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History of the Pharaoh Hound

The pharaoh hound (Kelb tal-Fenek) is a breed of Mediterranean hound and his country or origin is Malta where he has been kept by the farming community for over 2000 years.


There is an ongoing debate over the origin of the breed, did they travel with traders from Egypt and some were left on Malta and Gozo, or were they found by the traders and taken back to Egypt?


No one will ever really know but the fact the breed is still on Malta and no records exist of the breed surviving in Egypt may point to the origin being in Malta.  He loves to hunt and rabbit is his game of choice.  His Maltese name Kelb tal-Fenek translates to “The Dog of the Rabbit” and he is the National dog of Malta.




Origins of the breed

This depiction from the tomb of Antefa II. (2300 B.C. approx.) is often stressed as a proof that the Kelb tal-Fenek is related with the dogs of ancient Egypt. But is this the exclusive ancestor of our modern breed?


Above - Kelb tal-Fenek in Malta

The name Pharaoh Hound came about when Mrs. Pauline Block attempted to register the breed with the British Kennel Club.  She applied initially for the name Maltese Kelb tal-Fenek.  This was refused by the Kennel Club on the grounds that a foreign name translating to rabbit dog was not acceptable.  So another name had to be found.  With friend Mrs. Ann Dewey she wrote to the FCI (Federation Cynologique International) asking them what name was given to the Kelb tal-Fenek she received a reply dated 30.11.1965 saying “the race bred in Malta is recognised by the FCI as Pharaoh Hound”.  An application was then made to the Kennel Club to register the breed as “Pharaoh Hounds” under Any Variety Rare Breeds.  This was accepted and the breed club was formed in January 1968.


Mrs. Pauline Block and her husband saw the Pharaoh Hound in the early 1960’s when they were residents in Malta and brought the breed back with them to the UK.  It is also very successful in obedience, lure coursing, agility and racing and one is competing in heelwork to music in Sweden (pictured below).

Like other sight hound breeds, he is very demanding.  Their hunting instincts are very strong.  Owners should be aware that these dogs are capable of travelling huge distances out of sight in search of prey so a safe area for free exercise as well as early obedience training makes life much easier.  They can be very demanding but are very sociable.  The Pharaoh Hound is highly intelligent and can be a challenge to train, but perseverance can bring great reward.  He has a mind of his own and owners should be aware of this and always take up the dominant position with their hound.

They make wonderful companions, are playful and full of life.  They are affectionate and very loyal and especially good with children.  One reason for this might be the fact that it is usually the farmer’s children who are responsible for grooming and feeding the dogs on Maltese farms.

Below - a 21st century family with their litter of puppies
History information taken from an article written in Our Dogs October 2009
By Sheila Simm