General Characteristics:

     The Pharaoh Hound is a medium sized dog. Females range from 21” to 24” and males from 23” to 25”. Their body construction is lean and lithe. Females usually weigh between 35 and 50 pounds, males 45 to 65 pounds. Their coat is short, sparse and sheds very little. They have no odor, even when wet, since they lack coat oil. Everything about their physical make up is adapted to a warm climate. Their blood vessels are near the surface of their skin, with no fat covering to insulate them. They give off heat very quickly through their coat and in those large ‘cooling fin’ ears. Ear tips can freeze in colder climates if the dog is outside for an extended period of time. Pharaoh Hounds love a romp in the snow, but should wear coats if they are going to be outside for any length of time. They love the summers of course!
     Pharaohs can be aloof; curious but cautious; independent, extremely intelligent, and strong willed. But no two are alike. Several generations of breeding, since the first Pharaohs to the US in the 1967, have produced many more Pharaohs that are more of a ‘social butterfly’ with a higher will to please.
     The Pharaoh Hound is easy going and gentle. He is regal and holds himself above the average. They are fun loving and affectionate with their owners, and when quite pleased with themselves and/or their actions, will blush. Some Pharaohs also smile big toothy grins. They glow with excitement or happiness and can exhibit a great sense of humor, in the nature of a first class clown.

Kal-el’s classic smile

     Pharaoh Hounds raised with children enjoy playing with and being their best friend.
When raised with other small animals, they can be quite tolerant of those also. But be aware, they can also consider other small animals as „game“ as they are first and foremost hunters instinctively.

     Pharaoh Hounds have an innate sense of their owner’s feelings and moods. They know when to dive for cover or be on their best behavior. They are generally not high strung, but are active and do enjoy running and playing. They will entertain themselves for hours on end, and if they can entertain those they own at the same time, they are twice as happy.
     They can be quite „cat-like“ in their personalities and habits. Some will decide when they want to cuddle. Others will throw themselves at you! Personality is an inherited trait, so a puppy will likely be similar to their parents in personality and looks. With strangers, they can be aloof until properly introduced. They will judge each new person and decide if they are worthy of their attention. Given time, most will warm up to any situation or environment. Proper socialization is essential.
     With other dogs, they tend to avoid fights, but if challenged they will stand their ground and defend themselves. Remember not all dogs are the same and these traits may vary from one dog to another.

General care and exercise:

     Pharaoh Hounds are a „wash & wear“ dog, requiring a minimum of grooming. Nails should be ground with a dremel type tool or clipped regularly. Once per week is ideal. Teeth usually stay very clean. You can brush them or use the new liquid drops from your vet. To remove any plaque build up, use a dental scaler. The coat should be brushed with a hound glove occasionally. Bath as needed with a gentle baby shampoo. Pharaohs do not have coat oil and should not be bathed with a regular dog shampoo as they are very strong and can cause their skin to dry out and flake.
     A small fenced in yard will suffice for exercise, but they do appreciate a good long romp in larger enclosed areas when available. Some Pharaohs are good jumpers, and you may need a 6’ fence to contain them. 4’ to 5’ will work for many, but not all. Jogging or running with their owner is a favorite pastime.


     Pharaohs are hounds through and through. They can be stubborn and will try to outsmart you. They must be trained with positive motivation and rewarded for all proper behavior. Their motto is often ‘What’s in in for me?” A lesson learned is never forgotten. This applies to bad habits also. Just because that puppy is so cute doing something, if it is something that you will not be able to live with later in his life, correct it immediately. Untraining those bad habits is much harder than enforcing the good habits, no matter the age. Be consistent, firm and fair. Help the dog learn and praise all good behaviors.
     House training is usually easy. They are very clean and make great house dogs, never having a „doggy odor“. They are quick and eager to learn, though a bit strong minded. With their independent nature, they prefer to think for themselves with a very high degree of intelligence.
     Being natural hunters, the „come“ command is vital for their welfare. Always reward a Pharaoh Hound when they come to you! Make it the most wonderful thing on earth! When in pursuit of the „game“, they can become selectively deaf, and being so intent, they will keep going for the thrill of the chase. They pay no attention to where they are going and can become lost. They hunt by scent and sight and are aided by their tremendous speed and agility. The best rule here is never have them off lead except in a controlled situation, like totally fenced in areas that are escape proof.
The Pharaoh demands an Alpha leader, and if he feels you are not up to the job, he will try to take over command and train you to his way of life. Be consistent, fair and gentle at the same time and you will have a wonderful companion. And always keep the training fun and exciting for both of you. They consider training just another new game, keep it that way. They do not handle repetition well.


     The first two specimens of the breed were taken to Britain from Malta in the 1920s, but at that time, no litter was bred. Again, some dogs were imported to the UK in the early 1960s, and the first litter was born in 1963. The breed standard was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1974. The breed was called the Pharaoh Hound although this name was already used by the FCI as an alternative name for the Ibizan Hound at that time. When the FCI abolished this name in 1977 and decided to call the Ibizan Hound exclusively by its original Spanish name Podenco Ibicenco, the term Pharaoh Hound was transferred to the Kelb tal-Fenek, whose breed standard had been recognised by the FCI at the same time.

     For many years, the Pharaoh Hound was considered one of the oldest dog breeds, because it is thought by some to resemble paintings of dogs featured on the walls of ancient Egyptian pyramids and tombs. Recent DNA analysis reveals, however, that this breed is actually a more recent construction, developed out of different lines of European hunting dogs. This DNA data now puts to rest the “Egyptian Myth” and proves the breed did not originate from Egypt. Another study -”Mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in Portuguese native dog breeds” -found no evidence of connection between Iberian dogs and those of North Africa; showing again, no connection between Mediterranean hounds and dogs of North Africa.

     The Pharaoh Hound is often called a sighthound, particularly in North America, but also hunts by scent and hearing. A number of other breeds that are similar to the Pharaoh Hound exist in different regions of the Mediterranean. One is the Cirneco dell’Etna from neighbouring Sicily, which is very similar in structure and appearance, but somewhat smaller (43-51cm / 17-20in). Other similar breeds include the Ibizan Hound, Podenco Canario, Podengo Português and other local breeds from the Mediterranean—each breed is slightly different with physical characteristics that match the terrain the dogs hunt on. It is not clear whether those breeds have descended from the same anscestral lines, or whether their similarities have developed due to similar environmental conditions.

     It should be noted that the Pharaoh Hound is not the only breed of dog specific to the tiny islands of Malta. There is also the Kelb tal-but (“pocket dog”, a toy breed), Kelb tal-kaa (“gun dog”, a breed used for bird hunting), and lastly a type of Mastiff which is now extinct (Kelb tal-Gliet, sometimes called the Maltese Bulldog or Maltese Mastiff).

     Photos and a short history of the Maltese breeds are shown here on the Malta Kennel Club site.


Lori Evans