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Cirneco Dell’Etna Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 1, 2024 by Dogster Team

Cirneco Dell'Etna dog standing by the dock

Cirneco Dell’Etna Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

While many modern dog breeds came into form through centuries-long breeding efforts, the Cirneco dell’Etna is a rare, untouched original. The sleek, sinewy hound has been a revered hunter and a beloved companion in their native Sicily for ages.

Despite their admirable athleticism and temperament, the Cirneco dell’Etna is surprisingly underappreciated outside Europe. Let’s explore why this ancient breed deserves every dog lover’s attention in this look at the Cirneco dell’Etna’s temperament and traits.

Breed Overview


17–20 inches


19–28 pounds


15–16 years


Tan, white markings

Suitable for:

Families with older children, attentive and active owners


Independent, loyal, affectionate, gentle, athletic, sensitive, stubborn

With their sizable, perked-up ears, the Cirneco dell’Etna looks familiar to relatives like the larger Pharaoh and Ibizan Hounds. Phoenician traders likely deposited African dogs on various islands during their travels, allowing these unique breeds to take shape.

The name “Cirneco” stems from the Greek for “dog of Cyrene,” referencing modern-day Libya and its ancestors’ probable origins. The “dell’Etna” portion of the name appeared in the 20th century to acknowledge the breed’s home near Mount Etna.

Sicilian farmers used the Cirnechi for hunting rabbits, birds, and other small game for centuries. Hardened through their work on the hot, dry volcanic landscape, these durable dogs were coveted helpers, perhaps explaining their rarity outside their native Italy.

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 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 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 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.

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Cirneco Dell’Etna Puppies

Cirneco Dell'Etna puppies sitting on dog bed
Image Credit: tkach-artvitae, Shutterstock

Cirneco dell’Etna puppies are rare in the United States, and you may have to travel to meet a reputable breeder. To get started, the AKC Marketplace features AKC-affiliated breeders around the country. You can also find a handful of Cirneco breeders through the national parent club, the Cirneco dell’Etna Club of America.

Since only a few hundred registered Cirnechi exist in America, finding a purebred from a rescue is unlikely. Though it’s a long shot, hopeful adopters can inquire on the CdECA website’s rescue section or check the various hound rescue groups nationwide.

Once you find your Cirneco puppy, start working on socialization and training. While Cirnechi are friendly, unintimidating dogs, they can be wary of strangers. Taking advantage of their curiosity and desire to learn is crucial during their short puppyhood.

You can introduce them to assorted people, socialized pets, and settings. Given their high prey drive, they’ll also do well with other pets in the home if raised alongside them from a young age.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Cirneco Dell’Etna 🧠

The Cirneco dell’Etna is, in many ways, a classic sighthound. Since they had to give chase and often outrun their handlers, they had to think for themselves to complete their jobs. Today, that mindset entails stubbornness, requiring a patient and devoted owner.

Fortunately, their size and sweet nature make their willfulness more endearing and mischievous than threatening or aggressive. Still, they will need socialization and training to overcome their aloofness and build confidence around strangers.

Due to their Independence and intelligence, Cirnechis can challenge unprepared owners. Though they don’t need much physical activity, they get bored quickly. Without adequate attention, they can entertain themselves by chewing plants, clothes, and anything with the proper texture, and they may resist training if they don’t see enough value.

They’re biddable compared to many sighthounds, especially when engaging in activities that utilize their athleticism, wits, and instincts.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a loving, gentle companion to adults and children. They aren’t large or clumsy enough to cause much accidental damage during play and can become tolerant with sufficient socialization.

They’re sensitive to rough play, and parents should teach their children to play respectfully and responsibly. The best arrangement is an active family with older, more experienced children. The family environment is ideal to give the Cirneco the engagement they demand.

They love to be involved with family at every opportunity, whether it’s an invigorating hike, playing in the yard, or cuddling on the couch. Alone time can easily lead to boredom, frustration, and anxiety. Providing as much positive attention as possible and adequate enrichment when you can’t help maintain their calm demeanor at all times.

Cirneco Dell'Etna dogs in the studio
Image Credit: Jne Valokuvaus, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Cirnechi are friendly and fun-loving with other dogs in public and at home. But their prey drive can be troublesome with smaller animals like cats, birds, or rabbits. One sudden movement and your dog will likely give chase.

Raising them with others from a young age will build their tolerance for pets in the house, but you should always supervise interactions, as they may still playfully stalk and pounce on others, which can be stressful for any animal.

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Things to Know When Owning a Cirneco Dell’Etna:

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a sensitive soul, and they may take a while to adapt to new situations and schedules. They can live in apartments if they can get enough exercise but will thrive with a high-fenced yard.

The greatest challenge is their independence and reactivity. Because they are athletic, high-energy, and curious escape artists, Cirnechi need constant supervision and containment. Developing a solid recall is challenging, and they’ll often only be manageable on a leash.

The Cirneco can be a bit of a barker, though they aren’t the most vocal breed. While that’s an excellent trait for an effective watchdog, it may also cause issues with neighbors. Socializing with the neighborhood and creating positive experiences with those around you will help them become comfortable and confident, reducing their need to bark whenever the person next door comes or goes.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Cirneco dell’Etna doesn’t have special nutritional requirements, but providing a high-quality diet appropriate for their age is essential in maintaining their weight and ensuring proper development.

Your vet will be your best resource for building a feeding schedule around your dog’s unique needs. Generally, adults will eat up to 2 cups daily between two meals, though they can also eat smaller portions more often to maintain their energy and avoid bloat.

Cirneco Dell'Etna dog standing on grass
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

Cirnechi don’t have extreme exercise demands despite their activity levels. However, they still need an ample workout to stave off poor behaviors. A few daily walks paired with backyard play, dog park time, or indoor games will satisfy them. Even better, you can try activities like lure coursing, agility, obedience, and anything else that stimulates their minds.

Training 🦮

Cirnechi are sharp, trainable dogs. They learn quickly and can impress in several disciplines with their physical prowess backing them up. The challenge is keeping them engaged. Though they don’t try to assert dominance, Cirnechi are independent and quick to ignore training when it benefits them or no longer interests them.

Meanwhile, they’re sensitive, making training a careful balancing act of positivity and firm, consistent guidance. Training sessions should be short to keep them focused and geared toward success so they can earn plenty of treats.

Cirneco Dell'Etna dog looking up
Image Credit: Alyona Mikhailova, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

A short single coat makes for easy grooming and minimal shedding. The Cirneco only needs occasional brushing with a bristle brush (or even a quick pass with a dog wipe) to remove dirt and smooth the hair.

Baths will only be necessary every few months, with nail trimmings occurring every 2–4 weeks to keep them from scraping the ground. You should check your ears regularly for wax and dirt buildup. The most frequent grooming task is teeth brushing. Dogs need their teeth brushed at least once every couple of days, with dental-friendly chews and supplements offered on occasion to keep their mouths fresh and healthy.

Health and Conditions ❤️

The Cirneco dell’Etna is one of the healthiest breeds. They live long and experience few congenital physical problems. With annual checkups, preventative care for parasites, a nutritious diet, and a dependable exercise routine, you can avoid many common issues they might face.

Much of the research on prevalent Cirneco diseases and disorders focuses on eye issues, including cataracts, iris atrophy and hypoplasia, and vitreous degeneration. Studies also link them to myxomatous mitral valve disease, the most common cardiovascular disorder among dogs, particularly smaller breeds.

Also, their fast development and body shape can predispose them to bloat and various orthopedic issues, including osteochondritis dissecans, hip and elbow dysplasia, and patellar luxation.

Minor Conditions
  • Obesity
Serious Conditions
  • Eye disorders
  • Bloat
  • Thyroid issues (hypothyroidism, thyroiditis)
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia
  • Osteochondrosis
  • MMVD

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Male vs Female

Male and female Cirnechi differ primarily in build, with males standing a couple of inches taller and weighing a few pounds more. Little separates them temperament-wise, as both sexes are calm, affectionate, and rarely aggressive.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Cirneco Dell’Etna

1. The Cirneco Dell’Etna Is Italy’s Oldest Breed

Italy has played a pivotal part in developing countless breeds over the centuries, and it’s a hub for numerous heavy-coated shepherd dogs, talented hunters, lovable lap dogs, and fearsome Molosser war dogs. There are now nearly 30 recognized Italian dog breeds alongside numerous local offshoots, virtually all bearing an ancient lineage. And the oldest among them is the Cirneco.

Cirnechi likely took a direct route from Africa to their homeland of Sicily with the Phoenicians around 1,200–800 B.C. Interestingly, the breed has remained relatively unchanged since the founding population despite their lengthy history.

2. The Cirneco Dell’Etna Stayed a Sicilian Secret for Centuries

One reason the Cirneco dell’Etna preserved much of their original form over the millennia was their relative isolation. In their native Sicily, the dog was a highly valued hunter and one the locals didn’t want to share with the outside world.

The breed was so protected that it didn’t gain recognition outside Sicily until the 1930s, when a Sicilian baroness, Donna Agata Castello, discovered the Cirneco and began an exhaustive breeding effort to revitalize their numbers.

3. The Cirneco Hunts by Sight, Smell, and Sound

With their acute senses, categorizing the Cirneco as a sighthound or scenthound isn’t straightforward. The efficient hounds didn’t rely on hearing, smell, or sight alone to hunt across the lava-laden slopes around Mount Etna; instead, they utilized all three to find and pursue game.

The Cirneco depended primarily on scent. According to the FCI Standard, they use their keen eyesight to scout locations, while their hearing helps them locate rabbits. From there, their powerful sniffers let them track their quarry and flush them from their hiding places.

Cirneco Dell'Etna dog in the forest
Image Credit: tkach-artvitae, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

The talented, sweet-natured, and elegant Cirneco dell’Etna never fails to impress and delight. Here is a rare opportunity worth any dog lover’s consideration, as Cirnechi desire nothing more than to share their boundless affection and joyous personalities with family.

Though their independent streaks take patience and consistency to manage, devoted and loving owners can easily bring out the best in one of the canine kingdom’s finest companions.

Featured Image Credit: Alyona Mikhailova, Shutterstock

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