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Pharaoh hounds are graceful, elegant dogs with sleek, shiny coats. But don't let their model-like stature fool you: These affectionate, charming dogs are incredibly playful, and they love nothing more than spending time with their favorite humans. They make great family pets and they're always happy to romp around with energetic children.
At 45-55 pounds and 21-25 inches tall, Pharaoh hounds are adaptable medium-sized dogs who can live happily in large homes and small apartments, so long as they can burn off some steam with daily exercise. This breed, one of the oldest domesticated dogs on record, is fairly uncommon, though you might spot one at a lure coursing event or agility competition.
"The Pharaoh hound is a very unique breed of dog that we don't hear about or even see too often," says Jen Jones, a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist who runs Your Dog Advisor. "That's too bad, because these dogs are quite intelligent, sensitive, affectionate, and funny."
Lean and sleek, Pharaoh hounds are elegant medium-sized dogs with short, glossy coats. Males are typically 23-25 inches tall, while females are slightly shorter at 21-24 inches. Pharaoh hounds usually weigh between 45-55 pounds.
Pharaoh hound colors are typically tan or chestnut, and these statuesque dogs also sometimes have white markings on their face, tail, chest, and toes. Pharaoh hounds typically have oval, medium-set eyes that are amber in color, and they're often described as having an alert, intelligent expression. Their noses, eye rims, and the insides of their ears are typically peach-colored and blend in with the rest of their fur.
This breed's triangular ears naturally point upwards from their long, chiseled heads. But if you see a very young Pharaoh hound puppy, you may notice his ears are droopy and pointed downward. That's because Pharaoh hound puppies are born with ears that lay flat. As the dog grows up, his ears do too-literally!
Pharaoh hound dogs also have some unique talents when it comes to their appearance. When they are happy, Pharaoh hounds are said to "smile," showing all of their teeth while joyfully wagging their tails and wiggling their entire bodies. These expressive dogs can also blush, just like we do-when Pharaoh hounds get excited, their noses and the insides of their ears turn pink. According to the Pharaoh Hound Club of America, this endearing Pharaoh hound blushing occurs because they don't have any black pigment in their skin.
Pharaoh hounds are happy, affectionate dogs who love to settle in on the couch for a snooze after they've had an opportunity to run off some of their abundant energy. Originally bred to chase elusive rabbits over rocky landscapes, Pharaoh hounds love to stay active and will be their owners' perfect running, hiking, and general adventure companions. Overall, you can expect your Pharaoh hound's temperament to be sweet, peppy, and loyal.
These dogs are adaptable and get along well with other dogs, particularly those that also love to play. As with all dogs, it's important to begin socializing Pharaoh hound puppies at a young age so they grow up to be confident, well-adjusted adults.
This playful breed does well in households with children of all ages. In fact, Pharaoh hounds and children are pretty equally matched when it comes to their energy levels and their love of playtime. As with all dog breeds, though, it's important to teach children how to have a healthy relationship with Pharaoh hounds and respect their personal space-and vice versa.
"They get along well with children and other dogs and can even make great apartment dogs when properly trained and socialized, and so long as their exercise needs are not neglected," Jones says.
Pharaoh hounds also do well with cats, though the best relationships form when Pharaoh hound puppies and kittens are raised together. Because this breed has a very strong prey drive, they may not be the best fit for households with other small mammals, such as rabbits and ferrets.
Pharaoh hounds are versatile dogs who can live contentedly in any home, so long as they're able to get plenty of exercise each day. Ideally, these dogs need 20-30 minutes of walking or running twice a day, so adopting a Pharaoh hound is best for families with room in their busy schedules for exercise and playtime (or those who can call on a great pet-sitter or dog-walker as needed!).
When they live in a home with a yard, Pharaoh hounds do best when they're contained by a fence that's at least 6 feet tall. Because they have such strong hunting instincts, it's also a good idea to keep Pharaoh hounds on a leash whenever they're outside of the fenced-in yard.
"They're inherently pray-chasers and that instinct is still very strong in them," says Georgina Ushi, DVM, medical director at Pet Urgent Care of Wesley Chapel in Florida. "They should not be off-leash in a non-fenced area, and you should have tall, opaque fences if you are going to leave them in your yard. If not, they will chase literally anything that catches their attention for miles and miles."
Some Pharaoh hounds enjoy swimming, but what this breed really loves is to run. They enjoy participating in lure coursing, racing events, and agility competitions, where they can show off their speed and nimbleness.
As with many dog breeds, Pharaoh hounds are happiest when they can engage in some amount of both physical and mental activity, so adding food puzzles and interactive toys to your routine in addition to exercise can help keep your pup engaged and relaxed.
When it comes to care and grooming, Pharaoh hounds are about as low-maintenance as it gets. These no-stress dogs require a simple brushing and a quick wipe-down with a damp towel, if they need it, once a week. They shed very little and, when they do, their short hair is quick and easy to clean up with regular vacuuming or sweeping.
"They rarely get dirty and don't shed a lot," Ushi says. "Their short hair holds very well with just a brush session per week, and they do not get smelly." Because they're typically odorless, this breed will only need a bath when they get dirty from playing outside.
Because they have such short hair, Ushi says Pharaoh hounds may need a little extra warmth in the form of a dog sweater or coat, especially during the winter in regions with cold climates. They also love to be comfy and cozy when they're napping or sleeping, so keeping a few extra blankets around the house is a must. Be careful with Pharaoh hounds in extremely cold temperatures, as their delicate ear tips are subject to freezing.
As with all dog breeds, Pharaoh hounds need regular tooth-brushing at home and consistent teeth cleaning appointments to keep their special smiles white and healthy. Owners should also be prepared to regularly trim their Pharaoh hound's nails (or make consistent appointments with the groomer!) to keep them comfortable when running and playing. And because their ears stand straight up and may attract dirt and grime, Pharaoh hounds need regular ear cleanings, too.
Eager to please their human parents, Pharaoh hounds are highly trainable and do well with positive reinforcement training. It's best to train these dogs indoors, within a fenced yard, or on a leash, as their strong prey drive and love of running may overtake them if they've got too much room to roam.
Pharaoh hounds are generally healthy, thriving pups, with no significant breed-related health issues. Pharaoh hound breeders typically screen these dogs for standard genetic issues including elbow and hip dysplasia, patella luxation, and eye disorders. They may be at risk for certain cancers, such as hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and mammary cancer.
The expected Pharaoh hound lifespan is typically 12-14 years, so you can count on this dog to be with your family for lots of adventures. With regular vet checkups, high-quality dog food and treats, regular exercise, and lots of love, Pharaoh hounds lead long, happy lives.
One of the oldest domesticated dogs in recorded history, Pharaoh hounds date back to ancient Egypt, where they were bred to chase down small mammals over difficult terrain-this is why you may sometimes hear them referred to as "Egyptian Pharaoh hounds" or "Pharaoh hound Egyptian dogs." Historians believe that seafaring traders brought hound dogs with them as they sailed the Mediterranean some 2,500 years ago, spreading the breed throughout the region.
It's believed that these Phoenician traders first brought Pharaoh hounds to Malta, where they were trained to hunt rabbits. Working in teams, Pharaoh hounds typically hunt at night, scrambling across rocky fields and rubble. They have a surprising hunting partner, too, according to the Pharaoh Hound Club of America: A ferret, who wears a small bell around its neck and helps find the rabbit once it's taken refuge in a crevice or crag.
Pharaoh hounds are so beloved in Malta that they have been named the country's national dog-with a special silver coin minted in 1977. A British general stationed in Malta in the 1960s brought the breed back with him to the United Kingdom. Not long after that, Pharaoh hounds arrived in the U.S. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1983.
- Despite their long history as domesticated dogs, Pharaoh hounds are fairly uncommon in the U.S. today-the American Kennel Club ranks them as the No. 172 most popular dog breed out of 197 total breeds. So if you see one, consider yourself lucky!
- The name for Pharaoh hound in Maltese is Kelb tal-Fenek, which translates to "rabbit dog," a nod to this majestic breed's hare-chasing heritage.
- Pharaoh hounds have long had admirers. In fact, researchers translated 3,000-year-old Egyptian hieroglyphics and reportedly found a very complimentary quote about these elegant dogs: "The red long-tailed dog goes at night into the stalls of the hills. He is better than the long-faced dog. He makes no delay in hunting, his face glows like a god and he delights to do this work."