Podengo Central

Podengo Central

A place for Podengo owners and fanciers to share information and research the breed in a topical manner. Supported by the APPMGC & APPPC


    Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

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    james ensor

    Posts : 116
    Join date : 2012-02-01
    Location : London, England

    Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

    Post  james ensor on Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:33 am

    Perhaps readers would like to know more about how Podengos live and breed in Portugal, where they originated.
    The breed was brought to Portugal by the Romans and Phoenicians two millenia ago, in ships, from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. It is believed that there were already three sizes at that time. The dogs thrived in Northern Portugal where the wooded mountains provide plenty of wild prey as well as berries and fruit. Small pockets of similar dogs survive in Andalucia and the islands of Ibiza,Malta and Sicily - although they are called by different names. The Podengo of Portugal and Galicia becomes the Podenco in Andalucia.

    All Podengos were used for hunting. Indeed the concept of a pet dog was unknown. The sizes developed naturally as being best suited to particular types of prey. For the Pequeno, this would have been small rodents, for the Medio rabbits and hares and for the Grande wild boar. Rough-haired coats developed for the thicker briar of the Alentejo and Algarve in the south.

    Due to the clement Atlantic climate, most Podengos still live outside. Many still run freely about during the day although they may return to guard a home at night. In the past, there were substantial wild packs of the dogs living in woods and forests. Only the Podengo Grande has been kept in kennels, as they are still used to hunt wild boar, in packs, followed by hunters on foot. Unlike more recent dogs such as the Jack Russell, Boxer and German Shepherd (called Alsatian in Briain since 1914) which were specifically bred in England, Ireland and Germany from chosen pairs only a century or so ago, the Podengos mostly chose their own partners.

    Because food was always scarce and most Podengos had to feed themselves, natural selection produced highly effective hunters. With the Grandes, the best hunters in the pack would be selected for breeding. All types have retained their excellent sense of smell and hearing and their ability to trot for hours on end without fatigue. Agility, at which the Medio particularly excels, was a question of survival in avoiding the sharp tusks of wild boar. Their tremendous enthusiasm for digging, was needed to chase out rabbits, from their burrows. Often Pequenos would be used to run down inside the burrows, which were too small for Medios.Speed across rough ground, leaping from boulders, jumping across low vegetation, clambering up walls and trees with low branches all developed naturally as the best chasers survived to breed and the less able did not.

    The word Podengo is probably best translated into English as hound. Like all hounds, they will howl at the moon or anything else that catches their fancy. This name was applied to any dog used for hunting - without the appendage fox, grey, basset etc applied by the English. Breeding was catholic and doubtless other types mixed over the centuries with the original Near Eastern strain.

    The Portuguese used Podengos on their ships, to keep down rats, and thus they travelled to Portuguese colonies in Brazil,Africa and Asia. It is even thought that the Australian dingo may have originated from the Podengo. Certainly in the near Portuguese islands of Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verdes, similar dogs may be found. Possibly Portuguese fishermen brought them to St John`s and other North American fishing ports, but they might not have survived the winters out of doors. The Portuguese brought the Labrador back from Newfoundland (the name means farmer in Portuguese) and some of these also interbred with Podengos.

    Today, there is less hunting in Portugal and the packs of Grandes are much diminished. Medios and Pequenos mostly live a more sedentary life, often chained up in small back yards or on roof terraces. Some are rescued by Northern Europeans who treat them more as pets and less as guardians. But their spirit, affection, good nature, speed and agility remain undiminished.


    J@n3t

    Posts : 27
    Join date : 2012-10-14
    Age : 63
    Location : The Heart of Historic Route 66

    Re: Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

    Post  J@n3t on Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:41 am

    Thanks, James - the whole piece was interesting, but I had often wondered about the dingos and especially enjoyed that part.

    james ensor

    Posts : 116
    Join date : 2012-02-01
    Location : London, England

    Re: Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

    Post  james ensor on Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:33 pm

    In the Alentejo province of southern Portugal, there are still many wild boar. The Alentejo is dry, hilly country south of Lisbon where pigs thrive but wheat grows only poorly. The climate is somewhat like Texas. Wild boar reproduce too fast and too successfully for the resources of the area and the Portuguese Government deliberately keeps the numbers down.

    Every year in January there is a day or more of boar hunting in the Alentejo, with no restrictions. Dog owners bring their dogs from miles around, for the hunt. Many of these dogs are Podengos, mostly Medios and some Grandes. Thus is the hunting spirit and skill of partly domesticated Podengos kept alive.

    J@n3t

    Posts : 27
    Join date : 2012-10-14
    Age : 63
    Location : The Heart of Historic Route 66

    Re: Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

    Post  J@n3t on Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:14 am

    I live in Javalina (an animal resembling a wild pig) country, which is dry, rocky, and mountainous - the Mojave desert. It is scorching in summer and cold in the winter. Maybe podengo would feel at home here...?

    james ensor

    Posts : 116
    Join date : 2012-02-01
    Location : London, England

    Re: Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

    Post  james ensor on Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:03 am

    The Alentejo is on the Atlantic Coast with predominantly north winds. So it is never scorching like the South-Western US. It is not desert so the nights are not freezing. But the Podengo, a hardy outdoor dog, which until recently mostly lived wild in Portugal, would surely cope better than many more recent and more designer dog species.

    Dogs brought from the Cape Verde islands - a very mild climate - to live in Germany were taken aback by snow. One tried to use her superb agility to dodge the flakes and her sister carefully walked around the mounds that were forming on the ground. A Podengo-Labrador cross ran fearlessly onto his first froxen lake and seemed to know, by instinct, where not to tread. They are an adptable race.

    james ensor

    Posts : 116
    Join date : 2012-02-01
    Location : London, England

    Re: Podengos in their native Portugal and its former colonies

    Post  james ensor on Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:34 am

    Here is a sad but eventually happy story about the closely related Andalusian Podenco in Spain, rescued by foreigners. It is characteristic of the lives of many Portuguese Podengos in Portugal,also.

    "We live in an old Spanish town, and unfortunately it is common practice here to treat animals very badly. We did not realize the extent of the problem until we lived here for a while. Katy was found shaking in a doorway. The finder returned with food and water, but she was too frightened to accept it, or walk home, so he picked her up and carried her! She was very thin and frightened so it took a while to calm her down, then we were able to give her food and water. We made up a bed for her in a separate room and took her to the vet the next day to be checked out. She was not micro-chipped, so we decided to keep her and named her Katy. It took a few weeks to get her right physically, a lot longer mentally. We took her out as much as possible, to socialize her and build her confidence, it also took ages to house-train her, she was about 6 months old when we adopted her. Today she is a very beautiful, crazy, confident dog, sweet natured and everyone who meets her loves her. I have been asked to sell her many times, but I would never part with her . A little research has revealed that these beautiful dogs are among the oldest breeds in the world dating back to the times of the Pharaohs (in fact they do originate from Egypt and closely resemble the Pharaoh Hound) and although they are hunting dogs, they make wonderful, gentle pets."

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