Spanish Greyhound – General Description
The Galgo Español (Spanish galgo) or Spanish greyhound is an ancient breed of dog, specifically a member of the sighthound family. The English greyhound is possibly a descendant of the Spanish greyhound and, for several years in the 20th century, some breeders did cross-breed Galgos and Greyhounds in order to produce faster and more powerful Galgos, specifically for track racing purposes.
Classification and Standards
- FCI Group 10, Section 3, #285
- UKC Sighthounds and Pariahs
Character & Temperament
Galgos have a very similar nature to Greyhounds. They are calm, quiet, gentle and laid back; happy to sleep their day away on their backs on a sofa. More than 90% of Galgos can be considered cat-friendly and are therefore an ideal choice for the hound lover who also owns cats. Almost all Galgos are also friendly towards other dogs and small dogs. Galgos are also very good with children, being calm in the house so there is less risk of a child being knocked over or jumped on than with a more excitable breed. They are very gentle and tolerate the often over-enthusiastic attentions of children with little risk of retaliation from the dog. Galgos have a very reserved personality and they have a tendency towards shyness, so it is very important that they be socialized early in life so that they grow up to be comfortable around strange people, dogs and locations.
The Galgo is not only “the Spanish greyhound” but also “the Spanish dog”. Its name is probably derived from the Latin “Canis Gallicus” or “Dog from Gaul”. The Spanish word for all kinds of Greyhounds – including the Galgo – is “lebrel”, which means “harrier” or “dog for chasing hares”, since “liebre” is Spanish for hare. We can see the same derivative in the Italian “levriero” and the French “lévrier”. The first written references to an ancient Celtic sighthound, the “vertragus”, in the “Cynegeticus” of Flavius Arrianus (Arrian), Roman proconsul of Baetica in the second century, may refer to the Galgo, or more likely to its antecedant.
The author Arrian, during his personal experience in Spain, describes hare hunting with Galgos in a manner almost identical to that used nowadays in Spain, adding that it was a general Celtic tradition not related to a social class. He indicates that there were not only smooth haired types of the vertragus but also coated ones.
There is little evidence on the Galgo or its antecedant in the first centuries of the Middle Age but it appeared to survive and flourish in the second half of this period.
In the 9th and 10th centuries great spaces in Castilla were colonized, coinciding with the Reconquista, resulting in the Christian military repossession of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims. This open land introduces a new character to hunting with dogs: while the North of Spain is mountainous, the regions progressively recovered from the Muslims were flat, open areas full of small animals like hares, which provided the Galgo a useful opportunity to hunt. At this time, it is considered a noble dog, and kept mainly by aristocracy, both in the Christian and the Muslim Kingdoms in which the Spanish territory was still divided at the time. It is likely that the Galgo and Sloughi were interbred at this period.
The great esteem in which the Galgo was held is visible in the many laws of the time designed to punish the killing or theft of this dog: 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 part of a noble will demonstrates the great value that it was given at the time.
The mural paintings at the Hermitage of San Baudelio de Berlanga, in Soria, dating from the 12th century show a hunting scene with three Galgos apparently identical to the ones that we can see today.
In the Renaissance Martínez del Espinar writes in his book “Arte de Ballestería y Montería” (“The Art of Hunting and Archery”):
- “Muchas maneras hay de matar estos animales”. (las liebres) “Muchas, diré las que en España usan: correnlas con galgos, que aquí los hay ligerísimos, y así mismo lo son algunas liebres, que se les escapan sin poderlas alcanzar; y no porque corren hoy dejan de volver a sus querencias; antes estas liebres corredoras las continúan, porque tienen conocido el camino de su uida, y por la mayor parte se encaman cerca de alguna senda o camino, orilla de algún soto, monte o ladera, o tierra pedregosa, y así huyen de ellas y de ir cuesta abajo que las alcanzan luego en las laderas y tierra tiesa, parece que vuelan”.
- “there is a large variety of ways to kill these animals”. (the hares) “Nevertheless, I will tell of those that are used in Spain: they hunt them with Galgos, since here there are some extremely swift ones, although some hares are as swift as them, and sometimes do get away from them. But even having run and got scared today, these hares will come back to their homes tomorrow. They know the way back. They spend the night in some quiet place: a road, a hill, a stony field. In fact they are sometimes surprised in such places by the dogs; then they run away down to the plain, and the dogs try to chase them over the flat ground. They seem to fly”.
The Galgo appears to have developed first in the Castillian plains, both in the north (Valladolid, Zamora, Ávila Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Burgos and Palencia) and the south (Toledo, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Madrid and Ciudad Real) of Castilla. And, afterwards, in more southern territories: La Mancha and Andalusia. It became the typical dog type of the Spanish interior, while the bloodhound plays the same role in the coast regions.
The Galgo appears not only in hunting books but also in common Spanish expressions, as well as in Literature. Maybe the most famous reference is the one contained in the opening sentence of “Don Quixote de La Mancha”:
- “In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a galgo for coursing.”
There are plenty of common expressions in Spain that name the Galgo. For example “A galgo viejo, echadle liebre, no conejo” which means ” use old Galgos for chasing hares instead of rabbits” suggests that it is best to use experienced people for hard tasks and challenges. “Galgo que va tras dos liebres, sin ninguna vuelve” meaning “if a Galgo tries to chase two hares, it will return with none” recommends focussing on a single effort, otherwise by distraction, failing.
Although the breed did not apparently experience any significant change in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was kept in its vocation as a swift hunting dog, maybe the most telling proverb which mentions the Galgo, is the one dating from the first years of the nineteenth Century:
- “A los galgos del Rey no se les escapa la liebre”;
- “The hare never escapes from the King’s Galgos”;
Which was used at first to satirize the corrupt Government of Fernando VII, considered to cheat in everything it did.
In the first years of the 20th century, large scale crossbreeding occurred between the Galgo and the English Greyhound in order to create faster dogs for professional track racing. This certainly affected the purity of the breed, the resulting dogs were just a bit faster, but did lose their long-distance-running abilities. Finally breeders came to the conclusion that it was not worth crossbreeding. The pure bred Galgo kept its major presence in the Spanish villages as an excellent hunting type.
Despite its antiquity and importance, the Spanish Galgo has only recently been acknowledged by the cynological associations. The English Greyhound has tended to outshine the Galgo. Spain has suffered catastrophic events during the last century, such as the Spanish Civil War and the 40 year long Francisco Franco fascist dictatorship, which allowed this breed to be kept relatively unknown both inside and outside of its native country, at least until democracy led to greater social and cultural equality and development.
The breed faces the 21st century being progressively more appreciated at home and abroad, as contemporary Spain becomes more conscious of the uniqueness and heritage of this splendid animal.
Spanish Greyhound’s as Pets
Due to their role as hunting dogs in the Spanish countryside, the Galgos are sometimes used as simple “hunting instruments” by some owners, who breed them but just seek the best ones in each litter. And of top of that, this kind of dogs is considered to be too old for hunting when they are more than two years old. Because of this, many dogs are abandoned or killed, sometimes with cruelty, which has triggered the creation of many associations in defense of the Galgo. These associations are dedicated to find abandoned Galgoes in the countryside and provide them adoptive homes, usually in the cities.
Because they tend to be quiet and docile, Galgos make very nice house pets. In Spain they have a well earned reputation as gentle dogs, with sweet temperament and solid health. They tend to get along well with people and other dogs, and they can be well-behaved around cats if properly socialized.
Galgos excel at performance activities like lure coursing and racing. They are eligible to compete in lure coursing events sanctioned by the American Sighthound Field Association, entered in the Limited class. They also make very nice show dogs and have enjoyed success in the European show ring, although they are not as well known in the American show world due to their rarity.
Size & Appearance
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 
Unlike Greyhounds, 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 colors and coat patterns. Main colors 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 color with white muzzle and forehead).
Health & Maintenance
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 anatomy, keep them safe from hip dysplasia. These dogs must run regularly to keep in perfect health, combined with their characteristic tendency to sleep all the rest of the day.
- Little Lobito Kennel – http://www.galgo.de/
- Brindis320 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Windhundarena (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Netspy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Tux-Man (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Jurriaan Schulman at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Mperdomo [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- M. Teixeira/Design Madeleine [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Hector Garcia (http://flickr.com/photos/hectorgarcia/2875331167/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Quail Shoot 1775 Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, copyright expired and released to [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Jan Brueghel (I) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Spanish Greyhound (Galgo Español)
FCI-Standard N° 285 / 24. 05. 2002 / GB
TRANSLATION : Mrs. Peggy Davis.
ORIGIN : Spain.
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE ORIGINAL VALID STANDARD : 26.05.1982.
A dog hunting the hare in fast pursuit in open fields, being directed by his sight. Formerly he has also been used and can hunt other game animals like rabbits, foxes, also boars; however the primordial utilization of the breed has been and is the hunt of the hare in open fields.
F.C.I. CLASSIFICATION :
- Group 10 Sighthounds.
- Section 3 Short-haired Sighthounds.
Without working trial.
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY :
The Spanish greyhound is known since the antiquity by the Romans, even though we are led to suppose that his arrival and implantation in the Peninsula dates back long before that period. Descendant from ancient Asian greyhounds, he has adapted himself to our different terrain of steppes and plains. He was exported in large quantities to other countries like Ireland, England during the XVIth, XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. Our Spanish greyhound is one of the ancestors of the English greyhound which presents with the Spanish greyhound (galgo) the similarities true to the breed which have served as a base in its selection and subsequent acclimatization. Among the numerous citations by the classical authors, one should select that of the archpriest of Hita who says : « Hare which goes is soon caught in a chase by the greyhound… », thus proving the principal and ancestral function of the breed.
GENERAL APPEARANCE :
Greyhound of good size, eumetric-subconvex, sub-long line and dolichocephalic. Compact bone structure, head long and narrow (dolichocephalic), ample thoracic capacity, belly very tucked up, very long tail. Hindquarters vertical and muscled. Hair fine and short or semi-long and hard.
IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS :
Sub-longuish line structure; length slightly more than the height. Proportions and functional harmony is to be sought after as much in static position as in movement.
BEHAVIOR / TEMPERAMENT :
Serious temperament and reserved in occasion, however when out hunting, proves to be an energetic and lively hunter.
In proportion with the rest of the body, long, lean and fleshless. The ratio skull-muzzle is 5/6 : length of the skull 5, length of the muzzle 6. Cranial-facial lines are divergent. Seen from above, the ensemble skull-muzzle must be very long and even (without bulges); with a long and narrow muzzle.
CRANIAL REGION :
Skull : Of reduced width and sub-convex profile, longer than wide. The skull has a median furrow well marked on its first two thirds; the frontal sinus and the occipital crest are simply indicated.
Stop : In gentle slope, only very slightly accentuated.
FACIAL REGION :
Nose : Small, moist with black mucous membrane.
Muzzle : Long, of sub-convex profile, with a narrow, slightly arched nasal bridge towards the nose.
Lips : Very lean. The upper lip just covers the lower lip. The lower lip does not show a marked corner of the lips. Fine, tight, with dark mucous membranes.
Jaws / Teeth : Teeth strong, white and sound. Scissor bite. Canines very developed. All premolars present.
Eyes : Small, oblique, almond shaped; preferably dark, of hazel colour. Calm expression, soft and reserved.
Eyelids : Fine skin and dark mucous membrane. Fitting very closely on the eye.
Ears : Broad at the base, triangular, fleshy in their first third part and finer and thinner towards the tip which will be rounded. Set-on high.
When the dog is attentive, they are semi-pricked in their first third with the tips folded, in lateral direction. At rest, they are in « rose type »; close to the skull. When pulled forward they reach very close to the corner of the lips.
Palate : Of the colour of the mucous membranes with strongly marked ridges.
Long, oval in cross-section, flat, slim, strong and supple. Narrow in its cranial part, widening slightly towards the trunk. Upper profile slightly concave. Lower line almost straight with a slight central convexity.
View of the ensemble : Rectangular, strong and supple, giving a look of robustness, agility and endurance. Thoracic cage amply developed; belly well drawn up.
Dorsal-lumbar line : With a slight concavity of the back and a convexity of the loin. Without abrupt breaks and without oscillation when moving, giving the impression of great elasticity.
Withers : Slightly marked.
Back : Straight, long and well defined.
Loin : Long, strong; not very broad and with an arched upper line; with a compact and long musculature, giving an impression of elasticity and vigour. The height of the loin in its central part may exceed the height at the withers.
Croup : Long, powerful and slanting. Its slope to the horizontal exceeds 45°.
Chest : Powerful though not very broad; deep, without reaching the elbow and very long in its extension up to the floating ribs. Point of sternum marked.
Ribs : Ribs flat with wide intercostal spaces. The ribs must be really visible and marked. The thoracic perimeter is slightly superior to the height at the withers.
Belly-Flanks : Belly abruptly tucked up behind the sternum; whippety. Flanks short, lean and well developed.
Strong at its root and low set, lengthens between the legs remaining in contact with them. Tapering progressively ending in a very fine point. It is supple and very long; reaching well beyond the hock. At rest, falls in a sickle with a pronounced hook at the end and inclined laterally. Brought back between the legs with a terminal hook almost touching the ground in front of the hindlegs, it realises one of the most typical aspects of the breed.
View of the ensemble : Perfectly vertical limbs, fine, straight and parallel. Metacarpus short and fine. Harefeet.
Shoulders : Lean, short and oblique. The shoulder blade must be noticeably shorter than the upper arm.
Upper arm : Long, longer than the shoulder blade, very muscular, with elbows free although quite close to the body.
Forearm : Very long, straight and parallel; well defined bones with well marked tendons. Carpal pads very developed.
Metacarpus (Pastern) : Slightly oblique, fine and short.
Forefeet : Harefeet. Toes tight and arched. Phalanges strong and long. Pads hard and well developed. Interdigital membrane moderately developed, nails well developed.
Angle scapular-humeral : 110°.
angle humeral-radial : 130°.
View of the ensemble : Powerful, well defined bone structure, muscled with long and well developed muscles. Perfectly straight and vertical with correct angles. Hocks well marked, short and vertical; harefeet with toes arched. The hindquarters give the impression of power and agility in the impulsion.
Upper thigh : Very strong, long, muscled and toned. The upper thigh as much as possible nearing the vertical. Seen from behind, they will show, at first glance, a very marked musculature. Broad, flattened and powerful, its length is of 3/4 that of the lower thigh.
Lower thigh : Very long with well defined and fine bones. Muscled in its upper part; less so in its lower region; with veins and tendons clearly visible.
Hock joint : Well marked with the Achilles tendon clearly visible, which should be well developed.
Rear pastern : Fine, short and vertical.
Hind feet : Harefeet the same as the front feet.
Angle coxal-femoral : 110°.
Angle femoral-tibial : 130°.
Angle of hock : in excess of 140°.
GAIT / MOVEMENT :
By nature, the typical gait is the gallop. The trot must be extended, low over the ground, elastic and powerful. No tendency to crabbing nor ambling.
Closely fitting onto the body on all its parts, solid and supple, pink in colour. The mucous membranes must be dark.
Dense, very fine, short, smooth; spread all over the body down to the interdigital spaces. Slightly longer at the back of the thighs. The variety of semi-long hard-haired shows a greater hardness and length of hair which can be variable; although always evenly spread onto the whole body, it tends to form a beard and moustaches at the muzzle, eyebrows and top knot on the head.
All colors are admitted. The following colors are considered as the most typical, in order of preference :
- Fawn and more or less dark brindles, well pigmented.
- Flecked with black, dark and light.
- Burned chestnut.
- With white markings and pied.
Height at the withers :
Males – from 62 to 70 cm.
Females – from 60 to 68 cm.
A margin of 2 cm more is admitted in subjects of perfect proportions.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
MINOR FAULTS :
- Head a little broad with only little chiselling.
- Straight profile of muzzle. Pointed muzzle.
- Parietal bones pronounced.
- Absence of any premolar.
- Pincer bite.
- Tail a bit short, going not much beyond the hock.
- Scars, wounds and scratches in hunting season.
IMPORTANT FAULTS :
- Voluminous head.
- Skull of excessive width together with pointed muzzle.
- Stop very marked.
- Cranial-facial axes parallel.
- Lips and dewlap marked.
- Moderately overshot mouth.
- Absence of canines, not due to accidents.
- Eyes light, round, protruding or prominent.
- Ectropion, entropion.
- Ears short, pricked or small.
- Short and round neck.
- Dorsal-lumbar line like a saddle back.
- Height at the loin less than the height at the withers.
- Short croup, round or only slightly oblique.
- Insufficient thoracic perimeter.
- Barrel-shaped ribs.
- Short flanks.
- Musculature very protruding, round and not enough elongated.
- Limbs not straight and perpendicular, splayed toes, cow-hocked.
- Weak pads.
- Tail and ears amputated.
- Outlines of coarse appearance, heavy or without suppleness.
- Unbalanced character (temperament).
ELIMINATORY FAULTS :
- Aggresive or overly shy
- Lack of type.
- Split nose.
- Distinctly overshot mouth or undershot mouth.
- Topline very broad, flat and straight.
- Chest let down well below the elbow.
- Any other typical characteristic which would recall or indicate a cross-breed.
Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified.
N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
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