Cirneco dell’Etna

Temperament: Affectionate, Friendly, Independent

  • Height: 18-19.5 inches (male), 16.5-18 inches (female)
  • Weight: 22-26 pounds (male), 17-22 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
  • Group: Hound Group 

The sleek and sinewy Cirneco dell’Etna, the ancient coursing hound of Sicily, is an athletic hunter given to quick bursts of speed. As housedogs, Cirnechi are mild, low-maintenance companions cherished for their loyal and gentle nature.


Medium sized hunting dog, elegant, slender build but strong and hardy. Long-limbed, of light construction and square outline with a fine coat and upright ears, always alert.

About the Cirneco dell’Etna

Standing under 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.

In many ways, these lithe and leggy Sicilians are typical sight-hounds: sweet-natures, independent and, of course, breathtakingly swift. It is said, though, that Cirnechi are a bit more trainable than the usual sight-hound. These living artifacts of antiquity have sprinted into the 21st century relatively unchanged by passing fads and fancies.

NUTRITION The Cirneco should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet or the dog’s breeder if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should always be available.

GROOMING 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 dog’s breeder or the veterinarian can recommend a good brand to use. The nails should be trimmed often if not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort.

EXERCISE 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.

TRAINING 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 socialisation and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Cirneco grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

HEALTH The Cirneco dell’Etna is a very hardy and healthy breed. Given excellent nutrition, regular veterinary care, parasite control, and the mental and physical stimulation he needs, he will be a happy and long-lived companion. Every week the owner should do a quick check of the dog’s ears for any signs of infection, and the Cirneco’s teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs.

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