The courage of Galgos

The courage of Galgos

Today our collaborator's two Spanish Greyhounds bask in the creature comforts of their new home. But they've come a long, long way.

June 16, 2019 By Vanessa Côté-Courtemanche

Flashback in time: It's September 2016 and we're in Valladolid, Spain. Nicolas, a Galgos (or Spanish Greyhound), has been saved from a pound renowned for its high euthanasia rates and taken to a shelter called Scooby. Emaciated, weak and covered in lesions, the dog can barely stand but despite his ordeal he remains affectionate and seeks the attention of the people who've rescued him. Four months later, Maddie, another Spanish Greyhound, found wandering the streets of Seville arrives at Galgos en Familia, a rescue association in Malaga. This little black and white dog with an oversized nose takes a long time to feel comfortable around the volunteers who care for the abandoned dogs in this southern region. After several long months in their shelters, Maddie and Nicolas leave the heat of Spain behind them to start their new lives in Canada.

Fallen nobility

In times gone by, Galgos were a rare breed, prized by the Spanish aristocracy. Nowadays, hunters (known as galgueros) train them to hunt hare, an old tradition still popular in Spain from October to February.

During the hunting season, galgueros can amass dozens of dogs in the hope of finding one exceptional hunter. Champion or not, the dogs are frequently underfed and kept in closed, dark spaces because according to commonly held belief, a starving dog is thought to be a better hunter.

Once the season is over, many galgueros abandon their least successful dogs. They leave them at the pound, tie them to trees or simply kill them. The best animals are kept for breeding or, if they're lucky, a second hunting season. According to a National Geographic article, approximately 100,000 hunting dogs are killed each year in Spain. If you follow the Facebook pages of Spanish shelters it doesn't take long to comprehend the extent of the horror.

Just like race course greyhounds in the United Kingdom and the United States, Galgos are built slim and endowed with remarkable physical stamina. And just liked retired greyhounds, Galgos love to sleep—they can average up to 18 hours a day! The dogs are generally calm, affectionate and playful with people although some, branded by cruel treatment, may take months (or even years) to become comfortable with their human families.

From Spain to Canada

Several Spanish organizations work around the clock to save as many dogs as possible. Associations such as Scooby which is mostly active in the north of the country can take in up to 500 dogs per shelter once the hunting season is over. Others, like La Guarida, have a similar story to tell in southern Spain. With shelters bursting at the seams, volunteers have no choice but to turn to other countries for adoption.

Fortunately, associations in Italy, France, Belgium, the US and Canada, all lend a helping hand. Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada works with organizations including Scooby Medina and Podenco Friends to facilitate adoption in the Maritimes. In Montreal, Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos has arranged for over a hundred dogs to find new homes in Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia since 2016… including Maddie and Nicolas who enjoy every moment of their new lives and warm up our favourite couch 18 hours a day!

To find out more about Galgos watch the documentary film Yo Galgo.

Photo credits:
(Cover): Vanessa Côté-Courtemanche
(At the airport): Sabrina Michaliszyn
(In Montreal): Emeric Séguin

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