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Pharaoh Hound

Nicole Cosgrove

Pharaoh Hound_Shutterstock_Lenkadan
Image Credit: Lenkadan, Shutterstock
The Pharaoh Hound is a medium to large purebred from Malta also known as the Kelb Tal-Fenek and the Kleb tal Fennec (which translates to rabbit dog). As its native name suggests it was bred for hunting especially prey like rabbit and today it does well in lure coursing and obedience events. It is a noble looking dog and one that is very eager to please so it makes a great companion too. It is a very old old breed and in 1979 appeared on a silver coin in Malta to commemorate it as the country’s national dog.
The Pharaoh Hound at A Glance
Name Pharaoh Hound
Other names Kelb Tal-Fenek, Kleb tal Fennec
Nicknames Pharaoh
Origin Malta
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 45 to 55 pounds
Average height 21 to 25 inches
Life span 11 to 14 years
Coat type Fine, harsh, short, smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Tan, red, chestnut, white markings
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 168th by the AKC
Intelligence Above average – takes 15 to 25 repetitions to understand new commands
Tolerance to heat Excellent – can handle even extremely hot climates
Tolerance to cold Low – not good in cold at all of any kind, will need protection
Shedding Average – will have some hair but not a out of control
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Above average – likes its food but is meant to be a slender dog, measure the food and treats and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Low – not much extra to do apart from the usual occasional brush
Barking Frequent – a command to stop should be included with its training
Exercise needs Very active – best with owners who enjoy being active too
Trainability Moderately easy – results will be gradual but not painfully slow!
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Very good – new owners should be okay with it
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization – has strong chase instinct
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Good but its barking could be an issue
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Very healthy only a few issues could come up such as anesthesia sensitivity and allergies
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for miscellaneous items, license, toys and basic training
Average annual expenses $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $2,500
Rescue organizations Several including SPAR and the Pharaoh Hound Club of America
Biting Statistics None reported

The Pharaoh Hound’s Beginnings

The Pharaoh Hound’s beginnings is something that is something of a hot topic. A lot of dog sites will tell you it is from ancient Egypt, that there are paintings in caves that have it depicted on and that ancient Egyptian Pharaohs owned it. While it does have some of the looks of dogs from that time in Egypt in fact DNA testing has proven that this breed does not come from there at all and there is no proof other than those images. With further research you will find that in fact this misconception occurred from when the breed was discovered by visiting Europeans who described the dog as like a Pharaonen hund, a Pharaoh hound, and they themselves have said the name they gave it was not meant to suggest or claim that it was Egyptian in origin, just that it resembled dogs from there.

In Malta it is not called a Pharaoh Hound, it is known as the Kelb tal-Fenek or rabbit hound. The first written reference dates back to the mid 1600s and before that its history is not known. It could have come with travelers, or it could be native to Malta. A further study also found that it comes from several breeds from different origins and is more recent than Ancient Egyptian times. In Malta it was used to hunt rabbit on the island. It was successful because it can hunt both with sight and with scent. As well as being a great rabbit hunter it was also a good guard dog and was used to escort sheep and goat to pasture and as a gundog to flush out game like woodcock and quail.

New Lease on Life

The Pharaoh Hound was not widely known about for several hundred years. In the 1920s they were brought to England but no litter came. Again some were imported in the 1930s and while this time the breeding was more successful, they remained unpopular for another 30 years. Then author Pauline Block in 1963 brought into the country the first hound to be shown. The Kennel Club in England recognized the breed in 1974.

In the late 1960s the first Pharaoh Hounds came to the US with Ruth Harper, Mrs Block and General Block and the first litter came in 1970. Also in 1970 another enthusiast Rita Sacks brought in Pharaohs and she helped form the Pharaoh Hound Club of America that year. In 1977 Lira coins in Malta had the dog’s image on the back of them. In 1984 it was recognized by the AKC and it is an uncommon breed. Its popularity is ranked at 168th by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium to large breed weighing 45 to 55 pounds and standing 21 to 25 inches tall. It is a lithe, noble, sleek and graceful breed with a long arched neck and a long tapered whip like tail that it carries slow when calm and straight or a little curled when alert. It is a tall and athletic breed and its body is a little longer than it is tall. The front legs are straight and in some places dewclaws are removed. Its chest is deep and its coat is short, glossy and can range from a little harsh to fine. Colors accepted in the show ring include tans, reds, golden and chestnuts with some white markings, but no markings on the back.

The skull is flat and long and the head is wedge shaped. Its nose is colored the same as its coat and its eyes are set somewhat deep, are small and oval shaped and amber in color. When born though those eyes are blue and then they change to a yellow or light gold and then deepen to amber as they mature. It has large and erect ears that are broader at the base. When the Pharaoh hound is happy and excited it can ‘blush’, its flesh colored nose turning rosy pink.

The Inner Pharaoh Hound


The Pharaoh Hound is an alert dog and makes a good watchdog who will bark to let you know if there is an intruder trying to get in. Its is not however considered to be an especially protective breed, so may not act to defend you. It is not a suitable breed for new owners, its sensitivity and independence means some experience is very helpful. This dog when raised well is affectionate, gentle, loving, outgoing, quiet, and lively. It needs a home that is not full of drama and owners who are patient and gentle. It barks occasionally but otherwise is light on its feet and are quite good at startling you from behind, even on hard wood flooring!

It is very loyal but can be timid so socialization is important. It does better with single owners, or couples that are children free just because it enjoys a quieter home, not one filled with chaos. It is even-tempered and makes a great companion. With strangers it can be reserved until it gets to know them. They love comfort and soft places and are great at getting themselves into even small places that have blankets or cushions. It can be curious but is also cautious so investigating can be a slow and hesitant thing. It is a dog to be kept in the home that will want to spend time with you, not one to be left alone in a yard. It enjoys life, can sometimes be a clown and try to make you laugh and while loving and affectionate in some cases it can also have moments where it needs its own space.

Living with a Pharaoh Hound

What will training look like?

Pharaoh Hounds are moderately easy to train, they are smart and while they can be independent and stubborn they also like spending time with you and are quite a well behaved dog. Make sure you are positive, calm and offer consistency and firm leadership without being too harsh or negative. It will respond well to treats, praise and encouragement and sessions should be kept short, fun and not be overly repetitive. Owners need to be clear about the rules, and those rules need to be adhered to. You also need to remember that that sighthounds can be touch sensitive so startle easily and verbal corrections should be preferred over physical ones. House training may be a bit harder and you should be prepared for it to take between 6 to 8 months. It is important to start early socialization with the Pharaoh as it can lean towards being timid and nervous, and socialization greatly helps boost their confidence. Expose your dog to different places, situations, people, sounds and animals.

How active is the Pharaoh Hound?

This is a very active breed so needs very active owners too who are quite happy to have the dog be a part of their active lifestyles. It can adapt to apartment living with enough time outside but really it does best with access to land or a large yard. It should be well fenced though as it does like to chase after scents or small critters and can jump high. For the same reason when out walking make sure it is on a leash unless somewhere safe. When you take it out try to do so in warmer times, it can handle some heat but is not so great in the cold so may need a sweater in colder months. The Pharaoh is built for sprinting not marathons, it can put on great bursts of speed and is very fast and graceful when it does, but it does not have a great deal of endurance. Give it a couple of brisk 20 minute walks a day and take it for off leash time somewhere like a dog park and it will be happy. When this dog is well exercised and mentally stimulated it will be more calm when indoors.

Caring for the Pharaoh Hound

Grooming needs

The Pharaoh Hound is not a difficult dog to care for, it has minimal grooming needs in fact other than brushing once or twice a week and then regular maintenance that all dogs need like its nails, teeth and ears. It is low to average shedding so there will not be a lot of hair around the home, just use a hound mitt to keep its coat looking healthy and shiny. It does not have an odor so bathing is really only needed when it gets itself especially dirty. You can wipe it down with a damp cloth a few times a week to keep it clean. One thing you will need to do when wiping it down is to give it a look over for any nicks or cuts. Its coat does not give it much protection and keeping a look out for small wounds that need cleaning is a good way to avoid infection.

Its ears should be wiped clean once a week using a warm damp cloth or ear cleanser with cotton ball. Only wipe clean the area you can reach easily, do not insert anything into the ear, it can hurt your dog and cause damage. At the same time check for infection looking for signs like redness, irritation, a build up of wax or swelling. Its nails should be clipped if they get too long. Some dogs wear their nails down naturally with their activity, but if its nails need to be clipped make sure you know what you are doing. Use proper dog nail clippers and do not cut too far down into the quick of the nail where there are vessels and nerves. It will hurt your dog and cause bleeding. A vet or professional groomer can show you how or do it for you. Its teeth need regular cleaning too. Brush them at least two to three times a week using a dog toothpaste and brush, ask your vet for recommendations.

Feeding Time

The Pharaoh Hound will likely eat 1 1/2 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, and that should be split into two meals. How much exactly will vary from one dog to another depending on its level of activity, metabolism rate, health, age and size. Keep in mind this is a slim and sleek dog, it is not underweight it is meant to be like that. Also owners should be aware that some Pharaohs can have food allergies, if you cannot find a food that it can handle talk to your vet about putting it on a special diet.

How is the Pharaoh Hound with children and other animals?

Pharaoh Hounds can be good with children when raised with them, they can be playful, affectionate and get on well. However in general this breed does better in homes without children or ones that at least have older children because it is a skittish breed. It does not like sudden or loud noises and it does not like being touched when it is not expecting it. If there are children good and early socialization is needed, and supervision should be given to young ones who are likely to still be at the pulling tail and making sudden loud noises stage. Make sure too that you teach children how to approach and touch dogs in a kind way.

This breed has very strong chasing instincts so will want to go after anything that moves. A leash is needed when walking and any enclosed areas should be secured well. If it does take after something like a cat, rabbit or small dog it will be hard to stop as it is so quick and it can do serious damage. It is best in homes that do not have other small non-canine pets. Around other dogs it can get along fine with socialization but there can be dominance issues with dogs of the same sex when they have not been spayed or neutered.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life expectancy of the Pharaoh Hound is 11 to 14 years and it is generally thought to be a hardy and healthy breed. Some things to be aware of though include a sensitivity to medications and insecticides, allergies and while they are not prone to genetic diseases good breeders will still do checks for eye problems, hip dysplasia and patella luxation. As their ears are thin they can be more at risk of frostbite in cold climates.

Biting Statistics

In reports dating back 35 years of dog attacks causing bodily harm in Canada and the US there is no mention of the Pharaoh Hound. It is not one of the breeds noted for being more aggressive towards people and therefore is less likely to instigate an incident. But all dog owners should be aware if you are not already, any dog can attack someone no matter size or breed, all dogs have that potential. It is true some are more likely than others and because of how some are built, some can do more damage. There are things a good owner can do to mitigate the risks, but you can never eliminate them. Good socialization, good training, keeping your dog well exercised and stimulated. Giving it the attention and living conditions it needs. Make sure when you are looking for a dog that you get one that suits your own activity levels, and one that you have the time for.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Pharaoh Hounds are one of the more expensive breeds out there. In an article listing the top ten most expensive breeds it has been stated that a puppy of this breed can range between $2500 to $6500. That would be from an experienced breeder, the lower end would likely cover pet quality dogs and then you will go up to show dog breeders. It might be tempting when you see such a price to look at alternative options like ads and backyard breeders, or other puppy mill sourced places. Please do not give such places your money. The health of your dog has no guarantees, there is no knowledge or experience going into the breeding and often dogs are neglected and mistreated and discarded in inhumane ways.

Initial things you will need when you have your puppy or dog include items like collar and leash, crate, carrier and food bowls. These will cost around $230. Your new pet should also visit a vet as soon as possible for a physical exam, shots, deworming, spaying or neutering, blood tests and a microchip. These initial medical needs will cost about $290.

Costs are also ongoing with any kind of pet. You will need to cover medical needs, feeding, have certain items for it and so on. When looking at annual costs for a Pharaoh Hound you can expect basic health care like shots, check ups, flea and tick prevention and pet insurance to come to about $485 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats can be around $270 a year. Then other miscellaneous costs like toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items can cost about $245 a year. This gives a starting annual figure estimate of $1000.


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The Pharaoh Hound is an elegant, slender athletic dog. It needs daily walks and regular opportunities for sprinting off leash somewhere safe. It can be nervous and timid so socialization is essential and it needs owners who are even-tempered, and a home that is calm and stress free. It is loyal and affectionate and will even be entertaining at times but it does best in child free and pet free homes though it does fine with other dogs, it is best not with toy sized ones.

Image Credit: Lenkadan, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.