Pharaoh Hound: Dog Breed Profile

The Pharaoh Hound is one of the oldest dog breeds

pharaoh hound under branches

 SergeyTikhomirov / Getty Images

The Pharaoh Hound is an ancient breed that has been used to hunt rabbits on the island of Malta for thousands of years. The Pharaoh Hound has an unusual characteristic that’s fairly unique among dogs—it can blush when excited and some are known to show all of their teeth in a special Pharaoh Hound smile. 

The bouncy Pharaoh Hound is playful and energetic, always interested in what’s going on in the household. This sighthound (bred to hunt by sight) is used to working in packs, which means its exceedingly dog friendly and amiable with people. Kids and the fun-loving Pharaoh Hound make great playmates, although the boisterous Pharaoh Hound might unwittingly knock over a small child. The breed has a high prey drive (the instinct to chase and hunt), so Pharaoh Hounds can’t be trusted around bird and small furry creatures. Some may chase cats, especially strange cats, but there are many reports of Pharaoh Hounds living peacefully with family cats as long as they are raised together. They tend to bark to alert you to suspicious sounds, but would be more likely to engage a stranger in play than to guard the home front. 

Breed Overview

Group: Hound

Weight: 45 to 55 pounds

Height: 21 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder

Coat: Short and glossy

Coat Color: Rich tan to chestnut tan

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Pharaoh Hound

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

History of the Pharaoh Hound

One of the oldest recorded dog breeds, the Pharaoh Hound originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. Evidence of the breed’s ancient Egyptian history lives on today in beautiful works of art depicting Pharaoh Hounds. These sculptures and paintings found in Egyptian temples date as far back as 4400 B.C. 

At some point in history, the Pharaoh Hound was brought to the Mediterranean island of Malta, possibly by the Phoenicians, where the dogs were used to hunt rabbits. The Pharaoh Hound has been known in Malta for more than 2,000 years, where it has remained virtually unchanged from its ancestors that are seen decorating Egyptian tombs. Today, the Pharaoh Hound is the national hound of Malta. It was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1983, where it is now a member of the Hound Group. 

Pharaoh Hound
The top photo is a painting from the tomb of Antefa II, dating from 2300 B.B. The bottom photo is Kilcroney Rekhmire Merymut, the top Pharaoh Hound in Great Britain in 1973 and 1974. Bettmann / Getty Images
Pharaoh Hounds
Agency Animal Picture / Getty Images
Pharaoh Hound up close
Agency Animal Picture / Getty Images

Pharaoh Hound Care

The Pharaoh Hound’s short, fine coat sheds very little. Truly wash and wear, the Pharaoh Hound requires little brushing and infrequent bathing. A simple weekly wipe down over the body with a damp cloth is often all that is needed to keep the coat glossy. Pharaoh Hounds do not have doggie odor, so bathe only when dirty. Clean the ears weekly with a pet safe ear cleaner and keep the nails trimmed short. Because the Pharaoh Hound’s coat is very thin, the breed does not tolerate cold well. They cannot be left outside in cold weather, and many Pharaoh Hound owners outfit their dogs in warm coats for winter walks. Even indoors, Pharaoh Hounds feel the chill of winter; the fleece jackets or even flannel pajamas are recommended by the Pharaoh Hound Club of America, which is the national parent club for the breed in the United States. Pharaoh Hounds also love to snuggle under the covers with you at night. 

The Pharaoh Hound was born to run and needs appropriate outlets for its abundant energy. Provide daily running opportunities in a safely enclosed area, and include one or two daily walks in your exercise routine as well. Younger dogs will need to stretch their legs more frequently (three or four times a day), but older Pharaoh Hounds might be satisfied with one or two running sessions and/or walks a day. When getting enough activity, Pharaoh Hounds are generally content to spend the rest of their day relaxing at home, perhaps with an impromptu play session indoors. A great outlet for Pharaoh Hounds is the canine sport of lurecoursing (chasing a fake “rabbit” across a field).

Although highly intelligent, Pharaoh Hounds aren’t particularly obedient in the sense that they are independent minded and won’t just do something because you ask. To get the most out of a Pharaoh Hound, training must be creative and fun. Make it a game and use positive methods with plenty of treats and toys or play as rewards and watch your Pharaoh Hound shine. 

Pharaoh Hounds have a high prey drive (the instinct to hunt and kill small creatures) and they will chase after anything they see or smell. Because of this, Pharaoh Hounds can never be off leash or they might run away, possibly into a dangerous situation like oncoming traffic. Always keep your Pharaoh Hound on a leash or in a safely enclosed place for exercise. 

Pharaoh Hound lurecoursing
olgagorovenko / Getty Images
Pharaoh Hound
 Eudyptula / Getty Images
Pharaoh Hound
SergeyTikhomirov / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Pharaoh Hound is exceptionally healthy for a purebred dog, with no known documented serious health concerns in the breed, according to the Pharaoh Hound Club of America. 

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Pharaoh Hound a high-quality dog food (consult with your breeder or veterinarian for a recommendation on the best food for your Pharaoh Hound). Feed measured meals with a measuring cup or scale rather than free feeding (filling the bowl and leaving food out all day) to avoid overfeeding. Free feeding can lead to weight gain, which puts stress on the joints and can contribute to health issues. 

Pros
  • Family friendly

  • Playful and affectionate

  • Clean and calm in the house

Cons
  • High prey drive

  • Not reliable off leash

  • Needs a lot of exercise 

Where to Adopt or Buy

The Pharaoh Hound is a rare breed. Some adult Pharaoh Hounds or Pharaoh mixes end up in rescue occasionally. The Pharaoh Hound Club of America publishes a list of breed fanciers who participate in rescue operations on its website. Usually though, if you want a Pharaoh Hound, you will want to search for a reputable breeder for a puppy. Once you find a breeder, you might have to wait a while for a puppy to become available.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Pharaoh Hound, you might also like these breeds:

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.