Want to know everything about the Pharaoh Hound dog breed from someone who actually has one? I’ve got you covered! Read on to learn the real facts about this outstanding ancient breed!
I see a lot of dog sites throwing around “facts” about the Pharaoh Hound dog breed, and I often think to myself, “have they actually ever even seen a Pharaoh Hound?” I get it, it’s hard to do research on a relatively rare breed. I’ve written articles about rare breeds for other sites, and finding really good info is a challenge unless you actually talk to someone who owns the breed.
Before Freya came into our lives, we didn’t even know that the Pharaoh Hound existed! Now that we have her, I feel like the breed research that we did left out some major facts! Life with a Pharaoh Hound is definitely a unique experience that we wouldn’t change for anything in the world, but it would have been nice to be better prepared for having a dog that is, quite honestly, smarter than us (and we’re not exactly slouches in the intelligence department!
If you’re thinking about adopting this rare breed, read on to find out what you really want to know. It’s a bit more detailed than my “7 Things You Need to Know About Life with Pharaoh Hounds,” which is also worth a read if you just want quick facts.
What is the Pharaoh Hound?
Contrary to popular belief, the “Egyptian Pharaoh Hound” isn’t really Egyptian at all! Yes, you’ll find images of them carved all over pyramids and in other hieroglyphs, but the prevailing theory is that they actually originated in Malta, the tiny little island nation in the Mediterranean Sea (south of Sicily, east of Tunisia).
I think it’s important to know that, because this sight hound is the National dog of Malta (they’re called Kelb tal-Fenek there), and the country is primarily responsible for preserving the species. They (rightfully so) get a little upset when people claim that the breed originated in Egypt. If my country was the birthplace of such a unique dog, I’d want the world to acknowledge it, too!
Pharaoh Hound appearance
Pharaoh Hounds are gorgeous dogs, in my somewhat biased opinion. They’re sleek and muscular (without looking like they just stepped off a weight-lifting competition circuit), with large expressive ears. Once you get to know your Pharaoh Hound, you’ll always know what she’s thinking based on the position of her ears!
While they’re long and graceful, they’re not quite as thin and aerodynamic as, say, the Greyhound.They have a more “filled out” appearance, if that makes sense. Not fat (you should be able to see their ribs, Freya is actually a smidge overweight right now because she has her “winter weight” on), but not quite as thin as some of the other sighthounds.
Pharaoh Hounds lack the pigment that gives other dogs their black nose or pads. Color-wise, they fall somewhere between light tan and a sort of reddish brown. Some have a big patch of white on their chests and on the end of their tail. Freya doesn’t, aside from about three hairs at the very tip of her tail. Literally three, I can actually count them.
The AKC gets it right where coloring is concerned, so I suggest you check out their article for the breed standard in more detail. We’ll talk a bit more about their unique characteristics below.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: if you don’t mind having a dog that is smarter than you, Pharaoh Hounds are spectacular. If the dog world had a Mensa group, Pharaoh Hounds would be at the top level of membership! They’re not just smart, they are incredibly intelligent and clever.
Yet at the same time, they’re quite the little jokers! Freya constantly cracks me up with her goofy mannerisms and exaggerated facial expressions!
Pharaoh Hounds are not people pleasers.
What does this mean? Basically, they don’t exist to make you happy, you exist to make them happy. I joke that Freya takes the “Pharaoh” part of her name very seriously. Rather than being a hound of the Pharoahs, she believes she is a Pharaoh in hound shape and should be adored as such.
The “big mouths” of the sighthound group
Sighthounds as a whole are a fairly quiet bunch. This is NOT true of Pharaoh Hounds! They bark quite a bit, and it takes very little to set them off.
They aren’t always big cuddlers
While my Lab/Pit Mocha will come to me and let me pet her whenever I want, Freya will evade me when she’s not in the mood for cuddles. She doesn’t run away, she just sort of hops back out of my reach. When she is in the mood, though, she’s the worlds most cuddly canine.
Basically, she’s either “cuddle cuddle cuddle!” or “back off, human.” She tends to be the most cuddly when she’s tired. When she’s awake, she’s simply too busy for me…unless I am doing something she enjoys.
For example, Freya may not be in the mood to give me snuggles when she’s up and about, but she’s always open to playing a fun game together.
A word of advice: start a snuggle session by petting their backs rather than their heads. Freya is always up for butt scratches that turn into cuddle sessions, but if I try to start with her head, she backs away.
A highly sensitive breed
While they may not be “in it” to make you happy, Pharaoh Hounds are highly sensitive dogs that react strongly to their environment. We’ll talk about this more under training tips, but please don’t ever yell at your hound.
Freya is sensitive to loud noises, too. The first Thanksgiving she was here, my mom used a food processor to grind up onions. It was loud! Freya freaked, ran outside, and wouldn’t come back in for a very long time.
She’s also a drama queen, which I’m told is common with the breed. For example, if she gets a “boo boo,” she requires a ton of hugs and acknowledgement. Everyone in the house has to say, “Oh no, poor Freya! Did you get a boo boo? I’m so sorry! You poor girl!” She will go from person to person until every last one of us has consoled her properly.
They love you very much…even if they don’t always show it
Last thing about Pharaoh Hound personalities: even though they sometimes act like you don’t exist, they’re actually very attached to you. Freya can’t stand to see anyone leave the house, and she knows when you’re getting ready.
I can go to my bathroom a million times and she doesn’t follow, but the moment I pull out a hairbrush, she’s right there doing her “please don’t go” whine. As soon as I get my shoes on, she goes bonkers. She has to give me hugs goodbye, then run out into the yard to watch me leave (my mom rarely ever leaves the house, so she’s never alone). When I come back, she gives me her big Pharaoh Hound smiles…then digs through my bags to see if I brought her anything!
Like their cuddle modes, Pharaoh Hounds have two speed modes: lightning fast and sleep mode. That’s it. Freya goes from zoomie to nap and back again in the blink of an eye. When she’s up, she’s up. When she’s down, nothing will wake her. They’re both couch potatoes and high-energy dogs, depending on their mood. This seems to be common among all of the other Pharaoh Hound parents that I’ve talked to online.
When they are in high-energy mode, they run very much like greyhounds, so you’ll want to stay out of their way. I got in Freya’s path once and she knocked my legs out from under me and sent me flying. It would have been comical if it didn’t hurt so much. My son accidentally got in the path of her zoomies and ended up in the ER after his head collided with hers. She busted his eyebrow and while it wasn’t deep, I wanted it checked because it was close to his eye. I had to tell them a zillion times that he didn’t get bit.
I wouldn’t recommend keeping one in an apartment, just because they need room to run. I imagine it’s doable if you take them to a dog park regularly, but I can’t imagine Freya living in a small space. If you’ll be walking your Pharaoh Hound, either at a park or just around your neighborhood, I recommend either a Martingale collar or a really good harness. Plain old collars don’t really work well with their giraffe-like necks.
This is probably the most important thing you’ll need to know about Pharaoh Hound training: they DO NOT respond to negative training methods. Period. First of all, Pharaoh Hounds are fairly sensitive dogs and they will shut down (or shut you out) if you use scare tactics or yell at them, so please don’t do it.
With proper (and kind) training, they can learn to do extraordinary things! This is one of my favorite Pharaoh Hound videos that shows what they’re capable of learning, and what life is like with one:
Second, these dogs are all about what’s in it for them. They’re smart and learn fast, but you need to make it a rewarding experience. Every trick and command Freya knows came from using training treats as a reward, as she’s a totally food-motivated dog!
Another very important thing to understand: Pharaoh Hounds have a very high prey drive, and when they spot something they want, all training goes out the window. Case in point: my neighbors have some sort of weird bike riding addiction (I’ve seen the dad come home, jump out of his car and onto the bike, leaving his baby sitting in the car while he rides in the woods!), and they insist on riding right near our fence. I think they do it just to annoy the dogs, because they’ll run outside and jump on their bikes the moment we let them out (even in sub-zero temps).
Freya despises the bike and nothing can pull her away from barking at it. Nothing. We’ve spent an hour or more outside trying to convince her to come in. It’s not that she doesn’t know how to come when called. It’s just that her prey drive overrides anything else, including tasty treats and other methods of bribery.
Grooming is perhaps the easiest part of owning a Pharaoh Hound, since it doesn’t involve much effort. They have a very short coat that doesn’t shed too much. While they’re not hypoallergenic dog breeds, they are fairly allergy-friendly. Basically, if you have severe dog allergies, they’re not a good fit. If you just get a little sneezy around dander and fur, they’re fine.
While the coat doesn’t require much effort, the nails are another story. Freya’s nails grow very fast and are more talon-like than Mocha’s nails. You can kind of see them in this picture (this was inbetween clippings):
They are a little difficult to see because they blend in with her fur. Pharaoh Hounds don’t have any black pigment in their bodies. While some do have a bit more white on the chest than Freya ,for the most part they’re reddish brown from nose to tail. Back to the nails: I recommend getting a Dremel or something along those lines. I find them easier than trying to hold her still long enough to clip her nails. She’s a squirmy worm and I worry we’ll clip too far down because she won’t sit still.
We have this one below:
Pharaoh Hound Health
Since reputable Pharaoh Hound breeders do extensive health & genetic screenings before breeding, Pharaoh Hounds are really quite healthy dogs. They’re not prone to most of the diseases that affect large breeds (although that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll never get them).
However, there are a few things you need to be aware of, as the Pharaoh Hound has unique physiology in regards to certain things.
Anesthesia & medication
Pharaoh Hound dogs are more sensitive to anesthesia than most other breeds. Some sites claim that they’re not as sensitive as other sighthounds, but it’s still a major concern. We held off on spaying Freya because we were so nervous about this.
If your PH needs surgery (including getting “fixed”), ask your vet to use the Greyhound Protocol. Our vet used newer (and safer) anesthesia and didn’t do the warming liquids after surgery, so it turned out to be a non-issue.
Because of their rapid metabolism, Pharaoh Hounds also tend to be more sensitive to medication than other breeds.
Like I said, they’re very healthy dogs overall.
Do Pharaoh Hounds Get Along With…
- Kids – Yes, very well, actually, especially since both kids and Pharaoh Hounds are high-energy creatures! Freya absolutely adores Jacob and gets so excited when he goes outside with her.
- Cats – Sort of. Like I said, they have a very high prey drive. It’s taken us a long time to teach Freya not to chase the cats in our house. She does pretty well now, but sometimes when Alex is zooming, she’ll chase him. She loves the cats, but sometimes a little too much. Basically, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your Pharaoh Hound around your cats.
- Other Dogs -Yes. Just about every Pharaoh Hound parent that I’ve talked to has more than one dog (in some cases, more than one PH). Freya gets along great with Mocha. Beyond that, she absolutely loves meeting new dogs at the vet or while we’re walking.
- Strangers – This one is iffy. Freya loves meeting most new people when we’re out and about, but is shy when they come to the house. As long as you socialize your dog at an early age, I don’t think you’ll have an issue.
Unique Characteristics of the Pharaoh Hound
Pharaoh Hound blushing
Did you know that Pharaoh Hounds blush when they’re excited? True story! Their ears, noses, and cheeks turn a pinkish red! When Freya is really over-the-top excited or worked up, I swear even her eyes blush!
Everyone says that their breeds smile, but none do it quite like the Pharaoh Hound! Their whole face lights up and that grin pulls all the way back to those big, wonderful ears. Which brings us to…
Those wonderful ears!
While Pharaoh Hounds aren’t the only breed with big, beautiful ears (the Ibezan has an impressive set, too), they’re still fairly unique in the dog world. I can always tell what Freya is thinking by the position of her ears. They sort of telescope around, like little satellites always listening for something to bark at!
Where do you find Pharaoh Hound puppies?
The hardest part about being a Pharaoh Hound parent is finding one in the first place. Freya was a gift to us after we lost our two senior dogs within months of each other back in 2016. Basically, we completely lucked into her.
I always recommend adopting before shopping, so your first stop in your search should be a Pharaoh Hound rescue group. However, keep in mind that very few Pharaoh Hounds end up in shelters or with rescue groups.
For those who need to go through a breeder (which I imagine most of you are), please please please do your homework and make sure they are reputable. Good Pharaoh Hound breeders not only take excellent care of their mama and pups, they also do genetic screenings to ensure that the breed remains healthy. That’s one of the reasons they’re among the most expensive dogs. Well, that and the fact that they’re a rare breed! The cost of a Pharaoh Hound puppy ranges between $1,500 to $2,500 (although some breeders may charge as much as $5,000). Like I said, Freya was a gift, so I can’t really give you an exact number based on experience.
If you are lucky enough to find a Pharaoh Hound puppy, your life will never be the same! This breed definitely has its quirks and challenges, but their unique personalities make them one of the best dogs to own (or, more accurately in their case, to be owned by!). I wouldn’t trade Freya for anything! She makes my life brighter every single day.
Do you have a Pharaoh Hound? Can you think of anything I left out?