Cirneco dell'Etna

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The Cirneco dell'Etna (pronounced "cheer-nay-ko" and its plural is Cirnechi (cheer-Nec-kee)) is common in Italy but is quite rare here. He looks like a small Pharaoh Hound -- they share the same general headpiece but the smaller dog is squarer than his longer bodied cousin.

Both breeds share the same primitive and elegant outline, a deep chestnut, "warm your hands in it" brown coat and both are indefatigable hunters. And oh my -- those ears! Tall radar detecting devices really, able to rotate independent of each other, as you can see below.

Cirnecos are one of the easiest to train of all Sight-hounds.

They are affectionate and quite good with children, being tolerant and friendly. Many people who have had Italian Greyhounds in the past look at this breed with interest. They are hardy and healthy and much sturdier than their smaller cousin. 

They are bigger than the IGs but still small enough to fall below the magic "25 lbs or under" requirements in many condos. However, the biggest difference between the two breeds is the Cirneco dell'Etna's temperament. He is much more active -- this is a hunting breed hard wired to chase down rabbits all day long in hot and dusty Sicily. While an IG can tolerate being an elegant couch potato, the Cirneco needs a job, or he will make his own busy work, perhaps "redecorating" your kitchen.


Most linguists believe that this breed's name came from the Greek "Kyrenaikos", that is "cane cirenaico" or "dog from Cyrene", an ancient land in current-day Libya. This breed is at least 2500 years old. The name first appears in a 1533 bylaw in Sicily imposing sanctions against anyone using "cirnechi" for hunting. Apparently, even then, they were  matchless hunters and someone wanted to cut the rabbits a break!

This is one of the few breeds that has undergone very little manipulation by man. He has been rigorously selected by nature to work for hours in brutal heat without a break. Don't believe his elegant exterior and friendly nature; this is a tough, smart breed requiring an owner every bit as sturdy and intelligent as he is.

Most common in Sicily and around Mount Etna, this breed has been incorrectly called a Sicilian Greyhound.

Cirneco dell'Etna are recognized in the FCI (Europe and South America) system, but are still in the Miscellaneous Class with the AKC.  They are part of the AKC's program of recognition (Foundation Stock Service) and should be a regular AKC breed soon.

By the Numbers

Size: 16 to 20 inches at the shoulder
Coat Care: 2 – low. Never needs to be brushed; only needs a bath if he has gotten into something stinky.
Trainability: 7 – medium. Smart and interested but can also be stubborn.
Energy level: 8 -- high. They are definitely a high energy dog and do best with high energy owners. They love a daily run.
Good with Children: 8 – high.They like children and are affectionate; they are tolerant of kid shenanigans.
Noise level: low – 3: This is not a noisy breed.
Low Shedding/hypoallergenic: 3 -- low. They shed very little for a short coated breed.

Tell Us About YOUR Dog!

People come to About Small Dogs to find a good dog, one that matches their lifestyle, their family and what they yearn for.

The best people to explain the finer points of what a breed is like are the people who own and are owned by them.

If you own this breed, this means YOU. What is your dog like? What stories can you tell? What would you like to say to someone who is considering your breed? What is your dog's sterling qualities? How about some of his or her not so great characteristics? Tell us a bit about the ideal owner for your breed as well.

People become good dog owners because they are educated. You know your breed better than any others. Share what you know!

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