Home   »   Breeds   »   Cirneco dell'Etna   »   History

Cirneco dell'Etna
Looking for a Cirneco dell'Etna?

The Cirneco dell'Etna has been present in Sicily for over 2,500 years and shares a common origin with the Pharaoh Hound and other breeds throughout the Mediterranean basin. The Cirneco that we know today is the result of adaptation to the environment, evolution based on function, not human manipulation. As a hunter of small mammals and fowl, survival came in the form of a hardy, more compact dog that was successful in hunting under adverse conditions - high heat, on rugged terrain formed by volcanic lava, with little food or water over extended periods of time.

Throughout its evolution in Sicily the Cirneco has been a dog valued for its acute hunting ability and therefore primarily in the possession of the peasantry who utilized the dogs to help provide for their families. There existed no reason to maintain a breed standard, registry or written evidence of lineage. The Cirnechi provided their owners with game and that determined their value and survival.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Baroness Agata Paterno Castello, a Sicilian aristocrat, took an interest in this very ancient and "undocumented" breed. Over the course of decades she painstakingly studied the breed, searching and obtaining exemplars that epitomized the Cirneco which she bred and selected. Once she had established type and conformation she moved to the next step in preserving the breed - documentation.

In 1939, after consultation with and studies by an eminent zoologist, Professor Solaro, the first breed standard was completed by him and the Cirneco dell'Etna was officially recognized as a breed. The last official update by the technical committee of the Italian Kennel Club to the breed standard was in 1989. The Cirneco has at different times been classified in FCI (Federacion Cynologique Internationale) Group 10 - Sighthound, Group 6 - Scenthound, and, presently as a primitive hunting dog in Group 5 - Spitz and Primitive. AKC has accepted the Cirneco as an FSS breed in the Hound Group.

The first Cirnechi in the United States came with their immigrant families. Their hunting ability was their value and, as in Sicily, there was no need to maintain registry of the breed in America. This changed with our cognizance of the breed outside of the hunting community in the mid 1990s.

More Info