Keeping animals

A major attraction for some foreigners considering moving to Galicia is that properties with enough land to keep horses/sheep/cattle/etc. on are both abundant and also cheap, especially if you are happy to live somewhere rural, remote and unfashionable.

In general Galicia’s rainfall levels and mild climate ensure good grazing throughout much of the year and minimal risks to animals from any extreme of weather.

Livestock is subject to various registrations and controls, especially anything that will enter the food chain – local vets can normally give good advice on how to comply with this.

Galician attitudes to animals

On the whole Galicians can be said to care for their animals but the consideration given to animals’ standards of living and legal protection for animals falls massively short of long established norms in the UK and other countries.

As a result of this incomers may therefore see a lot of treatment of animals that they find distressing. The most typical examples of this are:

  • Often quite disturbed dogs chained up permanently in rural yards or roaming, bored out of their minds, in the gardens of holiday villas where they are seemingly used as alarm systems.
  • Animals kept permanently indoors and often in tiny pens that may even restrict movement (chickens, pigs, rabbits).
  • Hobbled goats, cows and horses.
  • Cows kept in barns all year while the lush pasture all around the barn is cut by machine and fed to them as bales of hay.
  • Horses kept on their own in fields (something now banned in some countries as this is seen to cause herd animals distress).
  • Perhaps nastiest of all, puppies and kittens kept in small cages or glass tanks in shopping centre pet stores.

These things are not deliberate cruelty and of course there are many Galicians who look after their animals to the highest standards and even some who run sanctuaries and the like, but if seeing this will disturb you and you don’t want to enter into a fight you will probably never win to change Galician attitudes to animals then you should factor this into your choice of property.

Noisy animals

The Galician countryside is generally incredibly peaceful at night in terms of human made noise. This is great for the most part but a real problem when you combine it with noisy animals in the vicinity because they seem even louder by comparison with the silence.

There are some noisy animals that can turn up anywhere and that therefore can’t be avoided (cats doing cat stuff, bellowing cows, stags, owls, wild boar), but there are two particular varieties that you should be wary of to the extent of walking away from an otherwise dream property if you spot them nearby. These are:

  • Dogs in gardens or yards that howl and bark all night.
  • Cockerels.

For some people (normally the kind who fall asleep instantly and snore like power tools) these noises present  no problem, but if you’re a light sleeper the wrong Galician rural property could turn out to be worse for your quality of life than living under the Heathrow flight path.

Wildlife and dangerous animals and insects

Despite the wholesale destruction of much of the native forest (normally to make way for dense eucalyptus plantations) over the last half century, wildlife abounds in Galicia.

In general you will find the wildlife typical of most of western Europe, ie. deer, foxes, badgers, buzzards, cats gone feral, rats, mice and so on along with quite a lot of lizards and snakes, of which normally only the very occasional adder is venomous.

The one standout addition to this list is wild boar (javali) as they are both populous in most rural areas, potentially dangerous (especially mothers with piglets or males in mating season), and highly destructive if you leave any crops or vegetables unprotected (even a single boar can ruin an entire vegetable garden in a few hours of one night).

In some remote regions in inland Galicia you can also find wolves and bears, which invariably avoid humans and populated areas and really aren’t an issue for anyone with a modicum of common sense.

The insect world also thrives in Galicia. Although not as bad as southern Spain, Galicia has its share of flies that could have been designed specifically to annoy humans (land instantly on any food, get indoors at the tiniest opportunity, etc.) and of course mosquitos anywhere near standing water.

The one insect that really requires caution is ticks, which are widespread in rural areas and which can, although only in a small minority of cases, cause the extremely dangerous Lyme disease.
If you walk in long grass or even work regularly in a garden it is worth checking regularly for ticks, learning to recognise tick bites (quite easy – normally there’s a tick still attached to you in the middle of it!), keeping a tick removal kit in stock and also knowing what treatment to seek if you get a bite that shows signs of infection (red rings spreading out from the bite).