Was the Hound of the Baskervilles really a Galician Palleiros?

Published: 02nd September 2007
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OK hands up those who are familiar with good old Sir Art C-D's book about the legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes and the amazingly savage pooch he encountered somewhere on Dartmoor.

For those not familiar with the plot, the story goes thus: Holmes and Watson are visited by Dr. James Mortimer, who wishes to ask their advice before he meets with Sir Henry Baskerville, the last of the Baskervilles, and heir to the Baskerville estate in Dartmoor. Dr. Mortimer is unhappy about letting Sir Henry go to Baskerville Hall, owing to a supposed family curse.

He then proceeds to explain to them the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a strange and savage dog that first killed Sir Hugo Baskerville several hundred years ago, and is believed to kill all Baskervilles in the region of Dartmoor.

Holmes as per usual dismisses the whole story as a fairy tale and then Mortimer tells them the story surrounding the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville, Henry's uncle. Although he was found dead in his garden without any trace of physical damage, his face was distorted as if he died in utter terror. Dr. Mortimer then reveals something that he had not mentioned at the official inquest. He alone had noticed footmarks at some distance from the body when it was found; the footmarks of a gigantic hound.

So that's a brief resume of the basic plot. Holmes travels to Dartmoor and with the help of Watson and some others solves the plot, shoots the dog and most of the cast live happily ever after (excepting the dog of course).

Now in truth the story behind what sort of dog the Hound actually was really falls into two camps. It is alleged that good old "Sir Art" had actually spent some holiday time spent in North West Spain and had become rather enamoured with the Galician Barn Dog - the Palleiros. Quite why he would want demonstrate his apparent affection with this type of dog by turning it into a slavering, half mad, canine vision of hell on four paws nobody is too sure about but it is a good story nonetheless.

In truth, the Hound was probably more based on a cross between a Bloodhound and an English Mastiff but this is not one hundred percent accurate either but in all probability is more believable.

In real life Palleiros (the Galician Barn Dog) are strongly built dogs and have been a likened by many to wolves which they most definitely are not. They come basically in four colours: wheaten, cinnamon, chestnut and black. Basically Celtic Shepherd's would have been bred by the Galicians as an all-purpose farm dog. They were used for herding watching livestock and hunting. As far as temperament goes they are intelligent dogs, calm but they are reserved to strangers. They can be gentle and loyal and they can get along well with children and sometimes other animals.

So in reality the above description hardly fits the bill of the large savage beast that inspired an entire story by Conan-Doyle but since when has the truth ever got in the way of a good story?

Stephen Morgan writes about a great many Internet Travel based issues and more on the above can be found at Apartments in Galicia and Where to stay in Galicia For a more complete overlook at Tourism in Galicia try http://www.turgalicia.es

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