The Cirneco dell'Etna (pronounced "cheer-nay-ko del etna") is an Italian breed developed on the island of Sicily several thousands of years ago. It has also been called the Sicilian Greyhound, the Sicilian Hound or simply the Cirneco. The name “Cirneco" is generally thought to be derived from the Greek word "kyrenaikos," which means "dog from Cyrene," the area in North Africa now known as Libya. Some authorities suggest that the breed’s name may come from the Latin term "cernere," which means "to look for attentively." The affix "dell'Etna" was only added in 1939, when the first breed standard was formally recognized by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI). It translates as "from Etna," referring to Mount Etna, the 10,000-foot active volcano on Sicily’s eastern side, where the highest concentrations of Cirnechi still live.
Originally used to hunt rabbits and other small game on rough ground formed by molten lava, these trim, muscular dogs rely on sight, scent and hearing to track their prey. They are known for their stamina, swiftness and springy gait, which help them to navigate treacherous terrain with relative ease. Bred to hunt for days in extreme heat without access to food or water, the Cirneco is an extraordinarily hardy and resilient dog. Its attentive, affectionate, adaptable disposition makes it a good companion for active families. Despite the efforts of breed aficionados, the Cirneco is still rare outside of Sicily and has not achieved the popularity of its larger Pharaoh Hound and Ibizan Hound cousins.