Ibizan Hound

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Ibizan Hound

The Ibizan Hound’s more than passing similarity to the Egyptian jackal-headed God, Anubis, is probably no coincidence, for this primitive breed is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt, before making its way to the Balearic Islands more than two thousand years ago. There, it earned a living for itself and its owners by hunting rabbits and hares over the rugged terrain, and it is still popularly used for this purpose. Although it uses all its senses when hunting, not least its acute sense of hearing, it is a typical sighthound in many ways, being a reserved, sometimes aloof character that is gentle and quietly affectionate with its owners. It is good with older children, and is generally sociable with other dogs. However, cats or any other smaller creature likely to run from the Ibizan Hound will be viewed as prey, and so the breed is suited only to all-dog households.

This athletic hound packs an incredible “spring”, and will readily escape from all but the most secure gardens, at which point it will pursue potential prey over great distances, so owners need to ensure their property is surrounded by a fence that is a minimum of 6 feet tall. Although the Ibizan Hound loves its comforts, and will readily adapt to apartment life, it needs plenty of exercise, and should be walked for around an hour a day. The breed can sport either a short- or wire-haired coat, but both are easy to care for, and professional grooming is not necessary. It is a healthy breed, and has a life expectancy of 11–14 years.

About & History

The Ibizan Hound is recognised as a primitive breed, one that long predates modern selective breeding. It is sometimes confused with the Pharaoh Hound, a breed to which it surrendered its original name in the twentieth century, and the two are likely to have a shared past. Depictions of lean hounds with large, pricked ears may be found on the tombs of the Pharaohs, and it is believed that the Ibizan Hound likely found its way to the Balearic Islands around the eighth century BC, probably travelling with Phoenician traders from the Middle East. Once it had arrived in its new home, it lived in relative isolation from other breeds, allowing it to retain its features and form over the following centuries.

With its forward-facing eyes, sensitive nose, and large, mobile ears, the Ibizan Hound is a natural hunter, and it proved a valuable asset to the islanders. Far from being the bustling holiday destinations of today, the Balearics of old were rugged and unforgiving, with little in the way of natural resources. The breed’s prowess in rabbit hunting ensured the survival of not just its owners, but also itself. The Ibizan Hound does not hunt alone, but usually in a small pack of mostly female dogs – males tend to become irritated by each other’s presence when working. It pursues its quarry with a rapidly wagging tail that alerts its comrades to the chase, whereupon the dogs will cooperate to surround the rabbit, allowing the hunter to make the kill. The breed is still used in this manner on its home isles, and is also a popular hunting dog in Catalonia and Provence, but it has never been kept in great numbers in northern Europe or the United States.

Appearance

Ibizan Hound Large Photo

This is a lean and lithe, graceful dog. Its fine head is conical in shape, with a protruding occipital process at the back of the skull. The distance from this protuberance to the eyes is equal to that from the eyes to the end of the muzzle, which is slender and long. The Ibizan Hound has relatively small, slanting eyes that are a light amber colour, and characteristic large ears that are extremely mobile; although they are always stiff, they can be held in almost any direction.

The breed has tight-fitting, thin skin that accentuates every line of the body, revealing a light but muscular build that is completely free from fat. Its neck is a quarter of the length of the body, and the back is long and flat. The chest is narrow, deep, and long, and the abdomen is markedly tucked. The long, tapering tail is held in a sickle shape, its elevation indicating the dog’s degree of excitement.

The Ibizan Hound has a proud stance with a narrow base by virtue of its slender frame. Its limbs are remarkably upright and vertical, with little angulation; nonetheless, they are capable of propelling the dog with a nimble, light-footed trot that is deceptively fast. The coat can be smooth and short, rough, or long and silky, and is either red, white, or a combination of the two colours. Males are 66 to 72 cm (26–29 in) in height, and weigh 25 to 28 kg (55–62 lb). Females stand 60 to 67 cm (24–27 in) tall at the withers, and weigh between 23 and 26 kg (51–57 lb).

Character & Temperament

The breed typically has an aloof and reserved manner, especially around strangers, but is rarely shy or fearful. Although it is a somewhat independent dog, the Ibizan Hound is also affectionate, and enjoys physical contact with its family; however, it will decide when it has had enough attention to retire to a sofa or bed to relax alone.

It is an alert dog with the instinct to guard its territory, and can perform reasonably well as a watch dog, but is not aggressive or intimidating enough to serve as a more forceful deterrent. The predatory instinct that it has honed over the centuries means it is not a suitable companion for smaller pets, but it should mingle well with other good-natured dogs. It is also dependable with children, as long as they are considerate enough not to pull roughly on its sensitive skin.

Trainability

Photo of Ibizan Hound puppy
Andrea Arden / Flickr.com

Ibizan Hounds are clever and capable problem solvers, but hardly easy to train. Their independent nature means they must be convinced of the value in performing to their owners’ wishes, and positive reinforcement with praise, affection, and treats is essential to success in teaching new commands.

The breed is sensitive to harsh treatment, and will become withdrawn if criticised too sternly, so a positive and upbeat manner is also important.

Health

Health problems are relatively uncommon in the breed, though the following have been identified with reasonable frequency:

  • Allergies – Ibizan Hounds are prone to hypersensitivity reactions to environmental allergens. While this most frequently causes signs of skin irritation and itching, ocular and nasal discharge and sneezing may also be seen.
  • Cataract – The breed is prone to two distinct forms of cataract with one affecting young dogs, and the other developing in later life. Breeding adults should be examined by a certified veterinary ophthalmologist to detect early signs and to prevent perpetuating the problem.
  • Congenital deafness – A small proportion of Ibizan Hound pups are born deaf with signs becoming obvious within a few weeks, as affected pups are less responsive to their environment.
  • Cryptorchidism – Seen in many young males, where one or both testicles fails to descend into its normal scrotal position before 8 weeks of age. Castration of affected individuals once they are old enough is essential to prevent testicular cancer developing in later life.
  • Retinal dysplasia – A congenital cause of partial or full blindness due to malformation of the layer of light-sensing cells at the back of the eye.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Ibizan Hound is a working breed that has been developed to hunt for long hours in the field, and has the energy levels one would expect given such a background. While it can adapt to indoor living, it needs a minimum of one-hour of fairly vigorous exercise every day.

It should also ideally be given access to a garden, but owners should be prepared for it to dig and disturb flowerbeds, as its keen senses will lead it to pursue anything that wriggles or rustles beneath the surface. This breed has an incredible ability to jump, and will clear average-height fences with ease, so the boundary height should be a minimum of 6 feet to prevent any escape attempts being successful.

Grooming

Regardless of coat type, the Ibizan Hound is easy to groom, needing just a weekly brush to prevent the hair knotting. Occasional baths might be required, but only when absolutely necessary in order not to strip oils from the skin and hair. Like many hounds, it may be prone to heavy build-up of tartar, and daily tooth brushing should be practiced to maintain good dental health.

Famous Ibizan Hounds

Though it has no modern celebrities amongst its ranks, the Ibizan Hound’s ancestor accompanied Hannibal, himself an Ibizan, on his fabled journey across the Alps.

Cross-Breeds

The breed is not commonly used for cross-breeding.

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