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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


    Are Podengos distant relatives of the English whippet or the Irish Lurcher?

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    james ensor

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

    Are Podengos distant relatives of the English whippet or the Irish Lurcher?

    Post  james ensor on Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:39 pm

    I have been wondering about the obvious resemblance between the Podengo - I write mainly of the Medio and Grande - and two other dog species popular in the British isles. The English Whippet derived from greyhounds that were too small to be used for hunting large prey, like deer. In the Middle Ages, English peasants were denied the right to own greyhounds, considered to be a dog exclusively for Royalty and the Aristocracy. Greyhounds that were too small to hunt succesfully often had their tendons cut and were handed on to farmhands on the great estates where greyhounds were kept and bred. The English Forest laws prevented poorer people from owning the big hunting dogs.

    Whippets became very popular in the North of England where they were used to catch hares and rabbits and to keep down rats on farmland. A light, narrow astonishingly fast dog, they have been timed at 35mph. Their running is helped by their gait known as double suspension, which means that all four legs are off the ground twice in each stride, once when they are fully extended and again when they are fully bent. I have not noted this feature in any Podengo Medio that I have seen although they can run exceptionally fast and love to leap over low obstacles. Their ability to jump from a standing start is not far short of that of a whippet. I would put it at about 5 feet. with an amazing ability to balance on a narrow windowsill after the leap. What is unusual about the podengo rear leg structure is that in recline its main joint can be pointed out from the body in a vee, leaving the rear paws either under the body or projecting out on the wrong side. The front legs also spread easily to a 60 degree split. Perhaps this accounts for their remarkable agility and ability to turn on a dime (english phrase is sixpence).

    English whippets first arrived in Massachussets with the English millhands who came to work the cotton mills. Somewhat later the podengos arrived with Portuguese sailors to the same state. American and Canadian whippets are now substantially larger than British ones.

    The Irish Lurcher developed for similar reasons in Ireland, then under the same laws as England. Only the landlords were permitted to keep Irish Wolfhounds, much prized for their ability to catch large prey such as deer. The peasants and smallholders instead kept Lurchers, which were smaller and often a cross between a Wolfhound and other breeds.

    Like the Podengo both whippet and lurcher were bred freely by poorer people on the farms, often crossing with
    other dog types. The aim was to produce good rabbit hunters rather than to meet breed standards, just as with the podengo. Thus all three dogs can be found in a wide variety of colours and coats, from wire to smooth.

    What is perhaps most intriguing is that the whippet is believed to have originated with the Egyptian Pharaoh dog, also kept to hunt small game. This dog is also thought to be the direct ancestor of the podengo. Like the podengo the other dogs are known for their loving nature, astonishing sense of smell and ability also to hear their prey at some distance. They are called sighthounds, but whilst the greyhound certainly chases an object that it can see, the podengo medios that I have met generally start with an initial bout of sniffing the ground, like a bloodhound. They are able to smell lizards concealed in thick heather and small crabs burrowed into holes, without any difficulty at all. As for seagulls, they will chase them hopelessly for hours looking up at the fleeing bird some 10-20 feet above them.


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    james ensor

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

    Re: Are Podengos distant relatives of the English whippet or the Irish Lurcher?

    Post  james ensor on Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:47 am

    On further research, it sems that both the greyhound and lurcher were dogs domesticated by the Celts. These people at one time lived across much of western Europe before being driven by other tribes to its western reaches in the British Isles, Brittany and Galicia. For sure. the Podengo was not very far away in the north of Portugal and maybe even in Galicia, where the local dialect Gallego is very similar to Portuguese.

    But it seems that the really close link to the Podengo is the Pariah dog of the Levant and India and perhaps a bit more distant, the Australian Dingo.
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    james ensor

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

    Maria and whippets

    Post  james ensor on Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:55 am

    Maria, who joined us the day after Christmas in Cape Verde, is now in England, which she finds a bit cold and wet for her liking. On the other hand she is wildly excited about the growing number of urban foxes, whose youg offspring are about her size, and grey squirrels. She emits a high pitched yelp whenever she finds either animal and becomes very hard to hold on a leash. Off a leash we can lose her for an hour, whilst she chases around absolutley flat out, often running right past us but completely ignoring us. When a squirrel escapes up a tree, she will leap flat out at the trunk reaching an incredible height of 7 foot.

    The only way that we have been able to get her back is to say the word squirrel to our other dog Brando at the foot of a tree. He will then scratch at the tree and emit yelps until Maria comes to assist and we can grab her collar. We do not need to have an actual squirrel up a tree for this purpose. Her favourite playmates are whippets, as they are the only dogs that she meets which can match her speed on smooth grass. They do not turn as fast or as tightly and they cannot stop and change direction, so easily, but some seem to be a little faster in a straight line, run. Apparently aware of this, she simply runs with them in tight circles.

    She has become a watcher of animals on TV, being much interested in meerkats, the small mammals from the Kalahari desert that can stand erect. When a film about Georg S Patton showed a dog playing the part of his famous English Bull Terrier which he named William the Conqueror, she was very intrigued by the bark emitted by the acting dog. She and Brando came running into the room and looked querulously at me, obviously wondering why I had let out such a realistic dog plea for assistance.


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