Sunday, September 10, 2017

An Effective Keeper of Livestock - The Spanish Mastiff is exported to the world.

Gregorio Fidalgo Tejedor of Abelgas in Spain

Here is the link to a wonderful article about the resurgence of the Spanish Mastiff in Spain as a guardian of cattle and sheep. Gregorio Fidalgo Tejedor and Violeta Alegre of Abelgas are quoted and mentioned. 

I am extremely proud to have been the very first and only American allowed to import the important Abelgas lines here to North America- a total of three dogs - coming on six years ago. In 2009 when I began breeding and using Spanish Mastiffs, the breed had become stagnant here in the USA - those who had been breeding them had quit importing over dogs. 

I vigorously set about to bring over new lines. I have brought over a total of 12 Spanish Mastiffs from Europe in just 8 years. The lines I breed are a mix of working and show lines including Abelgas, Puerto Canencia and Tornado Erben - I also was the first to bring over Viejo Paramo, Lu Dareva and Dartibo bloodlines; my pups have proven that when reared right, even the show bloodline dogs can and will fiercely guard their flocks and herds - in spite of what some American “LGD experts” falsely claim. If the show line dogs have the heart and a good mind and an experienced, patient, trusting owner who will rear and train them right, they too will guard, and guard well.

Translated into English, below:

An Effective Keeper of Livestock - The Spanish Mastiff is exported to the world.

5 Leons puppies bark in Nuremberg

By Ana Gaitero | Diario de Leon

More than 1,200 Spanish mastiff puppies are registered every year in official bodies, although very few are dedicated to guard functions against the wolf in the field and now demand cattlemen who come to the province from Germany, France and other countries

Leon's mastiff took the title of the race, but not his deserved fame. In 1986, Commitment II and Thyme of Aralla, the mythical dogs of Emilio Álvarez, jumped from the pod to the podium in the world canine exhibition of Vienna. A German became infatuated with the dogs and paid a million pesetas for each. They were gone forever.

Thirty years later, the mastiffs of Leon go to work abroad. Like the youth of Leon. Dogs are demanded beyond the borders of the old kingdom and Spain but not as an exhibition animal, but for their millennial function: guarding the herds. Germany, France, the United States, Russia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia are the countries of origin of some of the herdsmen who have come up to the mountains of Babia and Luna, where today is celebrated the Feast of the Shepherd, to know in situ the dogs that "they are not afraid" and that in spite of their calm and calm mood they are ready to fight hard with the wolf and to stay with the cattle.

They are dogs of "character and with attachment to the cattle", points Luis Maria Fernandez, of the Minnows, the affix that Brussels approved for its dogs, of Caboalles de Abajo. Each year, more than 1,200 Spanish mastiff puppies are registered in official bodies, the official name of the breed of this dog dedicated to keeping the cattle, especially the sheep, from time immemorial. A market that moves more than one million euros annually. Most are for exhibition, not for field work, says José Ignacio Doadrio, research professor at the CSIC National Museum of Natural Sciences.

However, in the province of León, the cattle-raisers -trashumantes between the bank and the merineros ports of the mountain- keep active about 250 mastiffs for the defense of their cattle. A few have seen in the breeding of the mastiff the perfect formula to have the ideal dogs for their hut, to defray the expenses they cause and "sometimes to obtain an added value that gives them some benefit", says Doadrio.

It is these farms that in recent years have approached their colleagues from countries such as Germany, France, Czechoslovakia and even the United States. "They are looking for a dog that has attachment to the sheep, that knows how to defend them from the wolf, and at the same time respects the people because in the same place where the sheep graze is practiced the tourism", says Gregorio Fildago, cattleman and breeder of mastiffs.

"Dogs have to have character, good teeth and be light", says Manuel Morán, livestock of Barrios de Luna and whose mastiffs carry the blood of Tomillo, because his wife is the daughter of Emilio Alvarez, who in his time was very concerned about genetic selection and care of their mastiffs and got to freeze semen of some of their famous dogs. "He was a farmer and a respected shepherd, both for his dogs and for his good work with the sheep. In 1984 he was named «Rabadán de Los Montes de Luna», recalls Félix García Rodríguez, Aqueda Carea, of the Canina Leonesa Society.
Mastiff puppies are sold at prices ranging from 500 to 1,200 euros. An adult dog "is priceless," says Fildago. Cattle owners are mainly concerned with functional aspects and "especially because they have good winds to detect the presence of the wolf, show attachment to the cattle and are brave, leaving light and agile to defend it," he explains.

In the morphological aspects it is mainly valued that "they are big, cabezones, with good legs and strong", as reflected Doadrio in the study that realized on the trasterminancia in Leon. If dogs are small in size, it is necessary to have more specimens, which results in an increase in the cost of their food and care, he adds.

The Leonese transhumants have an average of seven mastiffs for each flock of a thousand sheep, although they believe that would be enough with five. They also use them in Laciana for cow herding. According to the study carried out by the biologist of the CSIC "the death of dogs by the wolf is small and minor that of mastiffs that kill a wolf". In general, the breeders believe that the mastiffs of now are worse than those of before, what the scientist attributes to the abandonment that occurred when the population of wolves diminished until the limit of the extinction.

The decline of the wolf in the 80's marked a before and after in the evolution of the mastiffs. They feared for the extinction of this dog and began to be interested in their breeding from professional sectors. In this way, a "functional genetic heritage for a morphological selection that has given an exaggerated type of dubious functionality" was ceded, the researcher points out.

"There are more expositional lines and more functional lines that do not waver in an exhibition, but in Leon's case the line of exhibition dogs are functional and effective", says the breeder and breeder Luis María Fernández. "Historically, everyone who has wanted and wants good mastiffs comes to Leon," notes Fidalgo.

What may seem a chauvinist song, is corroborated by the genetic line of a great Asturian breeder who has acquired much of his specimens in Leon. Or the recent visit of a group of Basque breeders looking for a suitable dog to defend their cows from the wolf.

The Spanish Association of the Spanish Mastiff Dog was created in 1981 to safeguard this species linked to the transhumance and golden times of the Council of the Mesta, since during the Middle Ages and the Modern Age the Spanish economy was based on the wool market . Mastiff dogs were the faithful allies of the shepherds in the long days of transhumance from Extremadura to Leon.

From the prestige of the mastiff and his relationship with the aristocracy, who were the great owners of the transhumant herds, he tells of the famous painting of Las Meninas by Velázquez, in which a copy of a mastiff appears. A dog whose usual environment, as a working dog, is the open air, surrounded by sheep, between valleys and mountains and with a long road ahead.

The lightest prototype of the mastiff comes from the biometric measurements established by the International Canine Federation in 1946, which took as reference three copies of the central zone of Spain. The association points out that the transhumant cattle ranch used a larger dog, so in 1981 a new prototype was established to recover the great mastiff.

For several years the two prototypes coexist and in 1998 the association sets in motion the breeding plan whose objective is the improvement of the breed coupled with concepts of health and rigor in breeding. Avoiding hip dysplasia is one of the challenges of all mastiff breeders. "The biologists knew that the wolf would not go extinct and the mastiff would still be necessary to keep the cattle," says José Ignacio Doadrio. But the shepherds sold many of their specimens and there was a "real diaspora" of mastiffs. The result is that the prototype most valued in the exhibitions "tends to morphological exaggeration and becomes less functional", apostle.

Today, mastiffs are needed more than 35 years ago. There are more wolves. Doadrio praises the initiative of breeders who care about raising their dogs and health and preserving their functionality as a suitable formula for "their selection and maintenance without costing livestock."

Now the main problem of these breeders is to find young offspring to cross with their dogs and avoid inbreeding. «The revaluation of these functional dogs carried out by some breeders
Beyond prototypes, the cattleman ditches the controversy: "There are good dogs and bad dogs." Ignacio Doadrio defends that "the beautiful dog must be functional and the functional beautiful, if one of the things fails is not a good dog".

The larger mastiffs work well with the cows, which is an advantage to keep these herds on the mountain with greater security against the wolf and even in front of the bear. "Where there are no dogs on the mountain, the cattle are attacked and the mastiff is the most effective tool, even if the bear is more complicated because more dogs are needed," says Luis María Fernández.

The herdsmen of the Karrantza Valley visited several herds of sheep and cows in the regions of Omaña, Babia and Laciana to learn firsthand about the management that the herdsmen make of the herds with the help of their precious mastiffs, whom they consider the best defense against the wolf.
"It is not the only solution, but the mastiff is a very good solution," says the CSIC biologist. "The damage goes down," he says. The mastiff, he adds, not only protects against the wolf, but also against small mammals such as foxes, martens and martens who are the ones who eat the eggs of birds with the negative consequences it has for their reproduction.

The herdsmen visited the herds of Gregorio Fidalgo and Violeta Alegre, in Lake of Omaña, the cattle ranch of the Picardos in Caboalles de Abajo. The author of the Spanish Mastiff Field Manual explained to cattle breeders the handling of the cattle with this singular dog because of its size and nobility.
Today the mastiffs are measured in the Festival of the Shepherd of Barrios de Luna, with a contest of exhibition dogs. The judge is also Pastor Major of the year 2015 Ignacio Doadrio. The trophy Emilio Álvarez is also celebrated for the best cattle mastiff, organized by the Canina Leonesa Society, with Eloy Presa García as judge.

The scientist encourages the breeders to follow the example of the few that breed mastiffs to contribute to the improvement of the breed.