Pharaoh Hound: Of Ancient Origin
Pharaoh Hounds allow us to experience
antiquity. The exact history of the
Pharaoh Hound is the subject of debate.
Many say that they originated in ancient
Egypt and the Phoenicians exported them
to the islands of Malta and Gozo where they remained pure for
millennia. Others argue that the breed originated in Malta and the
similarity to the artwork of ancient Egypt is coincidence.
My personal belief, based on museum tours, lots of reading, and
some educated guesswork is that the flat-backed, prick-eared
Mediterranean Sighthounds originated from the same ancestral
breed, which came from Egypt. From there, the local populations
tinkered to make their breed better fit its new locale and duties.
Whichever side of the debate you're on, all agree the Pharaoh
Hound has one of the most ancient of all origins and is still very
similar to its ancestors. Their job throughout millennia has been to
hunt using their wonderful eyesight, speed, agility, and wits. Their
specialty on Malta was the rabbit. Kelb-Tal-Fenek, their Maltese
breed name, means "dog of the rabbit." This hunting focus has
molded a dog that is athletic, intelligent, and self confident. The
breed enthusiasts take great pride in maintaining this wonderful
breed as close to its roots as possible. We breed to preserve the
breed; not "improve" so that it no longer looks like the hound that
came to us out of Malta. We prove our hounds in the conformation
ring, lure coursing, open field coursing, and many other athletic
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, alert, and intelligent expression. Their eyes are commonly amber-colored. It has a long, lean, and muscular neck that is slightly arched. 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, and should be in a whip-like shape. The tail is carried down when relaxed. 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. The Pharaoh Hound's ears are very large and point upward when alert. They usually come in tan or chestnut colors. A white tail-tip is admired. Most commonly seen is any solid white spot on their neck, back, or shoulders. Mainly seen on the back or sides of the dog.
Pharaoh Hounds tend to weigh up to 45-55 pounds on average. Weight depends on the sex of the dog, or its eating habits. Male Pharaoh Hounds are normally considered larger than the females. Males usually are 23-25", while females are 21-24". Size and weight also relate to the amount of exercise it receives.
Head study of a Pharaoh Hound
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 coat can also be glossy and short in most cases. The only colour accepted by most kennel clubs is red; though the shades of red colour 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, centre of forehead, and the bridge of the muzzle are accepted, but not required. Pharaoh's eyes are always amber, and should complement the coat colour. They are born with blue eyes, which change to a light gold or yellow colour 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.
All Pharaoh Hounds may blush at times when they are excited. They do not blush in their cheeks, but they do in their ears and noses.
Two Klieb tal-Fenek hunting for rabbits in a rubble stone wall in Malta. The dogs indicate a hidden rabbit, to enable the hunter to set a Ferret into the wall
In 1647 Giovanni Francesco Abela, in his Della Descrittione di Malta isola nel Mare Siciliano: con le sue antichità, ed altre notizie, wrote "... we have the dogs called Cernechi, much valued for rabbit-hunting, which are often in demand as far away as France, mainly for [use in] steep and stony mountain terrain". Authors such as Cecil Camilleri have taken this to refer to the Kelb tal-Fenek. The modern Cirneco is a Sicilian breed, very similar in structure and appearance, but somewhat smaller (43–51 cm (17–20 in)) than the Kelb tal-Fenek.
In Britain, the first two specimens of the breed were brought from Malta in the 1920s, but 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 recognised 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 Kelb tal-Fenek, whose breed standard had been recognised by the FCI at the same time.
There are a number of breeds similar to the Pharaoh Hound in the Mediterranean area, including the Cirneco in Sicily. Others include the Podenco Ibicenco, the Podenco Canario and the Podengo Português. 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.
Pharaoh Hound pups.
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 compulsory 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. 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 a gentle dog shampoo, and not a human shampoo (as humans require a different pH than dogs ). 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 odour, except when wet or when they've been outside. But their odour quickly returns to normal.
They are a very active breed but, like Greyhounds, as indoor dogs they are couch potatoes and need little "real" exercise. 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.
Bottom Line . . . . our boy is quite unique and a most desirable dog to have as a friend. He loves Spooner so we would like the two to go to the same family. Both are exceptional.. Phone 909-208-6889
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