The Haystack Dog

A lot of us (ok, us) would be hard pressed to find Galicia on a map. We can help with that:


Galacia in northwestern Spain is a unique region with its own language and distinctive culture, and it is home to four traditional and fairly rare dog breeds: The Can De Palleiro, the Guicho or Quisquelo, the Galego Podengo (Galician Podenco) and the Galego Perdigueiro (Galician Perdiguero). In this post, we do a quick exploration of the Can de Palleiro which translates literally to “haystack dog” (so named after palleiros, or haylofts where the dogs traditionally sleep, one reason we chose a yawning dog for our thumbnail photo). For obvious reasons, the breed is also nicknamed the Galician Barn Dog. We’ve also see the breed referred to as the Celtic Shepherd and Galician Shepherd Dog.

The breed described as “rustic” has traditional shepherd characteristics, and indeed, the authors of an abstract on the CP (Can de Palleiro) write that the breed shares similar origins to German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and the Portuguese Castro Laboreiro. Its earliest ancestors were likely imported by Galicians during the Palaeolithic era during expansion from the British Isles and European continent. Not surprisingly, the dogs were used as all-purpose farm dogs, as well as herding dogs.

In the late 1990s, the regional government in Galicia decided to study the possibility of reviving a breed that even in its country of origin, was rare and close to extinction. The Palleiro was officially recognised by the Xunta de Galicia, or Regional Government of Galicia in 2001, and a stud-book established the same year. A breed association, the Club da Raza Can de Palleiro, was formed in 2002, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring the growth and consolidation of the native breed. Good thing. Despite fanciers being organized, the breed’s conservation status in 2009 was reported as “in danger of extinction.

As of 2021, some 1,775 specimens were registered in the herd book (unpublished data). The good news is that numbers have been increasing, and last year in 2022, the Palleiro was listed by the Real Sociedad Canina de España as among the breeds in the process of recovery.

These are intelligent, calm, and loyal dogs, reserved with strangers, but ones that do well with children and usually other pets.  They stand 22 to 26 inches tall and generally weigh anywhere from 55 to 84 pounds at maturity. Like most shepherds, it has a thick double coat, and from our point of view, it’s a handsome breed.

We conclude with a quote from the Galician novelist and journalist, Ramón Pernas:

“…there is nothing more Galician than the Can de Palleiro. A genuine dog of the country, the bravest defender of home and heritage, our endearing countryman banished to sleep outside the house he guards and watches over, sent to sleep in the “palleiro” that is now in his denomination of origin, in his pedigree. The Can de Palleiro is one of the few currencies in the heart of our land…”.

Top image: Can de Palleiro bNikolaos Roussos/Wirestock Creators/Adobe Stock Photo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Optionally add an image (JPEG only)