Cirneco Dell 'Etna




The Cirneco has been present in Sicily since ancient times. A Mediterranean dog of ancient origins that probably descends from hunting dogs that existed in the era of the pharaohs in Ancient Egypt and was introduced to the Mediterranean basin by the Phoenicians with Sicily as the elected region of adoption. Evidence of the presence of the Cirneco on the island is provided by his portrayal on coins, incisions and mosaics dating from many centuries before Christ and was always considered the most ancient, eclectic and highly regarded hunting dog. 1.

General Appearance

Medium sized primitive type of dog with an elegant and slender shape, compact and strong built with a fine coat and upright ears, always alert. The conformation is built on sub-longish lines. 1.

Standing under 50cm (20 inches), the Cirneco (“cheer-NEK-o”; Cirnechi is the plural) is often described as resembling a smaller version of the Pharaoh Hound, its cousin from the island of Malta. This slender but rugged hunter’s coat ranges from light to dark tan or chestnut. The large, upright ears point up the alert expression of the eyes, whose amber or ochre color smartly complements the coat. 2.

In many ways, these lithe and leggy Sicilians are typical sighthounds: sweet-natured, independent and, of course, breathtakingly swift. It is said, though, that Cirnechi are a bit more trainable than the usual sighthound. 2.

Eyes are rather small. Colour should be ochre, amber or hazel, set at a semi-lateral position and with soft expression. Oval shaped eye-rims of the same colour as the nose. 1.

The ears are set very high and close together, carried upright and rigid with frontal opening. They are of a triangular shape with a narrow tip that tilts slightly backwards. Cartilage is thick at the base. When alert, the vertical axes are parallel or almost parallel. The length of the ears should not exceed half the total length of the head. 1.

Skin: Fine and taut all over the body. Pigmentation varies according to the colour of the coat, must never have black spots or depigmentation. 1.

Hair: Of vitreous and dense texture, smooth on head ears and legs, semi-long (2.5 cm approximately) sleek and fitting on the body and tail. 1.


The Cirneco is strong-willed, uncompromising, affectionate and alert, a resolute dog, very attached to his owner. Fundamentally a hunting dog who uses his keen sense of smell, but is also an excellent companion. The specific skill is searching for scent and pursuing wild rabbit and other small game both fur and feather. The ideal hunting ground is among the nooks and crannies of rock faces and in particular the terrain formed by volcanic lava on the slopes of Mount Etna where the Cirneco leaps from one rock to another, surefooted and elegant. The breed uses sight only to select the most suitable location and nothing escapes his attention. The hearing is used to pick up the movement of the rabbit when it has gone to ground, but it is the powerful, reliable sense of smell that allows the dog to follow a trail and flush out the prey. 1.


As housedogs, Cirnechi are mild, low-maintenance companions cherished for their loyal and gentle nature.

The Cirneco’s short-haired, smooth coat requires minimal care. Gentle weekly brushing with a soft bristle brush or hound glove should keep him looking his best, with an occasional bath only as needed. His ears should be regularly inspected for dirt or buildup of excess wax and cleaned if needed with soft gauze and an ear-cleaning solution The nails should be trimmed often if not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort. 2.

Moderate physical exercise and mental stimulation are essential to satisfy the Cirneco’s intensely intelligent and inquisitive nature. He does best when he has a function, whether that means competing in the show ring or other canine events or being an interactive family member. He enjoys long walks and activities with his people. Because of his strong hunting instincts, he should not be allowed off lead in areas that are not securely enclosed, as he may not be able to resist the urge to run off after perceived prey. He does well with a fenced backyard where he can enjoy playtime with his owner, although he should not be just left alone outside with no attention for long periods, as he would be lonely and unhappy. 2.

The Cirneco has a strong, independent temperament necessary for a hunter but is friendly and affectionate and makes an excellent family pet. They respond well to gentle methods of training and can be successfully trained for obedience, rally, agility, tracking, and of course the breed’s historical reason for existence: hunting. Many Cirnechi especially enjoy lure coursing. Due to the breed’s strong prey drive, care must be exercised when introducing the Cirneco to cats and small animals. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Cirneco grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. 2.

References: 1. FCI Breed Standard No. 199.  2. American Kennel Club

In Conclusion

Now you know a little more about the Cirneco Dell ‘Etna you may think that this is the dog for you. Before you make a decision, please make contact with the breed club or your state controlling body for purebred dogs and they will be able to give you more information about available puppies and also suggest dog shows where you can see the breed and speak to breeders. In this way you will gain a better perspective of the Cirneco Dell ‘Etna and its needs and whether this breed would indeed suit your lifestyle.