Galgo Español

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Galgo Español

You would be forgiven for confusing the Galgo Español with the Greyhound, as though the Galgo is smaller, they are very similar in appearance. Having originated many centuries ago within Spain, the Galgo Español was typically used to course hare and rabbits – a job which is still used today.

Often shy with strangers, they are very loving with their owners and make superb family pets. They tend to get along well with children and other animals and are generally content to laze around the house keeping you company for most of the day. With little inclination to bark, and no courage to speak of, they do not make good guard dogs.

About & History

While it is difficult to determine the exact origin of the breed due to a lack of records, it is thought that the Galgo Español was present during the time of the Moorish rule in Spain, over a thousand years ago, when they were known as ‘Canis Gallicus’. Many paintings from this time contain images of dogs similar in appearance to the Galgo Español. The most popular theory is that these original sighthounds were bred with the local Podenco and Sloughi breeds to create the modern-day Galgo Español.

The importance of the Galgo Español to Spanish history is highlighted by the fact that they appear in several Spanish idioms, including ‘Galgo que va tras dos liebres, sin ninguna vuelve’, which translates to ‘A Galgo that goes after two hares will come back with neither’. An expression that holds true today!

The breed was almost certainly originally utilised to hunt rabbits and hares for human consumption, though would also have been used for leisure purposes, in the sport of hunting. Used by all classes, from peasants to aristocrats, this breed was a valued hunting companion throughout the whole of Spain. It is thought that even El Cid, a famous medieval nobleman, favoured the Galgo Español when hunting. Indeed, they are thought to have been held in high-esteem by a large number of noblemen and aristocrats.

While efforts were made in the 20th century to increase the speed of the Galgo Español by breeding them to the Greyhound, this task was quickly forfeited as the dogs produced had lost the stamina for which they were so renowned. However, many of the sporting Galgo Españoles do now bear a closer physical resemblance to the English Greyhound than do the animals kept in rural areas that do not participate in coursing.

Actually, it is very likely that the English Greyhound once descended from the Galgo Español. Both of these breeds are sighthounds, which means that they hunt by using their vision and speed, rather than scent and stamina. While the Greyhound tends to run very quickly for a short amount of time in a straight line, the Galgo Español is better at running at slightly slower speeds for longer over rocky, uneven roads with turns in them.

Today, throughout Spain, there are a number of clubs to which the owners of the Galgo Español belong. Their aim? For their dog to be crowned the coursing champion and take home the ‘Copa de Su Majestad el Rey’ or ‘Cup of the King’. The breed was officially recognised in 1972 and there are many organisations within Spain that are actively campaigning for their right to be kept in better conditions, and to belong to loving homes. A huge number of abandoned Galgo Españoles are put up for rehoming in Spain once they have reached the end of their working life at two or three years of age – a practice which activists are hoping to stop.


Galgo Español Large Photo

While undoubtedly similar in appearance to the Greyhound, there are several features which set the Galgo Español apart. The Galgo will be smaller in stature, with males typically measuring 62-70cm in height, while females stand shorter at 60-68cm. They are also lighter, weighing between 23 and 29kg.

Their loin is higher off the ground than their shoulders and their rump is noticeably higher and less muscular than that of their Greyhound cousin. Their chests are less deep. Their paws are described as ‘cat-like’ and are small and nimble. These characteristics make them more suited to endurance running over rugged terrain.

Unlike the Greyhound, the Galgo Español can come in two coat varieties: Smooth or Rough. Coat colours are varied and include:

  • Black
  • White
  • Red
  • Golden
  • Brindle
  • Cinnamon

Character & Temperament

Calm and quiet, the Galgo Español is a particularly well-suited pet for an older person, or one with a less active lifestyle. They tend to be content and well-mannered, often getting on well with other animals and children, particularly if exposed to them from a young age. They have an exceptionally good reputation with cats.

While reserved with those they don’t know, they are affectionate and sweet with their own family. Their shyness can be overcome with confidence building and good training. They do not typically make good watchdogs, as they rarely bark and are not brave enough to be employed as guard dogs.


Photo of Galgo Español puppy

A shy dog that can be nervous with strangers, it is very important to socialise this breed with all varieties of people and animals from a young age, to reduce their natural suspicion. They respond best to positive reinforcement style training and will not benefit from punishment or criticism. They are not very good at obedience but will certainly be able to master the basics, such as toilet training and obeying simple commands.

Caution is advised in the presence of small, running animals, as their natural instincts may make them difficult to recall. If there is one thing that they need no training for, it is the inherent sport of coursing. All Galgo Españoles will naturally know how to chase and hunt rabbits and hares.


The relevant health studies on the Galgo Español are lacking, but it is generally conceded that they share the same good health as other sighthounds, and they can live into their early teens. It is believed that, like other sighthounds, the Galgo Español is more prone to developing a certain type of bone cancer called ‘osteosarcoma’. This is a malignant tumour that tends to spread quickly around the body, and often carries a poor prognosis.

It is also true that sighthounds are more susceptible to certain anaesthetics than other dogs. They metabolise some drugs more slowly and can take longer to come around after a surgery. They are also more prone to hypothermia when under anaesthesia due to their low body fat reserve.

Exercise and Activity Levels

While generally content to lounge by the fire all day, the Galgo Español does enjoy and benefit from a long daily walk or jog. If given the opportunity, they will relish going for a spirited sprint. Extremely fast (though not quite at the same level as the Greyhound!), make sure they don’t start running in an undesirable direction, as you are unlikely to be able to catch them. Additionally, to prevent them from chasing prey when outdoors, a lead is usually required.


Remarkably low maintenance when it comes to grooming, the Galgo Español only requires infrequent brushing to remove dead fur. Even the wirehaired version needs little interference, save from the odd comb of their facial hair. Daily tooth brushing is essential, as in my experience, sighthounds are particularly prone to periodontal disease as they age.

They can be sensitive to having their feet touched, and so checking in between the pads and claw clipping are both routine tasks that should be started from a young age. Only an occasional bath is needed, and care should be taken to avoid your Galgo Español getting too cold once out of the water.

Famous Galgo Españoles

While there are many Galgo Españoles who are famous in their local coursing community as champions, the breed has not quite made it into the international limelight just yet.


The Galgo Español has historically been crossed with the Greyhound in the past, though this practice has largely fallen out of favour.

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