The Balearic Island of Ibiza is home to the remarkable Ibizan Hound. On this pine-covered island of mountain ranges, rugged cliffs, coastal rock and pebbled beaches, the primitive Ibizan Hound evolved to work under and over every imaginable obstacle in order to locate, flush, chase and retrieve its intended quarry – the rabbit.
The ancestors of today’s Ibizan can be traced back at least 5,000 years, according to the Ibizan Hound Club of the United States. The hounds of the Pharaohs that appear on Egyptian artifacts bear a striking resemblance to today’s red and white sighthound.
The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 proved to be a treasure trove for dog historians. The full-sized statue of Anubis, known as the watchdog of the dead, is a dead ringer for the Ibizan Hound of today. Egyptologists originally thought the god’s image to be that of a jackal, however, since the Ibizan had long since vanished from North Africa.
The sea-traders known as the Phoenicians are said to have taken the hounds out of Egypt in the eighth or ninth century and deposited them on the island of Ibiza where only the fittest could survive.
The first Ibizans reached the United States in 1956, imported by Col. and Mrs. Seoane of Rhode Island. ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Tanit’ produced a litter of eight that year that largely formed the foundation of the breed in America, as noted in a 1993 AKC Gazette breed feature article by Lisa Puskas.
In her 1997 AKC Gazette breed column titled,”The Early Years,” Sue Fegan writes, “Some wonderful dogs were being shown when Ibizans were approved to compete in the Miscellaneous class. Early breeder Richard Edwards was showing Maya, who eventully became one of the best, if not the best, foundation sires in this country.” The British import, when bred to Cass 23, produced a distinctive line, according to Fegan, with an unmistakable look.
The Ibizan Hound was accepted into the AKC Miscellaneous class in 1968, with recognition in the Hound Group coming in 1979. The Ibizan Hound Club of the United States became an AKC member club that same year. The breed’s parent club has always impressed upon owners and breeders of Ibizans the need to preserve the breed in its true form.
Perhaps because the Ibizan Hound is not particularly popular outside of its island home, the breed has been able to maintain its ancient form and unique function. Registrations in 2012 place the breed 142nd of the 175 recognized breeds.
A Deer-like Elegance
The General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard defines the Ibizan Hound, in part, as possessing a unique appearance with “clean-cut lines” and a “deer-like elegance.” The impression made is not so much “Bambi” as it is “Deer Hunter.”
Thousands of years of isolated island living helped to preserve an ancient archetype while fostering the development of a uniquely shaped ear and a specific set of survival skills.
“Lithe and racy,” the Ibizan is a powerful hunter, “strong without being heavily muscled,” according to the standard. Front angulation combines well-laid-back shoulders with “rather straight” upper arms that result in elbows being positioned ”in front of the deepest part of the chest.”
Ibizan Hound movement is described as “skimming over the ground,” although correct front and rear angulation will present more vertical movement than is seen in other sighthounds. A suspended trot is seen from the side, however a hackney action is incorrect.
For centuries, the people of Ibiza have used their hounds to locate, flush, chase and retrieve the rabbits needed for their survival. Built for performance, the deer-like Ibizan Hound moves with a light, efficient and graceful gait, and upon locating its quarry, signals by jumping into the air. “He is able to spring to great heights from a standstill,” according to the standard.
With one notable exception, the Ibizan Hound should not appear extreme or exaggerated in any way.
Highly Mobile Ears
The ears of the Ibizan Hound are truly astonishing and add to the breed’s deer-like appearance. No other sighthound – or dog, for that matter – wears such outlandish earpieces.
“The ears are large, pointed, and natural,” according to the standard. They are highly mobile, and capable of pointing forward, backward and sideways “according to mood.” Ibizan ears are more mobile than most prick eared breeds and contribute “largely” to establishing correct head type and expression.
Ibizan ears are never bent, creased or drooping and, when on alert, the lowest point of the base is at the level of the eye. When viewed from the front, “the height of the ear is approximately 2½ times that of the widest point of the base.”
Although not mentioned specifically in the AKC breed standard, the shape of the Ibizan’s ear is that of a rhomboid. An extra angle on the inside edge of the ear creates a parallelogram, and the four-sided shape of the ear looks rather like that of a deer.
Isolated on its island home, the Ibizan Hound was preserved in its natural state. Only its ears evolved in an exaggerated form to enhance its performance on the hunt.
A Light Pigmentation
The Ibizan Hound’s coat may be either short- or wire-haired, and is always red or white in color, “solid or in any combination.” According to the standard, red may be of any value “from light, yellowish-red called ‘lion’ to deep red.” No color value is favored over any other, and any color other than white or red disqualifies.
Pigmentation of the eyes, eye rims, nose and lips is light. Unlike in most breeds, a partially pigmented nose pad and eye rims are not to be penalized.
According to the standard’s section on eyes, their color can range from “clear amber to caramel.” Eye rims may be fully or partially pigmented and, like the nose, “a rosy flesh color, never black or liver.”
Lips are colored same as the nose and eye rims, harmonizing with the color of the coat.
The Ibizan Hound has survived to this day in its ancient form, eking out a living hunting rabbits on its island home by virtue of its lithe construction, extraordinary ears and subtle Mediterranean complexion.