The Pharaoh Hound from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea is the national dog of this country. It is known as Kelb tal-Fenek in their language which literally means ‘rabbit dog,’ an apt name for this hound traditionally used for rabbit hunting. They are energetic and athletic-looking dogs with a lean profile.
Though they have an air of independence, they remain very loyal and devoted to their owners. Being gentle and well-mannered within the house, they make good family pets, and can even adapt to apartment living as long as sufficient exercise and outdoor time are provided.
The Pharaoh Hound dog breed gets this name from its Anubis-like appearance. Because of their similarity to the dogs featured in Egyptian artwork, they were thought to have been brought from Egypt to Malta by the Phoenicians. However, DNA studies failed to trace any link to Egypt.
While it is not easy to find out how they reached the Mediterranean region, they have much in common with other indigenous breeds from this area. Isolated from the rest of the world, these dogs flourished in the islands of Malta and Gozo for 2,000 years or more, thus maintaining their pure-bred status intact. They were highly valued as rabbit hunters and were usually used for hunting in the night along with a hunting party consisting of male-female pairs of dogs and badgers trained to enter the underground lairs of the rabbits.
These dogs were imported to England in the 20th century and were first bred there in the 1960s, but there are accounts of them being exported to France much earlier. They reached the United States towards the latter part of the century, and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1983.
The Pharaoh Hound dog breed typically measures 21 to 24 inches at the withers and weight 45 to 55 pounds. These dogs have a longer body compared to their height. The head is long and wedge-shaped with upright ears that give these dogs a perpetually alert look. The ears are very thin and are known to change color, or blush, when the dog is excited. The tail is thin and long and often white-tipped in true hound fashion. It is usually carried low except when the dog is excited or running.
The fine coat hugs the body, sharply outlining its profile. These dogs are referred to as red dogs after their most common coat color, but it can range from a light tan color to dark chestnut. There may be white patches on the forehead and chest.
Pharaoh Hounds are excellent hunters and love chasing small prey, but they are rather well mannered at home. They are affectionate toward their owners and gentle with children.However, the safety of small pets in the household cannot be guaranteed as they may trigger their hunting instincts. When left in the yard, they chase small animals like rats and squirrels.
These dogs tend to be reserved and cautions around strangers but are not overly aggressive. They are known for their ‘blushing’ when their ears and nose take on a pinkish hue when they get excited. They have an independent nature which makes them not too easy to train, but positive training methods can work. These sensitive dogs need gentle handling though.
Grooming and exercise
The fine coat of the Pharaoh Hound dog breed requires minimal grooming. A light brushing once a week and an occasional wiping with a damp washcloth should keep it clean and free of dead hair. Shampoos and soaps should be avoided as these dogs are prone to developing allergies.
Pharaoh Hounds need their daily quota of exercise in the form of long walks or jogging with their owners. However, they love nothing more than opportunities to sprint freely across open fields.
A large, fenced in yard should be available to them for free roaming. However, they should not be left to live outdoors. Since these dogs have a fine, body hugging coat, they should ideally have soft beds to lie on to prevent sores developing at pressure points.
Common health issues of Pharaoh Hound dog breed
The Pharaoh Hound dog breed enjoys excellent health and is free from almost all the genetic disorders affecting modern dog breeds. This is attributed to their pure breeding and careful selection to avoid undesirable characteristics entering the breed profile. However, these dogs are sensitive to anesthetic drugs and the chemicals in pesticides and cleaners. Since they come from mild Mediterranean climate, they cannot tolerate extreme cold. Their thin ears may develop frostbite in colder areas. The life expectancy of this breed is 12 years on the average, but many of them live for 15 years or more.