Cirneco dell'Etna: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A Cirneco Dell'Etna looking into the camera.

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Hailing from Sicily, the Cirneco (pronounced 'cheer-NEK-o') dell'Etna is a good-natured, independent, and athletic sighthound. Although Cirnechi (the plural of Cirneco) were originally bred as fast-moving hunting dogs, they can be calm, low-maintenance house dogs, perfect for active families or families with older children. Although Cirnechi can get along with other pets, it's best to start socialization early and introduce them very slowly.

Because Cirnechi have short coats, they're considered good picks for people with allergies and have low-maintenance grooming requirements. While their grooming requirements are minimal, Cirnechi are considered high energy and need at least 30 minutes to one hour of exercise every day. Cirnechi aren't very tolerant of being left alone, either, so if your family has a very busy schedule of if you're away from the home often, you may want to consider a different breed.

Breed Overview

Group: Hound

Height: 18 to 19.5 inches at the shoulder (male) or 16.5 to 18 inches at the shoulder (female)

Weight: 22 to 26 pounds (male) or 17 to 22 pounds (female)

Coat: Very short and smooth, requiring minimal care

Coat Color: Chestnut or tan, occasionally with patches of white around the neck and shoulders

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Cirneco dell'Etna

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium to High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium to High
Energy Level Medium to High
Trainability Medium to High
Intelligence Medium to High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Cirneco dell'Etna

"Cirneco" comes from the Greek word "Kyrenaikos," meaning "of Cyrene," an ancient Greek city near modern-day Libya; "dell'Etna" comes from Mount Etna in Sicily. Accordingly, it's believed the Cirneco dell'Etna originated in Sicily and were propagated by dogs that traveled on Phoenician merchant ships. They were originally used to hunt smaller game, like rabbits and hares.

The Cirneco dell'Etna is often described as resembling the Pharaoh Hounds depicted in Ancient Egyptian art. While Cirnechi aren't quite as old as Ancient Egyptian dogs, they are one of the older breeds—Sicilian coins dating back to 500 BC show depictions of dogs that resemble today's Cirneco dell'Etna.

Prior to 1932, Cirnechi were typically only found on the island of Sicily. Then, a veterinarian named Maurizio Migneco visited Sicily and wrote an article covering the declining Cirnechi populations. An Italian aristocrat named Baroness Agata Paternó Castello read Migneco's article and felt moved to revive the breed. She made it her life goal to increase Cirnechi populations, and worked to do so until she died.

The Cirneco dell'Etna was recognized by the Italian national kennel club in 1939, but wouldn't be recognized by the American Kennel Club until 2015. Today, the Cirneco dell'Etna is still somewhat rare in the United States, ranking 183rd out of 195 breeds.

Cirneco dell'Etna Care

Because they have short, smooth coats, Cirnechi have minimal grooming needs. You can expect to brush your Cirneco with a soft brush or a hound mat once per week, and bathe him or her as needed.

Cirnechi have ears that stick straight up, so it's important to examine the ears several times per week. You can use a soft, cotton cloth to gently remove any dirt, debris, or waxy build-up. Avoid cotton swabs, as they can damage the delicate inner-ear structures. If your dog's ears are red, inflamed, or smell funny, make an appointment with your vet ASAP. These may be signs of infection.

Like all breeds, it's important to keep your Cirneco's teeth and gums healthy. Daily tooth brushing is ideal, but brushing your dog's teeth once per week can help protect him or her against oral disease.

The Cirneco dell'Etna has high energy levels and higher exercise needs. Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain. Aim for at least 30 minutes to one-hour of walking each day, with active play sessions in-between. They're also intelligent dogs, so incorporating mental stimulation into their exercise routine can keep them engaged.

Cirnechi are intelligent dogs and are considered easy to train if the trainer uses food-based rewards and positive reinforcement. You can try do-it-yourself dog training or find a local trainer who can help you. Early socialization is vital in Cirnechi, especially if you plan to introduce him or her to another pet.

Common Health Problems

The Cirneco dell'Etna is generally considered a hardy, healthy dog and there are no recommended health tests from the American Kennel Club. There's no guarantee that your dog will—or won't—develop certain health conditions, so it's important to talk to your veterinarian about the steps you can take to ensure your dog lives a long, happy, healthy life.

Diet and Nutrition

Cirnechi are prone to weight gain if overfed, so look for a dog food that's formulated for highly active, medium-sized breeds. You can refer to the feeding guide from your preferred dog food brand to determine exactly how much to feed your Cirneco, or ask your veterinarian.

Remember: All dog breeds can be susceptible to canine obesity. Be sure to feed your dog the proper amount of food each day; give her plenty of exercise; and limit dog treats. Canine obesity can lead to serious health issues, like heart disease and diabetes.

Pros
  • Calm and good-natured with family members and kids

  • Easy to groom and can be suitable for those with allergies

  • Can thrive in smaller spaces

Cons
  • High energy and high exercise needs

  • Needs early socialization and slow introductions with other pets

  • Can be difficult to find from a breeder or adoption agency

Where to Adopt or Buy a Cirneco dell'Etna

Cirnechi are considered rare in the United States, so you may have a hard time locating one in a shelter. Try searching for a Cirnechi rescue group in your area, or use the breed filter on sites like Petfinder.com to see if there are any Cirnechi available near you.

If you decide to purchase a Cirneco dell'Etna from a breeder, be sure to work with a reputable, ethical breeder. If possible, visit the breeding site and lookout for the signs of backyard breeding. Ask lots of questions and try to meet the parents of your litter. As previously mentioned, Cirnechi are a rare breed in the United States, so your breeder may have a waiting list for puppies.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The Cirneco dell'Etna can make an excellent pet for active families, but can be difficult to find in the United States. If you're interested in the Cirneco dell'Etna some similar breeds include: