A look at the Cirneco dell’Etna
by Jerrilyn Gates
T he AKC developed the Foundation Stock Service as a tool to assist Rare Breed parent clubs in meeting set guidelines for eventual recognition to full sta- tus, and to help maintain registration records. On the current list of breeds striving to meet the required guidelines is the Cirneco dell’Etna. The proper pronunciation is “cheer- nay-ko” and “cheer-nay-kee” for plural (Cirnechi). This primitive little sighthound hails from the island of Sicily, where it has been used for hunting for centuries. It’s true origins are a mystery, though history suggests it was brought to the island by the Phoenician traders as they travelled throughout the Mediterranean. The similarity in features to the Ibizan and Pharaoh Hounds, imply they all share a common ancestry, with each region developing the dog to suit their particular hunting needs. There is also a theory that the breed was developed from the Abyssinian Wolf.
Hound in miniature, but in actuality, there are several differences in their overall conforma- tion. The most notable difference is size, with the Cirneco having a maximum height of just over 19 inches for males and 18 for females, as opposed to the Pharaoh Hounds maximum of 25 inches for males, 23 inches for females. The Cirneco should be of square frame, rather than the Pharaoh Hounds slightly longer than tall, with other differences including the eyes, ears, tail and coloring. The Cirneco is a very hardy breed, selected by nature for the ability to work for hours in the heat, and is virtually free from genetic health issues. A very friendly, active and affable dog that is somewhat easier to train than most sighthounds. Well suited to many performance events, they are currently able to run in lure coursing events both in the US and in Europe, and agility seems like a natural fit. They make an excellent companion being very affectionate, preferring to be close to their owners, and love to sleep under the covers of the bed.
In the past few years, the popularity of the Cirneco has risen throughout most of Europe, Russia, and the US, plus a small contingent in South America, Australia and Canada. The fanciers in the US are working toward completing the goals required by The AKC, and hope to see the breed advance toward full recognition in the near future. This is an English translation of the Italian breed stan- dard. This standard is in the process of being adapted to TRANSLATION : Mrs. Peggy Davis. ORIGIN: Italy. DATE OFPUBLICATION OFTHE ORIGINALVALID STANDARD : 27.11.1989. UTILIZATION: Hunting dog, especially for the hunting of wild rabbits. CLASSIFICATION F.C.I.: Group 5 Spitz and primitive types. Section 7 Primitive type Hunting Dogs without working trial. BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY: The classical studies on the subject of canine breeds disseminated in the Mediterranean basin have come to the conclusion that the Cirneco dell’Etna would descend from ancient hunting dogs bred in the valley of fit the AKC breed standard format. FCI-Standard N° 199 / 03. 11. 1999 / GB CIRNECO DELL’ETNA
Many ancient artifacts from the region of Sicily, ancient Rome and Greece, have depictions on coins and pottery that resemble the Cirneco of today, some that date back as far as 4000 B.C. Many of the Sicilian towns, such as Palermo and Erice, beheld the dog with a religious or symbolic significance, often minting coins with their image. Legend claims that the temple built by Dionysus in 400 B.C., dedicated to the God Adranos near the volcano, had a thousand Cirnechi to guard it’s safety. It is said the dog had the ability to recognize and attack the thieves and disbelievers, while also accompanying and guiding the pilgrims seeking prayer and salvation. The breed was rarely seen outside Sicily before the early 1930’s until an article was published declaring the breed was in a danger of oblivion. A Sicilian aristocrat, the Baroness Agata Paterno Castello of the Dukes of Carcaci, took the matter at heart and headed up a group to help in saving the breed. “Donna Agata” spent the next 26 years studying this ancient dog, selecting the best dogs for breeding from the peasants, and developing the breed to what we know today. The Baroness commissioned to have the breed standard written, which was approved by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI) in 1939, with the current FCI (Federation Cynologique International) standard being completed in 1989. In order to maintain the ancient hunting heritage, in Italy the Cirneco must pass a hunt test to become a full champion. To the untrained eye, they look very much like a Pharaoh
104 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • J ANUARY 2011
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