The Cirneco dell'Etna, also known as Sicilian greyhound, is the oldest dog in the Mediterranian. A hunting dog native to the mount Etna area in Sicily, it was bred on the island for nearly 2,500 years and is believed to descend from Egyptian Pharaoh hounds introduced to the area by the traders.
There are several theories concerning the name of this breed, one of them suggesting that it originated from the Greek word "Kyrenaikos," meaning "from Cyrene," a city of Cyrenaica (now Libya). This theory is supported by many writings, including those of Aristotle (384-322 BC) who referred to the dogs of Cyrene as crosses between the Abyssian Wolf (a common anscestor of all greyhounds) and local dogs. Later, the Latin Cyrenaecus replaced the Greek Kyrenaikos, which in Sicilian dialect became Cirniecu, or Cirnecu. For almost three thousand years, the Cirneco lived in the shadow of his master. Most skillful specimen were often kept hidden for fear of being stolen. The Cirneco is smooth-coated, slender, muscular and strong. According to the breed standard, these dogs should be 16.5 to 20 inches high at the shoulder and weigh between 17 and 26.5 pounds.
"Il Piccolo dell'Ovo" Photo courtesy of Cirneco dell'Etna Kennel "dell'Ovo"
Similar to Ibizan Hound but smaller and lighter-boned, this legendary rabbit hunter hunts by sight and scent. Working for hundreds of years on the volcanic lava flows around mountains made him especially sturdy, sure-footed, agile and skillful. Although well renowned for its beauty, intelligence, and hunting skills, this breed is not as popular as Ibizan or Pharaoh hounds outside Italy.
Throughout its history, this breed was primarily valued as a hunting dog, but it also makes a good guard dog and a loyal pet.
- FCI Standard #199
- Denise Como. Sighthounds Afield
- Societa Amatori Cirneco (Italy)