In the interior of the Indian state of Maharashtra, far from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, there exists a little known population of sighthounds. Kept primarily by village folk and tribal people, the Caravan Hound, called the Karwani by those who know it best, got its name by following the caravans of Central Asian traders and mercenaries who came to the Deccan centuries ago. It bears a strong resemblance to other Asiatic sighthound types – Salukis and Tazys, and is also reminiscent of the Azawakh due to its “dry” appearance. As such, it is a medium to large sized, smooth coated, drop eared sighthound, very moderate and rather square. Colours are generally fawn, red, cream, black, grey, with or without white markings. Its primary function has always been to provide meat for the cooking pot, and to that end it continues to be utilized to course hare, chinkara, and blackbuck. The former tends to be the most commonly pursued quarry today, as hunting is an illegal activity in modern India and ungulate numbers remain rather low.
It is rather unfortunate that the number of genuine Caravan Hounds seems to be plummeting, due to cross breeding with Western sighthounds, primarily Greyhounds, and the disappearance of the rural lifestyle. Atypical dogs with foreign blood are produced not only for racing, but are also to be found at shows and well known show kennels.
At the time of writing, it is these dogs, regrettably, that are being promoted as genuine Caravan Hounds, and it is feared that the majority of non-Indian dog fanciers will come to believe this. The truth however remains that the majority of old style, authentic, working Caravans live with the rural people of Maharashtra. It is hoped that in the future, these wonderful working hounds will be the Caravan Hounds that the world comes to know and appreciate.
I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I met my first Caravan Hounds and Salukis (known locally as Pashmis) at a dog show as a young boy and have been obsessed ever since. Since leaving India I have been observing sighthounds in general and Salukis in particular wherever and whenever I’ve had the chance. On return trips to see family and friends in India, I always make time to head out into the vast expanses of the Deccan to look at hounds and meet the people who own them. The rural folk of Maharashtra are absolutely marvelous people, and I am forever grateful to them for their hospitality, their wealth of knowledge that they so kindly share, and for keeping the Karwani alive and functional. Without them, I would not have the opportunity to share these fantastic hounds with you. My orientation towards these hounds is more that of a conservator and preservationist than strictly a “dog show person.” I hope my work will encourage more people, particularly those with any interest at all in the Caravan Hound, to look beyond the confines of the conformation ring, and to come to know and appreciate it for the wonder that it is. I feel this is imperative, should we hope to see the Caravan of the past surviving into the future.