The Garafian Shepherd Dog has always shown a special aptitude for its shepherding origins. Today these dogs make excellent family companions, and are very good in canine sports.
Not so long ago this breed was on the verge of disappearance due to interbreeding with others. Successive crosses, especially as of the 1960s with other breeds of sheepdog, made it necessary to start again from the few pure specimens of Garafian Shepherd that were kept by the island shepherds.
To avoid this extinction, Don Antonio Manuel Diaz Rodriguez founded the working group for restoration of the Garafian Shepherd Dog, later renamed the Spanish Association for the Garafíano Shepherd Dog (Asociacion Española del Perro Pastor Garafíano).
Objectives of the Association are the registration of dogs, creating breeding centers, participation in dog shows, etc.
The Garafian Shepherd has been presented at native breed dog shows held in the Canary Islands, as well as in the rest of Spain. The Ethnology Department of the Veterinary Faculty at Las Palmas University in the Canary Islands has conducted several studies on the breed, which were presented at the symposium of indigenous breeds held in Cordoba in March 1992. The breed was officially recognized by the Royal Canine Society of Spain (Real Sociedad Canina de España) in 2003.
Today, this breed is very abundant in the Canary Islands, and its future looks promising. There is a growing interest in these animals not only among shepherds, but also among people looking for an intelligent dog good at agility trials and canicross, or as a pet.
After the conquest of Benahoare, which was renamed San Miguel de La Palma, European settlers from the most varied backgrounds brought along their pets and livestock. These animals, unknown until then on the island, interbred with local species and gave rise in course of time to some clearly differentiated indigenous breeds perfectly adapted to the environment.
The existing animals that received sanguineous contributions from the newcomers left offspring that through the law of survival over the course of generations, adapted both environmentally and functionally. This occurred with the dog, taking into account that its basic function was always herding the goats.Without its help shepherding activity is inconceivable and this practice has remained with very few variations since the times of the “Auaritas” until nowadays.
The European settlers of La Palma comprised Galician, Portuguese, Majorcans, Basque, Castilian and other people from the most varied backgrounds.Not to forget the strong bonds established with Flanders in the sixteenth century, grounded in the sugar trade. Hence the likely presence on the island of Portuguese dogs such as the"Cão da Serra da Estrela», Basque sheepdogs, careas Ibericos and possible ancestors of those who subsequently gave place to the current varieties of the Belgian Shepherd Dog.
The indicated requirements of adaptation and usefulness made most of the dogs introduced in the Island extinct, but it is not excluded that some of those previously cited could have contributed to the primitive dog’s characteristics that have formed those historically used by shepherds as an indispensable partner to go with their flocks to the coastlines, mountain peaks and ravines of the Island and were bred solely for this purpose.Selection was drastic. The precarity of resources in a nomadic pastoral society only allowed the mere subsistence of the shepherd and his family. In the environment in which they lived it was inconceivable to keep animals that did not serve any purpose. That was a luxury they could not afford. Superfluous litters were sacrificed, as well as those who were ineffective in work or due to aging, illness or consequences of accidents and could no longer drive or care for the flock.
Moreover, no valuation or concession to the aesthetics of the animal was made. The best were those who did their tasks better and, therefore, those who lived and left offspring. With this in mind, it is surprising that the homogeneity present in the race confirms the famous aphorism "the function creates the form".
Translation: Gracias Kelly & Peter