Cirneco dell’Etna

Written by Kerstin S.
Cirneco dell'Etna in an autumn wood

The elegant and sporty Cirneco dell'Etna is also called the Sicilian Greyhound.

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a sporty hunting dog from Italy, notable not only for its elegant appearance but also for its distinctive character. Learn more here about this breed, which is rarely found outside its homeland.

Appearance: A Vision from the Time of the Ancient Pharaohs

Grace and elegance characterise the medium-sized, delicate Cirneco dell’Etna, also known as the Sicilian Greyhound. As its secondary name suggests, this pooch has an athletic build.

The upright, high-set, and large ears are reminiscent of depictions of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis.

And if you’re now thinking of the Pharaoh Hound, you’re on the mark: the two breeds are highly similar, although the Pharaoh Hound is slightly larger.

What Colour is the Cirneco dell’Etna?

The Cirneco’s coat is fine, around 2.5 centimetres in length, and comes in shades of fawn or reddish.

Accepted markings include white patches on the head, chest, belly, paws and the tip of the tail, as well as tan coloured dogs. Eye colours range from ocher to amber and light brown.

How Big Does the Cirneco dell’Etna Get?

Males reach a height at withers of 46 to 50 centimeters and weigh up to 13 kilograms. Females measure between 44 and 48 centimetres, tipping the scales between 8 and 11 kilograms.

Character of the Cirneco dell’Etna: A Will of Its Own

Despite its delicate appearance, the Cirneco is an free spirit with a strong hunting instinct.

Within this slender dog lies an impressive character – a passionate rabbit hunter. Accordingly, members of the breed are active and eager hunters even today.

The Cirneco dell’Etna is friendly and attentive towards its human companions. This intelligent pooch learns quickly but will critically assess what it has learnt before implementing it in everyday life.

Training Requires Patience

The Cirneco remains an independent dog at heart, one that won’t always willingly follow commands everywhere and every time.

Even the FCI standard highlights this breed’s “strong-willed” nature, which is something to consider during dog training.

Training for an Avid Hunter

Hunting is a significant passion for almost all representatives of the breed – they love to follow their noses. However, they also find potential prey visually attractive.

For these dogs, once they have a wild animal in their sights or a scent trail, there’s no stopping them! An anti-hunting training initiated from puppyhood can allow some Cirnecos the freedom of off-leash play.

But if recall commands are not reliably followed, the dog should only be off-leash in a fenced area or be walked with a long leash.

Does the Cirneco dell’Etna Bark a Lot?

Another aspect of training to bear in mind is the barking: most Cirnecos are territorial and express themselves with vigorous barking. But they don’t bark only when defending their patch; excitement or pure delight can also set them off.

Accordingly, the Cirneco is known as a vocal breed. Anyone considering adopting a Cirneco should not be oversensitive and ideally, not live in an acoustic-sensitive dwelling. Vocal expression is part of this breed’s nature.

Care: The Cirneco dell’Etna Is Low Maintenance When Properly Exercised

Caring for this four-legged Italian is simple – regular brushing with a soft brush is sufficient to maintain its short coat. This also reduces shedding during the moulting period, which many dogs actually enjoy as part of their coat care.

Can the Cirneco dell’Etna Live in a Flat?

Provided the Cirneco dell’Etna has sufficient activity, it can adapt to life in an apartment. However, a house with a well-fenced garden is the optimal choice for this energetic canine.

Here, it can romp freely without a lead. Because this dedicated hunting dog doesn’t discriminate against cats, it’s wise to ensure the fence is secured externally and there are no nearby trees to tempt an escape.

A Cirneco dell’Etna that is well-exercised behaves quietly indoors and is known for its tidiness.

Is the Cirneco dell’Etna a Family Dog?

The dog can get along excellently with children, provided it has enough personal space. Many Cirneci enjoy long play sessions with young human family members.

Naturally, one should never leave a dog and child unsupervised. Additionally, these dogs can live harmoniously with other dogs.

Socialising them with cats tends to be most successful with puppies. If the Cirneco is already fully grown when it meets a cat, it might regard the feline as prey.

The Right Activity for the Versatile Hunting Dog

The thrill of the hunt isn’t the only thing that brings the Cirneco joy. While independent, this pooch also enjoys working alongside its human partner.

Dog sports like mantrailing or other scent work are ideal for this breed. Agility and especially chasing a dummy hare during coursing can also provide immense delight to these diminutive dynamos.

The Cirneco dell’Etna as a Skilful Hunter

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a versatile hunter, utilising both sight and scent. In addition to hunting rabbits, this breed can also pursue wild boar, partridges and even engage in waterfowl work. Unlike pointing breeds, the Cirneco hunts like a hound, nose to the ground.

In its homeland, during rabbit hunts, it drives rabbits out and chases them towards the hunter’s gun. The dog skillfully overcomes rocky terrain and steep stone passages.

However, many Cirnecos have a tendency to catch and consume their quarry. The breed benefits from formal hunting dog training.

Diet: What Food Suits the Cirneco dell’Etna?

A healthy Cirneco requires no special dog food. Look for a high-quality, well-tolerated food with a high meat content.

Some dogs of this breed may drink too little; in these cases, ensure sufficient water intake and, if necessary, a higher moisture content in their food.

Origin and History of the Cirneco dell’Etna

The ancestors of the Cirneco dell’Etna hail from Sicily, where dogs of this type have existed for millennia. The name is likely derived from the Greek colony of Cyrenaica in Libya and from Mount Etna.

Immortalised on the Famous “Cave Canem” Mosaic from Pompeii

Around the volcano, the breed’s forebears adapted to rabbit hunting over nooks and craggy ledges. Numerous coins, carvings, and mosaics from the region have depicted the Cirneco dell’Etna since the 6th century BC.

Today, terms such as “Etna dog” or “Lava dog” occasionally reference the Cirneco. Further south, evidence of dogs resembling the modern Cirneco dell’Etna can be found, like on the famous “Cave Canem” mosaic from Pompeii.

Recognised as a Distinct Breed Since 1947

The once-popular theory that the dogs arrived in the Mediterranean with the Phoenicians from Ancient Egypt is now contested. In 1947, the FCI recognised the Cirneco dell’Etna as a distinct breed.

Cirneco etna in the wood © DragoNika /
The Cirneco dell’Etna is a versatile hunting dog and requires a lot of activity.

Health of the Cirneco dell’Etna: A Robust Breed

The Cirneco dell’Etna may seem fragile, but it is characterised by considerable robustness and endurance. There are no breed-specific diseases.

How Long Does a Cirneco dell’Etna Live?

A healthy Cirneco dell’Etna can live up to 14 years.

These Italian dogs are lovers of warmth and appreciate cosy spots during the cold season. A dog coat can make winter more bearable for them. There are no breed-specific diseases.

Acquisition: Tips for Buying a Cirneco dell’Etna

The breed is extremely rare outside its native land. For example, the last official litter in Germany was in 2010.

Finding a purebred Cirneco dell’Etna can be challenging. Most active breeders are located in Italy.

How Much Does a Cirneco dell’Etna Cost?

Prices vary, but for a purebred puppy of the Cirneco dell’Etna breed, expect to pay at least £1000. Prices typically range from £1200 and upwards.

Similar Breeds

Visually similar to the Cirneco is the marginally larger Pharaoh Hound from Malta. The two breeds also share a comparable character.

The Cirneco dell’Etna also shares not just its svelte stature with many Podencos, but also their passion for hunting.

Even in animal rescue, dog lovers can find similar canines. Many Galgos looking for new homes exhibit similar traits.

Conclusion: A Fascinating Dog Personality

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a captivating dog personality. Owing to its passion for hunting, this breed is suited only for dog enthusiasts who can provide ample mental and physical exercise, even without off-leash time, and appreciate its strong-willed character.

Quick Facts about the Cirneco dell’Etna

Unique Traits:This slender Italian dog resembles the Pharaoh Hound. Other names for the breed include: Sicilian Hound, Etna Dog, Sicilian Bracke, and Sicilian Greyhound.
Character:affectionate, keen on hunting, athletic, independent
Heaight at Withers:males: 46-50 cm; females: 44-48 cm
Weight:males: up to 13 kg; females: up to 11 kg
Coat:medium length (2.5 cm); mostly fawn coloured, white markings and tan colour accepted, smooth
Coat Care:low maintenance, very tidy in the home, brush once a week, average shedding during moulting
Exercise:requires a lot of mental and physical activity
Suitable for First-Time Owners:no
Barking:prone to frequent and sustained barking
Lifespan:12 – 14 years
Typical Diseases:robust breed, no known hereditary diseases
Price:£1000 to £1500
FCI Group:5 – Spitz and Primitive types

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Kerstin S.

The zooplus forum was my entry into freelance writing: Here, interested cat lovers came together in 2011 to develop their own print magazine called "Pfotenhieb." In addition to my German studies, I was allowed to write some articles for the "Pfotenhieb". Today, as a happy dog owner, I devote myself mainly to animal and health topics.

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