I've copied this very long and informative article from Podencoworld. Unfortunately the pictures therein did not copy so I have added some from my own extensive library. Ed Verhaegen gave me considerable help with my research for my definitive guide to the Podenco 'From Pyramid to Perrera'.
'Spain owed its name to the rabbit. When the Phoenicians reached the Iberian Peninsula around 11th century B.C., they found many rabbits there. Because they thought the animals looked very similar to what for them is known as a Saphan, they named the region ‘I-saphan-im’, land of the Saphan. The Romans later renamed it to ‘Hispania’. Originally the rabbit only occurs on the Iberian Peninsula. If Spain was already named Hispania by the Romans, which means ‘land of rabbits’, then it was inevitable that in this Hispania the most relevant dog breed, the Podenco appeared, a specialist in rabbit hunting. Ever since, the Podenco is the most commonly used hunting dog in Spain, for this reason we could easily rename Spain the Podenco land.
The hunt and the Podenco are seamlessly connected. Just last year there were 850.000 hunting licenses issued. Ninety percent of the hunters hunt with several dogs, only a minority hunt with just one dog. When we assume that there are 4 dogs per hunter, we can conclude that there are at least 3 million dogs used for hunting in Spain. This is just an estimated number because the average Podenquero (hunter/holder of podencos) has usually about 10 to 15 Podencos in his pack.
The exact number of dogs in Spain is unknown, same goes for the exact number of hunting dogs including the Podencos. The Spanish government does regular counts of the amount of dogs based on the number of registered dogs in different regions, according to the government, in 2015 there were 7.438.689 dogs in Spain. This number is used in several official publications as the real number of dogs all over Spain, while it forgets to mention that numbers from the regions Aragon, Asturias, Canary Islands, Castile-La Mancha, Murcia, Navarro and La Rioja were not in and counted yet when they published the total number of dogs. So this number of dogs is not correct because only a small number of the dogs are chipped and therefor registered, and the numbers of several regions are not even mentioned.
Facts about the hunt
In Spain about 80% of the territory is used for hunting, 90% of this consists of private reserves. Hunting in Spain generates 5 billion euro a year and has the highest numbers of hunters in the EU. To promote hunt activity, some governments provide generous subsidies with public money. The yearly balance of the hunting sport in Spain amounts to 20 million dead animals, including 5.6 million rabbits and 740.000 hares. The hunt is with 10.3%, next to soccer and basketball, the third most practiced federative ‘sport’. Over 2% of the total population practices the hunting sport. There are over 5000 hunting clubs and federations in Spain. 70% of dogs abandoned at many shelters are hunting dogs.
The number of Podencos
The registration of pets (including hunting dogs) is an autonomous competence, every Autonomous Community, (region) also has other criteria with the collection, extraction and exploitation of the data (the consequence of 17 different laws for the protection of pets, 17 different databanks etc.), which makes the gathering of the data about the registered Podencos almost methodological impossible, not even mentioning the law for the protection of personal data, which makes many regions think they don’t have to provide the set data. Where some regions do publish the numbers of hunting dogs in the media, others are surrounded by a wall of secrecy. To be able to come to an estimated guess of the number and the spread of Podencos, lots of sources and contacts are used.
There is not a region in Spain where they aren’t using Podencos for hunting. After all, they are particularly suitable for hunting in mountainous areas, and Spain is second to Switzerland the most mountainous in Europe. From information on Spanish websites dedicated to hunting shows: “The Podenco is the most popular hunting dog in Spain and the reasons are astounding. A rustic animal, resistant to diseases, doesn’t need a lot of food and is effective for hunting all different wildlife, the reason why it’s the preference for hunting on the Peninsula.
The Podenco can hunt for almost anything, is undefeated with hunting for the rabbit and as effective for the partridge as do other hunting dogs, not even to mention the thousands of years used as the base for the Spanish Rehalas. It’s a dog for all sorts of terrain ; responds to his surrounding with wisdom, the wild, the blackberry bush, the fallow, dry land or land irrigated with rivers and creeks, no hunt is too difficult. The success of the Podenco as a hunting dog is based on two very specific points. His resistance to high temperatures and his effectiveness for track hunting on land with low or no ambient humidity, for where the traditional dogs don’t work.
In an article on a known Spanish hunting website there are ten dog breeds published who conform their data are most used by the Spanish hunter. Here too, it appears that the Podenco holds the number one position.
3. Sabueso Español
4. Braco alemán (German Brac)
5. Drahthaar (German standing dog)
6. Perdiguero de Burgos
7. Pachón Navarro
8. Epagneul Bretón
10. Setter Inglés (English Setter)
Reasons why the Podenco is the most used, are among others the fact that the Podenco can be used on all sorts of terrain, even in the most rough areas, while the Galgo is mostly used for flat terrains. Where the Galgo is specialized in hare hunting, the Podenco is a specialist in rabbit hunting. Another reason for the high amount of Podencos are the many variations of types of Podencos used in Spain for hunting: the Podenco Andaluz, Podenco Campanero, Podenco Maneto, Podenco Canario, Podenco Enano, Podenco Ibicenco, Podenco Orito, Podenco Paternino, Xarnego Valenciano, Podenco Gallego, Podenco Malagueño and Podengo Português.
Only in the eighties and nineties of the twentieth century did the RSCE (Spanish Kennel Club) approve the Podenco Ibicenco, Podenco Canario and Podenco Andaluz as a breed. Until that time there were no written standards about how a Podenco should look.
Despite that the hunters knew exactly how a Podenco should be built to get the best outcome during a hunt. Large upstanding ears were important and they are still the characteristic of these breeds today. But also a slim muscular body with long legs, although there are exceptions to this rule, like the Maneto. If these charateristics weren’t present, the dog would not be marked as a Podenco. Colors and coats were less important, there were red, black and chocolate brown Podencos being bred, but despite all that, they were still classed as a Podenco. Nowadays Podencos used for hunting who don’t fully match up to the standards are still classed as one by the Spanish hunters. In the hunting context there is a wider tolerance about how a Podenco should look. When they are equipped with all the external characteristics, the temperament and the hunting instinct, they are named Pondencos by the hunters. These are the hunting Podencos .
For a lot of hunters it’s not the purity that matters, but his hunting qualities, endurance and wild focus. Because of this hunters are fully experimenting with crossing different breeds with the Podenco to get to the perfect hunting dog.
For that reason the current population in Spanish shelters consists of many different Podenco mixes. The mixes are also the most registered dog in all of Spain, in every region the number of mixes is larger than the number of registered breeds.
Famous mixes among hunters are the :
Garabitos: Traditionally the crossbreed of a Podenco mixed with a Panchon although they are also being crossbred with a Pointer.
Regalgos: As a base they used a Podenco crossbred with a Galgo, this mix is because of its versatility suitable for hunting the rabbit and the hare.
Zarzeros: The stud is a Podenco and the female a Dachshund or a small sized Terrier.
It obviously also happens that due to Podencos being abandoned by their hunters they come in contact with other strays and reproduce which creates all sorts of mixed dog breeds. In a large number of the Spanish mixes DNA of the Podenco is found.
Part 2 to follow