Pharaoh Hound

This breed is known in its native Malta as the Kelb tal Fennec, which means Rahhit Dog. It was developed as a sighthound by Maltese formers for hunting rabbits.


The Pharaoh Hound has been well known in Malta and Gozo for centuries as the local farmer’s dog, employed in the more remote rural districts for hunting the elusive orange-coloured island rabbits. Until the late 1960s it had been largely scorned by the island’s show-dog enthusiasts. It was so familiar to them that it was always passed over at local dog shows in favour of more exotic, imported pedigree dogs. Then, in 1968, a British enthusiast realized its potential and imported eight examples to England, where their striking appearance and proud demeanour soon attracted serious attention. It was felt that the traditional name of Maltese Rabbit Dog did not do it justice, so a more romantic title was sought.

It was known that the Phoenicians had visited the Maltese Islands in ancient times and had been active traders throughout the Mediterranean region. It had also been noted that the Rabbit Dog was remarkably similar to the depictions of houndlike dogs on the wall paintings and carvings of ancient Egypt. It was therefore decided to link the Maltese dog with the early Egyptian ones by giving it the more dignified title of Pharaoh Hound. There is no hard evidence to support this connection, but it makes an appealing story and may even be true, since the Maltese Dog is remarkably true-breeding and certainly appears to have been isolated on the islands over a very long period. When future DNA-analysis techniques are applied to dog breeds to settle matters of relationship, it will be interesting to see if DNA taken from mummified ancient Egyptian dogs matches closely with that taken from modern Pharaoh Hounds.


The pharaoh hound has a long, lean body; a slightly tucked-up abdomen; a flat, triangular head; big, high-set prick ears; amber eyes; a pinkish-brown nose; a long tail that curves when the dog is excited, but that is never curled over the back; and firmly knuckled feet like those of a cat. The short, shiny coat is rich tan, white star markings on the paws and chest, and a fine white line in the center of the forehead.


Because of its strong hunting instinct, the Pharaoh Hound will chase and catch neighbors' pet rabbits and cats. It is not a breed for apartments, but for suburban environments.

Gracious and royal-mannered indoors, the Pharaoh turns into an attentive hunter and zealous chaser in the park. He is rather calm and docile, but enjoys running and chasing small animals. Independent and headstrong, he is nevertheless responsive to his humans’ wishes and generally willing to please. At heart, he is a sensitive, affectionate dog, utterly devoted to his family and a great fan of kids. The Pharaoh is usually reserved, even timid with strangers. When the Pharaoh is excited, his nose and ears “blush”, turning a rosy shade.

General care

Although the needs of the Pharaoh Hound can be met with a long walk on leash followed by a short sprint, he will appreciate a chance to run at will in the field. He is unsuited to living outside and needs a soft, warm bed. Coat care is minimal and consists only of occasional brushing.

Its nails should be attended to weekly, unless the hound has worn down the tips by being exercised on sidewalks. Its teeth should be brushed regularly. Because of its short coat, the Pharaoh Hound needs protection from the cold. It should have a soft bed with something like a sheepskin pad as a cushion to provide warmth.

Puppies and Training

The litters of from three to seven puppies are easily delivered. The puppies grow fairly fast. They must be watched, as they often damage each other's tails while playing.

Gallery of Pharaoh Hound