More about the pharaoh hound


HEIGHT: 21-25 inches

COAT: Short and glossy; ranging from fine and close to slightly harsh with no feathering

COLOR: Self-colored tan, rich tan, or chestnut; white markings allowed only as follows—strongly desired white tip on tail and acceptable white on chest (called the star), toes, and slim snip on face

OTHER NAMES: Kelb-tal Fenek

Artifacts created in the Nile Valley during the Stone Age, perhaps as long ago as 4000 BC, display the image of a general type hound, such as the Pharaoh, Ibizan and Sicilian breeds. These dogs had the typical large, upright ears and descended from pariah-type southern dogs selected for their speed. Depicted widely during the Egyptian dynasties, these dogs bear a striking resemblance to the dog-god Anubis, who guided souls to their place in the afterworld.

But long before Egyptian times, the Phoenicians busily traded sighthounds of this kind around the known world. In most cases, these dogs were molded and shaped into new breeds by crossing with native dogs. But, in certain cases, the canine cargo was left on isolated islands where they bred true for millenia. Such is the case with the Pharaoh Hound.

Phoenicians colonized the island of Malta about 1000 BC, probably bringing fleet hounds with them at that time. Over the years, the people of this poor-soiled rocky island learned to value the dogs for hunting rabbits. This is where they acquired the name Kelb-tal Fenek, or rabbit dog. After the decline of the Middle Eastern civilizations, Malta was left on its own for many centuries (although legend says that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked near Malta in 60 AD when the inhabitants of these islands were converted to Christianity). For almost 2,000 years, the original dogs bred true on the island, without the introduction of any other type. Today the Pharaoh is the national dog of Malta and a piece of living history, showing us what dogs looked like thousands of years ago.

Although some Pharaoh Hounds were brought to Britain in the 1930s, they attracted little attention and soon disappeared. It wasn't until the breed was reintroduced in the 1960s that these dogs began to stir interest. A specialty club was organized in England as recently as 1968, with official Kennel Club recognition soon following. Specimens were introduced to North America in the late 1960s and gained much respect for their abilities in lure coursing and in field trials for sighthounds. Canada recognized the breed in 1979, with America following suit in 1983.

The Pharaoh is an unusual sighthound who can also competently hunt by scent. His temperament is friendly and affectionate, even playful. This, combined with his intelligence, often makes him a competitive obedience dog, a trait not common among the independent gaze-hounds. Despite his great speed and agility, his nature makes him quiet and unobtrusive in the home. The long, whiplike tail is carried high in a gentle curve when he is in action, very much like his ancient pariah ancestors and his cousin the Canaan Dog.

His alarm tendencies and easy care make him a viable choice for those who are willing to provide a workout. It has been noted by modern owners that Pharaohs lick rain water off each other, obviously a desert instinct to take advantage of any water. When excited, they blush a rosy pink, highlighting their faces and the inside of their ears. It is said "his face glows like a god."