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50s to 90s Animals & Wildlife Photography

The oldest photos of pet dogs in Kuwait

This post was supposed to be a silly one, but after I started writing it I went down a rabbit hole and found some interesting information, so bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago I got access to Tarek Rajab Museums’ private photography archive, and part of their collection were the family photos of the Dicksons. While going through those photos, I came across a number of photos of their dogs. They were beautiful shots and I joked that they were probably the oldest photos of pet dogs taken in Kuwait. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was probably true. How many people in Kuwait had cameras back in the 1920s let alone one they’d use to take random photos of their dog? Not many.

I found five beautiful photos, some taken outside the Kuwait wall which you can clearly see in the backdrop of the photos. H.R.P Dickson lived in Kuwait with his wife Violet Dickson, and daughter Zahra Freeth from the 1920s until the 1940s.

I started off by trying to find the names of their two dogs, so I took out my copy of H.R.P Dickson’s “The Arab of the Desert” to see if he mentions them anywhere, and ended up finding a whole chapter where he talks about Salukis. Turns out they were popular dogs in Kuwait at that time and mostly used for hunting. Also, unlike other dogs, Salukis were not considered “najis” (unclean) so were allowed to enter the tent and lie on the rugs and mats. But, Dickson never mentioned his dogs, so I started to think maybe they weren’t his.

I kept digging and it led me to buying the book “Saluki: The Desert Hound and the English Travelers Who Brought It to the West“. In it there are a few pages that talk about Dickson’s dogs and turns out they actually did get two Saluki dogs in 1929 while in Kuwait. The dogs accompanied H.R.P Dickson everywhere he went because he found them to be a good conversation starter with tribesmen, and his wife Violet was mostly responsible for walking them daily. I couldn’t find the names of the dogs, but at least I got verification they were in fact their pets.

I believe the young girl pictured above is their daughter Zahra.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I managed to find out the names of the dogs! Brian Duggan, the author of Saluki: The Desert Hound and the English Travelers Who Brought It to the West managed to dig up the old letters Zahra had sent him and in the letters she mentions the names of the two salukis, Dhabaan and Khataaf.

13 replies on “The oldest photos of pet dogs in Kuwait”

The Maliki school, which predominated Sunnis in Kuwait until about the 1940’s/50’s does not consider any dog hair or saliva to be unclean. This school of jurisprudence is still the official state methodology, but is no longer practiced by the population. It still predominates all West and North Africa excluding Egypt and is more practical for bedoin life and was even developed and preserved in like-context.

If there was a particular dispensation given to Salukis over other dogs, it is possibly some sort of cultural thing, but I am not aware of any such distinction made by the Islamic law of modernizing Kuwait.

super fascinating! this is exactly the kind of stuff i love 248am for, you can’t find this stuff anywhere else.

Thank you so much for the photos. It’s such the valued findings!
I would like to share it to my FB with reference to your page!

Hi! Love to know that Salukis were kept as pets in Kuwait in the 20’s! You could possibly find out the names of the Dickson’s dogs in Zahra Freeth’s book, Kuwait Was My Home. she was an author, wrote several books relating to her time in Kuwait. Sadly have not read it. Actually saw an original copy of the book in a book store in London a little while ago. Should have bought it, but at £280, thought it a bit expensive at the time!!

Hi ! I’ve been reading your blog
Whenever I want to know something about Kuwait,i was directed to your site. Anyway,I am an expat and would be leaving Kuwait soon.
Thanks to your blog,I have come to visit some places because of you. And right then,I wanna start a small blog also in my country 🙂 If you won’t mind,can I ask a small tips for beginners like me? Thank you !.

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