The Sighthound in old cultures
Galgos, always by the side of kings, a queens and wizards
It is believed that the sighthound is one of the first domesticated dogs. This race, elegant and mysterious, has not changed much to that which can be seen on the walls of temples and the tombs certain Egyptian pharaohs. In fact, the god of the dead, Anubis is represented with a similar shape to that of a Greyhound.
Sighthounds in Egypt were dogs of kings and pharaohs. Antefaa II, Thutmose III or the same Tutankhamun were buried along with their dogs. Many old funeral containers, jars and many objects have been found depicting scenes of pharaohs, their families and their sighthounds together. Only those very trusted people had personal access to these dogs. The caregivers were granted a more comfortable life and many special treatments, enjoying a privileged position in society. Sighthounds, by his figure and his presence gave the royalty an aura of greatness.
This was also the way greyhounds were seen in the high society of England where sighthounds became symbols of social status.
The history of the Spanish sighthound begins with the Gauls and, according to the national dictionary; the name Galgo comes from Gallicus canis, Gaul dog. Galgos are already mentioned in Roman writings of the first centuries after Christ, but it was during the Middle Ages when the greyhound covered himself in glory and began to fill the halls of the palaces, the paintings of the masters and the verses of the poets.
The Galgo hunting tradition is a long one in Spain where nobility always wanted the company of Galgos as a form of distinction. So much respected the Galgo was that in certain parts of Spain its possession was banned to non-aristocratic classes (which also happened in England and other parts. In fact, the Italian greyhound was created by the “common people” so they could have a sighthound). The veto was perpetuated with the Borbones, Carlos III even banned Galgo breeding throughout the country except from Toledo, Segovia and Madrid, cribs of nobility. Galgos were so precious that the punishment for killing one Galgo was equaled to that of killing a person.
EDWIN HENRY LANDSEER, A GREYHOUND WITH A HARE, 1817, Oil on cancas
What we didn’t know until now, says Gary Tinterow, curator of modern art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (and adoptive father of several sighthounds) is that the Greyhound is the only breed of dog that invariably appears in the history of art since at least 5,000 years ago ... but that is another story.
Author: Bárbara Vidal Munera. Editor/Translator: Yeray López Portillo