Garafiano shepherd, La Palma saves his dog from disappearance

Almost all the islands of the Canary archipelago have their native breed of dogs, except for Lanzarote and La Gomera. On the island of La Palma, the Garafiano Shepherd has survived thanks to a group of enthusiastic palm growers who since the 1980s have been determined to save this dog breed from disappearing. To date, the official census records the existence of a hundred Garafiano shepherds.

Garafian shepherds

For the Canaries, there is no island in the archipelago that does not have its native canine breed, although the truth is that for the moment Lanzarote and La Gomera deny this statement and unless in El Hierro we accept the Herreño Wolf Dog as native.

Perhaps the best known breed of the Canary Islands at a popular level is the Presa Canario, a PPP (Potentially Dangerous Dog) common in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, followed by the Pastor Majorero (Fuerteventura) and the Podenco Canario.

Secondly, on the island of La Palma a group of breeders is working to prevent the disappearance of the so-called Pastor Garafianosomething similar to what happens with the Ratonero Palmero.

New breed standard for the Garafiano Shepherd

In this sense last April the Government of the Canary Islands approved a new breed standard for the Garafiano shepherd, a measure that guarantees its conservation as part of the historical and cultural heritage of the islands, a decision that had been demanded for some time by the Spanish Association of the Garafiano Shepherd.

The name of this dog breed derives from the agricultural and livestock municipality of Garafíaa town located in the northwest of La Palma and that is the place where experts locate the origins of the Garafiano shepherd.

Garafiano shepherd

Before being baptized with this name, this breed simply received the generic name of “wolf dog”. With one name or another their work has always been linked to livestock and grazing -mainly goats- in mountain areas, where it has been kept safe from contact and miscegenation with other breeds.

Saved from disappearance

The recovery process of the Garafiano shepherd begins in the eighties of the last century, when a group of enthusiastic palmeros began to define a standard for a canine breed that at that time was about to disappear, once the tasks for which it was specially designed were in decline.

In 2003 the breed was officially recognized by the Royal Spanish Canine Society.but first, the breeders and defenders of the Garafiano shepherd had to fight against hybridization, a widespread practice that today threatens a large number of dog breeds.

In La Palma a large number of Garafiano shepherds were crossed with German shepherds and this modified, among other things, his character. The original La Palma dogs were very docile, obedient work animals that lived without problems with their families and with the rest of the farm animals, which they stood out for having a non-violent character and for being perfectly adapted to particularly abrupt and sparsely inhabited terrain.

There are currently registered in the Canary Islands a hundred Garafiano shepherdsplus some more specimens that would be found on the Peninsula, although experts calculate that this figure could be somewhat higher.

The objective of the Canary Government with the Garafiano shepherd is to get this figure to approach over time the 15,000-16,000 Presa Canario specimens that appear in the standard for this breed, 40% of which are found outside the island territory.

a wolf dog

In the case of the Garafiano shepherd current standards seek to maintain its “lupoid dog” characteristicsthat is to say, a dog that has certain wolf-like features such as a horizontal pyramid-shaped head, erect ears, elongated snout, small lips and a very little marked nasofrontal depression.

The Garafiano shepherd has a rump that makes it suitable for grazing in mountain areas, It has a medium format with a height that varies in males between 54 and 60 centimeters. and between 50 and 56 centimeters in females.

Garafiano shepherd

With long hair the weight of a male Garafiano shepherd can reach 31 kg, while females rarely exceed 25 kg on the scale. Given his werewolf origins the coat is usually of lob tones in a wide range of shades, with frequent presence of specimens with tawny fur.

The exceptions that break this rule are the so-called “rooks”dogs with black coats, and the so-called “wafers”which have clear fur and sometimes white.

Interestingly, heGarafiano shepherd puppies are born brown and it is when they reach adulthood when they change to their final color.

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