The Cirneco dell’Etna is a small and slender dog, similar in appearance to the Greyhound but with larger ears and a chestnut/tan coat. These dogs are an ancient breed native to the island of Sicily where they were valued for their intelligence and for their natural hunting ability. If you are looking for a small, active breed – especially one that takes well to dog sports – the Cirneco dell’Etna may be the right breed for you.
The outgoing Cirneco (the plural is Cirnechi) weighs between 18 and 27 pounds, making him suitable for just about any home. Thanks to his innate athleticism, he’s a natural at agility and lure coursing, and he also does well in obedience, rally, and tracking. The Cirneco has a reputation for being easier to train than some other sighthounds — as long as you keep the training sessions short.
Like most dogs, the Cirneco can become bored, noisy, and destructive if he doesn’t have other dogs to keep him company or if he doesn’t receive enough attention from his people. Despite his chase instinct, if a Cirneco is raised with other pets from an early age, he can live amicably with cats and small dogs.
Other Quick Facts
- The Cirneco dell’Etna is a rare breed not readily found outside Italy — there are only 200 or so Cirnechi in the United States.
- Although they are mainly companion dogs today, Cirnechi are known for their silent method of hunting, which allows them to catch animals off guard.
- Since the breed is so uncommon, little is known about the health history of the Cirneco.
- Like most sighthounds, Cirnechi aren’t too keen on having their feet touched.
AKC group: Hound Group
UKC group: Sighthound & Pariah
Average lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Average size: 18 to 27 pounds
Coat appearance: Close-Fitting, Long, Sleek, Smooth, Stiff, and Straight
Coloration: tan- to chestnut-colored coat
Best Suited For: Families with children, active singles, houses with yards
The Cirneco dell’Etna, also known as the Sicilian Greyhound
, may resemble a small Pharaoh Hound, but he’s a distinct breed of Italian origin, with his own color markings, tail shape, and triangle-shaped ears. He gets his name from Mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, where his ancestors hunted rabbit and hare. He stalks silently — so much so that he can even sneak up on birds. Today, this rare breed is predominantly a family companion.
The Cirneco was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 2006. The breed is also part of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, the first step toward AKC recognition. In 2012, the Cirneco dell’Etna will be admitted to the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class.
The Cirneco dell’Etna has a strong, inquisitive, independent temperament, which is important in keen hunting dogs. It is also outgoing, friendly, affectionate and smart. Cirnechi are loyal and loving with their owners and friends. They are willing and eager to please and love to receive pets and praise. They usually make great family pets, although they can be reserved around strangers.
The Cirneco is an extremely adaptable breed that can thrive in a wide variety of environments. However, these are house dogs that definitely need to live indoors due to their short coats, thin skin and absence of body fat. They like to nestle on warm soft furniture, blankets and bedding, almost as much as they like to snuggle with their favorite people.
Cirnechi typically are tolerant of children, although this is not a bomb-proof breed and probably isn’t the best choice for families with very young kids. Cirnechi are social animals that tend to get along well with other dogs. They rarely cause problems in multiple-pet homes and, unlike most sighthounds, get along remarkably well with familiar cats. Of course, the earlier any dog is exposed to other household pets and small children, the more likely it is to get along with them as they age.
Since there are so few of these dogs, little is known about the health of Cirnechi. In general, they appear to be a hardy breed, but they can get muscle and toe injuries while running. A reputable breeder will discuss potential health problems with you, including any conditions that she has noticed in her own lines.
As an ancient breed that has been largely unmanipulated by man, the Cirneco dell’Etna is hardy and healthy. The main health concerns to which this breed is prone include injuries that can occur while running. Responsible breeding practices and genetic testing can help to reduce the risk for inherited conditions in this and other breeds.
Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease, and only breed the best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy can develop a genetic condition. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. And remember that you have the power to protect your Cirneco from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your Cirneco’s life.
The Cirneco dell’Etna is an intelligent breed so they typically respond well to training. For the best results, start training early while your puppy is still young – that is when they will soak up the most training. Socialization is also important for this breed to help introduce them to new things and situations. Positive reinforcement training methods are recommended and you should be prepared to maintain a level of firm consistency with your dog to prevent him from becoming too strong-willed or independent. These dogs do very well when trained for hunting, lure coursing, agility, or other dog sports.
Cirnechi are high-energy animals that need quite a bit of regular exercise to keep them physically and mentally fit. They love taking long daily walks and having a chance to stretch their legs in safely-enclosed areas. It is important for Cirneco owners to have well-fenced yards, so that their dogs can run freely and burn off excess energy, which usually happens in short bursts. While they can be gregarious and playful, Cirnechi usually are calm and quiet, both indoors and out, as long as their exercise needs are met. They are great fans of toys of all sorts. A Cirneco can play with a single toy for hours, keeping it out of mischief. Cirnechi are active contestants in lure coursing and agility competitions. Participation in these and other canine sporting events provides a great opportunity to showcase the Cirneco’s athleticism, while at the same time giving him a chance to get physical exercise and canine socialization.
Because the Cirneco dell’Etna was bred for hunting it is a fairly active breed with fairly high exercise requirements. This breed requires at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day in the form of a walk or jog – active play time is also appreciated. Training your dog for hunting, lure coursing, or other dog sports can help to meet its daily exercise requirements while also providing plenty of mental stimulation.
The Cirneco dell’Etna is a low-maintenance breed. Its short coat only needs an occasional brushing to keep it tidy and clean. A rubber curry brush or hound glove, or even a warm damp cloth, work well to keep its coat looking shiny and lustrous. Frequent bathing is not necessary and really should only be done when the dog is obviously smelly or dirty. Other routine maintenance is the same as for most breeds, including dental care to keep teeth clean, reduce plaque build-up and prevent bad breath. Regular nail clipping is also important.
Many sighthounds, including many Cirnechi, are sensitive to having their feet handled. Nail care should start at a very young age, so that it does not become a struggle. Owners should do their best to avoid cutting into the quick of the nail, which is quite painful for the animal. For those who are not comfortable clipping nails, a quick trip to a professional groomer can be a godsend for both owner and dog.
Did You Know?
It’s believed that the Cirneco dell’Etna descended from dogs who were left behind by the Phoenicians along Sicily’s coast. The breed was depicted on Sicilian coins minted as early as the 3rd century B.C.
Is the Cirneco dell’Etna the Right Breed for you?
Low Maintenance: Infrequent grooming is required to maintain upkeep. No trimming or stripping needed.
Minimal Shedding: Recommended for owners who do not want to deal with hair in their cars and homes.
Moderately Easy Training: The Cirneco dell’Etna is average when it comes to training. Results will come gradually.
Fairly Active: It will need regular exercise to maintain its fitness. Trips to the dog park are a great idea.
Good with Kids: This is a suitable breed for kids and is known to be playful, energetic, and affectionate around them.