menu icon

Cirneco dell'Etna
Endured the harsh terrain of Mount Etna

Home »  Dog Breeds »  Cirneco dell'Etna

The Cirneco dell'Etna is a medium sized purebred from Sicily, an Italian island. It was bred to hunt rabbits and other small prey and could do so even in harsh conditions and terrain found around Mount Etna. There are three Mediterranean island hounds bred for hunting, and the Cirneco is the smallest. The other two are the Ibizan Hound and the Pharaoh Hound. The Cirneco dell'Etna has a lot of stamina and endurance and today does well in conformation shows, in tracking, obedience and rally as well as lure coursing and agility and can be kept as a companion thanks to its friendliness.

The Cirneco dell'Etna at A Glance
Name Cirneco dell'Etna
Other names Sicilian Greyhound, Sicilian Hound, Sicilian Rabbit Hound, Sicilian Rabbit Dog,
Nicknames Cirneco, CDE
Origin Italy
Average size Medium
Average weight 18 to 27 pounds
Average height 17 to 20 inches
Life span 12 to 16 years
Coat type Close fitting, sleek, smooth, straight, stiff
Hypoallergenic No
Color Fawn, white, sable
Popularity Not popular – ranked 167th by the AKC
Intelligence Good – about average
Tolerance to heat Excellent – bred to be able to hunt in extreme heat
Tolerance to cold Moderate – cannot really handle any temperatures too cold
Shedding Low – will not leave a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Moderate – may have some after drinking or if excited
Obesity High – will steal food and counter surf, track what it eats and its exercise
Grooming/brushing Low maintenance – will need brushing once or twice a week but not a lot of extra needs
Barking Occasional – will be some barking to deal with
Exercise needs Quite active – will need plenty of physical and mental activity
Trainability Moderately easy – gradual progress will occur
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization as does have a high prey instinct
Good with strangers Good with socialization and supervision
Good apartment dog Very good due to size but is an active dog
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone
Health issues Quite a healthy breed a few issues might include skin problems, anesthesia sensitivity, muscle injuries, demodectic mange
Medical expenses $460 a year for medical insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $145 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $525 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license, basic training and grooming
Average annual expenses $1130 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations Several including the Cirneco dell'Etna Club of America Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Cirneco dell'Etna's Beginnings

The Cirneco dell'Etna is also called the Sicilian Greyhound because of where it comes from, the Italian island of Sicily. The Cirneco dell'Etna name refers to its hunting grounds of Mount Etna where it was bred to catch hare and rabbit and sometimes even birds. The Cirneco part is an original part of its name, the dell'Etna was added in the 1930s by the ENCI, the Italian Kennel Club. While it may have a similar look to the Pharaoh Hound but a smaller version it is its own separate breed. There is some thought that the ancestors of the Cirneco were dogs the Phoenicians brought with them. Some suggest they came from North Africa to the coastline of Sicily, and some say they are an independent breed. Coins from there as old as 300BC have its ancestors depicted on them.

The breed developed to be fast, chasing quick small prey across rough terrain created by molten lava. It can track its prey with scent, hearing and on sight and has a great deal of stamina and endurance able to handle hot weather and long periods of hunting on little to eat or drink. This adjustment to its environment is something that happened over the years naturally rather than something designed by breeders. This makes it quite a unique modern breed of dog, as most are guided a great deal by human breeders.

It first appears in written records in the early 16th century when those governing the island placed sanctions on people who used the dog to hunt with, as it was then thought of as bad for local game. Not much comes up about it until 1932, over 400 years later! A vet called Dr Maurizio Migneco wrote and published an Italian article about the breed as he was sad the breed was in sharp decline. In fact it was facing possible extinction.

New Lease on Life

Luckily for the Cirneco an aristocrat called Baroness "Donna Agata" Paternó Castello read the article and was concerned enough to take action, She spent 26 years learning about the breed and tracking down dogs. When she had enough she started a breeding program while also working with Professor Giuseppe Solaro, a zoologist. It was Solaro who wrote the first breed standard which the Italian Kennel Club accepted and in 1939 it gave the breed official recognition. Dr Migneco, author of that article was then made president in 1951 of the Italian Cirneco dell'Etna Breed Club.

It spread after a few years to some other European countries such as Finland and France. It arrived for the first time in the US in the 1990s. In 1997 a breed club was formed and it was recognized fully by the AKC in 2015 but it has not yet happened with the Canadian Kennel Club. The AKC rank it at 167th in popularity today.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium sized dog weighing 18 to 27 pounds and standing 17 to 20 inches tall. It is an elegant and lean looking dog with an arched and long neck, narrow ribcage and low set, long and thick tail it carries high. Its coat is attractive being smooth, straight, close, stiff and short to somewhat long on its body and short on the head. Common colors are fawn, white, sable, tan, chestnut. It has long legs, hind legs not having dewclaws and oval feet. Its muzzle is long and pointed and it has triangular shaped ears that are set high, can be held erect and can be as long as half the head length. It also has oval shaped eyes.

The Inner Cirneco dell'Etna


The Cirneco is a great watchdog, it is alert and will let you know if there is an intruder trying to get in. It otherwise will bark occasionally so while it is not a quiet dog, its barking should not be constant. You may still want to add a command to its training that stops the barking. It is a very lively dog and loves to play. It loves attention and wants to spend time with the family not alone. In fact it needs to be with owners that can be around more than not, stay at home parents, work from home owners, retired owners for example, it can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for long periods. It is a loyal dog and forms close attachments and is likely to follow you from one room to the next to be close to you.


As well as being affectionate it is a gentle dog but if it does not get the attention, activity and stimulation it needs like any dog it can be loud and destructive from boredom. The company of other dogs can help. It can have an independent side to it and is quite a curious breed. It is intelligent and friendly and is still today quite a resilient dog. It is also adaptable which is part of what makes it a very good companion. While it likes people around and attention it is wary around strangers until it has gotten used to them. Because this dog has thin skin, not a lot of body that and a thin coat it needs to be kept indoors. They like to snuggle into cushions, duvets, blankets and such.

Living with a Cirneco dell'Etna

What will training look like?

Cirnecos are moderately easy to train as while it can have an independent side making it sometimes stubborn, it also is eager to please, smart and enjoys spending time with you for the attention and praise it brings. Results will be gradual though and owners need to be firm, clearly in charge, but fair and positive. Use encouragement, praise and treats to motivate it, not scolding and physical punishment. This sighthound is considered to be easier to train than others of its type, it does help to keep sessions short and interesting.

As well as the basic obedience training make sure it also has good socialization. This is something that should be started early, as soon as you have the puppy home in fact. By exposing it to different places, sounds, people, situations, animals and dogs it gets used to them, it learns there are degrees of reactions that are appropriate and acceptable. It also is more confident and happy as it grows into a better version of itself, and you as its owner can be more confident too in how your dog is able deal with these things.

How active is the Cirneco dell'Etna?

CDEs are fairly active dogs so expect to give it daily opportunities for physical and mental activity. It needs owners happy to be active and happy to have a dog be a part of that. While it is of a size that makes apartment living possible, it is worth noting that is only if it is taken out daily. It does tend to be calm indoors though. As well as needing at least 30 to 40 minutes in walks, so 2 brisk 20 minute walks a day, it needs other opportunities such as play and a safe place off leash to run. A dog park could meet this need. Make sure when walking it is on a leash as it will try to chase after things. If you do have a yard for it to play in make sure it is well fenced as not only does it have excellent jumping skills, it also has great digging skills. Make sure it is protected from cold climates, it does not do well in the cold or damp so will need some sweaters!

Caring for the Cirneco dell'Etna

Grooming needs

There is not a lot of grooming or maintenance required when you own a CDE. It is not a heavy shedder and is certainly a good choice if you prefer not to have hair around the home to clear up. Its coat is easy to brush using a rubber curry brush or hound glove and just needs it once or twice a week. You can also wipe down the coat now and then with a damp cloth, this will help keep it shiny and clean and means frequent baths are not necessary. If you bathe too often it dries out its skin which can lead to skin problems. Baths should just be for when it has gotten itself in a big mess or is getting strong in odor!


Other needs include checking its ears for infection once a week and then wiping them clean using a damp cloth or ear cleanser and cotton balls. Never insert anything into its ears. It should also have its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week for better gum and teeth health and for better breath! Finally it will need its nails clipped when they get too long. This dog does not like its feet being touched so start this young so it gets used to it. Also keep in mind that there are nerves and blood vessels in the lower part of the nail that if you clip will hurt the dog and cause bleeding. It may be better to have a professional groomer or vet do this for you, or have the vet show you how.

Feeding Time

In terms of food it should be fed ¾ to 1 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. It is worth noting it is very good at stealing food from the counter, table or wherever it might be, especially with its fantastic jumping skills. Make sure it does not overeat. How much exactly you CDE will eat depends on its metabolism, activity, age, health and size.

How is the Cirneco dell'Etna with children and other animals?

Cirnecos are good with children when raised with them and with socialization but are best with older children rather than younger ones. It can be playful and full of energy which makes a great partner in crime for older children who are more aware of how to touch and play nicely with dogs. With other pets it can be friendly too though again it does help to be raised with them. It does have a high prey drive so small animals that run away from it can trigger that instinct to chase. It is more likely to dart after some strange critter in the yard though. It also gets along well with other dogs, enjoys being social with them and rarely causes issues.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 12 to 16 years there is not much else known about the details of this breed's health. It appears to be a healthy and hardy dog thanks in part because there has not been a lot of inbreeding or intervention from human breeders. Potential issues can include injuries from running, obesity, anesthesia sensitivity, injuries and issues from the cold if not protected, eye problems are possible, lack of cushioning, skin allergies and demodectic mange.

Biting Statistics

In dog attacks against people reports based in Canada and the US over the last 35 years there is no mention of a Cirneco dell'Etna. Largely this will be due to is rareness but it is not a people aggressive dog either so even in its home island incidents are going to be few. It is important to be realistic about this matter though. While there are some dogs that are more aggressive than others, and some that can do more damage than others, all dogs have the potential to be triggered into an aggressive act. It might be it is just having a bad day, it has been teased and provoked, or it might be something else. You making sure you get a dog that suits your lifestyle and commitment, and making sure it is given attention, training, socialization, and stimulation can help prevent over reactions, but they are still possible.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Cirneco puppy is going to cost around $900 though since finding them outside of Sicily is rare it is likely you will have to go on a waiting list for any decent breeder. That price is for a pet quality dog, if you are looking for show standards and you want a top breeder take that price and multiply it by three or four times! Its Ibizan Hound and Pharaoh Hound cousins are a lot more popular at the moment. Be sure you research where you buy from, sometimes it can be hard to tell from surface details whether you have a reputable place or somewhere that uses puppy mills. A general good rule is to be wary of back yard breeders and pet stores. Rescues and shelters are not likely to have purebred CDEs but should you manage to find one they will cost around $50 to $400.


When you have a puppy you then need to get it some items like a crate, carrier, bowls, leash and collar and these initial items will cost around $200. It should also be taken to a vet straight away for a physical exam, and then to have its vaccinations, be dewormed, have blood tests, be micro chipped and then neutered or spayed depending on its sex. These will cost around $270.

Annual costs are something to be prepared for. Food which includes dog treats and a good quality dry dog food come to about $145 a year. The quality of food is important because it is more nutrious and therefore better for your dog. Medical costs including pet insurance and basic care like shot updates, flea and tick prevention and physicals come to about $460 a year. Finally there are miscellaneous costs such as grooming, license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items and these come to about $525 a year. This gives a yearly total cost of around $1130.


Looking for a Cirneco dell'Etna Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

Male and Female Cirneco dell'Etna Names

The Cirneco dell'Etna is not a breed that is easy to find if you live anywhere other than Italy or the island of Sicily. If you do find one be ready to give it lots of attention and make sure it has plenty of company as it is not a dog for people who are busy all the time. It does have a background of hunting small animals so needs socialization if they are around, though socialization and training are important anyway. It is a very sensitive dog that does get depressed if it is lacking in attention and stimulation. Otherwise it could be a great companion dog, it is loyal, affectionate with its owners and a big cuddler.

More to Explore

Dog Owner Reviews