The Cirneco dell'Etna is a lean yet sturdy dog hailing from the largest island in the Mediterranean—Sicily. He comes in many names, such as Cirneco, Sicilian rabbit dog, Sicilian rabbit hound, Sicilian hound, and Sicilian greyhound. The Cirnechi (plural form) are natural-born hunters known for their keen sense of smell, alertness, and swiftness. Aside from their impressive abilities as scent hounds, they are good family companions due to their steadfast and sweet-tempered nature.
The Cirneco dell'Etna is an ancient dog breed that is believed to have existed for thousands of years. The proof of the breed's lengthy existence is found in more than 150 types of Sicilian coins made between the fifth and second centuries. These coins contain illustrations of dogs that closely resemble the Cirnechi. There were even sculptures and writings that documented the dog's prolonged existence in Sicily.
Experts believed that Cirnechi's ancestors were brought by Phoenician traders from Northern Africa to the Mediterranean around 1000 BC. Back in the old times in Sicily, these dogs were not owned by aristocrats, but by poor farmers. With their acute sense of smell and hearing, they were used to hunt rabbits. Over time, the Cirnechi adapted and became adept at hunting in a harsh environment that was torrid and full of rocky terrains. He can hunt for an extended period without food and water despite the heat.
The impoverished families that owned the Cirnechi were more focused on keeping the dogs to provide food for their household. They were uninterested with breed standards and pedigrees. Thus, the Cirneco is one of the few dog breeds that developed its modern traits naturally than through human intervention.
Although the Cirneco dell'Etna was well-known in Sicily, he was unheard of to the rest of the world. In 1932, Dr. Maurizio Migneco, a veterinarian, came to the city and wrote of the breed’s endangered status for an Italian hunting journal. An Italian aristocrat named Baroness Agata Paternó Castello heard of the Cirneco's declining numbers and worked to revive the breed. Together with Dr. Maurizio, she successfully popularised the Cirneco dell'Etna for over thirty years. She was the first president of the official breed club that was founded in 1939. The Cirneco was first recognised by the Kennel Club in 2003.
Appearance and Grooming
The Cirneco dell'Etna has a slim and muscular body with an arched, sinewy neck connected to the head that narrows down from the ears to nose. He has a proportioned but slender boning on the cheeks and jaws, with tight and thin lips. His ears have strong cartilaginous bases that hold the canals open. It will be raised straight up if something caught his attention. The Cirneco's rather small eyes, which commonly come in amber, hazel, or ochre, are obliquely set.
The Cirneco’s back is smooth and firm that angles down gradually from the withers to the croup. Attached to it is somewhat a thick tail that is set low. The breed has a short and shiny coat often found in solid colours of chestnut or tan. However, some Cirnechi may have a patch of white or whitish collar. The breed is hypoallergenic, which is a good option for dog enthusiasts with allergies.
Grooming the Cirneco dell'Etna only requires minimal efforts. Brushing his coat weekly will effectively get rid of loose or dead hair. It is recommended to only occasionally bathe your dog, as frequent washing can dry his skin and cause skin problems. Regularly check and clean his ears with soft gauze and an ear-cleaning solution to prevent dirt build-up. Daily brushing of teeth is necessary to keep cavities and doggy breath at bay. Be sure to trim his nails at least once or twice a month since long nails can cause discomfort.
Temperament and Intelligence
The Cirneco dell'Etna loves being around with people and getting involved in fun activities. He makes great companions for adults and families with older children. Other dogs are welcome to his circle of friends too. On the other hand, supervision is needed if he is with a cat or a small animal. Since he has strong hunting instincts, it is impossible to remove his prey drive. Early socialisation will help in curbing this trait.
The Cirneco may tend to be quite independent and stubborn. If left unsupervised, he may wander and explore the neighbourhood on his own. Climbing out on fences is an easy feat for him if the enclosure is short. Thus, backyards with tall fences are highly advisable.
In training, hound dog breeds are known to be a bit rebellious and tend to goof off. However, many dog enthusiasts shared that the Cirneco dell'Etna is easier to train than other hounds. Various noise and scents may distract him, but his eagerness to please his owner makes him a devoted learner. With that said, food rewards will not make him fully motivated. Showering him with praises is the better option to encourage him to learn more. The Cirneco can be successfully trained in lots of dog activities such as agility, hunting, lure coursing, obedience, rally, and tracking.
Nutrition and Feeding
The Cirneco dell’Etna requires a holistic, all-natural, grain-free formula with real meat (no by-products) listed first on the label. Fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, pumpkin, and spinach, can provide vitamins and minerals for healthy development.
Do not choose a dog food that contains cheap fillers, added sugars, sweeteners, artificial flavourings, preservatives, and chemicals. Furthermore, do not feed your Cirneco dell’Etna dog food that contains corn, wheat, or soy.
Other important ingredients to add in your dog’s diet include taurine to support heart health. He also needs a combination of calcium and phosphorus to help strengthen his teeth and bones. Glucosamine is also essential to protect his joints. DHA is needed to support healthy brain development. Omega fatty acids are always a must-have because they have immense benefit on your dog’s heart as well as on his skin and coat. Prebiotics play a vital role in your Cirneco dell’Etna’s digestive track as well as health.
A three- to six-month-old Cirneco dell'Etna puppy needs to be fed three meals a day. For a puppy that is six months to one year old, its food intake should be twice daily. It should be given around two and a half to three cups of food, which should be split into two or three meals for easier digestion. Note that the Cirneco is skilled at climbing and jumping. It can easily clamber up on the dining table to steal food. Make sure to place food far away from its reach after mealtime.
Because the Cirneco dell’Etna is a small-breed dog, it is best that you feed him a dog food formulated specifically to meet the high-energy needs of small-breed dogs. An active dog food formula may also be adequate.
Health and Exercise
The Cirneco dell'Etna is an athletic dog with high levels of energy. If he is left in the house for long periods without exercise and mental stimulation, he will likely develop destructive habits to keep himself entertained. Be sure to walk him at least thirty minutes to one hour daily. Squeeze in a few exciting games and short walks as well to further expend his energy. When walking the Cirneco, avoid keeping him off lead as he may spot a ‘prey’ and chase it.
As a primitive breed that has managed to adapt to a harsh environment, the Cirneco does not currently have any predisposed illnesses. It is believed that natural selection eliminated any genetic weaknesses of the breed. This makes the Cirneco one of the few healthy pure breeds. Keep in mind that due to the extreme heat of the Cirneco’s natural environment, he may be uncomfortable during cold seasons.
Cost of Ownership
The average cost of buying a well-bred Cirneco dell'Etna pedigree puppy is £700–£900. If you opt for pet insurance, which is recommended, you will pay at least £50–£120 a month. If you opt for a lifetime cover be ready to spend £55- £70 a month.
Additional expenses once you start taking care of your new furry friend include high quality dog food and treats that may amount to £120 every year. Medical care will cost you around £1,000 annually and this is inclusive of , vaccinations, boosters, and spaying/neutering, and routine checks.
Miscellaneous expenses such as licence, grooming, and toys may cost you more or less than £450 annually. Be prepared in shouldering this responsibility to ensure that your dog will grow healthy and happy.
Cirneco Dell’Etna Breed Highlights
- The Cirneco dell'Etna is a happy-go-lucky dog that needs ample amounts of exercise.
- He enjoys the company of adults, older kids, and other dogs.
- He needs supervision when around cats and small animals.
- A hypoallergenic dog breed that requires minimal grooming.
- He is easily trained compared to other hound dog breeds.
Are you sure the Cirneco Dell’Etna is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.
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