Back in the day when everyone wore togas (no, it wasn’t this day), it was thought that balancing the Four Humors – blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile – were essential to maintaining health. Even slight imbalances were thought to result in specific personality types. Too much phlegm, for instance, was believed to make the sufferer phlegmatic, or cool and apathetic; too much yellow bile made a person easily angered, while an excess of black bile would make a person depressed.
Modern medicine has discarded the notion of humors, but there several modern theories of psychology still based upon the four personality types associated with the Four Humors. As an aside, each humor is associated with a specific element, season, and Zodiac symbols, as well. But we digress.
We use the Four Humors to mention another word associated with an excess of black bile, and the word is melancholy. Today, the word is often used to describe sadness, but that is an unfortunate limitation of the word, for melancholy also refers to contemplation or reflection.
As of this writing, only one breed among all of the AKC recognized breeds has the word, “melancholy” in its breed standard, and that is the Sloughi.
Far from suggesting that the Sloughi is a sad or depressed breed, the word is used to describe expression. From the AKC standard: “The expression is gentle, slightly sad, and melancholy.”
Other breeds with this same expressive quality use different phrases: The Scottish Deerhound has a “far away look,” while the Afghan Hound has “eyes gazing into the distance as if in memory of ages past.” The Saluki’s expression “should be dignified and gentle with deep, faithful, far-seeing eyes.”
What is it that makes a dog’s expression? In the Sloughi’s case, large dark eyes set well into their sockets, dark eye rim pigmentation, and oval or almond shaped eyes give the dog soft, gentile eyes. A noble, if not somewhat aloof attitude, contributes to a introspective air. Expression isn’t just one thing, it is the total package of attributes. The expression given by the eyes is distinct to the dog.
This is not a “sad” breed (but it is dignified). They like a good time, check it out with this video we came across on You Tube:
Image of Sloughi is from Adobe Stock Images