Cirneco dell’Etna Dog Breed

About the Cirneco dell’Etna

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a graceful, slender dog native to the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. Characterized by its agile and elegant physique, this breed has served as a rabbit hunter on the challenging terrain surrounding Mount Etna for over two millennia. Famed for its stamina and keen sense of smell, the Cirneco is a breed deeply ingrained in Sicilian culture and history.

AKC Group

AKC Group


Dog Breed Height


16.5 – 19.5 Inches

Dog Breed Weight


17 – 26 Pounds

Dog Breed Lifespan


12 – 14 Years


Country of Origin Italy
Bred For Small Game Hunting, Companionship
Known For Independence, Endurance, Gentleness
Popularity Low
Temperament Strong, Lively, Independent
Activities Hunting, Running, Hiking, Conformation Shows, Dog Sports

History of the Cirneco dell’Etna

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a breed steeped in antiquity, with an origin that can be traced back over two millennia. This elegant hound is named after Mount Etna, the majestic volcano situated on the eastern coast of Sicily that has been a silent witness to the breed’s evolution and enduring presence.

The ancestors of the Cirneco are believed to have been brought to Sicily by the Phoenicians, a group of ancient maritime traders from the eastern Mediterranean region. Over the centuries, the dogs adapted to the island’s challenging geography, particularly the rocky areas around Mount Etna. Their lightweight physique, coupled with an inherent hardiness and agility, made them ideal for hunting game, primarily rabbits, across the mountainside.

Numerous artifacts and coins from ancient Sicily depict images of the Cirneco, underscoring the breed’s significance and reverence in the ancient past. Some of these remnants date back as far as the 5th century BC, showcasing the small hound’s long-standing presence in the region.

Despite its ancient origins, the Cirneco dell’Etna remained relatively isolated for much of its existence, leading to the preservation of its genetic purity. It wasn’t until the 20th century that concerted efforts were made to stave off the breed’s demise by seeking official recognition for its existence. Driven by enthusiasts who appreciated the breed’s history and unique attributes, efforts were made that resulted in the formation of a Breed Standard and subsequent acknowledgment by purebred dog registries.

Today, the Cirneco dell’Etna is recognized by several major registries and kennel clubs, including the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), and The Royal Kennel Club (UK). Though not as widespread as some other breeds, the Cirneco has found a dedicated following among dog enthusiasts who cherish its ancient lineage, hunting prowess, and affectionate demeanor.

General Appearance

Height & Weight

Adult male Cirnechi dell’Etna (the plural name for the breed) typically stand between 18.5 and 19.5 inches tall at the shoulder, while mature females are slightly shorter, usually measuring from 16.5 to 18 inches tall.

In terms of weight, males generally weigh between 22 and 26 pounds, whereas females tend to be in the range of 17 to 22 pounds.

Proportion & Substance

The Cirneco dell’Etna boasts a nearly square build, with the length of the body, from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock, being roughly equal to the dog’s height at the withers. This proportion lends the breed its characteristic balance and agility. Despite its slender appearance, however, the Cirneco possesses a robust constitution, with lean muscling that highlights its hunting origins.

Coat Texture, Colors & Markings

Texture: The coat of the Cirneco dell’Etna is typically short and fine, lying flat against the body. It is semi-harsh in texture, providing a protective layer that’s suited for the countryside on which these hounds traditionally hunted.

Colors: Tan

Markings: White Markings

A Note About Color: The Cirneco dell’Etna is a self-colored dog in various shades of tan, from light to dark. White may appear as a mark or blaze on the head and on the chest and/or throat, on the feet, and on the tip of the tail. White can also be found on the belly; however, a white collar is not desirable. The color of the nose, lips, and eye rims blend with the color of the coat. Any other coloration or pigmentation is not acceptable for the breed.


  • Skull: The skull of the Cirneco dell’Etna is slightly convex, broadening between the ears and gradually narrowing towards the eyes. The frontal furrow is slight, and there’s a noticeable, but not exaggerated, occipital crest.
  • Expression: The expression is one of attentiveness and intelligence. The gaze is often described as keen and lively, reflecting the alertness inherent in a hunting breed.
  • Eyes: Oval in shape and set well apart, the eyes are of medium size. The color typically ranges from ochre to hazelnut, and in some cases even darker, depending on the coat’s color. The eyelids fit closely, with the rims self-pigmented.
  • Ears: One of the most distinctive features of the breed, the ears are set high, triangular in shape, and stand erect. They are medium in size, with a base that is broad, and they taper gently to a slightly rounded point.
  • Muzzle: The muzzle is strong, slightly shorter than the skull, and tapers towards the nose without becoming pointy. The nasal bridge is straight.
  • Nose: The nose is in line with the muzzle and is well-developed. The color typically complements that of the coat, described as self-colored.
  • Bite: The Cirneco dell’Etna possesses a scissor bite, where the upper incisors closely overlap the lower incisors and are set square to the jaws. The jaws are strong and have large, evenly spaced teeth.


The tail of the Cirneco dell’Etna is set low and follows the natural line of the croup. In terms of length, it extends to the hocks or slightly below. When the dog is at rest, the tail is usually relaxed and hanging, though it may showcase a slight curve. However, when the Cirneco is in motion or alert, the tail is raised higher but it never curls over the back.

The tail is thick at the base and tapers towards the tip, thus accentuating the dog’s overall elegance as well as its usefulness when the hound is in pursuit of its quarry.

The Cirneco dell’Etna – What to Consider?

Owning a Cirneco dell’Etna brings with it the joy of companionship with a breed that is both ancient and full of energy. This graceful hunter, with its rich Sicilian heritage, offers a blend of loyalty, intelligence, and agility. However, potential owners should be aware of the breed’s specific needs, stemming from its historical role and inherent characteristics.

Home Life

Interaction With Family

The level of affection a breed typically shows towards family members and familiar individuals will vary. While some breeds may only show genuine warmth towards their owner, remaining standoffish with strangers, other breeds will treat everyone they meet as if they are their closest friend.
Independent Affectionate

Good With Other Dogs

The innate friendliness of a dog towards other dogs can depend on its breed. Although supervision is always recommended during introductions, certain breeds tend to be inherently more or less sociable with other dogs, whether in a home setting or in public spaces.
Not Recommended Reliable With Other Dogs

Good With Young Children

The degree to which a breed will typically be patient with young children, and its overall suitability as a family member, will vary. It is important to always supervise interactions between dogs and the kids in the house, as well as with children who are not accustomed to being around dogs.
Not Recommended Dependable With Children