Showsight Presents The Cirneco dell'Etna

The Broken Record of Form Follows Function

BY M. LUCIA PRIETO

I s the Cirneco a Sighthound? No. If classified as a “Hound,” the Cirneco is a Scenthound. While employing sight and sound almost equally, its primary sense is scent. It is a hunter that functions independently to locate and flush prey, voic- ing when prey is found, running rabbit to its burrow, and, yes, pointing—especially when hunting fowl. The Cirneco is a primitive breed with functional attributes not commonly converging and, in their embodiment, present a chal- lenge given the expectations of the American fancy. The expression “form follows function” is often a throw away, almost as common as a “good morning.” But, taken seriously, it is the underpinning of any performance dog of which the Cirneco dell’Etna is no exception. Not all factors described within a breed standard are crucial to the existence of a specific breed through its function. Aesthetics, subject for another time, is the second half of the soul of breed type. The function of the Cirneco dell’Etna is the hunting of small mammals, primarily rabbit, and fowl. The terrain upon which the Cirneco survived by virtue of its hunting prowess is not that of open land for as far as the eye can see. A canine that is large or built for speed is not rewarded with sustenance for survival on rocky slopes and small agricultural plots. Size is crucial to the Cirneco’s ability to enter and work within tight areas—thickets and rocky crevices. For this reason, the breed standard has well-defined boundaries for size, which include dis- qualifications. Disqualifications in size, while not common, are not a novelty for breeds where function is affected. The Whippet is the well-known breed within our same Hound Group with a size maximum and minimum. For the Cirneco, the disqualifications arise for dogs outside the range of 18-20 inches and for bitches outside the range of 17-19 inches. This is easy to apply if the time is taken to evaluate the exemplars individually, rather than seeking uniformity, or lack thereof, within the whole of the exhibits in the conformation ring. Unfortunately, this breed suffers more than most from hav- ing the least uniform exemplar in the ring be the most compliant to the breed standard. There has been a dearth of the use of a wicket, in both conformation and performance events, with the result of disqualifiable dogs having completed AKC titles.

photo by Inka Luonmanmãki

photo by Jane L. Moore

photo by L. Prieto

photo by L. Prieto

204 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, APRIL 2022

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