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
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.
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?
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
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.