The Cirneco dell'Etna is a small Italian hound-type dog used in Sicily for rabbit hunting. It’s found all over the island and particularly in the area surrounding the active volcano, Mount Etna, where the dogs hunt on terrain formed by volcanic lava. Its presence in Sicily is noteworthy as it’s one of the few ancient breeds that have undergone very little manipulation by man. Instead, the breed has been rigorously selected by nature for its ability to work for hours in the heat without food and water. Thus, the dog we have today is extremely hardy, free from inherited health problems. Affectionate and friendly, it is considered easier to train than some of its sighthound cousins.
The Cirneco dell'Etna has been registered as an Italian breed with the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI) since 1939 and the Federation Cynologique International (FCI) where it is classified in the fifth group as a primitive hunting dog. In the UK it is registered in the Imported Register Hound group.
When you first see a Cirneco, with its stunning shades of tan, triangular prick ears and long pointed muzzle, the initial impression is that is that you’re
looking at a miniature Pharaoh hound. The similarity is striking, but the discerning eye will soon note the substantial difference in the conformation of the two breeds. In fact, careful examination and comparison of the FCI Cirneco dell'Etna breed standard with the Pharaoh hound standard reveal numerous points where ideal breed characteristics differ. The Cirneco dell’Etna is smaller, with a maximum height of 46-50cm for males and 42-46cm for bitches.
"Cirneco" is pronounced "cheer-NAY-ko" and its plural is Cirnechi (cheer-NAY- kee). The name first appears in writing in a 1533 bylaw in Sicily imposing sanctions against anyone using "cernechi" for hunting, as they were considered damaging to prey.
The dog's affectionate temperament and adaptability make it an excellent family companion. The breed has altered very little over the centuries and remains the primitive hunting dog, retaining its natural hunting instincts primarily using scent, although a characteristic of the breed is its ability to hunt also by sight and hearing. However, despite its primitive origins, if adequately socialized and habituated to all sorts of situations and stimuli, Cirnechi are affectionate, friendly and adapt well to family life as they love the comforts of home. The Cirneco has a lively and active temperament which requires mental stimulation and interaction within the family, as well as regular exercise to maintain well-being.
Health and fitness
The Italian Cirneco dell’Etna Breed Club and the Italian Kennel club take the issue of the health of the breed very seriously and to ensure that Show champions are fit for function, in their home country Cirnechi are run in field trials. Qualifying at one of these trials is a necessary criterion, together with 5 CCs in national and international shows in Italy, to gain the title of Italian Show Champion. Since January 2014, a working trial qualification is also obligatory to be awarded the FCI International Show Champion title.
Most dogs enjoy a healthy life, living up to between 13 to 15 years; older is not unusual. There is no supported veterinary evidence that there are any conditions affecting the Cirneco dell’Etna that either are, or are believed to be, of an hereditary nature.
The Club in the UK is monitoring reports from owners and other foreign breed clubs to establish any trends regarding breed health problems. At present the Cirneco dell’Etna Club considers there is no cause for concern regarding health issues in the Cirneco dell’Etna.
The breed in the UK
The first Cirneco in the UK was imported from Italy in 2001. Two years later in 2003 another Italian import gave birth to the first litter registered with the KC. Since then the number of registrations with the KC has been consistent and steady. During the first ten years from 2003 to 2013, more than one hundred of the breed were registered with the Kennel Club. During 2013 nineteen were registered both from litters born in the UK and imports. 2014 has already seen the birth of two litters from totally different bloodlines and five imports from Italy during the first part of the year. The average litter is of 4-5 pups so numbers will increase slowly but steadily. Emphasis has been placed on quality and variety of blood lines-rather than quantity.
Notable dates for the breed
4000BC reliefs of a prick eared dog
400BC Images of the breed on a temple at Adrano
380BC Found on art works in Sicily
1533 1st Text about Hunting with Cirnechi
1932 article by Dr. Maurizio Migneco
1939 1st Breed Standard Italian KC
1951 1st Breed Club Italy
1952 1st Breed Champion
1956 Breed Club Recognised by Italian KC
1989 Breed Standard adopted by FCI
2001 Imported into UK
2003 1st UK Registration for the breed
2007 Breed Standard interim accepted by UK KC
2008 Cirnechi exhibited at a KC show
2009 The Cirneco dell'Etna Club started
2010 The Cirneco dell'Etna Club became affiliated with the UK Kennel Club
2013 Crufts hosts Import Register classes for the Cirneco
2014 FCI imposes Work trial qualification as a criterion for the International Show Championship
2014 Breed stand held at the Hound Show and parade of imported breeds with ten Cirneco exhibits including a veteran from the first UK litter.
2015 First Cirneco dell'Etna Club Companion Show
2015 the Kennel Club approved the transfer of the Cirneco dell'Etna from the Imported Breed Register to the Breed Register. Breed classes available at KC shows from October 1st 2015.
2016 Crufts breed classes for the CdE for the first time
2016 First Cirneco dell'Etna Club Single Breed Open Show hosted by the Houndshow