Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Cirneco dell’Etna Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Cirneco dell’Etna Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Cirneco dell’Etna

With a striking resemblance to its larger, more well-known cousin the Pharaoh Hound, the Cirneco dell’Etna (cheer-NEK-o del etna) is an ancient Sicilian hound weighing in at less than 30 pounds and standing no more than 20 inches in height.

This unique Italian breed hails from the island of Sicily. They were originally bred to hunt rabbits. Cirneco dell’Etna gets its name from Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. The breed is slender and elegant with distinct erect ears.

Breed Overview


17 – 20 inches


17 – 26 pounds


12 – 14 years


Chestnut, tan

Suitable for:

Moderately active-active families, those looking for an adaptable, low-shedding family dog


Friendly, affectionate, independent

They have amber-colored eyes that complement the varying shades of tan and chestnut coat coloration. Their glossy, short coat makes it incredibly low maintenance for grooming. This breed makes a great choice for those who wish to avoid heaving shedding.

Like most hounds, the Cirneco dell’Etna is an independent breed. They are loving and bond quickly with their owners. They are known for their friendliness, intelligence, and trainability.

This is a versatile, healthy breed with a longer-than-average lifespan, making it an excellent companion for most households.

Cirneco dell’Etna Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog paw

Cirneco dell’Etna Puppies

Cute Cirneco dell'Etna puppy
Image By: Zoja Emelianova, Shutterstock

Since the Cirneco dell’Etna were originally bred as hunting dogs they will require a moderate amount of exercise. They do have an independent streak, so it is best to start training at an early age. They are generally very willing to please and receptive to training.

Hunting origins give this breed a strong prey drive and a natural urge to chase. They will require a proper introduction to cats and other small pets. You will want to implement proper socialization to ensure you have a well-mannered dog.

Their slim build coupled with a short, fine coat makes them more sensitive to extreme cold. It is best they live indoors with their owners and are not kept outside for long periods. They can jump quite high and may do best supervised in a fenced-in yard.

Overall, they are an extremely healthy breed with a lifespan of 12-14 years. They do great with people, including children, and make wonderful house pets.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Cirneco dell’Etna

Smart, friendly, loving, and affectionate, the Cirneco dell’Enta have a great combination of attributes. They enjoy attention and love to spend quality time with their family. Their gentle, friendly nature coupled with their small size does not make them a prime candidate for a guard dog.

The strength and independence they exhibit do not hinder their trainability. The breed aims to please and catches on quickly during training. It is best to start training as early as possible to ensure a more well-rounded companion.

They are natural hunters. They use their keen eyesight and hearing with quick bursts of speed to obtain their prey. Quick movements from small animals can spark their instinct to chase. Do not be surprised if they have some trouble resisting the urge to go after a squirrel or rabbit that you encounter in the yard or on a walk.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Cirneco dell’Etna would make a wonderful family pet. They will bond quickly with their family and usually have no trouble welcoming strangers into their world. They are playful, love to be around people, and are known to do well with children.

For safety purposes, young children should be supervised around any pets. This will help prevent injuries to the animal and the child.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

With proper socialization, the Cirneco dell’Etna should have no trouble getting along well with other family pets. Keep in mind they were bred to hunt small game and possess a naturally high prey drive.

Cirneco dell’Etna needs an early introduction to cats and other small pets. These introductions should always be made slowly and with caution. Proper socialization at a young age is key.


Things to Know When Owning a Cirneco dell’Etna

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Cirneco dell’Etna should be fed high-quality dog food appropriate to the individual dog’s age and activity level. Any concerns regarding the quantity or frequency of feedings should be addressed directly with a veterinarian.

Exercise 🐕

The playful and inquisitive Cirneco dell’Etna will require moderate amounts of exercise and mental stimulation for their overall wellbeing. This breed will do fine with daily walks and playtime but would also be up for more rigorous activities.

It is not recommended to leave them alone outside for long periods. They can become lonely if left outside without their owner. They are notorious for their jumping abilities and are known to dig. This could be cause for concern if left unsupervised.

Training 🎾

Early socialization and training are recommended and help to ensure that the Cirneco dell’Enta becomes a well-behaved family pet. A loving and friendly nature makes them very responsive to training.

They can be trained in obedience, agility, tracking, and hunting. Due to the breed’s strong prey drive, a careful and slow introduction is necessary when introducing to cats and small animals.

Grooming ✂️

The Cirneco dell’Etna has a smooth, short-haired coat that requires minimal care. They are not heavy shedders and require no more than a weekly brushing.

Their ears should be checked regularly for any dirt or buildup and cleaned as needed. Regular nail trimmings are necessary if the nails do not naturally wear down with activity.

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a very hearty and healthy breed. They are not prone to any breed-specific health conditions.

They are a slender, short-coated breed and this causes them to be sensitive to cold weather conditions.

As with most breeds, they are susceptible to periodontal disease, which can have serious consequences if left untreated. They have been known to get the occasional muscle injury from strenuous physical activity.

Good nutrition and preventative veterinary care can result in a long-lived, extremely healthy dog.

Minor Conditions
  • Muscle tears
Serious Conditions
  • Periodontal disease

Minor Condition

  • The Cirneco dell’Etna is an exceptionally healthy breed overall. They can be susceptible to muscle tears associated with physical activity. Always consult your veterinarian if you believe your pet has suffered an injury.

Serious Condition

  • The Cirneco dell’Etna is susceptible to periodontal disease. It is best to check with your veterinarian for preventative measures.

Male vs Female

Courageous and self-confident, both males and females have an unbelievably soft, gentle, and affectionate character. They enjoy being showered with attention.

Females typically weigh between 17 and 22 pounds and are generally between 16 and 18 inches tall.

Males typically weigh between 22 and 26 pounds and stand between 18 and 20 inches tall.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Cirneco dell’Etna

1. The Cirneco dell’Etna Evolved by Natural Selection

Most dog breeds that we know and love today are a direct result of human intervention. That’s not the case for the Cirneco dell’Etna. This hearty breed evolved through natural selection by hunting rabbits and other small game in the hot, dry conditions surrounding Mount Etna.

2. The Cirneco dell’Etna is One of the World’s Oldest Breeds

Also known as the Sicilian Greyhound, Sicilian Rabbit Hound, and Sicilian Rabbit Dog, this breed has existed on the island for thousands of years. Dogs resembling the Cirneco dell’Etna have been found on Sicilian coins dated as far back as 500 B.C.

It is thought the dogs were brought by ship to the island of Sicily by way of ancient Phoenician sailors who traded textiles, wood, glass, metals, incense, papyrus, and carved ivory.

Legend has it the Cirneco dell’Etna guarded the temple of Adranos located on a slope of Mount Etna. They were believed to have the divine ability to pick out the non-believers who approached the temple.

3. The Cirneco dell’Etna Nearly Went Extinct

During the early 20th century, the breed’s population was in drastic decline. This prompted Dr. Maurizio Migneco, a veterinarian to write a heartfelt article about the breed and its seemingly imminent demise.

The article caught the attention of wealthy Sicilian aristocrat Baroness Agata Paterno’ Castello. He then dedicated the next 26 years to the breed’s recovery.


Final Thoughts

Ancient and rare, Cirneco dell’Etna is an impressive breed that loves people, is great with children and has a sleek, unique appearance.

Their size, moderate exercise requirements, low maintenance grooming and overall adaptability make the Cirneco dell’Etna a compatible breed for many.

They can thrive in an urban apartment, a rural country setting or anything in between. Their versatility will allow them to follow you through all stages of life.

You will need to do your research to find a breeder within the United States and obtaining a puppy may require patience, travel and extra expenses.

With proper nutrition and veterinary care, this breed will make a fantastic long-lived member of your family.

Related Reads and Breeds:

Featured Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets