Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
The word “Podengo” depicts a type of dog having a wedge shaped head, erect mobile ears, two coat types - smooth and wire, in colors of various tones of yellow and a tail that curves slightly upward while in motion.
The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno has a very rich history in their country of origin. Dogs of the Podengo type are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean basin due to Phoenician merchants navigating its coasts from Greece, Italy, the islands of Sicily and Malta, Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The breed evolved due to the environment in which it had to perform and was developed to meet the needs of the Portuguese hunters where it became an excellent courser and earned the well deserved reputation as a keen rabbit hunter. Owned primarily by the lower classes, only the fittest Pequenos survived the rigors of the harsh Portuguese terrain. The breed has been selected through the centuries to hunt with tenacity, endurance and a willingness to go in to rock crevices and harsh thicket to find its prey.
A bas-relief, dated to the X or XI century and located at the church of Saint John the Baptist (S. Joao Baptista) in Tomar Portugal, clearly depicts a Pequeno type dog. There is also a Podengo type biting a hare as part of the Manueline Façade of the church of the Vila deo Conde built in the XVand XVI centuries with a rabbit in its mouth thus demonstrating the usefulness of this breed to hunt and provide food for its owners and the place of honor it held in that society.
It is believed that in the XV century Pequenos traveled on board ship with the Portuguese explorers to rid the ships of vermin and help prevent damage to valuable perishable cargo. The killing of vermin also enabled the explorers to reduce the risk of incurring potentially deadly diseases. Once landfall was made the Pequenos were used to hunt and provide fresh meat for the sailors. A truly valuable breed.
The wire coat Pequeno didn’t receive as much attention as the smooth coat variety, which historically were more popular with breeders and hunters. The variety was lost until the 1980’s when a few smooth coat pequeno breeders embarked upon a recovery program to once again produce the wire coat variety. The most prominent among these were Antonio Rogado, Jose Vidigal Amaro and Joao Paula Bessa. A great deal of appreciation is owed them for their initial work toward the restoration of the wire coat. Their efforts were the foundation for two breeders, Rogerio Pinheiro and Carla Molinari who were instrumental in expanding the gene pool and solidification of the wire type. Due to the dedication and hard work by these and other Pequeno enthusiasts, we are now able to enjoy the wonderful wire coat variety of Pequenos.
The hunters of past centuries and the breeders who followed them should be praised and honored for the preservation of this wonderful breed. A true Portuguese treasure which is now our privilege to know, love and cherish and our responsibility to preserve for future generations to enjoy.