Pharaoh Hound

Other names: Rabbit Dog, Kelb tal-Fenek

Pharaoh Hound
Pharaoh Hound

The native dog of Malta, the Pharaoh Hound is also known as the Rabbit dog. This is because it’s primarily used to track and hunt small game, including rabbits. It’s believed to have evolved from the ancient Tesem breed, which was an Egyptian hunting dog. The Pharaoh Hound does bear a striking resemblance to images and paintings found inside ancient egyptian tombs. It’s a friendly, active, and loyal dog. Although mainly used as a working dog, they can make great family pets. 


Key facts about the Pharaoh Hound

  • Life expectancy : Between 11 and 13 years
  • Temperament : Playful, Hunter
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Short, Hard
  • Price : Between £900 and £1200

FCI Group

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 6 : Primitive type

Physical characteristics of the Pharaoh Hound

Adult size

Female dog Between 21 and 24 in
Male dog Between 22 and 25 in


Female dog Between 44 and 55 lb
Male dog Between 44 and 55 lb

Coat colour

Tan, with white markings on chest, tail, head, and toes accepted.

Type of coat

Short. Single coat. Fine.

Eye colour



Medium sized. Clean, clear lines. Lean, athletic frame, long neck. Large ears. Alert and inquisitive expression. 



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A highly affectionate dog. Thrives off the close company of its owner and family. Often “smiles” when being stroked or cuddled.


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This dog has a real playful side. They love playing games that awaken their hunting instincts. They love to run and chase. 


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The Pharaoh Hound is an intense, active animal. They’re always on the move and always ready to play or work. 


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Sighthounds are known for being intelligent creatures. They’re curious, eager, and are always trying to please their owners. Capable of understanding a wide range of complex obedience commands.


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Everything about these dogs is designed for hunting and tracking. The Pharaoh Hound is a quick, explosive animal. They also have loads of stamina and can track their prey for hours on end.

Fearful / wary of strangers

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Prefers to keep a distance from strangers. Has a tendency to be rather aloof or shy. 


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These naturally obedient dogs need routine and structure. They require a strong “pack” leader who is willing to invest a lot of time into the dog’s development. 

Behaviour of the Pharaoh Hound

Tolerates solitude

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These social dogs were bred to work and live alongside humans. They need lots of company and shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time.

Easy to train / obedience

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Responds really well to reward based training methods. Naturally intelligent and obedient. Thrives off positive reinforcement


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Generally quiet, but they can make lots of noise when playing or working. A poorly socialised Pharaoh Hound will bark long into the night.

Tendency to run away

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Keeping a close eye on these dogs is really important. They’re very curious creatures with a high-prey drive. This makes them a significant “flight-risk.”


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These sensitive dogs have a gentle nature. They’re extremely unlikely to turn destructive. 

Greedy / Gluttony

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Despite their lean frames, these dogs have a huge appetite and can be quite greedy. 

Guard dog

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The Pharaoh Hound is a perfect watchdog. Sighthounds have excellent vision and an exceptional sense of smell. They’re also naturally protective.

First dog

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The Pharaoh Hound is naturally obedient and easy to handle for the right owner. They can suit a first-time dog owner, as long as this one takes socialisation and training seriously. 


Pharaoh Hound in a flat

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These active, working dogs are meant to live near the great outdoors. They need lots of space to roam in and explore, and as such would be happier in a house with a large yard.

Need for exercise / Sporty

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A minimum of an hour exercise every day. This is a lot less than many other working dogs, but the exercise needs to be intense. Games of fetch are a perfect way to meet their exercise needs.

Travelling / easy to transport

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Most Pharaoh Hounds will have no problems dealing with short car journeys. However, they may struggle on longer road trips. They’re likely to become restless or anxious. 


Pharaoh Hound and cats

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These dogs were bred to chase small furry animals, not live alongside them! That being said, Pharaoh Hounds who are introduced to cats from a young age tend to show much less interest in chasing them.

Pharaoh Hound and dogs

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The Pharaoh Hound is a very “dog friendly” dog! These pack animals love making new doggy friends. Very unlikely to display any aggressive behaviour towards other dogs. 

Pharaoh Hound and children

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Soft-natured, kind, and sensitive, these playful animals make great companions for young children and toddlers.

Pharaoh Hound and the elderly

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The Pharaoh Hound is an active dog that needs almost constant attention. Probably not the best choice for elderly dog lovers.


The initial cost of buying a Pharaoh Hound puppy will be between £900 to £1200. Budget between £40-60 each month to cover the cost of feeding your Pharaoh Hound. Other expenses, like insurance, will vary depending on your dog's age and medical history.


A short haired dog with minimal grooming requirements. 


Very low shedding.

Nutrition of the Pharaoh Hound

3 cups of high-quality dog food every day.

Health of the Pharaoh Hound

Life expectancy

A healthy dog with no breed specific health issues and an average life expectancy of 11 to 13 years.

Strong / robust

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The Pharaoh looks quite delicate. However, this is a strong and robust dog built for the rough and tumble of rural life.

Withstand heat

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Being the national dog of Malta means that the Pharaoh Hound has no trouble dealing with the heat. Summer temperatures there often hit 30C.

Withstand cold

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These slim, short-haired dogs will struggle in the cold. Their long, thin ears are also prone to frostbite. Not built for colder climates. 

Tendency to put on weight

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Although they’re naturally lean, these greedy dogs will pile on the pounds if you don’t watch what they eat. They tend to get a little heavier as they approach old age. 

Common illnesses

  • Eye disorders
  • Luxating patella
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Sensitivity to barbiturate-based anaesthetics


Good to know

Pharaoh Hounds are very sensitive to the cold. Potential issues include frostbite and hypothermia. Invest in a top quality doggy coat and avoid walks during the coldest parts of the day. 

Pharaoh Hounds haven’t been as domesticated as many other sighthounds, meaning they’re prone to more unusual behaviours such as coprophagia (poop-eating!)

Origins and history

The Pharaoh Hound was practically unknown in the UK and USA until the late 20th century. However, the dog's roots can be traced back to 4000 BC! An artefact found in ancient Egypt depicts two Pharaoh Hound-like dogs chasing a gazelle. It's believed that the breed was later imported to Malta by Phoenician traders. After showing the locals what it was capable of, it was quickly adopted as the national dog of Malta. This agile hunting dog soon earned the nickname "Kelb tal-Fenek”, which translates as the dog of the rabbit. 


Ray, Harlow, Cleo, Alex

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