The History of the Galgo
The origin of the Spanish Greyhound or Galgo Espagnol is so very long ago that its complete history might never be revealed. However, facts show that in pre-historic times hunter-gatherers from Africa have migrated into Spain several times. One of the oldest archeological finds from this era are murals of hunting scenes, found in the caves of Altamira dated approximately 10.000 BC. Other finds locally bare striking resemblance to similar, earlier finds in the Tunisian area of Gafsa. Presumably these pre-historic hunters used fast dogs to assist them on there pursuit of fast game like deer and wild goat. Moreover, Spain became a waystation for the seafarers of old between the Mediteranean and the British Isles. From our knowledge of other Greyhound breeds we know that both the Carthaginians -who dominated at a very early stage- and the inhabitants of the British Isles were breeding their own pedigrees, there is no doubt that these dogs were carried along as merchandise or as royal gifts. In those days hunting is one of the main food sources, so a fast hound is of great value.
We know that the Romans made short doings with Carthago and the Carthaginian colonies. In Spain the Romans found a breed of dogs that they named "Canis Galicus". (a major part of Spain is called Galicia) The pronunciation of the word 'Galicus' in the Spanish tongue can easily have become 'Galico' which in the native dialect could have been contracted into 'Galgo'. This is a process of mutation of words that we can witness in hundreds of languages. Fact is that we cannot prove that the Galgo is an indigenous species to Spain. What we do know is that the breed has been known in Spain for thousands of years. They were not only known, they were famous. In this sparsely populated land hunting was flourishing. The Moors, who occupied the land from A.D. 700 until 1250 were great hunters with an inkling towards their traditional falcon hunt. Splendid structures like the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar in Seville bare witness to their artistic craftsmanship. It is therefore that they would undoubtedly have had an open eye for the indismissable beauty and grace of the Galgo. There is also evidence that the Saluki and the Sloughi were kept to a high standard by the Arabs.
It is only under the reign of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Charles the fifth that, after centuries of poverty and turmoil resulting of the degradation of the "kalifstate" and the rise of a multitude of Christian states, we hear of our Galgo again.
When the French army of King Frans the first is defeated by near Pavia on the 24th of February 1525 this king is taken to Madrid and incarcerated. To comfort him in his solitude an imperial guard provides him with... a Galgo.
Nobilty in Spain and particularly the sovereigns themselves like for instance Isabella, Charles the fifth, Alphonse, Maximilian and Charles the second surround themselves with these handsome animals. A multitude of art expressions from those days like paintings, tapestry sculptures, literature and folkloristic dances bare witness of this fact. Thus the Galgo in Spain becomes symbol of grace and loyalty, of affection and caring love. These traits cause it to have a royal medal named after them: 'The Royal Order of the White Galgo'. The color white is placed on a pedestal here, presumably because of the scarceness of a true white specimen.
Spanish influence spreads across a large part of Europe under Charles the fifth. Flanders and the Netherlands fall under the rule of Spain too. The Dutch are willing to wage a war of 80 years to get rid of the Spanish occupation. Spanish troops carry with them a great number of items, amongst which, with certainty, many breeds of dogs. Surely they have brought the Galgo with them.