Cirneco Dell'Etna

Other names: Cirneco

Cirneco Dell'Etna
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 : Between 12 and 14 years
  • Temperament : Hunter
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Short

FCI Group

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 7 : Primitive type - Hunting Dogs

Physical characteristics of the Cirneco Dell'Etna

Adult size

Female dog Between 17 and 19 in
Male dog Between 18 and 20 in


Female dog Between 18 and 24 lb
Male dog Between 22 and 29 lb

Coat colour

Fawn, sable, sometimes white and fawn.

Type of coat

Short, flat, and soft.

Eye colour

Ochre, amber, or hazelnut.


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.



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


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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. 


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


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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


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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. 

Fearful / wary of strangers

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


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

Behaviour of the Cirneco Dell'Etna

Tolerates solitude

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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.

Easy to train / obedience

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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.


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This is a quiet breed.

Tendency to run away

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If she’s getting enough exercise, the Cirneco shouldn’t run away. But they do like to explore, so make sure the front and back gardens are fully secured.


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This calm, soft-hearted dog will rarely engage in any destructive behaviour.

Greedy / Gluttony

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Treats can be helpful in overcoming her stubborn side for training.

Guard dog

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The Cirneco dell'Etna is an excellent watchdog, with a superb sense of smell and sight. She is alert and lively, and protective of her master.

First dog

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For a first adoption, it is better to choose a breed that is more docile and sociable.


Cirneco Dell'Etna in a flat

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A flat is not an ideal environment. Ideally, she should live in the countryside, in a house with a large garden where she can run freely (which should not replace daily walks).

Need for exercise / Sporty

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This is a high energy dog that needs over an hour of decent exercise every single day. This natural hunting dog needs to run free, so exercise her in wide open parks or countryside areas.

Travelling / easy to transport

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This small dog is fairly easy to transport, but she can get bored or restless on long journeys. 


Cirneco Dell'Etna and cats

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Hunting dogs with a high prey drive don't mix well with cats. In fact, it’s best to keep them apart. This keeps them both safe.

Cirneco Dell'Etna and dogs

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The Cirneco dell'Etna is not usually sociable, but nothing is impossible. Much work needs to be done on this point to hope for respectful doggie meetings.

Cirneco Dell'Etna and children

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She is patient with children, but they must be taught to respect her need for peace.

Cirneco Dell'Etna and the elderly

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She is definitely not suitable for potentially inactive older people.


We do not have enough data to set an average price. Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £50 to £100 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.


She has minimal grooming requirements. A quick brush every few weeks is more than enough.


The Cirneco dell'Etna is a moderate shedder

Nutrition of the Cirneco Dell'Etna

Two to three cups of high-quality dog food.

Health of the Cirneco Dell'Etna

Life expectancy

This is a very healthy and well-bred dog., with an average life expectancy of 13 years.

Strong / robust

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This slight, slender dog is much tougher than she looks. She may be small, but she is strong and sturdy.

Withstand heat

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She was bred in Sicily where temperatures are often high, so generally withstands the heat very well. However, be careful in extreme temperatures.

Withstand cold

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She is not afraid of the cold or humidity.

Tendency to put on weight

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Without regular exercise, her slender look can quickly thicken, so be aware of this and respect her needs.

Common illnesses

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.

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.


Slim, Sprite, Jackie, Fifi

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