What’s in a Name Part 3: Azawakh

October 10, 2008

Azawakh is not Tamasheq

Azawakh or azaouak comes from the Djerma language. It means “Land of the North”. The Djerma are a considered to be a branch of the Songhai people, but they may were actually assimilated during the Songhai Empire in the 16th century. Many Djerma were displaced from what is now a Fula region, Lac Debo in Mali. They eventually settled well East of Lac Debo near Niamey in what is now Niger. The Azaouak Valley is almost directly to the North of Niamey.

Young pair of Azawakh.

Young pair of Azawakh.


Not Just a Name for Dogs

In addition to being the name of a breed of dog, Azawakh, is a strain of Zebu cattle characterized by long lyre-shaped horns and a hump. The cattle are thought to have arrived in the Sahel around the late 7th century BCE. Other names for these cattle are Bororo, Tuareg, Adar, Tagana and Azawaje.

I have the sense that both breed names were synthesized by Europeans in the post-colonial period of the last century. Neither Azaouak (meaning a breed of cattle) nor Azawakh (meaning a breed of hound) is used by any local people. Both words are really a shortening of a phrase:

  • Cattle of Azawakh
  • Hounds of Azawakh

If I Have More than One are they Azawakhs?

No. The Plural of Azawakh should still be Azawakh. Remember that Azawakh is the name of a place, the Azawakh Valley or the Land of the North. When we use the Azawakh as a breed name, it is really just a shortening of hound of Azawakh. Where the hound of part is understood. The plural is hounds of Azawakh. The hounds of part is still understood even if you don’t say it. It would never be hound of Azawakhs nor hounds of Azawakhs.

As another illustration, consider if we replace Azawakh with Canada. We now have an imaginary breed of animal called Canada. Can you imagine calling a pack of them Canadas?

The other option would be a construction like Azawakhians or Azawakhans, which just seems horrifying.

The plural of Azawakh should remain Azawakh.

One Response to “What’s in a Name Part 3: Azawakh”

  1. good points…one mistake: Bororo cattle are a distinct breed…their Wodaabe breeders/owners look down upon other cattle breeds such as the Azawak…as they consider the Bororo to be the ONLY “pure” cattle in the Sahel

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