The Pharaoh Hound is a Maltese breed of dog and the national dog of Malta. In Maltese it is called Kelb tal-Fenek, which means "dog of the rabbit". It is traditionally used for hunting rabbit in the rocky terrain of the Maltese Islands.From DNA analysis based solely on the genes of the Gray Wolf, a recent theory arose that the breed may have been recreated in more recent times from combinations of other breeds. However, popular belief holds that this breed is descended from the Tesem, one of the ancient Egyptian hunting dogs based on the similarities between the breed and well documented images of dogs and descriptive writings found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. This line of thought hinges on the supposition that the Tesem, as the progenitor of the Kelb tal Fenek, was brought by the Phoenicians to Malta, where it has been carefully bred for over 2,000 years. Dogs quite similar to the Pharaoh Hound and other possible Tesem descended dog breeds are found scattered around the Mediterranean where the Phoenicians traded, namely the Cirneco dell'Etna, Podenco Ibicenco, Podenco Canario, Podenco andaluz and the Portuguese Podengo. It remains unproven whether these breeds have descended from the same ancestral lines, or whether their similarities have developed due to similar environmental conditions. They all exhibit the recessive traits of liver noses and self-colored eye rims with similar coat coloration, however in the Pharaoh Hound there are limitations explained by the various registries/kennel club standards regarding on the amount of white allowed and where those markings may appear.
The breed has variously been classified as a sighthound or gazehound. While in the U.S., outside of conformation dog shows and typical sighthound events such as lure coursing (AKC & ASFA) coursing (NOFCA) and amateur racing (LGRA & NOTRA), Pharaoh Hounds have proven themselves quite capable in agility and obedience competition while some individuals even exhibit proficiency in tracking and herding as well.