The Guanil herds

Gathering goats (apañada) at San Juan de Sisetoto, Fuerteventura (source: Revista BienMeSabe).

Still hot in the media and social networks the controversial measure adopted by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria consisting of exterminating the guanil goats living in a number of protected natural areas on the Island, we deal here with the origin of such an autochthonous term.

In fact, this is an ancient indigenous term used to name unmarked, either caprine or ovine, animals and, by extension, those that went feral.

Periodically, a practice still used in the Canary Islands, shepherds or goatherds set unmarked animals free to later make an apañada[1]LORENZO (2006)., a selective gathering, and then proceed marking livestock heads by means of an incision in one or both animal ears. These cuts are called teberite, an Amazigh word also.[2]REYES (2012).

But which is the oldest known record, referred to the Canaries, of this word in question?

We have to go back to 1426-1430 interval to find the first reference to these singular animals in an undated letter by Enrique de Guzmán, 2nd Count of Niebla and 2nd Lord of the Islands of Canaria, who at the request of the Seigneury’s governor, Maciot de Béthencourt, nephew of conqueror Jehan IV de Béthencourt, undertakes to respect the islanders’ right to the ownership and use of such herds:

Furthermore, as I have been told by aforesaid Monsieur Maciot that on my islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and El Hierro some unmarked herds are bred which are called as a land’s name, Guanire, and those herds he says they remain unmarked for some years, due to some hindrance their owners have about some things to be accomplished for my service and because the aforesaid Monsieur Maciot told me you suspect in some time I could make a grant of such herds to some special persons, of which he says great harm to you will follow, therefore, I, to make a grant to all my vassals who on my aforesaid islands live and dwell, and would live and dwell henceforth, and because aforesaid Monsieur Maciot so requested it to me as a grant, I make a grant for you of all the aforesaid herds being bred on the aforesaid islands and be bred unmarked from now onwards as it is said, and by this my letter I promise you in good faith to never make a grant of such herds to any person whoever, for it is my will you own them and may use them, as well as the other things of yours you own, aside the herds of Fandía, which I made a grant of to aforesaid Monsieur Maciot. I, Count.

Pesquisa de Cabitos –AZNAR (1990), pp. 150-152– (translated and adapted from ancient Castilian by PROYECTO TARHA).

Antonio M. López Alonso


Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *