ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Pharaoh Hound

Pharaoh Hound dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Pharaoh Hound is a fine, slender dog belonging to the sighthound family. It was originally used to hunt rabbits in the Maltese islands, where locals named him Kelb tal-Fenek (rabbit dog in Maltese). This breed gained so much popularity locally, that it even became Malta’s national dog.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityHigh
TrainabilityHigh
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Hound Dogs
Height:1 foot, 9 inches to 2 feet, 1 inch tall at the shoulder
Weight:45 to 55 pounds
Life Span:11 to 14 years

These dogs are considered excellent rabbit hunters and were widely used for this activity in their home land. As well as their ancestors, current dogs have kept the strong prey drive, which may be tricky to manage by a meek or novice owner.

They are lovely companions, though, as they are moderately stubborn and dominant and are easily trained due to their high intelligence and will to please. The only major issue that may get you into trouble is their obsessive barking. Pharaoh Hounds would bark at any moving thing, strange smell or visitor, so only consider keeping them in areas where noise is not a major need.

Generally, they are social dogs and get along well with most dogs or people, but they may act reserved if they weren’t socialized well during their early days. Never bring a Pharaoh Hound in the same home with small pets (even small dogs) if you want the little critters to have a quiet life.

Pharaoh Hounds are active dogs that love spending time with their family. Take them to as many outdoor activities, like biking, jogging or hiking, or have them competing in agility or obedience shows. They would make excellent competitors!

They are hardy dogs from the genetic point of view and they hardly fall ill. This is mainly because of their low popularity worldwide, which didn’t lead to much uncontrolled breeding. This way, breeders can still keep genetic issues under control and only breed healthy dogs to promote strong genes. Though, their skin and ears are particularly thin and sensitive, and they won’t tolerate cold weather because of their low body fat.

Main Highlights
  • Pharaoh Hounds are very slender and athletic dogs: they can jump at great heights and can run swiftly on long distances;
  • They are the most curious of all sighthound breeds;
  • These dogs make excellent watchdogs, due to their cautiousness towards strangers, as well as their alertness;
  • Their strong prey drive would lead these dogs to chase away any moving small animal, so keeping small pets in the same home would not be such a good idea. Also, you need a well-fenced yard to make sure they would stay inside;
  • Pharaoh Hounds are independent and have a mind of their own, so you mush show them training would bring them a lot of benefits if they do what they are told;
  • They are emotionally sensitive to schedule changes and stress;
  • They are also sensitive to low temperatures, so be very careful if you live in a cold climate. These dogs should always be allowed indoors to warm up, and should wear a coat during colder days;
  • Pharaoh Hounds are the noisiest of all sighthounds and love to bark, especially when you are not home. This behavior may be hard to curb and may trigger serious problems with neighbors;
  • A common behavior in these dogs is Coprophagia, meaning that they like to eat their stool. Always distract your dog’s attention from it and remove the poop immediately.
Breed History

This breed has a very long history. It has been known since ancient times in Egypt, where it has been widely recorded in literature and art. They can be traced back to 4000 BC, as an artifact dating from that period depicts two similar-shaped dogs hunting a gazelle. Pharaoh Hounds were also often depicted in the company of nobles and kings through most of the Egyptian art, and they were also mentioned as a long-tailed, red dog, with a God-like glowing face.

They were then imported by Phoenician tradesmen into the island of Malta, where they were called «Kelb tal-Fenek» («dog of the rabbit»). They gained this nickname from the game they used to hunt alongside local hunters. Pharaoh Hounds gained so much popularity in Malta, that the breed even became the state official dog.

The breed gained more popularity and began spreading throughout the world during the 20th century, tough it was never a really popular one.

Timeline

  • 4000 BC: the first recordings of the breed in art and literature;
  • 1647 AD: Giovanni Francesco Abela noted the presence of Cernechi, dogs that were prized as rabbit hunters in Italy, and were in demand as far as France;
  • The 1920s: the first two Pharaoh Hounds were imported to the U.K., but no litter was bred;
  • The 1960s: another breeding stock was imported to the U.K.;
  • 1963: the first Pharaoh Hound litter was born in the U.K.;
  • 1974: the standard for the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club;
  • 1984: the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Size

The Pharaoh Hound is a fairly tall and athletic breed. Being 21 to 25 inches high at the shoulder, one could say it is a large breed dog. But according to its weight of about 45 — 55 lbs, it should be considered a medium-sized breed. These dogs are a little longer than they are high, and females are usually a bit shorter than males of the same age.

Personality and Character

This intelligent and loyal dog makes a lovely family companion. He is fairly quiet and peaceful in the house if given the chance to spend all of its energy thorough daily exercise.

He can easily be trained to behave well and is moderately independent, so training a Pharaoh Hound won’t be a tough challenge. As all dogs, Pharaoh Hounds need a firm, but gentle leader to show them their place in the packing order. They need to know humans are above them and they are the ones who set the rules in the home.

Although attached to his family, he may be reserved towards strangers, so it would be a good idea socializing him from a very young age. Introduce your puppy to as many dogs, people, places and smells as you can, and invite your friends and family often to handle him. This way, he would be more relaxed when visitors come over.

Because Pharaoh Hounds were bred for hunting, they still keep a strong prey drive even after generations of being family dogs, so they would try to chase any cats and other small pets. They also love barking at anything, so you should train them to shut up when you ask them

Health and Potential Problems

Being bred so little outside their homeland in the islands of Malta and Gozo, these dogs are virtually free of any serious genetic health threat. Breeders try their best at keeping any genetic disease at bay by testing their breeding stock, so there is quite little concern about a Pharaoh Hound’s health. Though, there are some little health issues that may affect some specimens:

  • Patellar Luxation(slipped stifles): this is a common problem affecting small breed dogs. This is usually a congenital disorder meaning that the femur, knee cap and tibia are not properly lined up. This may also occur later in life. You may notice that your dog is lame, or skipping and hopping his leg while walking. Mild cases may be aligned manually, but more severe ones may require surgical intervention;
  • Hip Dysplasia: usually affects most large breed dogs. This is a hereditary condition, but it may worsen over time by a series of environmental factors, like rapid growth, jumping or falling from higher places. This condition may not be very obvious, so X-ray screening may be necessary to track it. Arthritis may develop as a dog with this condition ages, so keep a close eye on his joints, especially if you know his parents were also affected;
  • Frostbites: because they have so thin ears, they may be prone to frostbites during cold winter times, so make sure your dog is allowed indoors and keep a close eye on him while walking him outside. It may be a good idea to only take your dog out as little as necessary during winter;
  • Anesthesia and medicine sensitivity: like most sighthounds, Pharaoh Hounds may be vulnerable to anesthetics or other medicine. Though, they are less sensitive than others in this family. Always dose medicine to efectiveness, not to the dog’s weight, because of their low body fat. An usual dose for a dog of his weight would normally be absorbed into his body fat, so this may pose a serious threat to a Pharaoh Hound. Make sure you find a veterinarian that understands the risks of exposing this breed to chemicals and medicines;
  • Allergies: Pharaoh Hounds are predisposed to allergies, especially skin and food allergies. They may be caused by specific food stuff or external factors, like fleas or other parasites. Immediately take your dog to the vet if you notice your dog is itchy or shows any discomfort when you touch him gently, to determine the cause of the allergy and eliminate it. Some causes cannot be entirely eliminated but the allergies may be kept under control with proper medical treatment.
Care Features

Being such athletic dogs, Pharaoh Hounds would only do well in an apartment if taken out for enough daily exercise. The best home for them would be a house with at least a medium yard, surrounded by a sturdy fence. This is needed to contain them from escaping and wandering away from home while chasing cats or other small animals, because of their strong prey drive.

Whenever you are in an open, unfenced area, make sure your dog is securely on a leash, as he won’t think twice before deciding to chase a squirrel or cat. No training would determine him to stay next to you, no matter what you use to distract him, and how obedient he usually is.

These dogs have high energy levels, so they must be engaged in a dog sport or job, or taken out for jogging or biking with their families. They are awesome in agility or lure coursing competitions, as well as their first purpose, hunting.

Because they have such low to inexistent fat levels and thin ears, you should be very careful with Pharaoh Hounds, especially if you live in a cold area. They need a dog jacket or sweater to protect them from low temperatures and they should be allowed indoors whenever they feel the need to warm up.

Feeding Schedule

You can save a lot of money by feeding your dog high quality food that suits his particular needs. Energetic dogs, especially those from working lines, need a high-calorie diet, to help them keep up  with their activities. Feeding an adequate diet will prevent the from developing food-related health issues like obesity (which is not a serious threat in this breed, though), allergies, hot spots, etc.

If you decide to feed your Pharaoh Hound dry kibble, about 1.5 to 2 cups per day would be enough. This may seem too little for such a large dog, but we must keep in mind that they have almost no body fat, so there is really no that much body mass to sustain. It is better to feed an adult two smaller meals a day rather than a single large serving, to avoid bloat and to make sure he gets a balanced diet. Puppies and very young dogs should be fed about three meals per day. Always read the feeding instructions on the food package to check if your dog is getting the right food amount, and adjust it according to his age, metabolism, exercise level and health condition.

Pregnant or breastfeeding female dogs should be given as much food as they want, to allow for proper development of the puppies and to make sure they have enough milk. Puppy kibble is best for them during this time, as it holds more nutrients than regular adult food.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Pharaoh Hounds have a short, sleek coat that varies in texture from harsh to fine. They do shed, like most dogs do, but a weekly brush with a hound mitt would help remove dirt and loose hair and keep it from spreading around the house. Their coloration varies from chestnut tan to a rich tan, and may display small white areas on the center of the face, toes, chest or on the tip of the tail.

Because they don’t naturally have a strong dog smell, Pharaoh Hounds rarely need a serious bath, unless they do get into something stinky. In normal conditions, a gentle wipe with a damp cloth or special dog wipe once a day is more than enough to keep them clean.

Due to their short coat and sensitive skin, irritations, cuts or scrapes may appear occasionally, especially in younger and more playful dogs. Always search for any such marks on your dog’s body and begin treating them immediately.

You should brush your dog’s teeth at least two or three times a week to avoid gum disease and to prevent bacteria and tartar from accumulating between them. Trim his nails as needed, usually once or twice per month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally. Usually, you can guess the time to trim them when you hear them clicking on the floor as your dog walks by the house.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

These dogs are very loyal and devoted family companions and love children. This is why a large family would be the best for Pharaoh Hounds, who need human company and attention. Always supervise young children while playing with the dog to avoid accidental biting because of kids pulling their tails, paws and ears, especially in very young dogs. Teach them never to touch a dog while sleeping or eating, and especially to not try to take away his food, no matter how good friends they usually are. Food is food and dogs never bargain about it!

Well socialized Pharaoh Hounds get along well with most dogs, but cats and smaller pets may not be safe around them. Because of their strong prey drive, they would forget any training and commands and would begin chasing them around, like their ancestors would do on a daily basis.

Pharaoh Hounds are really special dogs, due to their dignified look and loyal behavior. They love spending time with their family and get involved in any kind of sports and activities. Nevertheless, you may consider getting another breed if you live in a colder area, for the dog’s good health. They are sensitive dogs and require a little more attention, though they hardly really fall ill. Just take some safety measurements to prevent your dog from escaping the yard when seeing a small running animal, and you two would enjoy a happy and active life together.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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