Podencos - The Invisible Dogs of Spain
If you are wondering what owning an invisible dog would be like - let me stop you there! Podencos are often referred to as ‘invisible dogs’ or ‘the great forgotten’, as they are the most abused, and overlooked breed of dog. Yet, what most people don’t know about this little known and misunderstood breed is that they are one of the oldest pure breeds of dog in the world, descending from the ancient Pharaoh Hounds of Egypt. A breed which is often depicted in ancient hieroglyphics and was revered by the Egyptians for their incredible speed, endurance, agility and superior sense of smell - characteristics which made them incredibly good at what they are now bred to do - hunt!
It is believed that Podecos were brought to the Canary Islands by the first settlers and became a popular breed throughout the islands and the Spanish mainland in the 16th century, when hunting rabbits not only became necessary, but also a very popular sport. Nowadays, they are recognised as both Sighthounds and Scenthounds. This rare, super-charged combination of hound makes it hard for Kennel Clubs to classify and often causes controversy within the clubs. No matter how they are classified, one thing is for sure - they are a fascinating breed!
Sadly, as hunting season in Spain comes to an end, it is estimated that between 60,000 - 80,000 Spanish hunting dogs (Podencos as well as Galgos- Spanish Greyhounds) will be dumped on the streets. Most of these perfectly healthy, sweet natured, dumped dogs are under the age of 2, and many of them will be with pup. There are no regulations on breeding, micro-chipping or guidelines on how Podencos should be kept as they are not considered pets by their hunting owners - they are simply a tool for hunting rabbits during the 12 days (Sundays) of hunting season. Most of their working life is spent on a short chain, without any shelter from extreme weather conditions. Alternatively, they are often crammed into dark sheds, packed so tightly together that they cannot move- forcing them to lay in urine and faeces. They are given very little food or water as it is believed that being starved makes them better hunters. At the end of hunting season each year (in February), their owners repay these young dogs for their hard work and loyalty by throwing them away; abandoning them, killing them, or leaving them to starve, as it is cheaper to get rid of the old ones and breed or buy new ones for the next season, than keep a pack fed until the following season. The fate of these loyal and gentle souls is to die a painful death at the hand of their owner, out on the streets, or at a killing station- known as a Perrera.
If you think that discarding them like garbage isn’t bad enough, the hunters seem to get pleasure from killing and torturing the dogs in sick ritualistic ways at the end of the season. The most common methods used are hanging them and/or burning them alive (yes, they really do that). Although the Spanish Government continues to turn a blind eye, many in Spain are joining the plight of the Podenco, and are giving the hunting dogs of Spain a voice - one that desperately needs to be heard! Thanks to their efforts, these cruel and common practices are being widely exposed, which is having a discouraging impact on the hunters. But, sadly, many dogs are still being shot, drowned, hanged, poisoned or left to starve to death. If you think I am exaggerating the scale of abuse these dogs suffer you only need to turn to YouTube, or google, to see the grotesque videos of skeletal Podencos hobbling with disfigured broken legs, or images of dogs with deep lacerations around their necks and bodies peppered with gun pellets. What is even more remarkable about these hardy dogs is that they are so trusting and loyal, that they can still be rehabilitated and rehomed.
Despite the unimaginable abuse these beautiful dogs suffer, they make fantastic pets. They are keen to learn, eager to please, loveably clownish, affectionate, and are good with children - as well as other household pets. They are energetic and active, but equally love a good long snooze throughout the day. They are unusual, yet majestic and beautiful in appearance with the most stunning eyes. They can be either long haired, wired haired, or smooth coated (short haired). Most breeds of Podenco only come in 3 colours - white, copper and white/copper combo. The main difference between each Podenco breed is their variation in size- ranging from as small as a Jack Russell Terrier, to as big as the size of a large Hungarian Vizsla. They are full of personality and are an ideal dog for active couples or active families.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of charities in Spain that have made it their mission to rescue and re-home Podencos. At this time of year (February/March), these charities are inundated with hundreds of dogs and puppies, all in need of veterinary attention and new loving homes. If you are thinking about getting a puppy or bringing a dog into your life, why not consider adopting a Podenco? For a fraction of the cost that you’d pay a breeder, you could have a fully vaccinated and neutered (depending on age) new best friend. Best of all, you will be saving not just one, but two lives, as your adoption will open up a space for another dog or puppy to be rescued and saved from horrific suffering.
For more information about Podencos and/or Galgo's; to donate, sponsor or adopt- Here are a few recommended and reputable Charities to get you started.
SOS Podenco > http://www.sospodencorescue.com
Animals In Distress > http://www.animals-in-distress.eu
Hope For Podencos > https://www.hopeforpodencos.com
Podencos In Need Scotland (PINS) > https://pinspodencos.weebly.com
Galgos Del Sol > https://galgosdelsol.org