through December, the city of Lampa will be stage for
a very peculiar photography exhibition. What it
will show is part of a long tradition that, for the
last 15 years, has been gathering those living
nearby to watch the galgo races.
In her images, Gabriela Jara
documents the most relevant moments of dog races.
Showing the social context in which they develop,
one finds a very strong aspect of Chilean cultural
identity, shared partially with the rest of Latin
The usual is for two dogs
to compete, even though sometimes one cand find
three. The tradition came from the South, way
after the horse races were already established.
The owners show their animals first, and then
bet a fixed amount of money. The triumph might
be by full body ("por cortada"), half-body
("paleta") or a head. The audience can
also bet, informally if they wish.
The "maquinista" is the one that has a rope tied around his bike's
wheel, with a fake rabbit showing. Usually a kid
would ride this bike all through the field. The
dogs run after it, and a judge dictates which
one's to win. If the dog doesn't win
as how it was bet upon, then there's no
The galgo dog races in Santiago
started at the beginning of the 20th Century.
By then the city already had a "canodromo",
with up to two races weekly. The magazine "Deportes"
had a special section for dog races, called "Galgos".
But, during the 50s, a long dispute with the Riding
Club ended up with the closing of the canodromo,
and the dog races relegated to the countryside.
Nowadays, areas like Lampa,
Pudahuel, Colina, Rinconada de Maipu and Talagante
hold weekly races. Some dogs will even go from
race to race. Galgos begin their trainning at
five months of age, up until they're three
years old. The best come from North America and
Argentina, and can run up to 40 miles per hour.
The raising of galgos has
almost always been connected to hunting, since
it's the fastest breed of dogs for short
lengths. They can anticipate their victims moves.
Their head and neck are long, they have short
ears and a well-toned abdomen. Their legs are
long and strong; their tail, fine and curved.
Their hair is short and soft, and comes in a wide
variety of tones.
Experts agree that the "lebrel"
kind of dog is the main breed from where all dogs
come. One can find their shape even in celtic
vases 8,000 years-old. Egyptians mummified them,
and then buried them along with their owners.
Greek and Roman gods were usually represented
along with a dog. The galgo is mentioned in the
Old Testament, "The Odyssey", and the
Canterbury Stories. According to legend, Cleopatra
used to have galgo dogs for races, the same as
Frederich the Great, and Prince Albert.