Showsight Presents The Cirneco dell'Etna

CIRNECO DELL’ETNA

“ H ow do you pronounce it?” “Cheer- n e c k - o dell’Etna.” “I’ve never heard of this breed before, Cheer-neck-o, what?” “Dell’Etna.” “Dell what?” “Etna, the volcano, the volcano in Sicily.” “Oh! Italy!” Welcome to the awakening of America to the Cirneco dell’Etna. Th e existence of the breed in Sicily for thousands of years and in homes of Sicilian immigrants out- side of its native land was a well-kept secret in the US until 1995. In 1995 William Burkhart, an American resident in Swit- zerland, and Barbka Mencinger, from Slo- venia, co-authored an article in Sighthound Review which brought the breed to the attention of the American dog-fancy. As a direct consequence of that article, two Cir- nechi bitches were imported in 1996 from the first available litter out of Slovenia and the parent club, the Cirneco dell’Etna Club of America was established the fol- lowing year in Houston, Texas. For the next ten years, Texas was the little Sicily for the Cirneco dell’Etna in America. Th e breed is presently found across the country with just over 300 three generation pedi- greed AKC registered exemplars. Th e breed was a well-kept secret in its native land as well having not made its debut outside of the hunting community in Sicily until 1939 when the first breed standard was accepted by the Italian Ken- nel Club. Th e addition of “dell’Etna” to the centuries long identification of the breed as a “Cirneco” (again, “Cheer-neck- o”) was in reference to its area of highest concentration on the island of Sicily. Th e first pictorial reference to the Cirneco dell’Etna, verifying its existence in Sicily

Provided by the Cirneco dell’Etna Club of America

for at least 2500 years, is found in coins minted between the 5th and 3rd centu- ries BC at Segesta and several other towns throughout Sicily. Th e coins depict exem- plars of the breed which are very much in conformance with the Cirneco as it exists today and are usually accompanied by the image of Adranos on the reverse of the coin. Adranos is the God personifying Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Italy and Europe, for whom Dionysus is said to have built a temple in 400 BC on the southern slope of Mount Etna. Th e legend surrounding the Temple of Adranos maintains that it was guarded by

a thousand Cirnechi that had the divine ability to di ff erentiate between thieves and disbelievers, whom they attacked, and pil- grims to the temple, whom they guided, with particular benevolence to those show- ing signs of intoxication. In written form, the “Cirneco” is first labeled as such in 1533 within a Sicilian law prohibiting the use of “cirnechi” for hunting. It was the imposition of penalties in an attempt to protect the prey for whom this breed was considered harmful. It is fairly well accepted, although not proven, that the Phoenicians disseminated the dog from the Nile, the dog depicted

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