The rise and fall of the Spanish Galgo — Four&Sons

The rise and fall of the Spanish Galgo

Photographer Martin Usborne is dedicating a year to travel the world, helping as many animals as possible and persuading others to do so along the way. Last week Usborne travelled to Spain to raise awareness about the desperate situation surrounding the Spanish Galgos (hunting greyhounds).


The rise and fall of the Spanish Galgo

The Spanish hunting dog is a supremely elegant dog with a very ugly story. Many people know of Spain’s treatment of bulls but not many people know of its treatment of the ‘Galgo’ – the hunting greyhound. Spain’s economy lies on the verge of collapse. But their record on animal welfare may already be broken.

Galgos were traditionally favoured by royalty but their star has waned. They were once considered so stately that to kill one was punished as a form of murder. Now they are used as tools by many ‘weekend’ hunters who then discard them at the end of the hunting season when they are no longer needed.

Campaigners estimate that over 50,000 hunting dogs are abandoned or killed each year in Spain. The lucky ones are found by the sides of busy roads and painlessly put to sleep or, occasionally, adopted for a new life. The less lucky ones die subject to ritualistic abuse. If a Galgo (or a Podenco, which is a smaller form of hunting dog) is considered a bad performer and has shamed the ‘hunter’ it can be thrown alive down a well or have its legs broken so it can no longer make its way home or  – worst of all –  be made to play the ‘piano’. This involves the dog being tied by its neck from a tree so its back feet can just touch the ground and it’s paws scrabble on the floor. When the dogs give up dancing due to exhaustion they die. Can you hear the music?

I am a photographer and writer. I am spending a year travelling the world to help or save as many animals as possible. It’s a ridiculous project with a serious point: I want to be more compassionate to animals and hopefully persuade other people to be the same. Last week I went out to Spain to help a charity called 112Carlotagalgos. Charlotte del Rio and her family rescue hunting dogs 24/7. These are some of their dogs’ amazing faces. At least those faces from dogs that were well enough to pose. I hope they show the broken and yet beautiful spirit of the Galgo and their smaller cousin, the Podenco. This visit is the start of a longer photography project I hope to make about these dogs. Please make others aware of this story.

All images by Martin Usborne
For a limited period Martin is selling archival prints of any of these images for an extremely good price with all proceeds going to rescued hunting dogs. If you like art and helping, please click here. For more information about the Galgos in Spain, please click here.

Martin is writing a blog (which include his images) about this year’s experience, Year to help, which he hopes to turn into a photographic book.

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