Breed Type: Sighthound
Country of Origin:
Also known as: Cirnechi (plural), Cirneco
Male Height: 46-52cm Weight: 10-12kg
Female Height: 42-50cm Weight: 8-10kg
Exercise Requirements:
Care Requirements: Low
Lifespan:  12-14Years
Best Suited as:
Family Pet/Hunting Dog

The Cirneco dell’ Etna is a rare, small dog breed originally from the Etna region of Sicily. “Cirneco” is pronounced “cheer-NAY-ko”. An excellent sight and scent hound, the Cinerco has changed little since its ancient beginnings.

The Cirneco dell’ Etna is a slender, muscular, strong, and hardy dog. Many people believe they are looking at a miniature Pharaoh Hound when they see one, but they are very much their own breed. The length of their body is equal to the height at the withers giving them a square appearance.

They sport a short tan or chestnut colored coat that is hard and glossy. They have long limbs and are agile and swift. Their tail is low set, but carried high and curved towards their backs when they are in motion. They have triangular shaped ears that are rigid, erect and are set very high. They also have long pointed muzzles. They have small sunken eyes that possess an alert expression.  Their nose is rather large, flesh colored, and blends with their coat.

There are two differing theories as to where the Cirneco dell’ Etna hails from. One group feels that their descendants came from ancient hunting dogs bred in the valley of the Nile at the time of the Pharaohs. They believe that these dogs arrived in Sicily with the Phoenicians. Another more recent theory suggests that they are a native Sicilian breed. Currencies and engravings exist that indicate that the Cirneco existed there many centuries before the birth of Christ.

Whichever theory is correct, both camps agree that the Cirneco was used in Sicily for hunting small mammals like rabbit and fowl, and shares a common origin with the Pharaoh Hound. The Cirneco was a successful hunter due to his hardy, compact body and ability to hunt under adverse conditions including climbing over rugged terrain formed by volcanic lava. He was also able to survive with little food or water for extended periods.

Until 1932, the Cirneco was not well known outside Sicily. After an article had been published in a Sicilian journal about the rarity of the breed, a group led by the Baroness Agata Paternó Castello of the Dukes of Carcaci, spent the next twenty-six years developing the breed. She collaborated with Professor Giuseppe Solaro, an eminent zoologist, who wrote the first breed standard, which was approved by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI) in 1939.  It was at that time that the “dell’ Etna” part was added to the Cirneco’s name. Throughout time, this ancient breed has undergone very little change and is free from many inherited health problems. The Cirneco dell’ Etna is registered with the Italian Kennel Club and the Federation Cynologique International. Within the last fifty years, Cirnechi have also been exported to many European countries where they have had some success in the show ring. In France, Finland and the USA, Cirnechi participate in official Lure Coursing Events and many have become champions at this sport.

The Cirneco is an affectionate, loyal and friendly breed with a strong, independent nature. Although it is considered easier to train than some of its sighthound cousins, it is not recommended for a first time dog owner. It is best to start training this breed early and an owner who can exhibit firm training is best.

Care and Grooming
The Cirneco breed needs moderate exercise and enjoys daily walks and romps in the yard. He also requires mental stimulation to satisfy his intelligent and inquisitive nature. His short coat requires minimal grooming and he needs only occasional brushing with a firm bristle brush. Bathing should only be done when necessary.

The Cirneco dell’ Etna breed is extremely hardy and free from many inherited health problems.

Suitability as a Pet
The Cirneco dell’ Etna requires early socialization and obedience training. An owner needs to be consistent and firm as this breed will not respond to harsh or heavy-handed methods.

Some environments are better for the Cirneco dell’ Etna than others. They do not fare well in apartments or small homes and does best in a rural setting where there is ample acreage to roam, hunt, run, and play. They do exceptionally well at lure courses, and any kind of extra fun your dog can have, they will appreciate.

If properly trained, the Cirneco can do well with children. This breed does fairly well with dog siblings especially if they live with another Cirneco. They also do fairly well with cat siblings but will chase any cats unknown to them and other small furry pets. Because they are born hunters, it is best to keep your Cirneco on a leash lest he chase after smaller animals and get away from you.

While an active breed, the Cirneco loves to spend time with his family and can often be found curled up under the blankets next to his owner.