Breed Type: Hound
Country of Origin: Malta or Egypt
Popular Names: Kelb tal-Fenek (means “rabbit hound”)
Size: Medium – Large
Height: (At the withers) Males 59 – 63 cm, Females 53 – 61 cm
Weight: Males 23 – 25 kg, Females 20 – 23 kg
Best suited as: Companion to an active family
Lifespan: 12-15 years
One of the oldest dog breeds in existence, the Pharaoh Hound is featured in Egyptian artwork over 4000 years old.
These graceful, sleek-looking dogs are slightly longer than they are tall, with deep chests and long legs. The long, straight tail is carried up or curled above the back when excited or in motion and hangs down when the dog is relaxed.
They come in varying shades of red and some may have white markings at the centre of the forehead, or on the chest, tip of the tail, toes, and bridge of the muzzle. Their eyes are blue when born but always change to amber as they mature. Their paw-pads, nose, nails, eye rims, and whiskers are all the same colour as the coat. They are native to the Mediterranean island of Malta where it is warm year-round and so the coat is very fine.
The dogs have a very well-developed sense of hearing, which is indicated by tall ears which stand up high on the head. Pharaoh Hounds have a “smiling” expression in that they show their teeth when happy or relaxed. Another interesting piece of trivia about these dogs is that they blush when excited – their noses turn a rosy shade of brown.
They have very little body fat and this in combination with their thin coat makes them sensitive to cold. They do best in warm climates like their native land.
There are conflicting stories about this breed. One states that this ancient breed has been around for over six thousand years. They were kept as companions and rabbit hunting dogs in ancient Egypt. King Tut hat a Pharaoh Hound he called Abuwitiyuw and had a statue of this dog erected at the entrance to his tomb. People who support the Egypt history say the dogs were exported to Malta over 2000 years ago.
The other theory has the dogs originating in Malta and says the dogs have nothing to do with ancient Egyptians.
In either case, the Kelb tal-Fenek are one of the world’s oldest domesticated dogs. They are the national dog of Malta, where the breed has been kept pure for over 2000 years. They were used – and still are – in conjunction with ferrets to hunt and flush rabbits.
They were imported to England in the 1930s and started gaining popularity in the 60s. Americans imported the breed in 1967 and started a breeding program.
These dogs are still rare outside of the islands of Malta.
They get along very well with other dogs and people, although they do tend to bark at any little noise. They make good watch dogs in that respect, but are very rarely aggressive towards people so do not make good guard dogs. They are intelligent, independent, and sometimes come across as reserved with strangers. They are affectionate, yet not overly demonstrative. They can be stubborn.
Families with Pharaoh Hounds should not adopt rabbits, rodents, or other small animals because the dog’s hunting instinct could cause it to chase and kill small pets.
Training should be gentle but firm, and never harsh. They are sensitive and do best with shorter training sessions. It is very important to socialize these dogs early and often when they are pups so that they develop into confident, sweet-natured adults. They can be difficult to housetrain, and some breeders offer to do this portion of the training for a price.
Care and Grooming
The thin coat makes them require dog jackets or coats in cold weather. They cannot be left outside for long periods in inclement weather. Their ears are susceptible to frost bite.
Their very thin coat rarely sheds and only need to be brushed down once a week with a damp cloth or hound glove. They only need to be combed if they get muddy or have other debris in their coat. They rarely have a dog smell, even when wet. They have sensitive skin and some bath products can cause adverse reactions. They require infrequent bathing. Other grooming requirements include weekly tooth brushing and ear inspections. Monthly nail clippings keep their nails short if they don’t wear them down outside. Do be careful when you clip, as their dark nails make it easy to cut into the quick.
Pharaohs are very good at jumping and can easily clear fences five feet high. This makes them great escape artists. This also helps them to excel at agility courses.
This breed needs a lot of daily exercise – they must run at least once a day – sedate walks are not enough. They enjoy running off-leash at dog parks and other secured areas. They are extremely fast runners. They make good cycling, jogging, and Rollerblading companions. Their prey drive places them in danger in unfenced areas. Most enjoy lure coursing, obedience trials, conformation shows, hunting, and field trials.
Like other ancient breeds, the Pharaoh Hound has very few health concerns. They live 12 to 15 years. They are sensitive to barbiturate anaesthetics like most other sighthounds. This affects them in two ways: first, their low body fat and lack of insulation from their coats makes them susceptible to hypothermia under anaesthetic; and second, their low ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass makes them store the anaesthesia in brain and blood far longer than other dogs. This means that they remain unconscious for longer, and can experience the effects of the drugs for up to several days.
Responsible breeders screen for hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and luxating patellas, but fortunately these health issues appear very rarely.
Suitability As A Pet
These dogs make great companions for single people, families, and older, active adults. Their intelligence and independence can make them slightly difficult to train, so owners should have at least some training experience, and lots of patience. Small children are safe around these dogs. Cats, small animal pets, and even smaller dogs will live in peril around these instinctive hunters.
They do well in apartments as long as they have lots of opportunity to run and play outside.
Pharaoh Hound Organisations in Australia
No club information listed
Pharaoh Hound Organisations in the UK
The Pharaoh Hound Club
Pharaoh Hound Organisations in the US
Pharaoh Hound Club of America
Pharaoh Hound – Australian National Kennel Council
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