From Heaven to Hell is the definitive guide to the story of the Galgo Espagnol, from its history, character, diseases, European law, Spanish law and much more. A must-have book for all those passionate about the galgo.
The book has been translated into Spanish, Italian and French. All print copies are sold out.
To order a copy
English version, Link here.
French version, order here
Italian version, Link here
All proceeds from the sale of the books are donated to Spanish rescues helping galgos.
Read reviews of the book here.
Throughout the book at the beginning and end of each chapter, I tell the story of a galga and her puppies, rescued by volunteers.
What happens to the galga, where do her puppies go, what other events happen at the shelter, what happens with other galgos?
Here is a taster from Chapter 1Origin of ‘Galgo Espanol
The bitch cowered in a corner of the derelict building, eyes dull but fearful, her skeletal body covered in scars, protecting her puppies struggling vainly to suckle from her malnourished frame. The woman stood quietly, her eyes adjusting to gloomy light, observing the scene before her eyes. If she could gain the bitch’s trust, approach with food and water, then there was a chance that she could catch her and take her back to the shelter……and then, as the bitch turned, the woman saw the dog could barely move, not only had the bitch 8 puppies to care for, she had injuries to her front legs…
How has a descendent of such a noble breed of dog come to be regarded as ‘vermin’ in the eyes of the Spanish and abandoned in this way?
Several explanations are put forward regarding the history of the Galgo Espanol , or Spanish Greyhound, but one thing upon which everyone is agreed is that it is an ancient breed of dog, specifically a member of the sighthound family, so called because they hunt by sight rather than by nose.
The origin of the word ‘galgo’ could derive from the Gauls, an ancient tribe of Celts, who migrated across Europe and down into the Iberian Peninsula around 500BC. A search through the Celtic language will suggest ‘Celtic’ is a word with an heroic meaning. Cuchulainn is a heroic figure in Irish mythology; Cu means ‘hound’ – so ‘hound of Chulainn.
Another theory is that the Romans found a breed of dog in Spain called ‘Canus Galicus’ – or Celtic dog – in the Galicia area of Spain which, in Spanish pronunciation, would be ‘galico’, shortened to ‘galgo’, ‘Gaze hounds’ is a term for the dogs used to hunt hare by the Ancient Greeks, possibly the word ‘greyhound’ developed from this.
In all instances, the ‘hound’ had to be a dog built to outrun its quarry with speeds of up to 40mph, alongside a hunter on horseback or in a chariot.
Earliest indications of the existence of the Galgo Espanol
Greek art and coins depict short-haired hounds, some claim these are the ancestors of the Ibizan hound or Podenco, rather than the galgo, and in 325BC or thereabouts the Macedonian monarch Alexander the Great reportedly had a hound named Peritas accompany him on his military campaigns.
A scene often depicted in Greek and Roman art is the mythical tale of the goddess Artemis bathing in a river. A human named Actaeon, accompanied by his hounds, saw her, so she punished him by turning him into a stag and had him hunted down by his hounds.
Research also produced the fact that the only breed of dog mentioned by name in the Bible is the greyhound (Proverbs 30:39-31, King James version.
‘There be three things which do well, year, Which are comely in going; A lion, which is strongest among beasts and Turneth not away from any; a greyhound; A he-goat also.’
So, we have the Gauls moving into Spain with hounds; we have Ancient Greeks with hounds; we have Romans with hounds. We also have the Ancient Egyptians with hounds, which were used both for hunting and as companions. They were the only dog permitted to share the tent of an Arab, and to ride atop their camels. The birth of such a hound was second only in importance to the birth of a son.
When their owner died, a favourite hound would be mummified and buried with them, as is illustrated on the walls of Egyptian tombs. Rekhma Ra (1400BC), and pharoahs Tutankhamen, Amenhotep II, Queen Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII also owned greyhound-type dogs – which leads us to the development of the pharaoh hound’ – a smaller close relation of the greyhound.
Having told the tale of the Greek goddess Artemis, the Romans have the goddess Diana who hunted with hounds, and in a popular Roman story she gives a greyhound named Lelaps to her good friend Procris. Procris takes him hunting and before long they spot a hare. Unfortunately for Lelaps, the gods didn’t want the hare to be caught and turned both Lelaps and the hare into stone: another scene common in Roman art.
A further theory is that, probably between 800-1400AD, Arab and Berber invaders crossed the Mediterranean into Spain, and brought their hunting dogs, Saluki and Sloughi, with them, together with their falcons.
The saluki is a very fine-boned sighthound, the sloughi more sturdy, but it is believed that these dogs, together with the Celtic hounds, formed the basis for the Galgo Espanol, the perfect partner for the falcon bird of prey.
Life Changes in Spain
15th century Spain was made up of five independent kingdoms; Portugal, Navarre, Castile, Aragon, and Granada. In 1469 Isabella, heiress of Castile, married Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon. By 1512 Granada and Navarre had been annexed and Spain as we know it now was established.
As Christians, they drove the Jews and Muslims out of Spain and authorised the establishment of monasteries and castles around the country. The clergy themselves became a strong social class, after the aristocracy and nobility, the remainder of the population, some 90%, survived as unskilled cattlemen and farmers, paying rents and taxes to the clergy or the Crown.
As in Britain, hunting with hounds was the prerogative of the aristocracy, especially the Royal Families. In Spain, the national hero Diego Diaz de Vivar (El Cid) used galgo hounds for hunting. The galgo was held in great esteem and if one was stolen, the thief paid with his life.
This penalty was set out in the Fuero (Code of Laws) of Salamanca in the 9th century, Fuero of Cuenca, Fuero of Zorita de los Canes, Fueros of Molina of Aragon and Fuero de Usagre in the 12th century.
The result of this increase in farming, especially with cattle and sheep, was that land was cleared of forest, great plains were created, and hares and other game became prolific. The aristocracy employed peasants to run their hound kennels and look after the dogs, and sometimes an injured dog or puppy would disappear. Food was scarce, and the peasant population began to hunt with these dogs
People then started getting together for competitions, known as ‘galgo entertainment’ or ‘carreras en campo’. This encouraged the breeding of power and hunting technique in the dogs, and some were specifically bred as track hounds, with the speed of the greyhound but the hardiness of the celtic ‘galgo’ hound.
This led to the purebred hunting Galgo Espanol being threatened with extinction. In the 1930’s, the lure of professional racing, such as was popular in England, meant that money, fame and honour became more important and so the Galgo Ingles Espanol developed, more like greyhounds, and generally larger than the Galgo Espanol.
It is in rural areas of Spain where stocks of beautiful and typical galgos are to be found. Sadly, the large majority of their hunting owners (galgueros) are not interested in registering the litters. However there are some galgo breeders who are working to restore purebred galgos with pedigrees.
The woman is my friend Lupe, we are both volunteers at the refuge. Lupe came and told us about the bitch, said she was going to try and catch her, and returned to leave food and water. Lupe waited quietly, not moving, not invading the bitch’s space, gaining her trust. Eventually she was able to touch the galga, talking to her all the time to reassure her no harm was meant to either her or her puppies, gaining her trust. And hoping all the while that she would soon be able to rescue them and bring them to a place of safety.
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