Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Galgo Espanol

If you read my earlier post, my husband and I did not set out to adopt an exotic breed not native to the USA. We picked out our dog because he was little and we liked his eyepatch. Kids, don't try this at home.

When the adoption coordinator mentioned that Jersey was not a greyhound, but actually
a Galgo Espanol, that didn't register with any special significance to me. 
But the behavior of the dog we brought home did.

Jersey at the kennel, USA

Jersey is my first sighthound, which in and of itself was an education.
Sighthounds are an ancient breed, bred to hunt independently, with little involvement from their owner, other than being turned loose. As such, they typically have less of a drive to please. While affectionate with their people, they are often polite but aloof with strangers. And if not properly socialized, they can become very timid or fearful.

Into our lives came this skinny little dog, full of fear, that had absolutely no idea how to live in a house or be a pet. His behavior was so bizzarre, that I turned to the internet to learn more about what his life may have been like.

Jersey in Spain, dirty and semi-feral.

The modern day situation with the Galgo Espanol is a tragic one.
I liken it to the situation with underground dog fighting in America.
Although banned in most of Europe, in Spain, live hare coursing is still permitted.
Galgos are bred carelessly and used for sport by Galgueros (Galgo Handlers).
Conditions are often squalid. Rescues report that they are often kept in dirty, windowless shacks and fed stale bread and water. Conditioning sessions involve being tied by rope to the backs of cars or ATVs and being made to run up to 10 miles at a time.

Conditioning. Looks fun, no?

The Hunt

Successful Galgo Gets to Live Another Day

In their native country, Galgos are viewed as 'trash dogs' and are considered disposable. At the end of the hunting season, tens of thousands are dumped on the side of busy roadways. In a country the size of Pennsylvania, some estimate that 60,000 are abandoned each year. But often, their fates are much worse. Galgos that do not perform well are often disposed of in more "traditional" methods, such as being shot, hung from trees, thrown down abandoned wells or set on fire.

Many rescues have opened to try and help the situation, and word has been getting out to Europe and the USA to greyhound rescue groups. A very few greyhound non-profits will take in the occasional galgo and place them in homes in the USA. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was luck. I don't know, but I am damn glad I ended up with this little dog.

When he first came home Jersey was like living with a hairy little alien.
He discovered our bedroom upstairs, and for months (literally months, like 8) he did not come downstairs. We fed him upstairs on the landing outside the door. He would spook violently at the slightest noise -- he would scrape his own toenail on the concrete and shoot sideways. He would not let anyone other than my husband and I touch him. He was especially afraid of men and would backpedal rapidly if one approached him. But with us, he was gentle and sweet. He never barked, and he never played, but he was perfectly housebroken, and loved to go for walks on a leash.

Life as a pet :)

I think what helped was that hubby and I never pushed anything. Hubby had never had a dog before, so didn't really have any expectations. I was the neurotic one that worried over every little thing, but mostly we just laughed at the crazy creature that shared our home. And over time, he got better. He learned that the world was not such a scary place. He learned to have fun, and he trusts us implicitly. Jersey is spoiled beyond belief, and will never want for anything.

Daddy's Boy

Today, rescue groups are getting the word out, both at home and abroad. Relationships are being formed between Galgueros and non-profits, so that more dogs are finding homes after hunting. Education outreach is in place to teach young people in Spain that the treatment of Galgos matters. More happy stories are coming out of the shelters. 
Hope is spreading.

#Snuggle-buddy for Life

SOS GALGOS, the rescue that Jersey came from:


  1. What a sweet story. Glad you have the little guy.

    1. Thanks! It is crazy how much I love him.

  2. I didn't know about the situation with these dogs. How sad! Jersey is beautiful and I'm so glad that you guys rescued him.

  3. I'm so glad you shared this story! Jersey looks super happy with his new life. :)

    1. Thank you, Nicole! He is truly my baby and will never want for anything as long as I have something to say about it :)

  4. Oh my gosh! Small world. I didn't know this breed existed until I read an article in my parents' local paper (Chicago suburbs). Anyway, there is a rescue near them and I featured them on my blog around Christmas last year. I follow them on FB too and the pictures of the Galgos make me melt. Love, Hope, Believe Galgo Rescue.

    1. Very small world!!! I also follow Love, Hope, Believe Galgo Rescue, among many others! It breaks my heart how much these dogs suffer. They are so gentle and affectionate, so tolerant of so much.

      Galgos for everyone!!! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I'm so glad Jersey has you to spoil him! He's a cute little guy :)

    1. Thanks Carey! He's a pretty special guy!

  6. Adorable and so interesting. We have a Whippet...they look so similar and definitely lots of the same characteristics.

    1. Jersey is very whippet-like. He looks like a cross between a whippet and a greyhound. Size-wise he is somewhere in between. He's 24.5" at the shoulder and 59 lbs.