The Cirneco dell’Etna Dog Breed: Everything You Need to Know

The Cirneco dell’Etna is an ancient and athletic coursing hound hailing from the Italian island of Sicily. The breed is described as independent, friendly, and affectionate.  

In this article, we will delve into the history, physical traits, personality, and health issues of the Cirneco dell’Etna to provide you with a complete guide to this fascinating breed.

History and Origin of the Cirneco dell’Etna

Ancient Roots in Sicily

The Cirneco dell’Etna breed is native to the Mediterranean island of Sicily. The breed descended from ancient hounds that arrived on the Sicilian craggy shores on Phoenician trading ships over 3000 years ago. 

These dogs, despite their slender and gentle looks, were skilled hunters of rabbits, hares, and game birds. They were fast and agile and roamed the hostile environment around Mount Etna for hundreds of years. 

Over time, the breed evolved and developed into the Cirneco dell’Etna we know today. However, the breed’s ancient roots are still evident in its appearance and temperament. 

The Breed’s Connection to Mount Etna

The Cirneco dell’Etna name is derived from the iconic Mount Etna, which is a highly active volcano in Sicily. The mountain has played a significant role in the island’s history and culture and impacted the development of the Cirneco dell’Etna breed.

The steep slopes of Mount Etna provided a challenging hunting ground for the dogs, and only the most agile and tenacious breeds of dogs were able to navigate the terrain and catch their prey. 

Preservation and Recognition Efforts

Historically, the breed was only known regionally, and its population was relatively small. However, in the 1930s, coordinated efforts were made to preserve and promote the breed, leading to increased recognition and popularity.

Today, the Cirneco dell’Etna is recognized by major kennel clubs worldwide, including the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.

The breed’s popularity has also grown outside of its native Sicily, and it is now a beloved companion animal in many parts of the world. However, despite its increasing popularity, the Cirneco dell’Etna remains a relatively rare dog. 

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Size and Weight

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a medium-sized breed. Males weigh 22 to 26 pounds, and females 17 to 22 pounds. Males typically stand 18 to 19.5 inches tall at the shoulders, and females around 16.5 to 18 inches. 

Females are generally smaller than males, but both sexes are well-muscled. Despite the relatively small size, Cirneco dell’Etnas are very athletic and enduring. They can run fast and jump high.  

Coat and Colors

The Cirneco dell’Etna has a short, sleek, and glossy coat that is perfectly suited for the warm climate of Sicily. The coat of the breed comes in only one color – tan. 

Despite the short coat, Cirneco dell’Etnas require regular grooming to keep their coats healthy and shiny. Brushing their coats once a week and bathing them every few months is vital.

Distinctive Features

The Cirneco dell’Etna has a distinctive look with large, erect ears, a long, tapered muzzle, and a lean, muscular body. The eyes are almond-shaped and glossy, and the paws have thick pads to aid with traction when running and jumping.

One of the most distinctive features of the Cirneco dell’Etna is their incredible sense of smell. They have been used for centuries as hunting dogs in Sicily, where they are known for their ability to track prey over long distances. 

Temperament and Personality Traits

Intelligence and Trainability

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a highly intelligent breed that can master a wide range of commands and tasks. They are quick learners and respond to positive reinforcement training methods, making them excellent for novice and experienced dog owners.

While they are independent thinkers, they are also eager to please their owners. Cirneco dell’Etna breed members thrive on mental stimulation and enjoy activities that challenge their intellect, such as agility training or puzzle games.

Energy Levels and Exercise Needs

The Cirneco dell’Etna is an energetic breed that requires daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. They are a breed that excels at activities such as running, hiking, and lure coursing and need a substantial amount of outdoor space to run and play.

Without proper exercise, they may become bored and develop destructive behaviors such as chewing or digging. The breed is best for houses with yards but can live in apartments if provided with enough physical activity. 

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

The Cirneco dell’Etna has a friendly and sociable disposition, making it an excellent choice for families with children and other pets. They are generally good with children and other pets, especially when socialized from a young age.

However, like any breed, they may become aggressive or territorial if they feel threatened or neglected. It is important to socialize your Cirneco dell’Etna to ensure that they develop proper social skills and are comfortable in new situations.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a generally healthy breed. However, like all dogs, it can be prone to: 

  • Dental Issues: All smaller dog breeds are susceptible to plaque and tartar build-up, which leads to periodontal disease and early tooth loss 
  • Ear Infections: The breed’s ears can trap dirt and moisture, which increases the risk of ear infections that are painful and hard to manage 

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

To keep your Cirneco dell’Etna healthy and happy, it is important to provide them with regular preventative care, including routine checkups, vaccinations, and parasite control.

It is also advisable to provide a healthy diet and exercise routine and to invest time and effort in proper grooming, including dental care, ear cleaning, and nail trimming. 

Expected Lifespan

With proper care and attention, the Cirneco dell’Etna can live a long and healthy life, making them an ideal companion for many years to come. The breed’s average lifespan is between 12 and 14 years. 


The Cirneco dell’Etna is undoubtedly a breed worth considering as a pet. The unique appearance, intelligence, and friendly nature make this dog a great choice for families or individuals, with or without other pets and children of all ages. 

If you are looking for a dog that is not only loyal but also has an interesting history and great health, then the Cirneco dell’Etna is perfect. Find a breeder and be patient since the breed is rare, and it may take some time until there is a puppy available. 

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