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Etna's Cirneco Dell

Etna chirnekas

Country of origin:

Small animal hunting

Shades of brown, yellowish brown and hazel. The coat may have some faint white markings.

Gentle, affectionate, temperamental dog. Very active, independent, difficult to train. May be unfriendly with children and other animals

43-51 cm

8-13 kg

12-14 years

Other names:
Sicilian Greyhound, Cirneco Dell ‘Etna


The Etna Cirneco – is a small hound-type dog that is often referred to as a Sicilian Greyhound. These dogs are mainly found in Sicily, especially around the Etna volcano. It is one of the few old dog breeds that have been very little affected by man. It is for this reason that the Etna Chirneco is a very hardy and long-lasting dog breed that is free from any hereditary diseases.

Breed history

The Etna Chirneco came to Sicily around 3000 years ago. Coins from the period 500-300 BC have been found depicting very similar dogs, suggesting that they were already present in Sicily at that time. In some regions of Sicily, Etna chirneks played a religious role – legends say that these dogs guarded the temple of Dionysus and had the ability to recognise gods and non-believers. They are said to have hunted near Mount Etna on stagnant volcanic lava and accompanied pilgrims to the temple. The Etna chirneks were called „Cao cirenaico“ – this name was first mentioned in written sources in 1533. Until 1932, the Etna Chirneco was not known outside Sicily, but in that year an article by Maurizio Migneco on these Sicilian dogs appeared. At that time, most of the breed was bred by peasants and nobody had thought of breeding the Etna Chirneco thoroughly. However, the dogs caught the interest of Baroness Agatha Paternó Castello, who travelled around Sicily in search of the best of the breed. The Baroness bred Etna chirneks for 26 years until her death. In 1939, the first standard for Etna Chirneks was drawn up and the breed was officially recognised only one year later. The first champion of the Italian dog shows was the Etna Chirneco in 1952 (bred by Agata Paternó Castello). In 1989 the Etna Chirnekas standard was updated. To this day, Etna Chirneks participate in dog races organised in France, Finland and the USA, often winning prizes.

Etna’s Cirneco: appearance

The Etna chirneck is a medium-sized dog, with a height of 43-51 cm and a weight of between 8 and 13 kg.At first sight, the Etna chirneck looks very much like the Pharaohs’ dogs, but if you look closely, you can see a lot of differences (they are different in height and body shape, and they have different ears and different tails). The Etna Chirneco is characterised by its square body shape, grace and elegance, long limbs, erect ears and a rather large nose. The head is proportionate to the body, the width of the skull should be no more than half the length of the head. The cheeks are flat, the lips are thin, close-set and the bite may be smooth or scissor-like. The eyes are rather small, oval, slightly protruding, and the colour matches the colour of the coat. Ears are large, close together and held up. The neck of the Etna chirneka must be the same length as the head, strong and muscular. The chest is deep, almost reaching the elbows, and the ribs are rounded and fairly well defined. The tail is low, reaching the ankles and tapering slightly towards the rear. The fur on the head, ears and legs is short, while the fur covering the rest of the body is semi-long and smooth. Colours allowed: various shades of brown, tawny and hazel.

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