Information about the Galgo Español

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.

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 including solid colors (like black and red), brindle and parti-color (two colors or patterns together).

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.

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.

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.
Roman Denarius in which we can see a vertragus type or Galgo-like dog

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.