news - 15/12/2002 The CRETAN HOUND-rarest of all - Greece
by Maria Winsor-Ginala THE HOUNDS OF CRETE: Rarest of all
The Cretan Hounds have a documented history going back over 5000 years. Known only inside their country of origin, even in Greece they are very rarely seen outside the island of Crete, where the locals are using them to hunt hare from time immemorial. This primitive hound has barely changed at all since the times of the Minoan civilisation, which flourished in the Aegean before the volcanic eruption of Thera.
During the archaeological excavations at Santorini (Thera), one of the islands of Cyclades which was part of the prehistoric Minoan civilisation, Prof. S. Marinatos revealed a wallpainting showing a dog identical to the Cretan Hounds of today.
In Greek mythology, the father of gods, Dias, fell in love with a beautiful princess from Asia Minor, Europe. He transformed into a beautiful white bull and carried her on his back over the sea to the island of Crete. There she gave birth to three semi-gods from this union. One of them was Minos, the first king of Crete.
Local myths describe the coming of the Great Goddess, who brought to Crete many goods, including the hounds. In the Heraklion Museum there is a prehistoric find showing the ship of the Great Goddess, with a Cretan hound standing proud on the stern.
Minoan Crete ruled over the Aegean, including the islands of Cyclades. When the volcano of Thera erupted, it caused a disaster that ruined the prosperous cities of the Minoic civilisation. Thera is thought by some to be the legendary Atlantis.
Crete is near the shores of Northern Africa & Egypt. It is possible that the sea-going Minoan people were trading goods, including dogs, with ancient Egypt and that the Cretan Hound was influenced by these. The ships of Crete were sailing in the whole of the Mediterranean sea and beyond. Relatives of the Cretan Hounds can be found today among the breeds of Southern Italy, Malta, Spain and Southern France.
The Greek Archaeology Professor, Dr. S. Marinatos, published articles in praise of this living relic, the Hound of Crete. Isolated in their native land, the dogs have remained unchanged to this day. When they saw the wallpainting from Thera, foreign cynologists who knew nothing about the existence of the Hounds of Crete, described the dog as an ancestor of the Saluki or a Pharaoh Hound, when in fact it is a Cretan.
Today a handful of breeders serve this unique breed at its native island. Prominent among them is Mr. Geneiatakis from Heraklion, who travels to the International Dog shows held in Athens with his magnificent white hounds, giving an opportunity to the foreign visitors to meet the oldest European breed, which is not yet recognised by the FCI.
Using both sight & scent to hunt rabbit on the harsh terrain of the island, built for speed and agility, the Cretans are gentle & easy going at home, clean and easy to look after. For more information about the breed visit the website of Athens Canine Society at http://okathens.8m.com/
fotos by MWG, T.Manopoulos, Athens Canine Society archives