Cirneco dell'Etna

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self-coloured fawn; fawn with white; self-coloured white; white with orange patches
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • forms strong bonds with its master
  • great hunter
  • wonderful family companion
  • independent-minded
  • requires a lot of daily exercises

The Cirneco dell’Etna is an energetic and amicable breed, which came from the island of Sicily. The dog has been hunting there for over 2500 years and its predominant types of game were rabbits and hares. This creature wants nothing than a company of its master and has a strong potential of becoming an excellent family dog.

The Cirneco dell’Etna is considered to be a primitive dog that has a wolf for its immediate forefather. This means that the history of this Sight Hound began as early as 7 000 years ago, at the times when the concept of a purebred dog started to gain its universal acceptance. It’s widely believed that the ancient Tessem or a closely related Egyptian or Mesopotamian breeds were ancestors of all Sight Hounds. Phoenicians and Greeks are most likely responsible for the spread of these dogs across the Mediterranean.

It has already been proved that the Cirneco dell’Etna arrived to the Sicilia from the Middle East. The term «Cirneco» is a modified Greek word «Kyrenaikos», which stands for ancient name of the Libyan city of Shahhat. The breed’ original name was the Cane Cirenaico, which is translated as «Dog from Cyrenaica». This implies that the breed was brought to Sicilia by Greek merchants who traded between Cyrene and Syracuse. Nonetheless there is one crucial flaw in this theory: Cyrene was grounded in the III century B.C. but the Cirneco dell’Etna is probably much older. The recent genetic research showed that it was most likely invented on Sicily and developed by scrupulous breeding selection of local dogs.

The Cirneco dell’Etna was of a great importance for indigenous people, particularly in religious and mythological aspects. On ancient coins can be found depiction of the dog on one side, and the face of the Sicilian God Adranos, embodiment of the volcano Etna, on the other. This purports that as early as 2 500 years this dog was already associated with the Volcano that granted it its current name. Despite its religious meaning the major speciality of the breed was hunting and the common prey was a rabbit. Rabbit hunting played a significant role for Sicilian farming industry since this animal devoured crops causing substantial loss. Naturally, hunting was an excellent way to feed the family and it was also considered as a fascinating sport.

In the beginning of the XX century the population of the Cirneco dell’Etna fell dramatically since the hunting lost its essential importance for subsistence and, of course, survival. At that point the dog remained rather unknown in other parts of Italy with an exception for Sicilia Island. A few concerned Italians recognised the problem and invested much time and efforts in its restoration. The great contribution to the revival of the breed was made by Baroness Agata Paterno Castello of the Dukes of Carcaci who spent 26 years of her life trying to bring back the former significance of the Cirneco dell’Etna. The careful breeding improved the genetic pool and popularity of the dog so by the end of XX century it was widely spread across Italy.

In 1989, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognised the Cirneco dell’Etna. In 2006 the United Kennel Club (UKC) gave the dog its full acceptance. The breed has already made the first step to the full recognition of the American Kennel Club (AKC), which provisionally recognised it.

The Cirneco dell’Etna has a reputation of an independent thinker but it also tends to be really loving and tender with its family. This dog is a typical extrovert and hates being alone that’s why it’s likely to feel an acute separation anxiety. Provided it has been introduced to the younger members of its family timely and correctly it will behave itself carefully and politely with them.

It’s hard to draw any certain conclusion concerning the dog’s relationship with strangers. Some of the specimens are quite accepting and welcoming with them but others express suspiciousness and distrust during the initial meeting. It’s also impossible to generalise the breed’s skills as a watchdog. On the whole most of the dogs are vigilant and attentive and will make good watchdogs. The role of a guard dog is not ideal for this breed since the Cirneco dell’Etna is deprived of the essential aggressiveness and brutality.

The Cirneco dell’Etna gets on well with other canine animals and would gladly co-exist with minimum one another dog, preferably with another Cirneco dell’Etna. In some cases the issues of unacceptable aggressiveness or shyness may arise in relation with other canines but it can be effectively eliminated with proper training and socialisation. Thousands years of hunting have imprinted the strong prey drive deep into the dog’s mind so the Cirneco dell’Etna poses a substantial threat to small species. The dog, which has been living with a home cat for all its life, will most probably put up with its existence and won’t bother it any way. Although some breed members can never be trusted with any small creature.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• cold intolerance;
• anaesthesia sensitivity;
• lack of cushioning;
• demodex mange;
• skin allergies.

Grooming requirements for the Cirneco dell’Etna are fairly low and include only systematic brushing and rare baths. Except for this its owner should keep the dog’s teeth clean and nails timely clipped. The breed does shed and the intensity of shedding depends on an individual specimen. Generally speaking the dog sheds very moderately but some tend to lose most of its hair.

The Cirneco dell’Etna possesses a high level of intelligence and it’s highly responsive to training. Actually it’s considered to be the most capable learner among all Sight Hounds. It usually achieves impressive results in agility and obedience contests. Corrective techniques of training are poor choice for this dog since it does best with positive reinforcement and plentiful of food incentives.

Always remember that the Cirneco dell’Etna can be easily distracted by some compelling view or smell and it’s virtually impossible to call back once it initiates a pursuit. Therefore the owner should keep the dog on a leash at all times.

The Cirneco dell’Etna can be described as an athletic and active dog, which means that it needs considerable amount of exercise on a daily basis. The walk for this breed should last minimum an hour but the dog would rather prefer to run freely in a safely secured territory. Without a chance to release its excessive energy it tends to turn into a hyper active, nervous, or even aggressive animal.

Nonetheless with proper commitment the Cirneco dell’Etna is quite a good choice for an average family. When the dogs’ need in physical activity is satisfied it will be calm and relaxed at home and will peacefully sleep on the couch, snuggling under the covers.