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Pharaoh Hound - Breed Profile

Pharaoh Hound Adult Dog standing on the grass facing left
The Pharaoh Hound, ancient "Blushing Dog" of Malta, is a graceful, sleek but rugged sprinting hound historically bred to course small game over punishing terrain.
Pharaoh Hounds have a goofy streak, they are inquisitive and they love playing with toys and people. They are endlessly entertaining and they keep their owners on their toes. 

History

The Pharaoh Hound looks as though it has just stepped off the walls of an Egyptian tomb or returned from a hunt with a pharaoh. 
No better idea can be had of the Pharaoh Hound than that gained by looking at statues of Anubis, the dog (or jackal) god
Statue of Anubis the jackal god in an Egyptian museum

Yet for centuries, the original Egyptian hounds were assumed to be extinct — until these dogs, almost certainly the descendants of Egyptian hounds traded by sea-going Phoenicians, were discovered on the island of Malta. 

The isolation of Malta allowed them to breed true for thousands of years, their physiques honed and tested by the need to earn their keep catching rabbits. The pharaoh hound is known as the Kelb-tal Fenek (which means “Rabbitdog”) in Malta, where it is now the national dog. The dog is traditionally used by some Maltese men for hunting.

Recent DNA analysis would indicate the breed has no link with Ancient Egypt casting doubts on the myth that the modern Pharaoh Dog is descended from the Tesem, one of the ancient Egyptian hunting dogs.

The first Pharaoh Hounds recorded to have left Malta were in the 1930s, but only in the 1950s and 60s was there a significant effort mounted to establish them in Britain and America. Since then, they have remained rare; after all, not everyone is suited to own the dog of the pharaohs.

Appearance 


The Pharaoh Hound is described as Dolichocephalic (long face) - like the Afghan Hound, Borzoi, Bull Terrier etc. - and the large, naturally erect ears are a hallmark of the breed.

Many people confuse the Pharaoh with the Ibizan Hound but the Pharaoh tends to be smaller. He is also one of the most moderate of the sighthounds, lacking the exaggerated raciness seen in others of this family. 
Unlike most hounds, the Pharaoh Hound dog breed hunts both by scent as well as sight.

Still, the breed retains Greyhound-like features: long, slender legs, relatively narrow body, tucked up waist, slightly arched loin and long tail — but everything is less so than in a Greyhound. Even the legs are only moderately angulated, indicating the build of a dog that combines considerable stamina with speed.

  • Height: Males 56-63.5 cm (22-25 ins); Females 53.5-61 cm (21-24 ins) 
  • Weight (both): 20-25 kg
Trio of Pharaoh Hound dogs males and female facing the camera
The coat colour should be a tan or rich tan with white markings allowed including a white tip on the tail (strongly desired), White on chest (called "The Star") and white on toes. The coat is short, soft and great to stroke! 

For more on the Breed Standard, please visit the ANKC page


One the delightful traits of this breed is their ability to smile and the Pharaoh Hound blushes when happy or excited! They do not blush in their cheeks, but they do in their ears and noses.

Temperament 

Like all sighthounds, Pharaoh Hounds are chasers. They cannot be let off lead in an unfenced area without the danger of them running after something and onto the road.
Female Pharaoh Hound runs at full speed on the lawn to the left


These dogs' purpose in life was to hunt in packs and make decisions independently from their masters. They used to vocalise to communicate with the other dogs in the pack so remember that modern Pharaoh Hounds will yodel or bay which your neighbours may not appreciate! 

The Pharaoh Hound is independent-minded, highly intelligent and occasionally stubborn, yet very trainable when positive methods are used. 

It is a very sensitive breed and responds poorly to compulsory training methods and to being physically punished. Pharaohs were bred to hunt and think for themselves, and they have retained this trait for thousands of years. They tire / bore easily with repetitive commands, therefore it is the trainer's job to ensure that their training remains interesting and positive in nature.
Pharaoh Hound with all our four paws in the air and branch in his mouth
Nobody ever accused a pharaoh of being an obedience wiz! They have very good eyesight and hearing but they don’t have any particularly ability to work as a watchdog or protection dog.

They are a very active breed but, like Greyhounds, as indoor dogs they are couch potatoes and need little "real" exercise. Indoors, the Pharaoh Hound is calm, quiet and content to stretch out on your best sofa and sleep as long as you have given him a daily run or romp. 


Pharaoh Hounds thrive with human companionship. If they are bored, they will get into mischief and create their own amusement. 

The Pharaoh is sensitive and aloof, it tends to reserved and scared around strangers. Few breeds can claim to match this breed's patience and gentleness with children, and they get along well with other dogs when properly socialised. But they need to be closely supervised around cats and other small mammals.

Health & Lifespan


According to the American Breed Club, Pharaohs are virtually free from genetic diseases. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
  • Hip Dysplasia – dogs can be hip scored by a vet
  • Luxating Patellas
  • Eye problems
  • Skin Allergies
  • Canine Bloat / gastric torsion
  • Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)

Reputable breeders continue to test their dogs for genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and myriad eye conditions, just to ensure that these disorders do not become a problem. Reputable breeders should be able to show documentation of health screening performed on their breeding dogs. 

Note that Pharaohs, like most sighthounds, are sensitive to barbiturate anaesthetics. Their ears are thin and prone to frostbite when living in cold climates. Their thin coat makes them require dog jackets or coats in cold weather.
Pharaoh Hound with four paws in the snow facing left
Average Lifespan: about 12-14 years.

Grooming & Maintenance

They have sensitive skin, and normal shampoo may cause allergic reactions, therefore it is best to wash them with a gentle dog shampoo. 

Grooming Pharaohs is as easy as a quick rub with a hound glove or a damp cloth. They are clean dogs, shed very little, and have no noticeable odour, except when wet or when they've been outside. But their odour quickly returns to normal.

Recommended for

Because their energy requirements are high, Pharaoh Hounds are recommended for active families. These active, high-energy dogs need daily walks and playing, and many also enjoy jogging. 

Pharaoh Dog with happy grin runs in a field with his ears flapping
When outdoors, Pharaohs should be kept on a lead or exercised in an enclosed area because of their extremely high prey drive. If they give chase, they can be difficult to catch since they are such fast runners. 

However, they can do well in apartments if they are sufficiently exercised. A backyard would be appreciated, but it needs to have a tall fence (6 feet high minimum is recommended). 

See if there is a dog club in your area that offers an activity called lure coursing, which is chasing a mechanical lure in a controlled setting. This is an appropriate outlet for the full-speed galloping behaviours that are "hardwired" into your Pharaoh Hound's genes. 

Being quite rare means they're amongst one of the most expensive dog breeds in Australia. To own one of these adorable dogs you could be looking at paying upwards of $7,000!

For more information about the Pharaoh Hound, please contact one of the following Clubs:

Hound Club of Victoria


There's a also a Facebook group for Pharaoh Hounds lovers in Australia.
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