10 Facts About the Pharoah Hound: Malta’s Regal Breed

The Pharaoh Hound, also known as the "Blushing Dog," is a sighthound breed from Malta. It's known for its elegance, athleticism, and gentle, affectionate nature, making it an ideal companion.

Feb 4, 2024By Michael C., BA Fisheries and Wildlife
facts about the pharoah hound maltas regal breed

The Pharaoh Hound is a sighthound known for its sleek and agile appearance. Despite its name, this breed’s origins can be traced back to Malta, not Egypt. What’s more, this is a fairly uncommon dog in the United States; the American Kennel Club (AKC) notes that out of 201 registered breeds, the Pharoah Hound ranks 174th.

Read on to learn more about this royal canine and what makes it special!

Pharaoh Hounds Are Actually from Malta

hound on a leash
Image credit: Pleple2000/Wikimedia Commons

Though the Pharaoh Hound may be named after Ancient Egyptian royalty, and its namesake derives from the fact that its physical appearance is similar to that of dogs depicted in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, this dog was not likely from Egypt itself. This dog was first bred and recorded in Malta, where it is known locally as the Kelb tal-Fenek.

As it was originally bred to hunt rabbits, this canine was once known as the Maltese rabbit hound. The “Pharaoh Hound” name wasn’t developed until dogs were exported out of Malta during the 1960s in hopes that this breed would stand out from all others. Today, it is recognized as the national dog breed of Malta and even has a silver coin minted in 1977 that depicts this canine. It’s not to be confused with the much-smaller Maltese, an ancient dog breed.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaoh Hound sports physical similarities and traits of other breeds native to the Mediterranean, including the Ibizan Hound, the Podenco Canario, and the Cirneco dell'Etna. Its fur is usually a reddish-tan, with no black pigment whatsoever. Per the Pharaoh Hound of America, the breed standard calls for a sleek, yet muscular physique.

These Breeds Were Bred to Hunt Small Game

hound in wilderness
Image credit: Frank Vincentz/Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaoh Hound was traditionally bred to hunt rabbits and other small game. Its local name, Kelb tal-Fenek, translates to “dog of the rabbit.” This hound utilizes both scent and sight to pursue their quarry. The dogs are usually brought out during nighttime by hunters, as there are fewer distractions. These canines are well-adapted to run through rough, rocky terrain as they search for prey with their sense of smell. As soon as a rabbit is sighted, the dogs will flush the quarry back into its hiding spots, and the hunters will then block all possible exits with nets.

A ferret, equipped with a bell, will then be released into one of the burrow entrances, and the hounds will listen with their superb sense of hearing as the ferret’s bells ring. The ferret’s goal is to chase the rabbit out. As soon as the rabbit escapes, it is then captured by the hunter’s nets.

These Dogs “Blush” When Excited!

dog in woods
Image credit: SergeyTikhomirov/Getty Images

A very notable characteristic of the Pharaoh Hound is the rosy-pinkish blush that occurs on its nose, ears, and cheeks when excited. This can be easily observed, as this dog doesn’t have brown or black pigments within these areas. Though some people believe that this distinctive trait is unique to the Pharaoh Hound, a few other dog breeds can also be seen with this notable blush, including the related Ibizan Hound.

Because of this, the Pharaoh Hound has sometimes been nicknamed the “blushing dog of Malta”. Along with blushing, this dog may also “smile” as well (not all Pharaoh Hounds smile, however). Take note that these canines most likely aren’t blushing (or smiling) out of pure embarrassment!

This Breed Is Fairly New

hound sniffing ground
Image credit: Frank Vincentz/Wikimedia Commons

Even though it resembles the dogs from the days of old, the Pharaoh Hound isn’t as ancient of a breed as once believed. This canine was only developed around the 1600s. A recent study published in 2018 has shown that it only genetically diverged from another similar breed, the Cirneco dell'Etna, around 200 years ago. This dog breed is very similar (almost identical) in appearance to the Pharaoh Hound, with the main differences being the sizes of the two breeds (the Pharaoh Hound is larger).

Despite being created a lot later than previously believed, the Pharaoh Hound has changed very little in its physical appearance as the people of Malta hold this dog with high reverence. Though not from Egypt itself, some believe that the Pharaoh Hound’s ancestry may be connected to dogs that were imported from Phoenician traders thousands of years ago. The original dogs from Ancient Egypt are now extinct, but the Pharaoh Hound still holds a high resemblance to the depictions found in tomb paintings.

The Pharaoh Hound Is a Generally Healthy Breed

hound eating kibble
Image credit: Frank Vincentz/Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaoh Hound is a relatively healthy dog breed, especially compared to many other dog breeds. This is likely due to the efforts of responsible breeders that aim to minimize the common health problems found in some canines. The average lifespan of a Pharaoh Hound is typically around 12 to 14 years of age. Not bad!

Even though this canine is healthier in comparison to many other dog breeds, there are a few health issues that the Pharaoh Hound can be susceptible to. Important issues that Pharaoh Hounds are prone to include hypothyroidism, bloat, and congestive heart disease.

Skin allergies are also common in this breed, which can cause dry, flaky skin during colder times of the year. Remember to have your dog thoroughly examined by a veterinarian annually to prevent and/or catch signs of illness early on.

They Debuted in the U.K. in the 1960s

three hounds outside
Image credit: janpla01/Getty Images

The Pharaoh Hound was introduced out of its home country in the early 1960s. Pauline Black, who was the wife of a British general stationed in Malta, fell in love with the breed and decided to introduce them into the United Kingdom. There, the first-ever Pharaoh Hound litter outside of its island of origin was born in 1963. In that same year, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale accepted the Pharaoh Hound as a recognized breed. The British Kennel Club would later recognize this breed in 1974.

The Pharaoh Hound was later imported into the United States in 1967. Three years later, the first litter of this breed would be born in the country. Though Pharaoh Hounds are considered a relatively uncommon breed, they’re a favorite among sighthound enthusiasts.

Grooming Is Mostly a Breeze

dog in vacant lot
Image credit: Frank Vincentz/Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaoh Hound is a relatively clean dog breed. As it sports a short fur coat, daily light brushing or a weekly heavy brushing session with a rubber curry brush is enough to maintain its fur coat. The Pharaoh Hound does shed, so regular brushing will help remove hairs and maintain its coat to keep it nice and shiny. Wiping with a damp cloth weekly should suffice, with baths only needed if your dog is dirty. Pharaoh Hounds do not normally produce the infamous dog odor smell, so care should be taken if such an odor occurs with your canine.

Like all dog breeds, Pharaoh Hounds require regular maintenance regarding nail trimming and ear cleaning. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times weekly, and dental chews should be given as a supplemental enrichment item.

These Dogs Love Exercise

hound running through grass
Image credit: ksuksa/123RF

The Pharaoh Hound is a high-energy breed: daily exercise is a mandatory requirement for this canine. A large yard is highly recommended for those who want to keep this breed; if not, prepare to walk your dog daily. Due to their nature, Pharaoh Hounds are ideal candidates for a variety of canine sports, particularly running. Lure coursing allows your dog to practice the skills that this breed was originally bred for. Agility trials are another great activity, as they allow your dog to run and navigate through a series of different obstacles.

Training at an early age is a must, as with all other dogs. Pharaoh Hounds are intelligent dogs and thrive on positive reinforcement, enjoying rewards such as playtime and treats. Most importantly, Pharaoh Hounds must be kept on a leash at all times whenever they’re not contained in an enclosed area. Due to its high prey drive, even the most well-behaved or well-trained canines cannot resist the urge to chase after anything interesting that they see or smell. This could be small animals, children, or even oncoming traffic.

Pharaoh Hounds Don’t Handle the Cold Well

hound laying on grass
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaoh Hound hails from the warm, subtropical climates of Malta; therefore, they have little need for a thick, shaggy coat. This in turn puts this breed highly susceptible to cold temperatures, especially during the winter. Jackets made for dogs are a must whenever a Pharaoh Hound is outdoors in the cold, typically during walks. Fleece sweaters and vests are great indoors, as these dogs can even get cold easily inside. Even doggie pajamas can be worn for sleeping at night. Warm blankets for your Pharaoh Hound are also appreciated.

This Dog Isn’t for Novice Owners

hound peeking head through fence
Image credit: kallerna/Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaoh Hound is an adaptable breed, easily adjusting to changes within its environment. They sport a relatively easy-going attitude and usually get along great with children and other dogs. However, Pharaoh Hounds aren’t for first-time owners as their high bouts of energy can be demanding.

As mentioned earlier, the Pharaoh Hound sports both a high prey drive and lots of energy within. This dog requires daily exercise, or else it will become self-destructive out of sheer boredom.

Though Pharaoh Hounds can get along with other dogs, supervision is a must for smaller breeds as they can play rough and unintentionally hurt their pals. The Pharaoh Hound can also live with cats, but it is strongly advised to properly socialize both dog and cat at a young age. The Pharaoh Hound’s strong prey drive may also cause issues. You don’t want them endlessly chasing your cat around!

rabbit hound side profile pic
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pharaoh Hounds require consistent and positive training methods to keep them motivated and satisfied. Like other sighthounds, the Pharaoh Hound sports an independent nature that can make training frustrating for some people. They fare poorly with negative reinforcement and require lots of patience. For the right owner, the Pharaoh Hound is a playful and social dog that can be the ideal companion for those looking for an active and elegant breed with a hint of regality.

Michael C.
By Michael C.BA Fisheries and Wildlife

Michael holds a BS degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University. He formerly worked at a pet store as an animal care associate and is the former president of the MSU Herpetological Society. Michael currently owns three snakes (a corn snake, a Kenyan sand boa, and a checkered garter snake) and a leopard gecko. Interests include almost anything animal-related. Michael enjoys drawing, gaming, and having fun in his free time.