HUNTING IN VILLAFÁFILA
Hunting in its various facets, which has been practiced since ancient times around the lagoon complex and in particular in our Villa, has remained in force since the dawn of time, with the changes that have entailed, until today in a Natural Reserve area. . Until a few decades ago it could be practiced every day, now it is only allowed from the end of October to the end of January, on Sundays, Thursdays and holidays, in summer the mid-season for quail.
An important reference to this can be found in the historical news on the matter, which D. Elías Rodríguez has compiled from a tradition with strong roots in these places, from stubble, vineyards, meadows and lagoons. Protagonists of it are species such as the hare and rabbit, this in lesser importance, the partridge, quail, pigeon, ducks, geese and a great variety of birds.
An animal that man has used is the greyhound, domesticating it, turning it into the instrument that generates an unparalleled passion for hunting. Firearms are the other most frequently used instrument and that establishes differences. In the “slang” of this, some call the others “galgeros” or “gunners”.
We will start with the greyhound that has gained preference for a lot of reasons over the shotgun. Already in Don Quixote, the illustrious hidalgo allows himself to be accompanied in his entourage by a skinny nag and a running greyhound.
All greyhound and shotgun hunters have to get a permit issued by the respective environmental councils, and for senior shotguns they have to take a weapons test.
Hunting in its various facets, which has been practiced since ancient times around the lagoon complex and in particular in our Villa, since the dawn of time EL GALGO
In Villafáfila rustic, field greyhounds are bred by and for the pursuit and subsequent capture of the hare. The local greyhound is a dog that is part of the family, it is loved, with the peculiarities of its breed, lively, with powerful muscles. It is the fruit of many years of selection by man taking into account only one criterion: if the greyhound runs the hares well. Even today this traditional selection survives, in which the quality of the parents plays a fundamental role. Breed comes to the greyhound!
The country's greyhounds are characterized by being endurance dogs (characteristic of the Spanish greyhound) and are capable of withstanding races of many minutes at a high pace, without speed peaks like the English greyhounds.
The cereal steppe of the Villafáfila area is the ideal habitat for a type of hare that is very resistant and strong when harassed by greyhounds. In this region, as in most of Spain, lives the Mediterranean hare, one of the three subspecies that populate the Iberian Peninsula. The other two are the European hare and the broom hare. The Mediterranean is the smallest of the three and does not usually exceed three kilos in weight.
Its survival strategy is based on mimicry, thanks to its brown coat, and speed, which resides in the powerful muscles of its extremities. However, the hare adapts to any situation, from the intense cold of winter on the Castilian plateau to the suffocating heat of summer.
The people of Villafáfila coexist with the greyhound in a natural way. The galguero of the region raises its own greyhounds as if it were a valuable treasure. The whole year the galguero lives for his dogs. If they get sick, the fan will take extreme care of him. If they run well, they will earn privileges and the trust of their master. In compensation for his headaches, his dogs will give him days of satisfaction, good! and some disappointment.
Already a month before the opening of the ban, the greyhounds suspect that they will soon be measured against that animal of the plain, the hare, which puts their heartbeats to the limit in each race and exhaustion at the end of the day. Its owners start training on the way to Barca.
The day finally arrives and the hustle and bustle of organizing, the waiting for colleagues, the barking of each other, does not subside until the first "rabona" jumps out of bed and yelling, the screams are heard in the distance, let's go Jacket... ! ¡ala perrica…!, begins a frantic race along the viesas of the stubble. A beautiful picture in the fields that makes your hair stand on end and that often ends in tragedy and others in impotence, frustration and the hare in the loser. That one went to breed these tomorrow on bread and water! The dogs sense the anger of their owners, we give the last hand and have lunch! The greyhounds rest and their owners give an account of the food, at the end the laughter, jokes and anecdotes.
In the field, the galguero proudly shows his sighthounds, knowing his worth behind the hares. They are prized possessions. For this reason, no security measures are spared and veritable bunkers are built to keep the greyhounds. In addition, there is no hesitation in allowing the greyhounds to sleep at home due to the possibility of disappearances. Thefts are the order of the day and are the greatest concern of greyhound fans. These thefts are concentrated at the beginning of the season and during the regional and national championships.
This circumstance has made the galguero suspicious of strangers, but he will never mind someone admiring his greyhounds after a hare.
Hare hunting with greyhounds has been carried out for several centuries in Villafáfila. This technique has not evolved much. They are put in hand (in line) separated several meters touring the land in search of the hare.
It can be seen bedridden, but most of the time the hare starts off, at that moment of great intensity the greyhounds are herded to come out after it, it is when the race is produced the peak moment, of very beautiful vision, the hare with its great speed and vertiginous twists, it will try by all means to mislead and distance itself from the greyhounds, sometimes due to greater speed and others because it takes refuge in perderodos, (sewers, bushes, piles of stones, etc.) of ten races in seven occasions is The hare wins. The hunter follows the race in which three greyhounds participate, two older and one less than nine months old, when the greyhound catches up with the hare it is of great satisfaction to the hunter .
Villafáfila, located in the northeast of the province of Zamora, is an ideal area for hare hunting with greyhounds. It is a cereal steppe without barriers such as barbed wire or stone fences or massive reforestation. This flat terrain is the ideal habitat for hares and a perfect setting for greyhound racing. In addition, the small undulations of the terrain and the hills allow the spectator to observe most of the races. There is an area that is limited to hunting around the lagoons.
Another fundamental factor is the existence of shelters for the hare to escape. They are the losers. These are plots of small forest-islands, sewers in the gutters to allow access to farmland and artificial waste dumps made by the galgueros themselves (they are underground tubes).
The weather has a positive influence on greyhound racing. A high temperature would put the sighthounds in a lot of trouble after the great effort of the race. Greyhounds tolerate cold better than heat.
Like the previous ones, the first day of hunting before sunrise, weapons in their holsters, cartridge belts full of ammunition, the movement of all kinds of vehicles moves along the roads in search of the most propitious areas, in flocks of partridge. The shooting begins and nature shudders.
The Wait for the aquatic ones: geese, ducks, etc. They are marked in different areas near the lagoons. At dawn and once the sun has set, they are propitious moments to "warm up their feathers" the pointer takes a dip in the cold waters.
In summer they have the so-called half-veda for partridge hunting.
The greyhound culture is deeply rooted in the Tierra de Campos area.
“ And other things have been done and done to the aforementioned by our basallos many other forces and evils and damages and synrreasons, and especially they say that, a few days ago, that certain squires of the said count came to the said town, and what was the date all honor and entertainment, and when they returned to the said Benavente, that certain basallos of ours who were hunting failed, and raised a hare in the terminus of the said town, and that they ran towards the terminus of the said Benabente, and that they were following her for her term of the said Benabente, and because of how much they failed them there, and they seized their bodies and took their greyhounds and took them to the said Benabente, and that they had them and have them there imprisoned for this reason for which we It was requested by mercy that we remedy, they sent a complaint ”.
This practice allows the use of natural resources with the support of the prevailing ecosystem, the steppe. Unlike other modalities, hunting with greyhounds is a form of natural selection of the hare. As in virgin nature, those who are stronger or more intelligent survive, those who manage to outwit the sighthounds, their predators, in the frantic race.
After so many centuries of hunting with greyhounds, today's galgueros fight day after day to keep this tradition alive and do not hesitate to pass it on from father to son so that it is not lost. As has already been said, more than a hobby, it is a way of life that shapes people and makes them know how to value the legacy of their ancestors: the greyhounds. A breed of dog that would be lost if hare hunting with these beautiful animals were prohibited.
To conclude, greyhounds arouse passions in both galgueros and simple spectators who see a race for the first time. It is something that hooks and from which it is very difficult to escape. It does not matter if it is cold, icy or rainy, you will always see the image of the galguero on the horizon with his greyhounds in pursuit of a hare that will give his heart a new turn.
This little story shows us something so atavistic in man, such as hunting, which has not only occupied a large part of his life, before to survive, now for fun, as a sport, but has also turned it into a status. What would the character of that memorable hunting scene think, described to us by José María Pereda from Santander in Peñas Arriba, Pitu Salces with his espingarda in the osera!
An old hunter recounted that one day, leaving the mountain of Barcial, after finishing waiting for the rabbit, well into the night, when two shining pupils left him nailed to the ground. From the intensity of its brightness, he deduced that it was a wolf and he was not mistaken, in front of him, less than twenty-five meters away, he saw death in his eyes. He deftly prepared to load the shotgun, realizing that he had no ammunition left. Rummaging in all his pockets he found two tacks, he tacked the tacks and aiming at the center of his eyes, he shot and such was his skill, that he left the wolf nailed to an oak, with a tack in each ear.
Gregorio Antonio Cañibano Vicente.
Jose Luis Dominguez Martinez.
Jose Luis Dominguez Martinez.
Transcription and montage:
Jose Luis Dominguez Martinez.
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 Enrique de Trastámara, (around 1400 Medina del Campo-June 15, 1445) Infante of Aragon, Count of Alburquerque, Duke of Villena, Count of Ledesma and from 1409 Master of the Order of Santiago until his death. Son of Fernando I of Aragon, King of Aragon and Leonor de Alburquerque Husband of Catalina de Castilla and Beatriz Pimentel. Father of Enrique de Aragón y Pimentel Brother of María de Castilla y León, queen consort of Castile; Isabela De Aragón, Countess of Urgel; King Juan II of Aragon and II of Navarre, King of Aragon; Eleanor of Aragon, queen consort of Portugal; Pedro de Aragón, count of Alburquerque; Sancho Prince of Aragon and Sicily and Alfonso V the Magnanimous, King of Aragon.