October 13, 2011

Saluki Club, University to extend agreement

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Saluki Club of America, Inc. will extend its memorandum of understanding with Southern Illinois University Carbondale this Homecoming weekend, keeping in place for another five years a relationship meant to promote the Saluki and educate the public about SIU Carbondale’s unique mascot.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the signing ceremony of the memorandum of understanding between SIU Carbondale and the Saluki Club of America at 11 a.m. Saturday in Ballroom A of the Student Center.

The memorandum of understanding between SIU Carbondale and the Saluki Club of America states that the University will cooperate with SCOA to educate the public about the Saluki, to increase the presence of Salukis at appropriate SIU Carbondale events, and to help those interested in Saluki ownership to find reputable breeders or rescue organizations.  The agreement will also raise awareness of SIU Carbondale and the educational opportunities afforded here.  Chancellor Rita Cheng and Jay Kappmeier, president of SCOA, will be present to sign the memorandum.

The SCOA, an all-volunteer organization, is the American Kennel Club parent club for the breed.  The association with AKC means that the Saluki is recognized as a purebred dog with a breed standard that outlines the dog’s general appearance and temperament, and that Salukis may be represented at such AKC events as the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and breed or type-specific events such as lure coursing.

Salukis, as many SIU Carbondale students, alumni and supporters know, is an ancient -- in fact, the most ancient -- breed of desert sighthound, a dog renowned for its beauty, courage, speed and endurance.

“The Saluki is the oldest known breed of dog,” Kappmeier said.  “We have pictorial representations of the breed as far in the past as 6,000 BC in Sumer.  These dogs have been with people since before written history.”

The Saluki has a larger heart relative to its size than most other breeds of dogs, Kappmeier said, which is one reason it can run both fast and far.  Chancellor Rita Cheng noted that is one reason the Saluki is an appropriate mascot for the University.

“We are proud to call the Saluki the mascot for SIU Carbondale,” she said.  “This agreement between our University and the Saluki Club of America will benefit both organizations by educating people about this rare and beautiful dog, and it will raise awareness of the unique opportunities here, where we offer all the advantages of a top-tier research University with the heart of a small college.”

The Saluki became the SIU Carbondale mascot in 1951, when students voted to have the Saluki replace the ambiguous “Maroons” as mascot.  The adoption of the desert dog as a mascot stems from the Southern Illinois nickname of “Little Egypt,” an historical reference to the area’s fertile land and crop production during an upstate drought, paralleling a time when Egypt fed surrounding regions during an ancient drought.

Kappmeier has been a Saluki owner and enthusiast for nearly 40 years.  He said he was attracted to the breed in part by its beauty, and remains attached to it because of its temperament, grace and love of its original purpose -- giving chase.

Salukis, and other sight-hounds, sometimes compete in lure coursing, a sort of race in which the dogs chase a moving object.  As sighthounds, they properly display a racing body shape.  The ribs on a fit Saluki should be slightly visible.

“They are one thing in dog shows,” he said.  “But when they see that lure, you can see what they really love to do.  They can’t wait to get out there and run -- and they are beautiful when they do.”

Kappmeier noted that area Saluki owners often attend SIU Carbondale events with their dogs to help promote an educated awareness of the breed.

"The Saluki Club of America is interested in making sure these dogs are not over bred and go to good homes," Kappmeier said. "As more interest grows in the breed because of the national success of SIUC, both academically and athletically, we're interested in providing information about the dogs and good breeders to students, faculty and alumni."

For more information about how the Saluki became the SIU Carbondale mascot, visit http://wed.siu.edu/Public1/students/saluki.php.  For more information about the Saluki Club of America, visit http://salukiclub.org/.