Each year, close to 100,000 traditional Spanish dogs, also known as galgos, are killed and abandoned to death. The plight of galgos have long been tragic and unforgiving, but it was only in recent times when the world started to take notice.
Origin of the Galgo
The name galgo came from the Gauls who inhabited the area now known in the 6th century BC. Galgos were said to be an ancient breed of hunting dogs brought by the Gauls through Phoenician traders. These dogs look like greyhounds, weigh about 50-70 pounds, and can sustain speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, so they are known for their high endurance. They are said to be loyal and affectionate and often sassier than the traditional greyhound.
Tragic Fate of Galgos
Galgueros, the people who breed galgos, use the dogs for competitions like hare and lure coursing. In hare coursing, the galgos race on an enclosed track to catch the hares, while in lure coursing, the hare is replaced with a mechanical lure. Since galgueros are more concerned about the number of dogs they breed rather than each of their well-being, they do not provide the dogs with proper living conditions.
The more dogs they have, the harder it becomes to care for them all. As a result, many galgos live in harsh and atrocious conditions, where they are crammed together in dirty sheds or chained outdoors in small bunkers. They are also deprived of care and given the smallest amount of food possible due to the theory that this would make them more competitive in the hunts.
The hunting season in Spain only lasts a few months, which typically leaves galgueros with nothing to do for seven months in a year. Since galgos are considered to be “useful” for only one or two hunting seasons, galgueros look for ways to get rid of the dogs to avoid wasting their resources on them. Some choose to abandon the dogs on the streets to be on their own. However, others choose more cruel means like hanging the dogs by their necks, throwing them in abandoned wells, beating them with rocks, or burying them alive. The hunters theorize that more suffering would lead to a more successful hunting season.
Fighting Against Cruel Tradition
The cruel tradition against galgos has stretched for several generations now, but people are starting to speak out against it. Galgos del Sol is an organization established back in 2011 to rescue galgos and fight against animal cruelty. It was founded by a British expat named Solera, who moved to Murcia in 2007 and was shocked to learn about the plight of the galgos.
Due to the overwhelming international backlash and the emergence of animal welfare organizations, Spain had enacted new legislations on animal cruelty. However, there is still no EU legislation or international movement addressing the concern. Thus, it may take some time before the cruel tradition is rooted out permanently.