HISTORY OF THE BREED IN THE MEDITERRANEAN BASIN
Although the history of the Podenco has been lost in the mists of time, what has not yet been established is that its history is closely related to the Mediterranean Basin, thus forming a fundamental part of hunting, especially in the group, Podenco-rabbit. This connection can be found in the case of the Podenco Andaluso by D.Manuel C. Jaren Nebot, a great scholar and expert on the authoctonous Andalusian breeds; in his work “Podenco Andaluso……..The humble King”,he gives us a deeply studied history of the breed.
Following are some quotes from ( Taken from the magazine, Todos Perros,no.21,1996)
A LITTLE HISTORY
Few times, during the course of our history have the inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula had time to think over our roots. Many peoples, cultures and civilisations make up our lands and latitudes;so much so, that our forefathers, involved in battles, colonization and the simple quest to survive on a daily basis, gave scarce attention to what had gone before them.
Little by little, as time went by, the primitive Celtic, Iberian and Tartar races merged and blended into a mixed race, creating what is today our beloved Spain. On account of this strong, mixed background from which we come , we can boast, at one and the same time ,of the huge variety of differences that bind us together. However, what can be said of our primitive Iberia? Has anything remained of our territory that has not been imported from another city? What binds us to our ancestors and what ties us to our people? What can be done so that a people does not lose its identity?
Of course, the answer is clear: our traditions. A people without traditions is a nonentity. In Spain, traditions are numerous and, while many of them can be traced back to recent history, others are lost in the shadows of the past. There are two traditional cultures in our country without which our history would not be the same. On the one hand, we have bull-fighting and on the other, hunting. The very first books in Castillian are devoted to hunting, and the effects that this activity has had on our history are remarkable. There is nowhere in our country that shows no trace of hunting with dogs, although each area may have perhaps different methods of training the animals.
As remotely as the Paleolithic period, our peninsula was inhabited by human beings: caves such as those at Altamira, Castello and Pasiega (upper Paleolithic), and Vieja ( Alpera), Minatela (Albacete) and Cogull (Lerida) in the Mesolithic period, show (end of glaciation, Wurm IV, 9000 B.C) examples of cave drawings where hunting is primeval and fundamental, since it could obviously be in no other way.
However, the development of the dog is still not clear, with certain authors claiming a descent from wolves and others a descendency from jackals; notwithstanding these two theories, many other authors would rather not jump to conclusions that have little real back-up.Delgado Bermelo y cols, in his book, ”Functional classification of dog breeds-improved canine genetics”, places the Podenco breed in the graiodi group, from which the Spanish greyhound ,the Galgo, descends on the one hand, and the Podenco on the other. Almost all authors are in agreement that Man and dog began working together in the remote Paleolithic period.
Obviously, the primitive dogs living with Man would have had to adapt and forage for their own food. The very first Man-dog relationships are shown very clearly in cave drawings on our Peninsula and there is great similarity to those North African drawings found in Tassali-n-Ajier in the Western Sahara. Certain authors and archaeologists claim that the dogs in these drawings are very similar to wolves. Yet, characteristics such as the proportion of the ears, the shape of the thorax and the tail, and the general physical structure of the animals, would seem to indicate that they are not wolves. They are animals which have always been close to us, and they are Podencos!!
With the passing of time, the primitive Podenco evolved into different breeds. Certain breeds such as the Cirneco of Etna, the Basenji or the Canaan dog evolved genetically in the Western Mediterranean area. Nevertheless ,the real birthplace of the Podenco continues to be the same place, namely, the Iberian Peninsula.
Four different areas produced families(breed nuclei) of different Podenco dogs. Among these are the Archipelagos of the Canaries, the Balearies and the Azores: the Podencos of these archipelagos are breeds native to these lands. Yet, the existence of different breeds in the archipelagos close to the Peninsula is easily explained:
originally, these islands were uninhabited, and the dog, as a species ,did not exist there.
Besides being introduced by Man, the Podenco, either through isolation or through genetic changes,natural selection or blood ties, began to show geographical differences as well as functional ones ,and thus, from that moment on, their genetic heritage started to show their own features. In the Peninsula, with the passing of time, the Podenco remained in two main groups: the Portoguese and the protagonist of this work, the Andalusian Podenco.
It really is astonishing how much the present.day Podenco resembles the dogs painted in the cave drawings. How is it they have evolved so little in ten thousand years? We shall try to provide an answer. As already seen, the area giving origin to the Podenco is connected to the area of the typical Mediterranean climate which is characterized by low rainfall, very hot summers and cold winters. In the Andalusian hinterland, it is not unusual to go from 45° in the summer to several degrees below zero in the winter..The vegetation growing in this area has adapted to this hostile environment, added to which there, is no rain at all in the summertime. As a result, the plants have developed thorns, carpacious leaves and strong, hard stems.
It is against this background that the Podencos of Andalusia have developed. Anyone who has seen the dreadful density of the scrub, thorny bushes , coscojas(bushes) and thorny gorse growing on the Sierra Morena, will be fully aware of the struggle the dogs must have had in order to hunt there.
Everything about the Podenco stands for hunting: its anatomy, its character, its psychology and its movement live only for one purpose, and that is to hunt –and to hunt in our lands. This is the reason it hasn’t evolved-it simply hasn’t been necessary to, because in Andalusia this dog is King.
THE PODENCO IN LITERATURE
In our country, literature dealing with hunting has no match anywhere. Several authors throughout history all agree that the Podenco is superior to other breeds when it comes down to hunting.
It was during the XV Century when the Hurtado de Mendoza family wrote to the King of Castille, sending him a gift in exchange for help received from the Crown. The Hurtado de Mendoza family belonged to the second branch of the “casa de infantado”, great landowners with innumerable herds of cattle. Being noblemen, they were ,of course, assiduous hunters, possessing magnificent stables and kennels of Podencos, Greyhounds and Great Danes.
“My Lord is sending you three, two dog Podencos and one bitch….It is the finest breed and I can assure you there is none better”
The Hurtados’short-haired Podenco were much loved and greatly appreciated at Court. Their descendants were coupled with the best dogs belonging to the monarch of Castille for many years to come.
In 1664,Alonso Martinez del Espinar in his work, ”Art of the Crossbow and Monteria”, describes the Podenco as one of the most appreciated ,widespread breeds used by hunters in that period. However, it is also true that XVII noblemen preferred show dogs and most of the bibliography from that time was devoted to Hounds and Pointers. The Podenco was obliged to become a dog of the people and its self-reliancy, based on hunting small animals in order to survive, made it very popular with peasants for whom hunting was not a sport, but a way of surviving.
During the XVIII Century, the tendency to write books about hunting continued. The literate nobility, clearly influenced by foreign snobbishness, began the process of distancing itself more and more from the simple people, and believing their nobility to be a divine work, they created an elite.
In his work,”Lettere moresche”, José Cadalso wrote….”Asking a Christian friend of mine
if he could explain the concept of hereditary nobility, having told me a thousand things I didn’t understand and having laughed with me over many things he claimed were respectable all over the world, he concluded, laughing his head off that: “hereditary nobility is the vanity that boasts that eight hundred years before I was born ,someone died who had my name, who had done great deeds even though the present holder of the name is useless”
This was the kind of rarefied atmosphere being breathed by the nobility in those times, times of , priviledge for the nobles and times of suffering and famine for the population of peasants. The latter ,to survive, accepted the distribution of “cheap soups” from the Mansion houses of the rich. These soups were made of beetroot, hard bread, pork fat, salt, vinegar and great quantities of water. Twenty-five pounds of this soup was the ration for fifty people.
This situation lasted throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, dragging the people of Andalusia further and further into misery .In this context, the hardy, self-sufficient Podenco was of enormous assistance, just one dog proving enough to bring home some simple game to augment the depleted diet of the poor.
The XIX Century marched in no better for the Spanish people; following the famine of the eighteenth century, there arrived the occupation by the French and because of the war ,the shortage of food continued to become worse. In spite of everything, the Podenco continued to prove itself an invaluable ,faithful friend to the peasants.
In 1864,the “Treasure of hunting dogs-the art of recognising the breeds of dogs”, was published in Madrid.
This recovered work was inherited by a group of hunters whose name and seat we ignore, but in the pages dedicated to the Podenco, we can read:
“The Podenco must be very light, though not so light as the Galgo. It must have a wide head, a sharp eye, upright ears like a wolf, a strange tail with thick fur on the lower part. This dog is highly alert and slim, with an excellent sense of smell for tracking: it can kill rabbits and wild boar, it can hunt the hare even at night-time, something the Galgo cannot do, because it is “of high wind that goes straight for its prey”. The Podenco is usually used for all kinds of hunting and it is sufficient to take them hunting in order to train them”.
In the groups of hunting dogs of Podencos, called packs , are those dogs whose sole function is to take the prey away from the other hunting dogs. These specialist dogs receive the name of “Quitaores”(Retrievers)..Many authors have considered these Podencos as great Podencos. In the work previously quoted, the Retriever is defined as follows:
“in rabbit hunting, a mixed breed of Podenco-Great Dane is nominated and it may be considered the head of the pack, the name hunters give to all groups of dogs.
On the whole, the Retrievers do not hunt, but observe the other dogs in order to take the prey off them before they can eat it. Taken the prey, the Retriever delivers it to his master.”
Consequently this definition reveals that the role of Retriever has recently passed to the Great Podenco, perhaps because the Great Danes have disappeared for making this cross-breed, but on the other hand ,perhaps because the Podencos are so superior in this capacity. Yet, the Retriever not only operated in the small packs, but its field of action extended to the work of Spanish Greyhounds (Galgo Espanol) for hunting the hare.
The famous Podencos,”Companeros”(synonym of the present Great Andalusian Podenco) were and are, uthentic specialists to be found in the lands of Campina, Carmona where there are extensive wheat fields and where some very able hares are to be found.
A pack of Galgos can quite easily out distance the hunter and the help of the Retriever in getting the hare off the Galgos and taking it back to the hunter is not to be underestimated. As already stated, the Podenco lives for hunting. One of the main hunters in our literature is Antonio Corvasì and in his numerous essays he mentions the Podenco as being one of the best dogs in the world for hunting.
“The King of hunting dogs has always been, and will always be, the Podenco. Brave in battle, untiring in its efforts, tough.obedient, as lithe and quick as a squirrel, noble and loyal in spirit, it embodies all the good qualities needed in a hunting dog.”Most past authors ,when defining the Podenco; make no distinction concerning precise groups of breeds.
In 1898, Manuel Rodriguez ”Lupus” published his first work, cataloguing the Podencos of the Peninsula, founding the basic theories on the breed that today we know as the Andalusian Podenco. An expert hunter and good zoologist, he handed down to us his exceptional work, one of the most important in the field of the Andalusian Podenco.
THE ANDALUSIAN PODENCO DOG IN THE SPECTRUM OF AUTHOCTHONOUS SPANISH BREEDS
Discussing the Andalusian Podenco in the Spanish dog world raises great paradoxes and contradictions; on the one hand , we know it is the most numerous breed amongst all Andalusian breeds, outnumbering all other authcthonous breeds put together.
Furthermore, it has been one of the last breeds to receive official recognition-a ”breed almost without a history and almost forgotten”, claims Sarazà Ortiz in his work, ”Canicultura”(1963);in fact there have been no further studies, either technical or scientific, since the early 80’s,and above all, absolutely nothing in the 90’s.
The First Convention of Spanish Canine Breeds in 1982 established the first studies on the biometry of the breed; then,following the Symposium of 1992,the Andalusian Podenco became an officially recognised breed being able to rely on an officially recognised body of breeders, the Club of the Andalusian Podenco; the Patronage of a recognised breed (the result of this Symposium), and a book of Geneology whose records have been registered in the Book of Spanish Origin belonging to the Real Sociedad Central de Formento de Razas Canina of Spain.
Since then, three sizes of dog have been officially acknowledged: Large, Medium and Small, moreover with three distinct types of coat.short-haired, rough-haired and long-haired. Therefore, it may be deduced that there are nine distinct varieties existing within the breed of the Andalusian Podenco.
AN ANCIENT BREED WHOSE ORIGINS ARE UNKNOWN
Certain breeds present more evident traces of their antiquity dating back to their association with Man.Nowadays ,we can hazard a calculated guess as to why the first dogs approached man, simply because we know the habits of dogs today: they are attracted by leftover scraps of food. Nevertheless, primitive man must have identified the hunting capacities of these animals that would have also developed a sense of territory and provided some kind of defence for him.
Thus, a harmonious relationship was set up in order to survive, and slowly a hierarchy was to form where Man would occupy first place, and the wild dog would become the retriever of the prey-a mutual dependency where Man in those times had no need of an unusual, shapeless dog like the more recent breeds, but of a lithe, strong animal possessing great stamina that could be of practical use to him, trainable for hunting and modelled ,like Man, by evolution over thousands of years.
The ancestral meaning of this breed can be found in a mere study of its behaviour patterns: what is highly evident is, that, here is an animal possessed of neither artificiality nor cunning, but on the contrary, is sweet-natured and simple, bound to the land that forged it. The proof of this is the genetic imprinting found when this dog is cross-bred with other dogs; its character and hereditary traits remain dominant.
Secondly ,its physiological features highlight its extraordinary ability to adapt to all types of environments, its great functional versatility, a facility to breed well, resistance to diverse climatic conditions, its ability to eat absolutely anything, whether frugal or plentiful, resistance to illness, either from other animals or dogs, and possessing remarkable qualities for hunting, be it the crafty rabbit or the tough wild boar.
In certain hunting scenes, it shows itself in perfect harmony with the hunter, for instance, when the dog intercepts a rabbit hidden in a resinous bush, it takes up a position diagonally opposite the hunter, so that the rabbit scurries sideways out of the bush straight into the trap-this demonstrates the dog’s awareness that it is collaborating with Man. The Podenco shows its versatility even when it hunts with a pack for the first time.
All these characteristics are the fruit of its archaism, of its great similarity to its primitive ancestors, those first dogs where natural selection was permanent and severe, since the motivation was merely functional, and depended, as happened in the not too distant past, on the historic and economic poverty of mankind. The puppies of this breed that did not match up to the necessities for which they were bred, were destroyed immediately, thus avoiding the feeding of useless mouths. All these points go to show that this breed has always been little romanced by antiquity.
PRESENT SITUATION AND STRUCTURE OF THE BREED
The Andalusian Podenco breed as such,was officially recognized by the Real Sociedad Central de Razas Canina de Espana on 29th March,1992,with the approval of the Patronage of the breed, probably the first that was set up by a study group on the morphology of the dog at the University of Madrid ,and is the result of certain research presented for the first time at a Scientific Forum during the II Symposium on the Spanish Canine Breeds held at Cordoba in March 1992.
Currently, the breed has been completely strengthened in our country, being supported by the enormous clout of the above-mentioned Patronage,the management of the Book of Geneology and the existence of a group of breeders, the National Club of the Andalusian Podenco responsible for the preservation, care and improvement of the breed.
In the Book of Geneology, there are officially three distinct sizes with three distinct coats. According to the genealogical records, if we take into consideration the reproductive isolation of each distinct type, nine possibilities emerge, namely, there are nine different groups that may reproduce within their own groups but not with members of the other groups.
On that account, keeping these conditions in mind, each type can be presented according to preservation, selecting those main groups where genetic improvement may be carried out, and those minor ones where a policy of maintaining genetical variability is vital for their preservation.
Should the Andalusian Podenco be divided for size, then the Large Size represents approximately 34% of the total population, most of them devoted to hunting in the pack but with a minority trained as retrievers ;on the contrary, the Medium Size is the most widespread ,from the plains to the mountains,from the marshes to the hills, making up 53% of the whole. Last of all is the Small Size, representing only 13% of the entire breed. The latter are used mainly for rabbit hunting where there is lush vegetation and thick scrub and where its smaller size is more suited for this sort of activity.
When considering the dog’s coat, the short-haired/smooth variety is the most common, making up 52% of the whole, followed by the rough-haired accounting for 43% of registered animals, and only 5% of the long-haired/silky variety. Traditionally, many authors claim that the short-haired and long-haired have better hearing, better sight, are stronger with more stamina for uneven ground, in woods, closed places and so on……..others say that the dogs with smooth or short hair move faster and are lighter in weight, more resistant to lack of water and are able to make the most of the plains.
Although the type of coat the dog possesses is important for the terrain it hunts on(countryside, woods, mountains),there does not really exist any real proof to show that the dog’s attitude is better in one place than in another, even though its coat, speed, stamina etc, are, of course, fundamental to its performance. Therefore, it can be concluded that characters like the Short-haired variety(linked to the plains, the countryside, high temperatures, drought),the Rough-haired type(linked to hills, bushes, harsh environment) and the Long-haired species(linked to the sierra, low temperatures etc.) are merely adaptations caused by the terrain and climate ,without there being any functional repercussions.
The structure of the Book of Genealogy shows the following:
LARGE SIZE ANDALUSIAN PODENCO
Analysing this list ,it can be seen that the proportion of males/females(dogs/bitches)present in this size accounts for more than 60% of those dogs registered, while the females(bitches) barely make up the remaining 40%.Analysing,however,from a functional point of view, it can be estimated that the Large Size Andalusian Podenco, the proportion of sexes varies according to the type of coat, and this is due to the fact that the rough- haired variety and the long-haired one are dedicated fundamentally to hunting with the pack in the mountain ranges of Andalusia, while the short-haired type continues to function as retrievers in the countryside, accompanying the Galgos while hunting the hare.
In the former case can be found a proportion of males/females(dogs/bitches) in the ratio of 1.5/1(packs made up prevalently of dogs).These male dogs are mostly used for hunting deer or wild boar and need requisites such as a strong will, cleverness, strength, bravery and fearlessness, qualities more present in the male than the female, whose role is principally for breeding puppies, though. at times , they do play a partial part in hunting.
Secondly, considering the variety of smooth-haired dogs, they are registered more for their role of “Retrievers”, and for this work, although male dogs are preferred, there is no doubt whatsoever that the bitches are more than adequate compared to the Galgos (Spanish greyhounds), therefore both sexes are registered at 50% each(ratio 1/1)
Moreover we can take a look at the proportion of the three varieties of coat registered for this size with a ratio of the rough-.haired and the long-haired recorded for over 90% of the animals with the short-haired variety rated at just over 6%.
These percentages are the result of using the large size for big game hunting, its use as retrievers being fundamental. Consequently, in big game hunting, carried out over terrain consisting of undergrowth and thorny bushes, the dogs which adapt better are those with long, rough hair that can protect them from thorns, scratches and so on, while the short-haired dog performs better in the countryside or where vegetation is more sparse.
As far as the colour of the coat is concerned, the predominant colour for the large size is white, it being safer in big game hunting to distinguish the dog against the background of woods and hills, though in some types, a cinnamon colour may appear in splashes on the dog’s flanks or back. On the contrary ,the dogs involved in hunting minor game nearly always have a cinnamon-coloured coat, white being relegated to spots and stars on its head, chest or extreme socks.
MEDIUM SIZE ANDALUSIAN PODENCO
This size is the most numerous as it is the most adaptable and versatile one, its size enabling it to undertake any kind of canine activity, suiting itself to the terrain both of the Large size and the Small one.
Perhaps is has become the most common variety as it has been able to hunt the rabbit as well as the partridge, the hare as well as the wild duck.
Contrary to the Large size, this type shows a tendency for a reversal between dogs and bitches since the dogs make up 33% of the total, while the bitch accounts for more than 66% of those registered. An explanation may be that this variety ,while showing itself to be more versatile, is used for minor hunting, such as searching for rabbits and for this reason its sex is not a constraining factor since the distances to run are less than in the hunting of wild boar or deer , undertaken by the Large Size.
Small-time hunting is easier to manage the bitch, because there are dogs that ”remember” a bitch on heat during a hunting session and may give up on their mission or quarrel with other members of the pack should a bitch be present in the pack.Therefore it is advisable never to use more than one bitch in the pack.However, this problem with the Andalusian Podenco is less accentuated than in its close relatives.
Furthermore, it should be taken into account that, while the Large size forms a pack consisting of several members, the owner of the Medium Size Podenco usually keeps only three or four animals for minor hunting-he is more interested in breeding the animals. As far as the distribution of the type of coat is concerned, the registration of the short-haired breed predominates since these animals are more suited to hunting on the plains where vegetation is scarce.
Besides, these areas coincide with high temperatures ,thus short hair is more suitable as they can better support the heat and resist drought; while the remaining 25% consists of the rough and /or long haired variety to which those animals belong and that go hunting in the thick vegetation of the sierras where the temperatures are lower.
Concerning the colour of the coat ,the cinnamon colour predominates, from light cinnamon to bright cinnamon, the dogs which are completely white being rather rare. Sometimes there are cases of mixed white and cinnamon patches.
SMALL SIZE ANDALUSIAN PODENCO
This is the least numerous of the entire breed owing to its exclusive use for rabbit hunting in very precise areas where it has shown itself to be particularly adaptable to a certain terrain and vegetation.
In this group the proportion of dogs to bitches is heavily listing in favour of the females with a ratio of 4 to 1.This may be due to breeders preferring to raise bitches rather than dogs in order to keep under their control the population of the bitches. Few examples of the long-haired variety have been registered, unfortunately.
This might depend that it is the rarest type within the species, since the areas in which they are bred are quite small. As far as the other two types go, the short-haired breed accounts for 85% while the rough-haired one comes in with a percentage of 15%.The reasons for this are the same as for those of the Medium size dog.Regarding colour, most of these dogs are of a uniform cinnamon colour, with few examples showing white patches and completely white or brown and white are very rare indeed.
As previously stated,its morphology is closely connected to its functionality, therefore it can be confirmed that this breed of dog, the Andalusian Podenco, is exceptionally endowed for any kind of hunting, both big game and minor hunting activities.
Indispensable for hunting rabbits and endowed with a strong sense of smell and sharp eyesight,it is capable of outwitting its prey and bringing it back whole to its master. This task, particularly characteristic of the Medium and Small size of this breed, can be undertaken by one dog, or a pair or a pack.
Indubitably ,it is in hunting the rabbit that the Podenco excels: its particular instinct and hunting style enable it to flush out the prey while its companions surround the bushes or the thorns where it is hiding, in order to cut off its retreat and driving the prey into the sights of the hunter. It is possible to identify distinct “sounds”, form yelps to whines, that the Podenco makes while hunting the rabbit.
The Podenco also manages to hunt birds with the very same adapability and is used for hunting partridge and quail, retrieving the prey perfectly. At the same time it can also be used to retrieve thrushes, turtle doves and doves, showing its adapability on all kinds of terrain. The Podenco enjoys retrieving all kinds of duck from ponds, lakes, marshes and rivers.
Its specialist role is that of the retriever following the greyhounds hunting the hare.This role is usually undertaken by the Large size Podenco, but neither the Medium size nor the Small size are to be overlooked for this kind of work.Howver, this lot generally falls to the strongest dog in the pack which is made up of Large and Medium sized dogs,but one dog will take it upon itself to retrieve.
Speaking of hunting the hare with Spanish greyhounds, the only possible retriever is the Large size Andalusian Podenco since it is the only type that can impose itself on the Spanish Greyhounds. Normally the prey is followed by four or five Galgos and the presence of the Podenco is necessary to prevent the greyhounds from tearing the prey to bits and eating it. On many occasions, it is sufficient for the Podenco to growl from a distance just to make the greyhounds aware of its presence and abandon the prey. In other cases the Podenco has to pull out all the stops and show the greyhounds exactly who is the boss!!!
On the other hand, to describe this work precisely, the Podenco has to localise the prey, flush it out of its burrow and start following it. At this point the Galgos are let loose and they don’t stop till they have caught their prey. Normally the greyhounds are well out of sight of their masters when the prey is captured and so the role of the retriever becomes imperative. Should the hare succeed in reaching its burrow, the Podenco sets to work, flushing it out for the Spanish Greyhounds. This may go on for ages, but once the greyhounds have caught the hare , the Podenco enters into action as a retriever and carries the prey back to the hunters.
Of this dog it is claimed that it is ”of high wind that goes straight for the prey”. Yet, should there be a terrain bristling with prey, the Podenco has no time to flush it out and follow it. Thus it just flushes it out and retrieves what it can to take back to its master.
BIG GAME HUNTING
In this kind of hunting it is compulsory to speak about hunting with the pack,guided by the gamekeeper who leads the dogs that are able to flush out the prey, follow and retrieve it.
Its commitment, its attention, the way it barks when it runs, its agility at changing direction suddenly, its stamina in running up and down cliffs and crossing thickly overgrown areas in the mountains,make the Podenco an obvious choice for a pack. As far as its type of bark is concerned, there are two ways of “translating “ its call—the first is a kind of “whining” when the dog is following the prey and is keeping an eye on it; the second,”a bored kind of barking”, is when the dog can hear and smell the prey but hasn’t seen it yet.
The classical structure of the pack has the Large size Andalusian Podenco in the role of scenting dog and follow up dog,along with some Medium size or Small size Podencos as pointers, and Mastiffs as catching dogs. Not so long ago, Great Danes could be found covering this role.
This breed, developed for the Andalusian terrain, developed insuperable qualities for hunting. The objective of the battle is to hunt the wild boar or deer and ,as such, the dogs follow a sequence ,beginning with the pointers that identify the prey and flush it out, the follow up dogs which surround it, then the animal is captured, often by the Podencos or by some auxiliary dogs in the pack.
Not to be overlooked is the role of the Large size Andalusian Podenco as a traditional guard dog for Andalusian farms .Its audacity and tenacity, as well as its quarrelsome, suspicious nature where strangers are concerned, have always been exploited when the animal wasn’t out hunting.
All the Podenco’s qualities are the outcome of years of adapting to the tough terrain of Andalusia and the functional requirements demanded of it up to, and including ,the modern era.
Therefore the breed, anyway, possesses an excellent functionality and it is our intention to preserve this canine heritage in the whole of Spanish canine breeds.
According to the Grand Master, D.Rafael Sarazà Ortiz, this breed can be found throughout Spain.
From the uninhabited mountainous regions where they are often the sole companion of the lone farmer on his isolated farmstead, passing through the wide open spaces of the countryside to the more crowded, faraway cities.
The Podenco has always been the dog of the people, a dog for all and everyone, keeping Man company on his journey through History in all corners of the rural world.
Proof of this are the thousands of examples to be found in Andalusia, thousands of examples both great and small, rough-haired, short-haired or long-haired, white, cinnamon or patched: it is a rich testimonial that may be seen by one and all and whose variety of type depends on its ability to adapt to its particular geographic background over the centuries.
Andalusia offers a wide variety of landscape, great variations of terrain, diverse
altitudes, vegetation, climate and so on - and even if nowadays any type of Podenco can be met in the most unexpected place, you would think that certain kinds would have stayed in certain areas. Lacking specific migrations, originally the Podenco can be seen to be of a different size as the terrain changes from the plateau to the mountains, from the plains to the hills and to the highest ranges of mountains, while at the same time its coat varies with the short haired variety in the temperate zones to the rough-haired and long-haired species which characterize areas of low temperatures.
Obviously, this all bears a relationship to the functionality of the size and type of coat the Podenco has.The Large size Podenco can be found in great numbers in the mountain chain of the Sierra Morena, on the mountainous range of Huelva as far as Jaén passing through Sevilla and Cordoba. These areas are normally characterized by low temperatures and freezing cold wintersand it is here that the greatest numbers of the rough-haired dogs can be found.
On the other hand, in the coldest places in the chain of mountains near Granada we can find the few examples of long-haired dogs since they need a long coat to survive against the inhospitable conditions in those mountains.
On the contrary, along the plains of Seville or Mezchita, the Large size dog with short hair is more evident; they are mostly used as retrievers along with Spanish greyhounds, he Medium size is, without a doubt, the more cosmopolitan, not inside Andalusia but outside our frontiers.
In our region we can find the Medium size dog with short hair as the most common and widespread, but they are to be found mostly the Province of Cadiz,Malaga-along the coast-and Seville(milder area),besides the countryside around Cordoba and several regions of the more eastern provinces.
The variety of the Medium size’s rough hair are located mostly in the area of Huelva(almosy totally white coats),in the Parque Natural of the Sierre Subbéticas of Cordoba, with a few examples of monocolour cinnamon and some areas of the mountain chains in the province of Malaga.
Last of all, the fewest examples of long hair are to be met in the Sierre Jienenses, in the area of the Parque Natural de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas.
Last, but not least, the Small size with long hair is concentrated mostly around the provinces of Cadiz and Seville with isolated nuclei at Cordoba and Malaga.
The information about this type are so rare that nothing exists to establish a relationship between its geographic distribution and the type of hair.
Outside our area,the Large size pervades Extramadura, the area south of Badajoz and the provinces of Villa Real and Toledo in the territory of Castille-La Mancha.
Likewise, we also recognize the migration of many examples to other Spanish regions, mainly to the Counties of Aragon and Catalonia, as we also know of cases of dogs being exported to the U.S.A.
Taking the Medium size into consideration, we know that it is possible to find them all over Spain but just lately their numbers are growing rapidly in Eastern Spain, followed by Catalonia and certain areas of the Gallegas. Currently we know about some dogs that have been taken to Greece!
DANGERS THAT LIE IN WAIT FOR THE BREED
The Andalusian Podenco is a breed that is thousands of years old ,that has struggled for survival, prevailing through times of hardship and changes of culture ,and consequently, it is not to be considered in danger of extinction. At least in the near future, where all the clues would point to a general growth of the breed ,since there are many hunters in search of this kind of working dog that is successful both for big game and minor hunting activities.
From the general point of view, The Andalusian Podenco is widely diffused with well defined blood lines that should provoke few problems for its future generations if a reasonable zootechnique method is followed.The breed could be in danger only from two sources.
The first of these is of cross-breeding in the future should the auxiliary book of geneology be closed, or it will try to renew the blood by including a known geneology, and the present breeders throw themselves into endogamic breeding(systematic coupling between related dogs)in order to follow their blood line, with the consequent peril of the appearance of weaknesses in the population owing to recessive genes and/or the consequences of the endogamic depression with a loss of hybrid vigour, reduction in size of the litter and so on.
On the other hand, the second zootechnical problem would be the separation of the morphological , functional duality of the breed, namely, the separation of the animals into one for showing and the other line as a working breed. At that point, the breed would begin to degenerate as has already happened for many foreign breeds.
Quite sincerely, we believe that the Andalusian Podenco is far away from this kind of danger as hunters need dogs that function in hunting-it does not form part of their make up to use a dog simply because it is beautiful, indeed, those dogs unsuitable for hunting have been eliminated.
On the other hand, as already stated, the breed is in no immediate danger but there might be variations to certain members of the breed in the next few years. This may occur because dominant types emerge(a combination of size and coat)and others may begin to disappear due to the fact that others are stronger or more competitive, or because of changes in the different forms of hunting lead to the type becoming “obsolete” or because certain types become drastically depleted.
Thus ,we have the case of Large size dogs with short hair( frequent from only a few years) being used in the role of retrievers which have almost disappeared since hunting the hare with greyhounds no longer takes place in our modern era.
Likewise will happen to the Medium size dog with rough hair and the Small size that have been relegated to a secondary role, having been rudely overtaken by the boom in the variety of the short/fine haired type,so much so that in the fields the rough-haired species is less and less evident. Last of all, a word for the long-haired breed which has always been a minority.
Its presence is so rare that it’s almost legendary and consequently it must have priority in any future conservation plans.
Editor's note 1: The views expressed in this article in no way reflect the views of myself. I state quite categorically that I absolutely abhor hunting live quarry in any form. But it is interesting to read about the history and development of the Andaluz Podenco and thereby understand its character and behaviour.
Editor's note 2: Podencos which are used to hunt wild boar have their tails and ears cut off by their galguerro owners, so that the boar, in its fight for life, cannot easily get hold of the podenco. Nice people!!!
Editor's note 3: Podenco Andaluz