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Cirneco Dell'Etna

Other names: Cirneco

Cirneco Dell'Etna

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a small, slender dog that was developed on the Italian island of Sicily. It was bred to hunt rabbits and is well known for its incredible levels of stamina. These slight but durable dogs can work for hours on end without stopping to rest, eat, or drink. 

Key facts about the Cirneco Dell'Etna

Life expectancy :





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Origins and history

The original sighthounds can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. From there, they spread across the Middle East and the Mediterranean and were developed into a range of varieties including the greyhound, the Ibizan Hound, and the Cirneco. For thousands of years, the Cirneco dell'Etna hunted rabbits and game in her native Sicily. Given her slight, delicate frame, many people underestimate this dog's physical ability. The Cirneco is strong, tough, and can work for hours on end without rest, water, or food.  However, by the 1930s the breed was almost extinct, until an Italian vet wrote a  passionate article about the dogs’ declining numbers. This was seen by a Sicilian aristocrat called Baroness Agata Castello, who then dedicated the next 20 years to saving this breed. The American Kennel Club recognised the Circeno in 2005.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 7 : Primitive type - Hunting Dogs

Physical characteristics of the Cirneco Dell'Etna

    Adult size

    Female : Between 17 and 19 in

    Male : Between 18 and 20 in


    Female : Between 18 and 24 lb

    Male : Between 22 and 29 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    This is a small hunting dog with a slight frame, very similar to the greyhound. She has long, slender legs. Her skull is flat and oval, with a long snout and small eyes and very large, upright ears. She has an alert posture and expression, with a saber-like tail, and a fine, flat coat.

    Good to know

    The Cirneco dell’Etna takes her name from Mount Etna in Sicily. Cirneco is pronounced “cheer - nec - ko.”

    The Cirneco is very sensitive, and requires a much softer approach than many other dogs. 

    Keeping the Cirneco mentally stimulated is just as important as regular physical exercise. Working dogs are smart and eager to show off their skills. They get bored quickly and that boredom can soon turn to frustration.


    • 66%


      She is friendly and warm-hearted with her master, but can be sensitive to abrupt manners.

    • 66%


      These dogs are exceptionally playful, especially during their puppy years. They are high energy dogs that will play fetch and other doggy games for hours on end. 

    • 33%


      She gets very excited when she’s working or playing. She is an enthusiastic dog that loves to please her owner. 

    • 66%


      The Cirneco is a quick learner, who will master the basics quickly. She is capable of understanding more complex voice commands. This smart dog needs plenty of mental stimulation

    • 100%


      Bred to hunt rabbits, she is an excellent tracking dog with a superb sense of smell and vision. She has a very high prey drive, and can follow a trail to hard-to-access recesses. 

    • 100%

      Fearful / wary of strangers

      She is reserved with strangers, and doesn’t trust easily, but she is never aggressive.

    • 66%


      Like many primitive dogs, she is independent-minded and can be a little stubborn if not handled correctly. 

      Behaviour of the Cirneco Dell'Etna

      • 66%

        Tolerates solitude

        This dog is quite comfortable in her own company. She can deal with solitude much better than many other breeds as long as her needs are met and she has toys to keep her occupied.

      • 33%

        Easy to train / obedience

        She is powerful, nervous, very active, and independent, so not the easiest to educate. She needs an experienced master who will be firm and gentle.

      • 33%


        This is a quiet breed.

      • 66%