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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dog symbol of the Canary Islands Disappears

In recent times there has been a controversy over the representation of the dog (Presa Canario) in the shield. This fact, motivated in part by the Government of Canary Islands has removed the two dogs from the official forms and public buildings, although they have been kept in the Coat of arms of Canary Islands.

The dog, or "can", the historical symbol of the Canary Islands from which they take their name, has begun to disappear from official use.

The elimination of both dogs from the shield of the Canary Islands, on official forms and public buildings, has generated some controversy, not just because of the cost, but because the Canarian people have been very attached to "man's best friend" for centuries.

The Canarian executive is justifying the decision to change the "corporation mark", so that it is more modern and easier for citizens to identify with, which has both detractors and those in favour.

The Government plans to put an end to a symbol that has been tradition in the island since 1722, the year in which 18th Century historian, José de Viera y Clavijo, wrote about the shield with a dog on each side for the first time.

The first mention of the dog in relation to the Canary Islands goes back to the Mauritanian King Juba II, who, between 30 and 25 BC, had sent a marine expedition that came across the islands. The discovery was described extensively by Pliny, who wrote that the Canaries received this name "for their dogs, two of which were sent to Juba".

The Canary Dog is one of the oldest symbols of the history of the Canary Islands and has existed since the time of the aboriginals.

Even at that time, they formed part of their myths, according to Fray Juan Abreu de Galindo in his "History of the Conquest", who wrote that the inhabitants of Gran Canaria and La Palma shared the belief that demons appeared to them "like great fleecy dogs".

Archaeological excavations in several burial caves in Tenerife have shown that the dog was buried with his master, so it could "guide the soul to the region of the dead", writes historian, Manuel Curtó, author of the book, "El perro de presa canario, su verdadero origen". (The true origin of the Presa Canario.)

Nevertheless, in spite of these facts, there are other explanations for the name of the archipelago:

Historian, José Juan Jiménez, of the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (Museum of Nature and Man) in Tenerife, says the Canaries, in reality, owe their name to the "cannis marinus", a species of large monk seal that populated the coasts until the 15th Century.

Via the extinction of this species, brought about by the colonizers, attracted by their skins and, a translation error by Pliny, left out their existence entirely and turned history towards the dogs.

Contrary to what happened with the seals, the mixing of breeds between local and foreign dogs, did not bring an end to those native to the islands, because the Bardino has survived to the present day.

The relevance of dogs in the Canaries since the aboriginal era, has given their inhabitants an identity of their own and, has served them well for three centuries. Their image has been one of the most representative of the islands, becoming characteristic of them.

The positioning of the dogs, on guard, horizontal, on the shield and the flag of the Canary Islands, which at the moment are unmovable, because to change it would require a change in the Statute, is not an aesthetic one, but one that represents the force of the animal.

The English dogs that decorate the plaza of Santa Ana, in Vegueta, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which arrived in the island in 1895 are another example of the tradition of the dog in the Canaries.

Currently, preparations are underway for a project, "Gran Can", organized by the Town Hall in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in which 60 large sculptures of dogs, in fiberglass, will be placed in the streets of the city from October to December.

A clear sign that, even if they change the corporate image of the Government of the Canaries, the dog will, for the moment, maintain it's position in Canarian tradition.

El can, símbolo de Canarias, comienza a 'desaparecer'

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