Pharaoh Hound – General Description
The Pharaoh Hound is a breed of dog and the national hound of the Mediterranean nation of Malta. Its native name is Kelb tal-Fenek (plural: Klieb tal-Fenek) in Maltese, which means “rabbit hound”. The dog is traditionally used by some Maltese men for hunting. The breed has no conclusive links with Ancient Egypt and its name in English is a 20th century fabrication. It has variously been classified as a member of the sighthound group, yet its fieldwork description clearly determines it as a hound.
Classification and Standards
- FCI Group 5, Section 6, #248
- AKC Hound
- ANKC Group 4 (Hounds)
- CKC Group 2 – Hounds
- KC (UK) Hound
- NZKC Hounds
- UKC Sighthound and Pariah
Character & Temperament
The Pharaoh Hound is an intelligent, trainable, playful, and active breed. It is sociable with other dogs and with people; however, it can be aloof or reserved with strangers. It is typically very open and affectionate with its family and those it knows. It is an independent-minded, occasionally stubborn breed, yet can be very trainable when appropriate positive training methods are used. It has a strong hunting instinct, and caution should be observed when it is around small pets such as cats, birds, and rodents. It is not a demonstrative breed but rather is quietly affectionate. It is a vocal breed without being yappy or barking just for the sake of barking. It makes a good watch dog; however, it is not well suited as guard dog as it is rarely aggressive with people. This is not a breed suited for kennel situations due to its intelligence and activity level. The breed tends to bond deeply with its people and thrives best when it feels included as a member of the family.
The first recorded mention of a Maltese hunting dog, which could have been identical with the modern Pharaoh Hound, was issued by Commendatore Fra. G. Fran. Abela (Maltese historian and Vice Chancellor of the Order of St. John) in 1647 who wrote ‘There are dogs called ‘Cernechi’ esteemed for the hunting of rabbits , and as far as France are in demand primarily for stony, mountainous and steep locations’. The use of the word ‘Cernechi’ to name the breed should be no surprise as Italian was the language of scholars and the courts in Malta from at least 1091 up to WWII.
The first two specimens of the breed were brought to Britain from Malta in the 1920s, but at that time, no litter was bred. Again, some dogs were imported to the UK in the early 1960s, and the first litter was born in 1963. The breed standard was recognized by The Kennel Club in 1974. The breed was called the Pharaoh Hound although this name was already used by the FCI as an alternative name for the Ibizan Hound at that time. When the FCI abolished this name in 1977 and decided to call the Ibizan Hound exclusively by its original Spanish name Podenco Ibicenco, the term Pharaoh Hound was transferred to the Pharaoh Hound, whose breed standard had been recognized by the FCI at the same time.
A number of other breeds that are similar to the Pharaoh Hound exist in different regions of the Mediterranean. One is the Cirneco dell’Etna from neighboring Sicily, which is very similar in structure and appearance, but somewhat smaller (43–51 cm/17-20in). Other similar breeds include the Ibizan Hound, Podenco Canario, Podengo Português and other local breeds from the Mediterranean—each breed is slightly different with physical characteristics that match the terrain the dogs hunt on. It is not clear whether those breeds have descended from the same ancestral lines, or whether their similarities have developed due to similar environmental conditions.
It should be noted that the Pharaoh Hound is not the only breed of dog specific to the tiny islands of Malta. There is also the Kelb tal-But (“pocket dog”, a toy breed), Kelb tal-Kaċċa (“gun dog”, a breed used for bird hunting), and lastly a type of Mastiff which is now extinct (Kelb tal-Ġlied, sometimes called the Maltese Bulldog or Maltese Mastiff). It is number 141 out of 154 breeds by dogs registered in 2005 by the AKC.
Pharaoh Hound were also used in the reconstruction and reconstitution of the Cirneco dell’Etna breed in Sicily.
Size & Appearance
At first glance, the Pharaoh Hound should appear both graceful and elegant as well as powerful and athletic. Its build should be one of strength without bulkiness or excessive musculature. Its head is elegant without being fine or extreme. The skull should resemble a blunt wedge, and is long and chiseled with only a slight stop and a muzzle of good length. Its eyes are oval with a keen, noble, alert, and intelligent expression. It has a long, lean, and muscular neck that is slightly arched. Its body is slightly longer than its height at the withers. It has a deep chest that extends down to the elbows and a moderate tuck up. Its shoulders are long and well laid back. Its front legs are long and straight. The back legs are moderately angled, parallel to each other, and must be in balance with the forelegs. It has a long, fine, straight tail that should reach down to a bit below the point of the hocks. The tail is carried down when relaxed but must not tuck between the legs. When the dog is in motion or is excited, the tail is carried up; either level with, or loosely curled above, the back. Its dewclaws may be removed.
It stands between 21 to 25 inches at the withers and weighs between 40 to 60 lbs. Males are typically larger than females.
Coat and Color
The coat is fine and short with no feathering. The texture varies from silky to somewhat hard and it must never be so profuse as to stand away from the dog’s skin. The only color accepted by most kennel clubs is red; though the shades of red color varies, and accepted shades range from a tan to a deep chestnut and all shades in between. White markings on the chest, toes, tail-tip, center of forehead, and the bridge of the muzzle are accepted, but not required. A white tail-tip is desired by some kennel clubs. In contrast, any white markings on the back of the neck, the sides, or the back of the dog are unacceptable by most standards. Pharaoh’s eyes are always amber, and should compliment the coat colour. They are born with blue eyes, which change to a light gold or yellow color during early puppyhood and then begin to darken well into adulthood. The nose, whiskers, nails, paw-pads, and eye-rims should also be the same colour as the coat. Pharaohs also have a unique trait of “blushing” when excited or happy, with their ears and nose becoming bright pink.
Health & Maintenance
The Pharaoh Hound is independent-minded, highly intelligent, and occasionally stubborn, yet very trainable when positive methods are used. It is a very sensitive breed and responds poorly to compulsionary training methods and to being physically punished. Pharaohs can succeed in competition obedience, but they do not take to it naturally as many breeds that were bred to work alongside people. Pharaohs were bred to hunt and think for themselves, and they have retained this trait for thousands of years. They tire/bore easily with repetitive commands, therefore it is the trainer’s job to ensure that their training remains interesting and positive in nature.
They have sensitive skin, and shampoo (canine or human) may cause allergic reactions; therefore, it is best to wash them with either a human baby shampoo or gentle dog shampoo. Grooming Pharaohs is as easy as a quick rub with a hound glove or a damp cloth. They are clean dogs, shed very little, and have no noticeable odor, even when wet.
They are a very active breed and need more than just a daily walk; a run every day is required. Though they are active, they should not be hyperactive. Because of their strong prey drive and independent nature, this breed should never be allowed off leash unless in a securely fenced area away from road traffic or other dangers.
They are very adept jumpers, and fences meant to contain them must be more than five feet (1.52 metres) high, six feet (1.82 metres) or higher being preferable. Because they are such good jumpers, they are well suited to the sport of dog agility. They are often classified as sighthounds, and thus compete in lure coursing. Because they maintain very little body fat and have short coats, they are sensitive to cold and cannot be left outside for long in cold climates. Dog coats/jackets are a must for this breed in cold climates. Many Pharaoh Hounds enjoy snow, however, and will keep themselves warm through running, playing, and digging.
Pharaoh hounds, being somewhat uncommon outside of the Maltese Islands of Malta and Gozo, and because they are not profitable for commercial breeding, have not been subjected to as much irresponsible breeding as some more popular breeds. Breeders try hard to prevent hereditary diseases from entering the gene pool. Pharaohs are basically free from genetic diseases. Reputable breeders continue to test their breeding stock for genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and myriad eye conditions just to ensure that these disorders do not become a problem. Reputable breeders should be able to show documentation of health screening performed on their breeding dogs. Note that Pharaohs, like most sighthounds, are sensitive to barbiturate anaesthetics. Their ears are thin and prone to frostbite when in cold climates. Life expectancy is about 12 years.
Work & Activities
The Pharaoh Hound is usually taken out to hunt at night when there are fewer distractions. Generally, the hunters will take their dogs into the countryside and release pairs of a male and a female dog in each compass direction. The dogs will then search out their prey using scent. When a rabbit is found the hounds will give chase, the small and more agile female in the lead with the male keeping the rabbit from darting too far to the sides. At this point the dogs giving chase will emit a high pitched bark, attracting the other dogs and the hunters, all of whom will come running. By the time the hunters and other dogs arrive the rabbit will almost always have taken to the ground. The hunters will then gather and leash all but one dog, then place nets over all of the likely escape holes of the rabbit. Finally the hunter will take a ferret (with a small bell attached) from a round wicker basket, and places it into the last entrance to the rabbit’s burrow. The Pharaoh Hound can hear the little bell up to 3 meters down under the rocky terrain. When the ferret flushes the rabbit out a hole, one free dog swoops down upon it. This style of hunting is mentioned by Strabo about hunting in the Balearic Islands under Roman rule, and the Maltese word for ferret–“nemes”–may have its roots in the Greek word ‘nemesis’.
Competitions and Shows
Pharaoh Hound, International Champion XO EZ owned by Lori Evans, Joseph Buchanan and Ronald and Desiree Frank, placed 4th in the Hound Group at Crufts 2007.
A Pharaoh Hound, GCH Northgate’s As You Like It (“Qing”), owned by Ms. J. Hall from Sweden, was Hound Group Winner at Crufts, 2009 and 2010 and was the 2008 World Dog Show Reserve BIS & Group V Winner in addition to the 2009 World Dog Show BIS & Group V Winner. Qing was later shown in the United States and went on to become the top winning Pharaoh Hound in the history of the breed. His American Kennel Club ranking as of December 2011 included placing as the number 8 dog all breeds, the number 2 hound, and the number 1 Pharaoh Hound.
- “Kelb tal-Fenek – National Hound of Malta”. Kelb-tal-fenek.de. – http://www.kelb-tal-fenek.de/indexeng.htm
- “Pharaoh Hound”. Dog-breeds.net. – http://www.dog-breeds.net/Pharaoh_Hound.htm
- “Fieldwork Description”. Kelb tal-Fenek. – http://www.kelb-tal-fenek.com/fieldwork.htm
- Pharaoh Hound Club, Frequently Asked Questions – http://www.ph-club.org/faqs.htm
- “On the Desert” – http://art.thewalters.org/detail/37928. The Walters Art Museum. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Walters_Art_Museum
- Fra. Abela, ‘Della Descrittione di Malta isola nel Mare Siciliano con le sue antichita ed altre notitie’, Malta, 1647. Translated from Cecil S. Camilleri, ‘ A Study of the Maltese Kelb tal-Fenek, Valletta/Malta 1995
- Kelb tal-Fenek – Where does the name “Pharaoh Hound” come from? – http://www.kelb-tal-fenek.de/history.htm
- The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals By Peter Ucko, G. Dimbleby, 2007 – 581 pages, on page 489
- A Study of the Maltese Kelb-tal-Fenek, Cecil Camilleri, Progress Press Co Ltd (June 30, 1995)
- Rabbit Hunting with the Kelb tal-Fenek in Malta – http://www.kelb-tal-fenek.de/rabbithunt.htm
- Il-Kelb tal-Fenek – A Fieldwork Description – http://www.kelb-tal-fenek.de/fieldwork.htm
- “Crufts 2009 Show Report – Day 1 | Crufts presented by the Kennel Club”. Crufts.org.uk. – http://www.crufts.org.uk/news/crufts-2009-show-report-day-1
- “Crufts 2009 Hound Group Winner”. YouTube. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdEvBx9oDqY
- AKC Dog Registration Statistics – http://www.akc.org/reg/dogreg_stats.cfm
- Pleple 2000, corrected by user:Lilly M (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Jan Eduard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:KtF1.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
- kallerna (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Peter Gatt aus Malta (Zwoenitzer at de.wikipedia) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
FCI-Standard N°248/ 09. 08. 1999 / GB
ORIGIN : Malta
ORIGIN : Great Britain.
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE ORIGINAL VALID STANDARD : 24.06.1987
An alert keen hunter, hunting by scent and sight, using his ears to a marked degree when working close.
F.C.I. CLASSIFICATION :
- Group 5 Spitz and primitive types.
- Section 6 Primitive type.
Without working trial.
GENERAL APPEARANCE :
Medium sized, of noble bearing with clean-cut lines. Graceful yet powerful. Very fast with free easy movement and alert expression.
BEHAVIOR /TEMPERAMENT :
Alert, intelligent, friendly, affectionate and playful.
Foreface slightly longer than skull. Top of skull parallel with foreface, whole head representing a blunt wedge when viewed in profile and from above.
CRANIAL REGION :
Skull : Long, lean and well-chiseled.
Stop : Only slight.
FACIAL REGION :
Nose : Flesh colored only, blending with coat.
Jaws/Teeth : Powerful jaws with strong teeth. Scissor bite, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Eyes : Amber colored, blending with coat ; oval, moderately deep- set, with keen, intelligent expression.
Ears : Medium high set ; carried erect when alert, but very mobile ; broad at base, fine and large.
Long, lean, muscular and slightly arched. Clean throat line.
Lithe with almost straight topline. Length of body from breast to haunch bone slightly longer than height at withers.
Croup : Slight slope down from croup to root of tail.
Chest : Deep, extending down to point of elbow. Ribs well sprung.
Belly : Moderate cut up.
Medium set, fairly thick at base and tapering (whip-like), reaching just below point of hock in repose. Carried high and curved when dog is in action. Tail should not be tucked between legs. A screw tail undesirable.
Forelegs straight and parallel.
Shoulder : Strong, long and well laid back.
Elbow : Well tucked in.
Pastern : Strong
Strong and muscular. Limbs parallel when viewed from behind.
Stifle : Moderate bend of stifle.
Second thigh : Well developed.
Feet : Strong, well knuckled and firm, turning neither in nor out. Paws well padded. Dewclaws may be removed.
Free and flowing ; head held fairly high and dog should cover ground well without any apparent effort. Legs and feet should move in line with body ; any tendency to throw feet sideways, or high stepping « hackney » action highly undesirable.
Short and glossy, ranging from fine and close to slightly harsh ; no feathering.
Tan or rich tan with white markings allowed as follows :
White tip on tail strongly desired. White on chest (called « the star »). White on toes. Slim white blaze on center line of face permissible. Flecking or white other than above undesirable.
Males : ideally 56 cm (22-25 ins = 56-63,5 cm),
Females : ideally 53 cm (21-24 ins = 53-61 cm).
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified.
N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
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