The Last <i>Sarail</i>?
My first sight of a Sarail hound takes my breath away. I am expecting just another dog, but what faces me is much more: a dog with healthy bits of cheetah and tiger rolled into it. Its sleek and powerful body, unusually thin hips, tiger-striped brindle, large chest, and taut white-tipped tail all radiate energy and remind me uncomfortably of a missile ready to launch. When I raise my camera, I do so very cautiously.
Sarail hounds are legendary dogs of Bangladesh. Descended from Arabic Saluks, they were bred over hundreds of years into superior hunting dogs by Moghul generals and aristocrats at the village of Sarail. They have served in the army and police, as hunting and guard dogs, and as devoted pets. But pure-bred Sarails have become increasingly rare.
This Sarail belongs to Kaiser Amin. His kennel of five hounds includes one pure-bred Sarail. The other four have inherited some impurities.
Unlike his dogs, Kaiser is very approachable. A banker by profession, he plays rock guitar in his spare time. His ancestors hail from Sarail.
“How did you become interested in Sarails?” I ask.
“Years ago, we were out on a family drive when my father stopped the car to stretch his legs. That's when I saw this man walking two very unusual dogs. I was astonished and memories of childhood stories about the Sarail flooded my mind. Incidentally, those were General Osmany's Sarails.”
He was hooked and started dreaming of acquiring his own Sarail hound.
In 2001, tipped off by a friend, Kaiser contacted Dr. Shahjahan Thakur, a breeder of Sarail puppies. Dr. Thakur took him to the breeding centre in Brahmanbaria, allowing him to examine the parents. Convinced that it was a pure Sarail puppy, Kaiser bought Dariush from the breeder for a healthy sum.
Since then Dariush has mated with Ajanta (a partial Sarail) and sired several puppies, now grown. Unfortunately, Dr. Thakur has closed down his business.
Kaiser waxes eloquent about this rare dog.
“It hunts by sight, not smell. It can kill a rabbit in mid-air. When chasing gazelles, it follows a zigzag trajectory calculated to precisely hit the flank from the side.”
How does one identify a Sarail?
“There is a white mark running down from the forehead, a white tail-tip, white paws and an elongated nose. The shape is important: thin hips, powerful thigh muscles and a large chest. It is a quiet dog with an intense gaze, and free of odours. I estimate only 15-20 pure Sarails are left.”
What about its personality?
“Sarails are extremely devoted to their masters, but don't like to hug or lick. They are very territorial. My dogs swiftly kill animals - cats, rats, mongoose that stray into their fenced area.”
What about the future?
Formal breeding requires organisation, time, and investment, says Kaiser, and no such initiative exists today.
Sadly, without a substantial effort to save them, our treasured Sarail hounds are without a future.