LEAPS OF KNOWLEDGE
Tomeu Roca and his dogs won the Spanish national hunting championship in 2011, and he has the trophy to prove it.
The dogs are released to hunt. Leashes are not used to control or gather them.
than being right on a rabbit. Capture frequently occurs in close proximity to cover, not just when in full open pursuit. The dogs hunt as a team with clearly defined roles. The drama ends with a dog retrieving the rabbit to the hand of the huntsman. Tomeu and Toni hunt in the areas of Santanyi, Ses Salines, Sa Punta, and Campos in the southwest region of the island, which are a heartland of hunting tradition for the breed. Hunting lands are sometimes owned but are often leased, and most of the hunting occurs on familiar areas that the hunters and their dogs know well. We met Toni and his older son at their home and drove to Sa Punta to hunt on his friend “Tia Sa Punta’s” land. Toni’s pack is an average size of five, with the typical single male, “Rapit.” Ages ranged from around two to eight years. The matriarch of Toni’s pack is 8-year- old “Dama,” who, along with 4-year-old “Clenxa,” he deemed his best. Dama is the dam of the siblings Rapit and his sister “Turque.” Then there was the Irish red wire “Ratja.” All of the dogs we saw were unregistered, and it is still true today that the vast majority of cans eivissencens throughout their homeland are unregistered. The Ibizans exported from Spain to the United States are generally closely related, coming from the few breed- ers whose three-generation pedigrees have the L.O.E. ( Libro de Origenes Español , or Book of Origins) number issued by the Real Sociedad Canina España (R.S.C.E.), a member of the FCI, which means registrations are acceptable by AKC. The coats ranged from smooth and wire to a suggestion of a mix of these. Toni said the most important selection quality was hunting ability, but he admired the short, hard coat, though not all hunters agreed. The wire and longer smooth coats of his dogs he attributed to their ancestor “Faro,” the handsome Irish-marked red wire male featured in Alternativa photos. Young and impetuous Rapit, the typical single male in the pack, was not present on this hunt. He had been vocalizing—or not—at inappropriate times, a distraction to the other dogs that can result in loss of the rabbit. Since then, Toni told me Rapit has rejoined his team. Ibizans do not bark simply to release the stimulation of the excitement; even in the heat of the pursuit, it is the lead dog who signals with the voice. The bark or call conveys information by the dog with the best information. It is doubtful that a highly excitable or reactive temperament would work in this context.
The selection of traits to function in such dense terrain, where the rabbit goes quickly to cover, has evolved over hundreds of years: “Principal breed characteristics are a keen sense of hearing, ability to leap, and above all a great sense of smell,” said the early Spanish standard of 1930. Scent is foremost in detection, then hearing for stirrings in the dry vegetation and pack interactions; finally, sight steps up in the “senses triumvirate.” It could be argued that the importance of scent in Ibizan function has largely been overlooked outside the land of origin, and perhaps more emphasis should be placed on tracking and nosework in performance activities here. The rabbit is easily unsighted, disappearing into the dense veg- etation, in which case the dogs add vertical jumps to their arsenal. Briefly suspended in air, they listen and look in order to continue pursuit. While suspended in this way, the dogs can actually change direction in mid-air. This is in addition to spectacular leaps and jumps to overcome obstacles during pursuit. At times, stillness and silence are key components in captures from close cover. At all stages, which dog vocalizes and when is regulated by a strict protocol. In photos showing the dogs in full speed, they may be responding to the cry of “Come here!” rather
‘Clenxa,’ an example of a mixed coat. Her name means “parting of the hair.”
230 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MARCH 2022
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