Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where Did the Islands Get Their Name?

I found this article from a website about the Canary Islands, and thought it was interesting.
Many think that the islands received their name from the canary birds, but it isn't necessarily so.

All breeds of canary bird existing in the world descend from the wild canary bird, "serinus canarius" and are still living and singing in the islands' fields and forests. The wild canary is brown, with some green and yellow shades. The Spaniards caught some of them after the conquest, during the 15th century, and this little singer became -in hundreds of colourful different breeds- a fashionable pet throughout the world.

Roman naturalist Plinius wrote that Juba, King of Mauritania and vassal of Rome in the Ist century B.C., sent an expedition to explore the mythical Fortunate Islands which were in the Dark Ocean beyond the Columns of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar). They gave name to some of these islands. One they called "Nivaria" for the snow covering its mountains (nivea=snow, in latin) -the island of Tenerife. Other was called "Herbania" (herba=grass, in latin) for the meadows they found there. A third one was named "Junonia" for the many doves they saw; the dove was the bird dedicated to goddess Juno. And one of the islands, in which they found a fierce breed of dogs (can, canis in latin), was called "Canaria"...

Regardless of what Plinius wrote in the first century, the fact is that the island called Gran Canaria was inhabited by a tribe who called themselves the "canarii." The islands were called "Fortunate Islands" or "Islands of Fortune." During the 15th century, the island of Canaria became famous for the brave defense deployed by their natives against the landings of the conquistadores. They started to call all islands "the Islands of Canaria", from which they were later called "Canary Islands" (Canarias, in Spanish).

The legendary Canary dogs are the emblematic figures who held the coat of arms in the official Seal of the islands. Their bronze statues are to be seen in Santa Ana square, between the Cathedral and the City Hall, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

So was it the bird, the dog, or the "canarii" tribe? No one seems to know for sure.
For More information about the Canary Islands, you can click on this link:


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