Spanish Galgo: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Black Profile Shot of a Spanish Galgo

Tsik / Getty Images

 

The ancient Spanish Galgo, or Galgo Español, is often confused with the Greyhound, it is also even often referred to as the Spanish Greyhound. These smaller, more streamlined dogs were bred for their stamina for hunting. They continue to be used for hunting to this day in Spain, but, unfortunately, they are often very cruelly treated and many endure an awful life. The lucky ones end up in good rescues where they are adopted into caring forever homes.

They can make wonderful family pets and often have very gentle, calm and loving personalities.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Hound
HEIGHT: 25 to 26 inches
WEIGHT: 60 to 65 pounds (males); 50 to 55 pounds (females)
COAT AND COLOR: Short smooth or rough coat that comes in a wide variety of solid and mixed color varieties, including Brindle, Black and Golden mixes.
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Galgo

Affection Level  High
Friendliness  High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level  Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  Medium
Tendency to Bark  Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Spanish Galgo

The Galgo has a long history. Their ancestors can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Asia and Celtic Europeans, as far back as 8 A.D. Greyhounds, in general, are often referred to as one of the oldest purebred dogs.

Images of these types of dogs have been documented in Spain all the way back to the 10th century when they were highly prized for their hunting and hare coursing abilities.

Given their history, the Galgo is often referenced to in popular Spanish expressions and in historical art and books. Galgos are even mentioned in the famous 17th-century novel 'Don Quijote de La Mancha'.

Galgos continue to be popular as a hunting dog in Spain today. They have gone from being revered, to being seen as a tool that can be discarded once it has outgrown its usefulness. They are often treated horrifically by their 'Galguera' owners.

Until recently, they were relatively unheard of outside of their native Spain, but with the growing international outrage at their plight, they are beginning to be more recognized. There are several reputable charities that rescue the dogs and place them in loving forever homes in Spain and overseas.

While they can be easily confused with the Greyhound, they do have distinct confirmation that makes them identifiable. They tend to be smaller, less deep-chested and have a more streamlined physique and musculature. This makes them better designed for endurance, instead of the sudden short bursts of speed the Greyhound is known for.

The Spanish Galgo was recognized as an official breed by the United Kennel Club in 2006.

Illustration from Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes featuring Galgos
Illustration from Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, illustrated by Gustave Dore and featuring Galgo huting dogs. Duncan1890 / Getty Images

Spanish Galgo Care

Like the Greyhound, the Spanish Galgo is known for being a generally very affectionate and loyal breed. They can be shy and reserved around strangers. They tend to be calm and docile, and can even be lazy when in the house, enjoying nothing more than lounging around on a comfy bed or the sofa. This means that they are often considered suitable for apartment living, despite their larger size.

Although they were bred for their endurance, they do not tend to be a high energy dog, and their exercise requirements are not extreme. Providing they get a couple of good walks a day and plenty of enrichment around the home, they will usually be quite content.

Their hunting instincts mean that they will sometimes chase small furries. Many Galgos do live companionably with cats though if careful and appropriate introductions are done.

You should not let them off the leash unless you have worked hard on training a reliable recall, or you are in a safe and enclosed exercise area. You may also need to teach them to accept a muzzle on walks if their prey drive is exceptionally high.

They are an intelligent breed and often very food motivated and respond well to positive, force-free training techniques. If they have had an abusive past, or have survived on the streets for longer periods, time and patience may be needed to help them learn to trust again.

They can also be expert jumpers and can easily scale lower fences and baby gates. It is crucial to ensure, if they have free access to a garden or back yard, that the fences are high enough and secure.

They have a low maintenance grooming regime. Their short coats mean that they will only need an occasional brush with a gentle rubber brush or grooming glove. This will lift out any dead hair and keep their coat and skin in good condition. They do moult, but not excessively.

They are dogs that feel the cold easily, given their lack of excess body fat and thin coats. You may find that they need to wear a coat or sweater in winter weather conditions.

Spanish Galgo Puppy
Spanish Galgo Puppies can take a while to grow into their ears!. Fernando Trabanco Fotografía / Getty Images
Two Female Galgos
Galgos come in a wide variety of colors. Tsik / Getty Images
Spanish Hunting Dogs
Galgos and other hunting dogs in Spain are often kept in poor conditions and abandoned when they are no longer useful. GlobalP / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Because they are not a common breed outside of their native Spain, and they are not recognized as an official breed by many clubs, there is not as much data available on inherited health conditions.

They are generally regarded as a healthy breed though and can often live to a ripe old age of fifteen.

They can be prone to certain conditions that are also seen in Greyhounds.

  • Osteosarcoma: This is an aggressive form of bone cancer that is seen more commonly in Sighthounds. If your Galgo is showing signs of lameness, you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. The prognosis for this condition is often guarded.
  • Toe Problems: Sighthounds can also be more prone to toe problems, including the development of Corns. These can vary in their severity, and it is vital that you seek advice from your vet. In severe cases, the toe may need to be amputated. It is also important that you keep your Galgos nails at an appropriate length. If they become overgrown, this can increase the chances of them developing toe injuries, gait problems and lameness.
  • Risks under anaesthetic: Sighthounds are also more prone to developing problems when under anaesthetic due to their slower metabolic rate. Your vet should be aware and take appropriate precautions.

Diet and Nutrition

Like with every dog, you should feed your Galgo a high quality and appropriately portion-controlled diet.

While not as prone to Bloat (Gastric Torsion) as their deeper chested Greyhound relatives, care should still be taken to make sure they are fed smaller and more often, instead of one large meal a day. If they are prone to guzzling their food, then you may also want to consider giving them their meals from a slow feed bowl.

Pros

  • Because they tend to be couch potatos, they are often great dogs for apartment living

  • They are usually calm and affectionate, meaning they can make great family pets

  • Their short coats mean they do not have intensive grooming requirements

Cons

  • If they have been rescued from a traumatic past, they may need extra help in adjusting to their new life

  • They are not a breed that enjoys extremely cold climates

  • They can have a high prey drive, so care needs to be taken around small animals

Where to Adopt or Buy a Spanish Galgo

The breed is still rare in the United States, and this means that puppies are not often available. If you are considering adopting, there are a number of charities that are involved in bringing dogs over from Spain to help them find loving forever homes.

Do your research to ensure you are working with a reputable organization that has properly assessed the dogs in their care. They should have had a full vet check and all the appropriate paperwork.

Some recommended organizations include:

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you are drawn to Sighthounds, then there are lots of other breeds that you could also research.

These include:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!