Where Did the Presa Canario Come From?

At Cabeza Grande Kennel, we are quite fond of the presa canario, and enjoy training and loving these dogs every day. But what exactly is the history of the presa canario, and where did the breed come from?

Here’s a brief overview of the history of this breed of dog.

The background

It is believed that after the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands, Spanish conquistadors either brought large dogs there, or discovered them already living on the islands—or possibly both. Whatever the case, these dogs soon began to be domesticated and raised specifically for the purpose of guarding farms on the islands, hunting stray dogs and handling cattle.

Obviously, the presa canario as it exists now has seen some genetic evolution over the years. There are theories that the Iberian presa provided the genetic foundation for the presa canario. This was a type of mastiff not quite as large as other mastiffs, one that was known for being a fearless and loyal guardian and highly intelligent and intuitive. There are also traces of other Hispanic breeds in the presa, including the various bulldog varieties.

Over the course of time, all of these genetic components developed the dog into a substantially unique breed that was heavily influenced by those Spanish breeds. The other breeds that influenced the dog’s development and evolution likely arrived during the 18th century, when English colonists and traders brought their tiedogs and bandogs to the islands, and later their bulldogs and terriers. It’s hard to know for sure the extent to which these breeds that were introduced to the islands contributed to the development of the presa canario, but their influence is clear.

The bardino majorero, a pre-Hispanic sheepdog that comes from the island of Fuerteventura, also had a genetic influence on the presa canario. This dog was renowned for its intelligence and physicality, and provided the presa with some of its unique guardian instincts.

For some time, presa canario numbers boomed while dogfighting became a popular sport. But when it was outlawed in the 1940s, presa canario numbers started to dwindle. Once the German shepherd, Doberman pinscher and great Dane were introduced to the island, the presa’s popularity took an even greater hit as people focused on these brand-new breeds. At this point, the presa was generally relegated to being a farm dog.

By the 1970s, there was a focused reintroduction of the presa canario, which by that time had nearly gone extinct. Thanks to the help of reputable and conscientious breeders, the breed came back in a big way. The breed’s calm confidence, strong temperament and outstanding instincts once again made them dogs that attracted a lot of attention. By 1983, there were organized clubs surrounding the presa canario that were working to ensure the breed’s long-term viability.

For more information about the history of the presa canario and some of the dog’s genetic features and markings, we encourage you to contact Cabeza Grande Kennel today. We’d love to tell you more about our favorite dogs!

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