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About Cirneco dell'Etna

The Primitive Bed Warmer that’s a Sight and Scent Hound


The proper pronunciation is “cheer-nec-ko” and “cheer-nec-kee” for plural Cirnechi.


The Cirneco dell”Etna is a very hardy breed, selected by nature for the ability to work for hours in the heat on harsh terrain hunting rabbits and fowl. The breed is virtually free from genetic health issues. A very friendly, intelligent, active and affable dog that is somewhat easier to train than most sighthounds.  They make an excellent companion as they are very affectionate and prefer to be close to their owners. They love to sleep under the covers of the bed.


This primitive little sighthound hails from the island of Sicily, where it has been used for hunting for centuries. In Italy, the Cirneco must pass a hunt test to become a full champion. True origins are a mystery, though history suggests they were brought to the island by the Phoenician traders as they traveled throughout the Mediterranean.  The similarity in features to the Ibizan and Pharaoh Hounds, imply they all share a common ancestry, with each region developing the dog to suit their particular hunting needs.

To the untrained eye, the Cirneco looks like the Pharaoh Hound in miniature, but in actuality there are differences in eyes, ears, tail, coloring and size.


Many ancient artifacts from the region of Sicily, ancient Rome and Greece, have depictions on coins and pottery that resemble the Cirneco of today.  Some artifacts date back as far as 4000 BC.  Many of the Sicilian towns such as Palermo and Erice beheld the dog with a religious or symbolic significance, often minting coins with their image.  Legend claims that the temple built by Dionysus in 400 B.C. dedicated to Adranos near the volcano had a thousand Cirnechi to guard its safety.  It is said the dog had the ability to recognize and attack the thieves and disbelievers while also accompanying and guiding the pilgrims seeking prayer and salvation.


Rarely seen outside Sicily before the early 1930’s when a published article declared the breed in danger of oblivion.  A Sicilian aristocrat took the matter at heart and headed up a group to help in saving the breed.  The Baroness Agata Paterno Castello commissioned to have the breed standard written, which was approved by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI) in 1939, with the current FCI standard being completed in 1989.  Jan. 1, 2015 the Cirneco dell’Etna was moved from the AKC Miscellaneous class to the Hound Group and full recognition.

Look for Cirnechi participating in conformation, coursing and racing, agility, nose work,  barn hunt, flyball, therapy and hanging out with their people.


Some of the above information was taken from a brochure created by Jerri Gates (d’Lea Cirnechi) and Nancy Lee Wight (Rockin’ Heart Ranch).


For more information about the Cirneco dell’Etna local contacts are:

Janie Hale (

Larry and Debbie Myers (

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