems because they have not been taken out of their endemic environments. Finally, they make excellent so-called ‘watch-cats’ as they can be territorial and will guard their families’ houses as well.
4. Bahraini Dilmun Cat:
The Bahraini Dilmun as the name implies is from the island country of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. The Bahraini Dilmun, like the Arabian Mau, is a natural cat breed as well. The Bahraini Dilmun cats are considered to be “feral”. They are not considered strays which are cats that in the past had human contact but got out of their enclosure, house, apartment, or other settlement. The main difference between feral and stray cats is that the feral ones are an “un-owned domestic cat that lives outdoors and avoids human contact.” Because of living in extreme heat, the Bahraini Dilmun has adapted over the years to have a short fur coat, have nocturnal behavioral traits, and they have quite an affinity for water which is a trait not seen in most cats. Cats, in general, usually do not like water, so in this sense, the Bahraini Dilmun is unique.
Furthermore, the Dilmun is a rare breed because it is not seen much outside of Bahrain. As you can see in the picture, it has beautiful fur patterns including asymmetrical spots on its chest and back as well as interesting ring-like stripes that go around its legs. These Bahraini Dilmun are surely beautiful sights and unique-looking cats! Their fur is known to be quite soft as well. Not much is known about their overall temperament as they are street cats, but some people have said they are “timid, but they can gain trust if given food and other items.” Basically, they have to warm up to people because Bahraini Dilmuns are typically not living in households like non-feral or domesticated cats do.
The Saluki is an ancient breed of dog that comes from North Africa. It is estimated that the Saluki is about 5,000 years old! Its earliest origins are from the Fertile Crescent in ancient Egypt, but it might even have connections to Sumer and Seleucia (modern-day Iraq). It is rumored but has never been confirmed that the Saluki’s etymological (naming) origins of Saluqiyyah were meant to describe someone who was from Seleucia which symbolized some towns in ancient Iraq and Yemen. Regardless of its origins, one can see what majestic dogs these are. Salukis are considered to be sighthounds meaning that they “hunt by sight rather than scent.” They sort of look like Italian Greyhounds, and like these dogs, they are extremely fast. In adulthood, they can reach a maximum speed of 43 miles per hour (mph)! Their original purpose was to be used by nomadic tribes to keep game animals at bay.
As you can see from the picture, Salukis are sort of ethereal dogs, perhaps, that is why they have been called “gazelle dogs.” When they hunt, they can either kill the animals or bring them back to their handler. Salukis can get bored very easily, and they are also not as friendly and outgoing as other dogs especially since their main purpose is to stay focused on the hunt, and of course, run very quickly! Even in modern times, they still have retained a strong prey drive, so having small animals like birds, cats, and other things may not be a good idea in your household. Finally, Salukis have appeared in ancient artwork and prints which are very interesting!!
The Sloughi is another dog breed that is from the region of North Africa. In fact, the Sloughi may be considered even older than its somewhat-connected breed, the Saluki, which was mentioned above. It is rumored that the Sloughi dates to around 8,000 to 7,000 BC! The Sloughi is from the Maghreb region of North Africa, meaning the countries of Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria. The dog’s original purpose was to hunt game for the Berber and Bedouin peoples in North Africa. They are tall, with a beautiful wedgelike head, and come in numerous fur colors such as red, blonde, white, black, sandy, and brindle (a sort-of striped/lined pattern).
Actually, their wedgelike head is considered a distinct feature and very important to the breed standard. As you can see in the picture, they have a streamlined appearance, with short hair, a slightly curled tail, and are very muscular. Like the Saluki, they also hunt distinctively by sight rather than smell. Finally, their temperaments are somewhat aloof, energetic, and they can be okay with children if the kids have grown up with them and the dogs know that they will not be hurt by them. Finally, the American Kennel Club’s breed standard states that Sloughis are a dog that is “full of class and grace.”
7. Aidi Atlas Mountain Dog:
The Aidi Atlas Mountain Dog is another dog breed from North Africa. As its name implies, the Aidi Atlas Mountain Dog’s origins come from the Atlas Mountain range which is in Morocco. The Aidi Dog’s original purpose was to protect its “family and livestock against predators.” In the past, the Aidi Dog has held jobs such as guarding, herding, and protection. As you can see in the picture, the Aidi has a thicker coat than most of the dogs in the Arab World especially since they live up in the mountains. The Atlas Mountains have high elevation, so, during the wintertime, and the fact that these areas get snow makes having a burly coat is a prerequisite due to the jobs that the Aidi takes on. As for temperament, the Aidi Atlas Mountain Dog is known to be “fearless and willing to take on any threat.” The Aidi definitely needs room to run and a lot of exercises and is not the type of dog to keep or own in cramped spaces like an apartment. Finally, the Aidi Atlas Mountain Dog may have come from “early breeding attempts by the ancient Phoenicians” (which would include the modern-day countries of Lebanon and Syria).
8. Baladi Street Dog:
The Baladi Street Dog is from the country of Egypt. The Baladi is technically a type of dog rather than an actual breed. In Arabic, “Baladi” means “of town, local, [or even] rural.” So, as one can see here, the Baladi Street Dog is more of a generalization and an all-encompassing term for the dogs that roam the streets of Egypt. Baladis are typically scrawny-looking with long legs, floppy-ish ears, and a distinct curly tail. Their origins are from numerous breeds of dogs such as the Saluki (mentioned above), and other hound dogs.
An interesting fact about Baladi Street Dogs is how they communicate. They do not want to put off humans by growling, but Baladis do a sort of yodeling-type bark. Baladis when kept in a home situation, are known to learn extremely quickly, are clever, the utmost pleasers, but they require a lot of training to ward off dominant behaviors that are coupled with positive reinforcement. Finally, there is currently a growing movement in Egypt to get these dogs off the streets, and into homes so they can avoid abusive situations. For more information about adopting Baladi Street Dogs, please visit the website of Zani’s Furry Friends, a local Egyptian rescue group with ties in the United States.
So, now we have wrapped up our journey around the Arab World and learned about a lot of cool and interesting cat and dog breeds. Most of the dog breeds and types came from North Africa whereas most of the cats were from either Egypt or the Gulf countries such as the UAE and Bahrain. These cats and dogs are uniquely especially with their interesting fur patterns and markings, and that they desire the same things that our pets do in the States; attention, food, play, love, and plenty of time to talk whether it be to “Meow, Meow or Ruff, Ruff!” Thank you so much for joining me on this trip throughout the Arab World to learn a little bit more about the amazing animals that exist in this part of the world. Ma’a Salama, until next time!
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