There are numerous books written by Historians concerning the development of the known Perro de Presa Canario (the “Canary Dog of Prey”). Documentation of the original, holding dogs date back to the XV and XVI centuries. Following the conquest of the Canary Islands it is theorized dogs of great size may have existed or were brought there by the Spanish Conquistadors or possibly both. What is known was the function for which these dogs were developed; guarding farms, struggling with cattle and the extermination of wild or stray dogs.
There are several theories regarding the genetic contributions to the creation of the Presa Canario. It is almost certain that the cattle dog, the Iberian Presa (Perro de Ganado Majorero) provided a start to the founding of the Canary Presa. The Ganado was a mastiff type of average size, rustic, intelligent with an intuitive instinct, a fearless guardian. Several other Hispanic breeds contributed to the Presas formation, especially the Presa Espanol in its large varieties and the bulldog varieties (Alano), known for its clutching instincts. In time the island dogs developed into a completely differentiated breed due to the influence of the Spanish breeds. Around the XVIII century, the English colonists, traders and merchants brought their Bandogges and Tiedogs – predecessors of the Bulldogs and Mastiffs – to the Canary Islands. Shortly thereafter, the English introduced their gladiator breeds (Bulldogs and Bull/Terriers) and began crossbreeding with the then existent “Perro de Presa” of the Canary Archipelago. To what degree did each of these introduced breeds contribute genetically to the overall development of the Presa Canario remains unanswerable.
The final ingredient that completes the foundation of the Presa Canario was the genetic infusion of the Bardino Majorero, a pre-Hispanic sheepdog originating on the Island of Fuerteventura. This dog was introduced for its intelligence, physical resistance, offering of excellent guardian instincts with little bark, extraordinary set of teeth and incorruptible courage. The combination of known holding dogs, holding dogs of the continent and the Bardino Majorero, started a new grouping of holding dogs. New to the traditional functions of guarding and catching livestock was added a new function, the fight.
In the 1940′s the prohibition of dog fighting was ordered throughout the islands, although clandestine fights were known to continue during the next decade. It was during this period the Presa Canario numbers truly faltered. The sovereignty of the island Presa worsened further with the introduction of the German shepherd, the Doberman pinscher, and the Great Dane. The island dog fancier’s interest now focused on these new breeds, almost causing the demise of the Presa Canario breed. During this darkened period the Presa was relegated in small numbers to farmers and herdsmen as their primary guard dog.
Reconstruction of the nearly extinct Presa Canario began in earnest back in the early 1970′s. Reputable breeders bred strong Presas that were rustic, massive, vigorous, and functional, who had acute watchdog instincts, a strong temperament, calm yet confident and were extremely territorial with unlimited courage. This dog when defending what he considers his would withstand the harshest of punishments without surrendering his position.
Full recovery of the Presa Canario heritage started in the year 1982, when a group of breeders from the island of Tenerife formed an association with the goal to propagate the resurgence of the Presa Canario as started in the previous decades. The Club Espanol de Presa Canario ( CEPRC ) was formed incorporating breeders from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Palma. In January 1983, the club was recognized by the REAL CANINE SOCIETY CENTRAL of SPAIN (RSCFRCE). This club’s efforts and successes were duly instrumental in bringing forth the many new “Champions of Breed” as judged at the ongoing annual Monographic events, held in the islands and mainland. And now, a renewed interest in the breed has extended into the European continent and the Americas.
The Perro de Presa Canario is a large Molosser-type dog breed originally bred for working livestock. The name of the breed is Spanish, means “Canarian catch dog,” and is often shortened to “Presa Canario” or simply “Presa.” The breed is also called Dogo Canario, meaning Canarian Molosser.
First introduced to the world outside of Spain’s Canary Islands by the American Anthropologist Dr. Carl Semencic in an article for Dogworld Magazine and in his books on the subject of rare breeds of dogs, the Presa Canario or “Canary Dog” is a large sized dog with a thick and muscular body. The head is broad, massive, square, and powerful. Proper head and good expression are part of the breed standard, and are manifest in the best breed specimens. The ears are normally cropped, both to create a more formidable expression and to prevent damage while working with cattle. If cropped the ears stand erect. In countries where ear cropping is banned the ears are close fitting to the head, they hang down and should be pendant or “rose” shaped. The lips are thick and hang in an inverted V where they join; the flews may be slightly loose. The interior lips are dark.
Males average between 23 to 26 inches (58 to 66 cm) at the withers with a minimum weight of 100 pounds (45 kg). Females average between 22 to 25 inches (56 to 63 cm) at the withers with a minimum weight of 85 pounds (39 kg). Very high weights could lead to a number of health problems. Too much weight is also known to compromise the dog’s athleticism and working ability.
The breed is also characterized by a sloping topline (with the rear being slightly higher than the shoulders). Another characteristic of the breed is the shape of the paws (cat foot) and the catlike movement of the animal. The body is mesomorphic, that is, slightly longer than the dog is tall, contributing to the feline movement. The Presa should be powerful, balanced, and imposing in appearance. It is heavily built, but able to move with great athleticism.