Tazy of Almaty province, Kazakhstan, part ii

Rafael Balgin
Almaty, Kazakhstan

1. Attitude of the Kazakh Tazy towards people, when not hunting
2. Traditional Kazakh terms pertinent to the Tazy’s appearance and most commonly used commands 
3. The Tazy is more than just a living tool for hunting without firearms
4. Theft of Tazys
5. Keeping the Tazy the natural way
6. Change of prices of Tazys

Attitude of the Kazakh Tazy towards people, when not hunting

Tazys never show challenging aggression even towards unfamiliar people. The degree of their aggressiveness never goes beyond the principle: “I just let you know what I do not like”.  Even when a stranger violates the normal limits of personal distance from the dog, it still avoids direct confrontation and aggravation of the situation. 
If the dog is free to move and is not fenced impenetrably, one dog or several dogs stay at a distance from unfamiliar people. These aboriginal dogs are very happy when meeting their master.  However, unlike other dogs, even after a long separation, they wag their tail for only a very short period.  After the first outburst of emotional greeting, the dog is ready to play a little and after a while it walks away. Even when with the master the Tazy maintains a certain comfortable distance from him.
If the dog is fenced in or it is in some other situation that does not permit it to avoid an unfamiliar person, it does not resort to aggressive barking as much as other dogs do. Tazys try to use a warning howling bark or short unhappy growl. 
A howling bark and unhappy growl is typical only of males, when they attempt to repel a stranger from the space of their pack.  The space is usually a fenced yard, where a pair or more Tazys live.  If the yard, or other fenced territory, is large enough, Tazys will increase their comfortable distance from people.
When a bitch is pregnant, the male Tazy may demonstrate his decisiveness towards a stranger. He may run up closer to the man, when he is leaving the yard, with a howling bark, shake his head and even touch his legs. However, he does not bite; he just demonstrates his function as a protector.
Females display similar behavior towards males, if they approach too close to young puppies.  In such a case, a howling bark is added, with bared and clicking teeth near vital body parts, but there are no actual bites.
A display of uninhibited aggression by a healthy dog to an unfamiliar person is evidence that you are dealing with a crossbred. A display of uninhibited aggression (dashing towards a human to bite, snarling, growling and biting at legs) indicates the presence of an admixture of other breeds, even if the appearance seems almost like that of an immaculate Tazy.
Duregei Tazy [ 1 ] is an exception.  Among hunting/pastoral Kazakh people this term is applied to the offspring of a Kazakh Tazy male and a Tobet  [ 2 ] female.  Such dogs, as well as their ancestral breeds, do not display uninhibited aggression towards humans.  I should mention that in the Tobet respect for humans is based on the principle: “I respect those who treat me with politeness”.  Mixing the two breeds results in a not bad behavioral variant.
Another, more archaic meaning of the term Duregei is a dog capable of fighting wolf alone in the steppe. This was the purpose of breeding such a dog out of Tazy and Tobet.  However, the contemporary understanding of Duregei is a mix of Tazy with any other dog, a crossbred Kazakh Tazy.

Traditional Kazakh terms pertinent to the Tazy’s appearance and most commonly used commands 

Both livestock owners and urban Kazakhs, when choosing a Tazy puppy, pay attention to physical qualities and coat color, following the advice of elders.  The most attractive are white hounds (light cream) with pale red markings (a dark colored fringe on the ears is allowed), red with dark fringing, pale grizzle (Kek-Tazy), grizzle and black with grizzle [ 3 ]. 
Chobans sell piebald puppies cheap, not more than the cost of a sheep and they even give them away free as a sign of friendship.  Piebald puppies are most often bartered for livestock and used as gifts – yrym [ 4 ].  In such case, the words zhaksy yrym mean a good gift. 
It is not a big sacrifice to give away a piebald puppy with otherwise satisfactory appearance, because buyers pay the least attention to them anyway.  However, such a gift helps to set up good relationships between the giver and the receiver. Despite the general preference for light colored and grizzle colors, piebald dogs, if bred, also produce for their owners quality puppies of different coat colors, not only piebald.  In their passion and efficiency when hunting they do not differ from solid colored hounds.
Requirements in their physical appearance include:

• Even or slightly convex back.
• Feathering on the legs of adults is allowed, but it should be barely noticeable and only in winter.
• Feet should be compact, splayed feet or rachitic toes are not allowed. Compact feet suffer less from ice during hunting or exercising.
• Elbows directed outwards are allowed. It does not matter in working dogs, but the breed standard accepts only straight and not outwardly turned elbows.
• Standards of the appearance include shayan-kuiryk (scorpion-like tail) and shashak-kulak. ( feathered ears) [ 5 ].
• Hounds smaller than the Kazakh steppe standard for males of 65-70 cm at the shoulder and females of 60-65 cm at shoulder are considered Shi-Tazy (small Tazy) [6]. Regardless of their coat color, they are considered as the result of inbreeding or of having Turkmen Tazy or Saluki among their ancestors.
Shi-Tazys (or Shchi-Tazys) are used mainly in thickets of chiy (Achnaterum sp.), from which they get their name. Tolai hares live mainly where chiy and other shrubby vegetation grows.  It is hunted mainly with Shi-Tazys.
              Shi-Tazys do not compare with dogs of the steppe type in size and speed and they are harder to use in hunts that require traveling long distances. These dogs are good for a semi-settled and settled way of life.  Kazakhs retain this knowledge in memories from their nomadic ancestors [7].
   As part of the past nomadic period of Kazakhs’ life experience, there is a contemptuous meaning in the term “sart”. A correspondent in the journal “Around the World”, (Vokrug Sveta in Russian), in 1896 also wrote unflatteringly about sarts [8], describing them not as an ethnic group but rather as a professional consortium.
However, at the present time, this is no longer a negative attitude towards a settled way of life and towards whatever else is associated with it, such as agriculture, transhumance, manufacturing and building cities.  Now, “sart” is rather a name applied to neighboring people of Central Asian countries, who have become settled since the early Middle Ages in a communal way of life rather than the tribal one of the Kazakhs.

Terms and expressions used when working with Tazys:
• Ke-Ke – an interjection used to turn the dog’s attention and to keep it closer for the following action. 
• Aida-aida (accent on the first vowel), followed by a double smack of the lips or whistle and nu-ka aida! Aida-kettik! – Nu-ka – let’s go!
• Ma-ma – an interjection “na-na”, when calling the dog to take something from the master’s hands. 

The Tazy is more than just a living tool for hunting without firearms

In the nomadic way of life in Kazakh nomadic auls (villages), Tazys lived as symbiotic animals, serving as an insurance in case of hard times. Djut [9] was always the worst threat in the Kazakh steppe. When the Kazakhs lost everything, they had to hunt.   Livestock was a major part of the wealth and currency of most nomadic Kazakhs. In hungry years sighthounds and golden eagles fed the Kazakhs.
In the good times of the nomadic way of life, based on permanently increasing the number of livestock, hunting was rather an additional activity and a diversion than a necessity. 
A noted Russian scientist A. I. Levshin, in his book “Description of the Kyrgyz-Kazakh or Kyrgyz-Kaisats tribes in the steppes”, published in Petersburg in 1832, wrote: “The way of life of the Kyrgyz [10] is a living picture of archaic times.  The sight of a whole people herding livestock or rather living entirely for their livestock; whole villages or auls disappearing in the blink of an eye only to re-emerge somewhere else;  the simplicity and closeness of their whole existence to nature has a lot of interest and pleasure for the eye of the romantic and poet” [11].
The organization of big roundup hunts was affordable only to khans and sultans.  Taking into account that large numbers of sighthounds require good and regular feeding in addition to game, it is clear that keeping even 2-3 Tazys would be a rather burdensome business, requiring specialized care and knowledge. In addition, this would require time and some expense for the organization of training and at least small hunting trials. It would be safe to conclude that Tazys in Kazakh nomadic society were an attractive resource, but it was possible to survive without them. Therefore, Tazys were a systemic element of the supremacy of the important man over nature; natural competitive domination not tarnished by technological marvels.  Tazys were an attractive means of hunting without guns, which provided a secure income in the form of fox pelts in addition to the main currency- herds of sheep and horses.
Such an advantage in the hands of some individuals can trigger a pathological desire to have such dogs in others.  Tazys must always have been a constant object of envy and tribal necessity. The presence of such dogs permitted a profit to be made from the pelts of foxes, polecats, badgers and headwear such as barik – malakhai [13].

Theft of Tazys

The possibility of losing Kazakh Tazys to thieves is quite real for any owner of this kind of dog.  This breed has become popular again on the recent wave of nationalistic sentiment and people’s needs for a status symbol. If in the past the Tazy was important as a means of support during hungry times, today it serves the following:
1) Increasing commercial interest of breeders;
2) Interest of hunters with a passion for  this breed;
3) Chobans interested in hunting without firearms;
4) Status symbol and recreational sport for rich urban dwellers;
5) Esthetic element inside the homes of sighthound lovers;
6) Status symbol which rich Kazakhs want to have on their country properties.

It is noteworthy that despite the high popularity of the breed, very few Kazakhs are prepared to pay money for adult Tazys or puppies.  When asking for a puppy as a gift, the man hints at the prospects of future cooperation or he ends the negotiations by saying: “We will get even; I am not the last man…”  In such case, a refusal without a substantive reason, such as the puppies having been spoken for, and a lack of understanding for the wishes of the asker to possess such a dog, but who does not have a dog but would like one, might give offense.  As all Kazakhs are in one way or another either relatives or good friends, such a case would become overgrown with gossip and misinterpretation.  Among Kazakhs to sell puppies is good fortune.  To do so the puppy should be “golden” in all its qualities, such as appearance, excellence of its parents, unrelated remote ancestors and high hunting efficiency of the parents and relatives of this strain.
Good hunting and good looking Tazy are of great interest to dog thieves, who are motivated by the following:
1) Need for new blood without paying for the sire;
2) Desire to have a good looking dog, because of its attractive body structure and traditional characteristics, driven by vanity and for breeding;
3) Need for the quickest socialization with the other dogs that the thief already has;
4) Need to have a top quality dog (Kumai Tazy) of maximal size, eagerness to hunt and training for work;
5) Confidence that the thief will never be caught.

There are five strategies for stealing Tazys, if the dogs have a free exit from the fenced plot of the owner or if the plot is not fenced at all.

Meat lure

Using this strategy the thief regularly feeds the dog with a nice cut of meat in some hidden place out of the owner’s sight, such as behind the gates or at the village dumpsite. Or, the thief rides on horseback near the livestock owner’s camp, consisting of one or two buildings with corrals and barns, and feeds raw meat to the dog he likes. Usually this happens in the early morning. This is how the Tazy, which is naturally mistrustful with strangers, becomes accustomed to the thief and even displays some affection towards him.  If the owner notices that his dog is not hungry in the morning and this happens more than once, he may draw the conclusion that his dog is being fed before being stolen. 

Using the mating reflex

This strategy consists of using a piece of cloth soaked with the blood and secretion of a female on heat. The male follows it, is led out of sight, caught with loop and loaded on the horse or in the car.  This is a very old and well proven method. 

Accidental contact

If the dog lives inside or is still a puppy, it is easy to make contact.  If it is running unsupervised, a breed fancier or village children simply lead the dog far away, where it is easily stolen.  A Tazy that is easily approachable and unattended is often picked up as a homeless dog.


Aggressive and mistrustful dogs are stolen by the experienced thief. If he manages to come close enough and grab the dog with his hands or in a loop, the dog may resist.  The thief will then throttle it a couple of times so the dog would realize his strength and determination. He quickly leads the dog away and locks it up in the car or loads it on horseback.

Social lure
Tazy are attracted by other dogs of the same breed. Although the Tazy is mistrustful and avoids unfamiliar people, it is very friendly to other individuals of their kind. Even if a dog lives far away at the livestock camp alone for a long time, it can easily be accustomed to the company of another dog after a few days.   A man leading a Tazy on the leash can easily attract the attention of another Tazy running loose and with some experience he can catch it with a loop.
Both the Tazy and the Tobet have been specialized for centuries as tools of the chase according to their respective purposes. Therefore these dogs are esteemed but they always remain tools.
In the Kazakh language the dog is not an animate object.  If a human is kim (who), the dog is ne (what). This is the deep basis of the attitude of humans towards the surroundings. Despite the fact that in other languages the word dog is an animate object, people always keep a contemptuous attitude towards dogs. Thus, in the Russian language there are derogatory expressions: “like a dog”, “a dog’s life”, “bitch”, “son of a bitch”, etc. Such expressions although applied to a living thing encourage a contemptuous attitude towards dogs. In the Kazakh language Tazy is ne, despite its elite status for an inanimate being.

Keeping the Tazy the natural way
The Tazy is an organic part of the natural environment of livestock pastoral camps [15].  Besides the poor food from the owners, at the camp the Tazy has the opportunity to hunt to supplement its diet, which also preserves its hunting abilities.  Free from the confines of life at the pastoral camp, Tazys eat marmots, badgers, hares and anything else they can catch with their teeth.  In such conditions the Tazy has its natural freedom and not the boredom from living in kennels.
However, under such semi-Spartan conditions, it is difficult to look after the dogs properly, because the main attention and energy of the master is devoted to the livestock; and the Tazy remains only an addition to the main business of keeping livestock. If the number of Tazys in such a setting is 3 or more dogs, they establish their own social pecking order. They live free from artificial stress and maintain their own hierarchy. There is a place for older, bold and capable individuals and for puppies. Kumaj Tazys are selected from such social groups of dogs and they are used for subsequent breeding with individuals of similar status of other owners.

Change of prices of Tazys

Despite the broad popularization of the breed and the declared need to preserve it, the Tazy does not command the price that a good looking and efficient Tazy did in the past. If in past centuries a Tazy could be traded for 47 horses, then in modern time any mare or even an old gelding would be priced higher than the best looking and most capable Tazy. Everything comes down to the availability of resources and the practicality of modern Kazakhs. From time immemorial Kazakhs have always required a lot of meat, which is the essence of their diet. 
So, in modern conditions, when the Tazy is no longer a subject of prestige and a necessity in hungry times, both adult dogs and puppies lose their value as compared with a pile of meat obtained even from an old gelding.  Selling horse meat, beef and lamb brings a good profit, because of the demand in the cities.
Therefore, the contemporary Kazakh economy, compared with the nomadic economy of the past, is rather indifferent to such a source of income as the breeding of sighthounds. Keeping dogs just for obtaining pelts to manufacture barik and malakhai does not make sense.  At present it is easier and cheaper to build a small farm for breeding foxes and other fur bearing animals or simply to buy ready-made hats, which are in good supply, and the markets of cities and towns are flooded with them.
The actual price of a two-month-old puppy is the same as that of a young lamb or ram, from $50 to $200, depending on the appearance, coat color and age.  Despite the emergence of  a network of dealers, transporting a Tazy to Russia and further afield to the countries of Eastern and Western Europe (which is cheaper than by officially controlled transportation to Western Europe as air cargo directly) does not produce a significant profit. It has more the status of a hobby. Prices of $500-800 at the pet market or on the Internet rarely suit well-to-do urbanites interested in buying a Tazy.
Among rural Kazakhs, selling puppies for money occurs only very rarely.  Usually puppies are bartered for some favor or service.  Puppies are traded for good friendship in the future or for solving some problems, as well as for permission to go as a guest to their breeder at his remote pastoral agricultural compound as to a close relative. At the same time it is not traditional to get a puppy completely as a gift, without giving something in exchange then or in the future. There is a superstition that such a puppy will not survive for long, if the promise is not fulfilled.
As was said above, at the present time, taking into account all the sympathy and antipathy towards the breed and dogs in general, the Tazy is still a very good gift to well-to-do people (who have a business in the city and a livestock complex in the steppe) or a flattering gift to someone who is striving to have one.  A Tazy puppy makes not only a Royal gift in every sense but it is also a way to make friends. 
With all the bad taste attributed to selling puppies in Kazakh society, exchange and gifting is often motivated by the desire to obtain a purebred hound for the improvement of the breeding stock.  Outright trade in puppies is considered in bad taste, because in Kazakh society the Tazy is considered a national legacy. 
However, despite this, the breed is living in not the best time of its history.  There are many dangers threatening the Kazakh Tazy not only as a breed, but also as a part of the national heritage.  The Kazakh Tazy, as well as the truly Kazakh drink - koumis (sour milk from fermented mare’s milk) can leave its native country and Kazakhstan will loose its right to be the patent owner [16].
A paradox arises here in which the absence of a commercial incentive in favor of traditional ethical standards threatens the gradual dissipation of the Kazakh Tazy gene pool.  In other countries, which have the relevant commercial organization and are free from ethical traditions associated with this breed, the trend is towards the increase of the necessary population for launching the process for registering the breed with the FCI and acquiring as a result the international patent.
The result of the breed being patented in another country will be the decline of interest in the breed in Kazakhstan.  It is true that dogs of the choban camps and dog show strains will remain. However, a breed registered somewhere beyond the boundaries of the breed, separated from its natural landscape, will no longer be the Kazakh Tazy, even if it keeps the same name.   

Comments and references
[1] Duregei – 1. Mixed breed dog; 2. Impure, mixed. R. G. Syzdykova, and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary. 2002, ISBN 9965-441-62-6. p. 222.
 [2] Tobet – 1. Dog male; wolf male. 2. Dog. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors.. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, p. 828.
 [3] Kak - I 1) Sky, 2. Heavenly power, creator. II. 1. Blue, light blue, dove-blue, bluish gray. 2. Gray, grizzle.  3. Green, unripe.  4. Blue color.  5. III. Belt made out of raw leather to tie up kerege.  R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors.. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, p. 390.
[4] Yrym – 1. Belief, superstition. 2. For good luck. 3. Sign, prediction. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, p.992.
[5]  Shayan-Kyiryk (scorpion –like tail): shayan – 1. Scorpion. 2. crab (kyiryk) – 1. Tail, tail hairs, feathers in the tail of a bird. 2. Tail of fat-tailed sheep. 3. Butt, buttocks. 4. End, margin.  II. Shashak-kulak (hairy ear): shashak – 1. Fringe, tassels. 2. Fuzzy upper part of plant, inflorescence.  Kulak – 1. Ear. 2. Hub of a string musical instrument, 3. Handle of a bowl, handle of a bucket. 4. Kock of gun.  R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, pages 946, 541, 945 and 543. 

[6] Shi-Tazy (small Tazy): shi (shchi – chiy (desert needle grass, Achnaterum sp.), . Perennial plant with narrow leaves, forming thick tussocks. Heads with a single flower. In Kazakhstan Achnaterum splendens). Winter forage plant.  M. S. Gilyarov et all. “Biological encyclopedic dictionary” in Russian. 1986. Moscow.
[7] Sart. 1. This is how Kazakhs called merchants, mainly Uzbeks, in the past. 2. clanking, banging, clicking  sound. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, pages 946, 541, 945 and 702.

[8] “Strictly speaking, all sarts are commercial people; one can stop anyone of them, if he is on the horseback, and buy his horse. No matter how much he loves the horse, he will sell it, if the price is good… He will sell not only his horse, but also his coat with his wife and children… He is not attached to anyone or anything.  It is impossible to have a friend among them; he will betray you at the first occasion.  Even their feelings of kinship are developed in a peculiar way: they live each for his own good, not trusting their thoughts to anyone. They move quietly from one place to another, never regretting the old, to them it does not matter where they live: there is no patriotism, love of the home country; he will cheat on another sart without pity, as well as on a Russian.  Generally, sarts are very unpleasant and repulsive people. Because of that there are many Russians living in Turkestan, willingly or not, became remarkably similar to sarts in the sense of honesty. The difference is only in religion and the position they occupy. In Turkestan it is impossible to trust a sart or a Russian; many can confirm this based on their bitter experience.  Such are the merchants of Fergana Province.” “The Osh merchant in his own home”, Around the World, 1896, No. 3, pp. 38-40, in Russian.
[9] Djut – mass mortality of livestock from the shortage of forage and starvation caused by the icy crust covering snow on the ground. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, p. 320.
[10] Kyrgyz or Kyrgyz-Kaisak means here Kazakh.  A. I. Levshin (1797-1879), author of the first in world literature fundamental work on the geography, history and ethnography of the Kazakh steppes wrote: “In the beginning of historical description of the Kyrgyz-Kaisak, I should first say that in Europe they are given a foreign name, which they never use for naming themselves and neither do their neighbors.”  Levshin adds: “Kyrgyz is the name of a people known not by their links with the Kyrgyz-Kaisak, but rather by their ancient animosity towards them.  They are known as Kara (black) Kyrgyz, mountain Kyrgyz and Burut.  The word “kaisak” or “kasak” is a modified word for “kazak”; according to eastern writers, this is a very old term, going far back beyond the birth of Christ. I will not discuss it at length, whether this is justified or not, but the name “kazak” was given to many branches of Russian ethnicity during the Middle Ages but it belongs to the Kyrgyz-Kaisak hordes since the beginning of their existence ; and until the present time they do not call themselves Kazaks (plural).  Persians, Bukhars. Khivans and other peoples of Asia know of them by the same name.”
The Chinese soften the first sound “k” and say “Hasaks”. Until the beginning of the 18th century Kyrgyz-Kaisaks were not known, but they were named Kazaks, Kazak Horde. Referring to this, A. I. Levshin, in “History of the Russian State” Volume IX, comment 646, pointed out: “The Horde of Kyrgyz-Kaisaks in Nogai is usually called Kazak..  The same can be seen in ancient chronicles”.  A. I. Levshin. Description of Kyrgyz-Kazak, or Kyrgyz-Kaisak, Horde in the Steppes (Edited by Academician M. K. Kozybaev), Almaty, Sanat, 2009. ISBN 9965-664-84-6. P. 135, in Russian.
[11]. Levshin. Description of Kyrgyz-Kazak, or Kyrgyz-Kaisak, Horde in the Steppes (Edited by Academician M. K. Kozybaev), Almaty, Sanat, 2009. ISBN 9965-664-84-6, Pages. 294-295.
[12] Barik (barki also known as burki) – Head garment. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, page 163.

[13]  Malakhai – fur hat for men. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, page 586.

[14]  Kymai – 1. Vulture. 2. Sighthound, from which no animal can escape. R. G. Syzdykova and K. Sh. Khusain editors. Kazakh-Russian Dictionary.2002.  Daik Press, ISBN 9965-441-62-6b, page 546. .

[15]  Fazenda (hacienda) the word appeared in the 1980s in the languages of the post- Soviet period republics, an agricultural complex in the steppe or far in the mountains away from cities and villages.
[16] “Koumis: without right to a patent?” Newspaper Kazakhstan Pravda”, June 23, 2011. (http://www.kazpravda.kz/c/1308774838