About Galgos and Podencos
Spanish Greyhound, Podenco and other Sighthound Rescue
Galgos are similar in appearance to Greyhounds, but are distinctly different in their conformation. Galgos are higher in the rear than in the front, and have flatter muscling than a Greyhound, which is characteristic of endurance runners. They also tend to be smaller, lighter in build, have longer tails and have a very long, streamlined head that gives the impression of larger ears. Their chests are not as deep as a Greyhound’s and should not reach the point of the elbow.
Galgos come in two coat types: smooth and rough. The rough coat can provide extra protection from skin injuries while running in the field. They come in a variety of colours and coat patterns. Main colours are “barcino” or “atigrado” (brindle), “negro” (black), “barquillo”(golden), “tostado” (toasted), “canela” (cinnamon), “amarillo” (yellow), “rojo” (red), “blanco” (white), “berrendo” (white with patches) or “pío” (any colour with white muzzle and forehead).
Galgos are sensitive, gentle and can be very laid back, happy to sleep the day away on their backs on a sofa, but also have a playful and goofy side. Galgos have a very reserved personality and they have a tendency towards shyness. They never lose their love of the sun and are often found sun worshipping.
Like many other sighthounds, Galgos are a fairly healthy breed although they are sensitive to anaesthesia. As such, proper care should be taken by the owner to ensure that the attending veterinarian is aware of this issue. Although Galgos are big dogs, their history of selection as a working sighthound, their light weight, and their anatomy keep them safe from hip dysplasia.
All Galgos are susceptible to Mediterranean diseases and even if tested as negative for Leishmaniasis or any other disease, need annual re-testing. Please see ‘About Leishmaniasis.’
There is little evidence for mention of the Galgo or its antecedent in the first centuries of the Middle Ages but it appeared to have survived and flourished in the second half of the period.
In the 9th and 10th centuries, coinciding with the Reconquista, great spaces in Castile were colonized resulting in Christian military repossession of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim control. This open land introduced a new mode of hunting with dogs: while the North of Spain is mountainous, the regions progressively recovered were flat, open areas full of small animals like hares, which provided the Galgo a useful opportunity for hunting. At that time it was considered a noble dog, and was kept mainly by the aristocracy of both the Christian and the Muslim Kingdoms in which Spanish territory was still divided. It is likely that the Galgo and the Sloughi or, Saluki, were interbred during this period.
The great esteem in which the Galgo was held is evident by the many laws of the time designed to punish the killing or theft of the breed: Fuero of Salamanca (9th century); Fuero of Cuenca; Fuero of Zorita de los Canes; Fuero of Molina de Aragón (12th century); Fuero of Usagre (12th century). In the Cartuario of Slonza we can read a will written in Villacantol in which, using an odd mixture of Latin and Spanish, the Mayor Gutiérrez bequeaths a Galgo to Diego Citid in the year 1081:
“Urso galgo colore nigro ualente caetum sólidos dae argento”;
“a black Galgo with patches of silver”;
The fact that this dog was a significant item in a noble’s will, demonstrates the great value accorded it at the time.
But now, for a long time, their nobility, respect and reverence has dramatically declined, to a point where many are literally found in the gutters or rubbish.
Podencos are sometimes referred to as ‘The Invisible Dogs’ or ‘The Great Forgotten.’ They are bred for hunting and like Galgos have no protection by Spanish Law.
Like the Galgo, they are one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world, descended from the ancient Pharaoh Hound of Egypt.
Tragically, once revered, they too have ‘fallen from Grace,’ and suffer mercilessly at the hands of their breeders and hunters.
Most of their working life is spent on a short chain, without any shelter from extreme weather conditions. Alternatively, they are often crammed into dark sheds, packed so tightly together that they cannot move – forcing them to lay in urine and faeces. They are given very little food or water as it is believed that being starved makes them sharper, better hunters. Dogs with injuries receive no veterinary care – many Podencos are found with serious broken limbs, literally unable to walk, and yet, astonishingly, still being used for hunting. Others will come to us with chains or rope embedded so deeply in their necks that the scarring is permanent.
Females who are bred from are not kept in any better conditions, giving birth whilst chained tightly, the pups arriving onto bare and often filthy concrete floors.
There are three main types of Podenco in Spain. The small Podenco Andaluz of the mainland, the medium size Podenco Canario from the island of Gran Canaria – both used for rabbit hunting, and the very recognisable Podenco Ibicenco or Ibizan hound from the island of Ibiza – used for rabbit, deer and wild boar hunting.
What all Podencos, great and small, have in common is that they were bred to hunt and have a high prey drive – something that all potential adopters must take into account. Multi-sensory specialised hunters, They have large, highly-mobile pricked ears, keen eyesight and an acute sense of smell. All have been bred with a combination of speed and agility with endless endurance for trotting rather than galloping. They are agile to the point they have been known to climb trees in pursuit of prey and can even jump great heights from a stand.
Podencos require good daily exercise and activity and are not a good candidate for stay at home long hours kind of homes as they become bored very easily if not given a positive outlet for their energy and minds. That said, Podencos are calm in the home once exercised. They nap and love sun bathing and get along great with their pack mates and with other dogs.
Podencos and Galgos mostly always have a clownish side to them and once you have one, you will keep going back for more! Learn about Galgo Adoption.