The Cruel Spanish Tradition That Kills Tens of Thousands of Greyhounds Every Year

You probably already know about bullfighting and the controversy surrounding this ancient tradition, but there’s another less known tradition that claims the lives of tens of thousands of Spanish hunting dogs every year. And worst of all, nobody seems to want to do anything about it.

Galgos, or Spanish greyhounds, are an ancient breed of hunting dog that was once raised only by Spanish noble families. Today, these beautiful animals have been reduced to tools that modern-day hunters dispose of in a variety of gruesome ways as soon as the hunting season ends. The traditional explanation for their cruelty is that if the dogs have shamed their master by not performing to their expectations, this dishonor must be washed away by torturing and killing the animals, but in reality, it’s all about cutting costs. It makes more sense to them to buy new Galgos from a breeder for about 10 euros a piece, than spend money on feeding the ones they already own until the next hunting season. So they just get rid of them in the most appalling ways imaginable.


Photo: Galgos del Sol/Facebook

Hunters have at least 10 Galgos during the hunting season, with some owning as many as 70, and since they are so cheap to buy, their lives are worth virtually nothing. At the end of February, when the hunting season ends, dogs that didn’t perform as well as expected are hung, thrown in wells to drown, burned or skinned alive, dragged behind cars until they die, pitted against fighting dogs or tortured with acid. One of the most famous means of torture used by hunters is the “piano dance”, which involves hanging the dog by the neck with the tips of its feet barely touching the ground, as it suffocates.

But death by torture isn’t the only way to go. Some hunters choose to simply abandon their Galgos when they no longer have need of them, but make sure to break their legs so they don’t come back. They usually starve to death or end up in municipal shelters where they are eventually euthanized.


Photo: Galgos del Sol/Facebook

The good hunting dogs are spared torture and death, if they’re young and strong, but are kept in “zulos”, crowded unregulated kennels. After two or three years, when they become weakened by malnutrition and excessive training, they are either killed by the hunters or sent to municipal facilities to be euthanized.

It is estimated that between 50,000 to 100,000 Galgo hunting dogs are killed in Spain every year in what has come to be known as the “Holocaust of Greyhounds”, but it’s difficult to know for sure, because nobody knows exactly how many are bred every year. Some hunters breed their own dogs, other buy them from breeders, but few of the animals and transactions are actually registered.


Photo: Galgos del Sol/Facebook

The most shocking thing about all this is that authorities in Spain no very well what goes on at the end of the hunting season, but don’t seem to want to put a stop to it. On the contrary, laws are made in such a way to ensure that greyhound owners, known as “galgueros”, get away with their sadism. Under Spanish law, Galgos are considered work dogs, so they are excluded from laws regarding cruelty to pets. They are simply tools to be used and thrown away when the owner no longer deems them useful.

Also, tying Galgos to a car or a motorcycle to test their speed, a common practice among Spanish greyhound owners, is just an administrative offense, not a criminal one, unless it results in death or serious injury. And even though both occur frequently, they are rarely reported.


Photo: Galgos del Sol/Facebook

There are also groups that protect the interests of Galgo hunters and breeders, which present the tradition of hunting with greyhounds as a millennia-old treasure. As if that justifies in any way the massacre that goes on after every hunting season, which runs from November to February. They also frequently accuse animal rights activists and NGOs trying to put a stop to the gruesome practice of smearing their professions.

There are hundreds of organizations fighting against this cruel tradition in Spain, but their efforts focus mostly on rescuing abandoned Galgos and appealing to authorities to punish offenders. However, most of them are aware that these are not effective long-term solutions, and that they only way to really make a change is to change people’s perception of dogs, and the value of their lives.


Photo: Galgos del Sol/Facebook

For “generation after generation of Spanish people, this is what their dad did, this is what their dad’s dad did,” said Abigail Christman, founder of the Galgo Rescue International Network (GRIN). “The key is the next generation.” So, apart from educating the general public about the plight of the greyhounds, they are also appealing to young galgueros to treat the animals humanely and stop rampant breeding.

The Spanish hunting season is once again nearly at an end, and the Holocaust of Greyhounds will soon follow. Hopefully for the last time, but that’s unlikely.


Sources: The Local, National Geographic, The Dodo