Monday, March 20, 2017

What are Galgos and Podencos?



You may have noticed lately we have been supporting rescues that help dogs called Galgos and Podencos and, like many of us owned by greyhounds, you may know they are from Spain and in the sighthound family. Galgos and Podencos seem to have infiltrated greyhound social media groups by storm. So just what are Galgos and Podencos? Why do they need help? How are they so cute and easy to love? Hopefully we'll help answer some of those questions here. 

"Galgo" quite literally means greyhound in Spanish. The full name is Galgo EspaƱol (so Spanish Greyhound). Podenco means "hound" in Spanish. You may have seen people refer to their pets as "Galga" and "Podenca" which is just the female form of the word. Now that we know what to call them, what do they do? Galgos and Podencos are bred for hunting. Unlike greyhounds, they don't hunt mechanical rabbits on a track. They hunt live rabbits in the countryside of Spain. There are even hunting competitions for Galgo hunting.


From Wikimedia

You may think this prey drive would make these dogs unsafe with cats in adopted homes. Actually, like greyhounds, a lot of Galgos and Podencos are wonderful with cats in homes (outside may be a different matter as the urge to chase may be triggered by a cat running). They are raised closely with other animals and often do very well with a variety of other species. 

Galgos and Podencos are both ancient breeds. They are actually genetically different breeds from greyhounds (though they have been bred together to increase speed for hunting). They have more endurance than speed (though they're still quite fast!) and have longer, flatter muscles than racers. They also have long necks, larger ears (especially Pods), and longer tails than greyhounds.
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Podencos! photo from Galgo Podenco Support
 Both Galgos and Podencos have wire-haired variations as well, which can help with hunting in the harsh terrain of Spain. While Greyhounds with very apparent muscles are built for speed, the Spanish hunting dogs are built for the chase. They are sighthounds, just like greyhounds, so their first indication of a rabbit to chase is by sight. My Galga has been excited to chase cars several miles away as seen from a bluff, as from that distance they looked like little moving (possibly furry) objects! Both Pods and Galgos have very flexible spines, which allows for tight turns at speed. The long neck helps even more with catching prey as they can turn their heads very far. They may not be able to out run a greyhound at a sprint, but they'll probably catch something along the way.  
Cedric, a Galgo-mastin (a mastin is a Spanish mastiff), on the left and a Reina, a Galga, on the right. Picture: Amanda Stump

OK, so we know a little about what the Spanish hunting dogs are bred for and what they can do. Now for the big question: why they seem to need so much help in Spain. Why are there so many of them looking for homes? Why are they invading homes in the US and Europe? Well, Spain has some lax rules when it comes to these dogs. They are considered to be more like livestock than family members. The average lifespan of a male Galgo in Spain is 2 years. In a loving home the same dog will live upwards of 12 years. Females survive a bit longer in Spain if they are used as breeders. Sadly, Galgos and Podencos in Spain are often abandoned, tortured, and killed at the end of the hunting season each year (February 1). Shelters are inundated with animals, especially in February. February 1 has been designated the day of the Galgo (Dia Del Galgo) to raise awareness of the plight of these dogs. 
Reina, rescued by Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert, visits Lake Michigan and the Big Red lighthouse in Holland, Michigan. She is very lucky and is an excellent pet!  Picture: Amanda Stump
For more information on Galgos, Podencos, and rescues for Spanish hunting dogs see these links: 

Galgo Podenco Support
Love Hope Believe Galgo Rescue
Save a Galgo Espanol 
Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert 
Scooby Medina Rescue


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