Dogs in the agreements of the councils and ordinances of Tenerife and Betancuria.

From the Agreements of the Cabildo of Betancuria (Fuerteventura), from the Agreements of the Cabildo of Tenerife, and from the Ordinances of Tenerife, we know that the Europeans – the Canary Islands at that time were already part of the Spanish political map – settled in the Canary Islands had dogs of different breeds that fulfilled different functions. There is an Agreement of September 1501 of the Cabildo of Tenerife that says, “That if there is a herd of pigs that one of the big ones may have, and if he does any damage to another’s herd, he should pay for it or have it muzzled, and also that two of the big dogs, one belonging to Cristóbal de Valdespino and the other to Fernando de Llerena, should be tied or muzzled, and if they do not do so and comply, they can kill them”. These large dogs could very well be ancestors of today’s Spanish Mastiff. In another Agreement dated October 23, 1506 we read, “And then Guillén Castellano said that he has already said many times that a remedy should be put in place for the dogs, which cause great damage to the livestock of this island (Tenerife), and that this same thing he now says should be done and remedied, since they, as people who love the service of their Highnesses and the good and common good of the island, should put it in place. And then all the said lords ordered and said that they considered the ordinances of the dogs as good, because of the great harm derived from them. And for more they take them to due execution, they ordered that it be publicly announced and that all the neighbors and residents and inhabitants of this island and any other person, bring any dog each one that has, bring it and present it before Guillén Castellano, alderman, and Alonso de las Hijas, faithful executor, who are the chosen ones for it, but that they do what they see that is justice and benefit of the island, because this way it is ordered and entrusted by the Justice and Regiment. And that they bring and present them within twenty days after this ordinance is proclaimed in this town (San Cristobal de la Laguna). And the person who does not bring them will incur a penalty of six hundred maravedies. And then they ordered that any person who kills a wild dog (cimarrón) shall be paid a double of gold, the said deputies having first ascertained that it is a wild dog”. And on October 15, 1507, “Guillén Castellano said that since he was in charge of killing dogs on this island together with Alonso de las Hijas and that the aldermen did not want to kill their dogs, he renounced his charge”. Another dated October 27, 1514 states, “On the damage done by dogs it was agreed that two men be caught who kill all the dogs according to ordinance.” And on September 3, 1515 “It was agreed that since the ordinances of the dogs are somewhat harsh, that no person should have dogs except in his house or estate and keep them on a leash all day, that no person should have dogs except in his house or estate and that he should keep them tied up all day long, and that pig herders may have a dog in each herd, provided that it is not a dog of prey and that it is always muzzled, and that sheep and goat herders may have a gozque” (I do not know if this gozque is the one that the natives raised and called cancha or if it was a type of small dog brought from Spain by the colonists, which they called, and still call, carea). Yet another Agreement, dated February 5, 1516, which reads as follows: “On the great damage that dogs do to livestock, major and minor, and such dogs are kept by pegueros (those who make fish), almocrebes (muleteers), and other people of bad living, who take them with them to the countryside to hunt and take what belongs to others and others who were not in the hands of their owners and others who became wild, so that they were worse than wolves, For which reason they ordered that, in three days, all those who have dogs kill them, but that this ordinance not be understood against the butchers whose trade is to cut and weigh meat, that each one of them have two dogs for the service of the butchers, keeping them tied up night and day and only untie them to catch the cattle. Also, because there are two dogs on this island that kill wild dogs (cimarrones), because there are dogs left to kill the wild dogs, it is permitted that these two dogs remain, because they are trained, as has been seen by experience in Adexe and Abona, where Pedro de Lugo, regidor, has them, as long as they do not come to the town. Likewise, it is allowed that there be gozque of a span in height, in view of the gentlemen Castellano and Llerena. And they revoked the previous ordinances on the dogs”.

In another ordinance dated April 9, 1518, we read, “Regarding the wild dogs, to remedy the damage, there is at present a good device, which is that there is a man here who has certain dogs with which he has killed many of the wild dogs, of which he made a sample of the skins of the heads in cabildo, for whose good work and profit it was just that he be paid and from now on be charged and a distribution be made among the breeders (of cattle) and Valdes and Las Hijas are charged to ask for a writ of justice to do so, and if not they give their orders and he be paid what is ordered by the cabildo”. Of the same tenor is the one dated February 20, 1523 that reads as follows: “That the ordinance of the dogs be proclaimed because they are harmful and kill the livestock. Valdés said that dogs should not be killed except for the harmful ones. That the ordinance is still to be proclaimed and kept and that Castellano and Gallinato are charged to point out the dogs that they see fit, to kill wild dogs”.

Ordinances relating to hunting and hunters were also issued. In Las Ordenanzas de Tenerife, by Don José Peraza de Ayala, Title XVII, Pág. 185, it says “That all have their dogs safely tied up, or with scribbles so that they do not go to the vineyards and grapevines to eat the grapes, under penalty that for the first time the owner pays two hundred maravedís, plus the damage to the injured party, and for the second time he can kill the dogs, taking them inside his vineyards, although there has been no sentence on the first time, and that it is enough to be the dogs that enter the second time of the owner that the first time, although they are not the same to be able to kill them”. On July 29, 1639, “the Justice and Regiment, before Agustín de Mesa scribe of the Council, ordered that they put doodles on the dogs, and collect the chickens, so that they do not harm the vineyards, under penalty of the royal ordinances, and license is given to the lords of them to put traps with poisoned raw meat, under the said penalties”. In Title XIX we read, “Menester is also to provide for the hunters and hunting of this island, so that in everything there may be order, so that neither the republic nor individuals may be harmed, therefore we order that because the partridges have not been in this island for a short time, and if the hunting of them were allowed in a short time, since they are few, there would be none left, no person should dare to hunt them in any way, nor kill them until something else is provided for by the Justice and Regiment, under penalty of six hundred maravedís for each partridge taken and killed”. And it continues, “Likewise, that hunters who go hunting rabbits with dogs take them to a safe place, so that they do not harm the livestock or bite, or kill any of them, or have harmful dogs, or prey dogs, under penalty of five hundred maravedís, and that they pay the injured party with the double, and kill the dog or dogs, and it is enough as proof to have seen them hunting in that part at the time that the damage was done, so that they are condemned, although it is not proven that they were the ones who did it, this to pay the damage without penalty or double, but when it is truly proven, they pay the one and under the said penalty and that in the part of Abona, and Adexe, no one can have female dogs under the said penalty”.

In an Agreement of Betancuria (Fuerteventura) dated October 21, 1624 we read: << The goats and sheep suffer great damage from dogs, so it is agreed that all people, in eight days, kill those that pass one per neighbor, to be custody of his house. And this is understood with respect to hunting and prey dogs. Once the eight days have passed, those who have not complied with the agreement shall be visited and whoever is found not to have killed the dogs shall be punished”. Another Agreement dated September 22, 1626 states: “The Cabildo ordered that the neighbors should not have more than one dog, and that it should be for hunting and not for livestock, because of the damage they cause to the breeders (of livestock), it is now ordered that whoever has a livestock dog should kill it within three days, and be sentenced to four ducats and twenty days imprisonment”. Another one, dated August 16, 1627, which states: “Due to the great damage that dogs do to livestock and for not having killed them in spite of the ordinances that have been issued, they ordered that within six days they do so, penalty of four ducats”. And another one, dated August 16, 1630: “Because of the damage they cause, they ordered that no neighbor have more than one hunting dog, with chain; and all the others kill them, penalty of six hundred maravedís and ten days in prison. In order to have a hunting dog, he must declare it to the Justice”. And so we arrive at the month of January 1645, “where we see a letter from the Personero General, Sebastián de Betancor, requesting that the dogs on the island be killed because of the great damage they cause, to which it is agreed that on Sunday the 22nd of this month it will be published that all the neighbors, residents and inhabitants, kill the dogs they have, except one, which remains to guard their houses, keeping it tied up if it is for prey or livestock, complying within eight days, under penalty of six hundred maravedís (six hundred maravedís)”.

Cattle and prey dogs are constantly repeated in the Agreements and in the Ordinances, an evident symptom that they were the most numerous, or the most feared, for their misdeeds with livestock. Fuerteventura cattle dogs are some of the best dogs for the custody of livestock if they have been raised with them and have been properly trained, otherwise, and if hunger strikes them, they have been and are feared by all livestock breeders. And we imagine what would be the behavior of those fearsome dogs of prey, of Spanish origin, living on the islands loose and hungry.

From Fuerteventura is the following Agreement, dated October 14, 1682, Villa de Betancuria, and it reads as follows: “Increasing the damage that dogs do to livestock, and there are houses in which if the father has six children each one wants to have a dog, they ordered that each neighbor not have more than one dog, using chain, and killing the others”. The years passed – more than half a century – and on March 13, 1737, it was agreed, in Villa de Betancuria, that “Having embarked strangers from other islands and left in the ports one or two dogs each, which cause damage to livestock, the commissioners are ordered to kill them and prohibit anyone who is not a breeder (farmer) or farmer, to have any dog”.

To sum up and to finish, it is clear that the Presa dogs, the cattle dogs, and the podencos, as well as the perdigueros and the mastiffs were brought to the Canary Islands by the conquistadors from Spain.

Manuel Curtó Gracia

Manuel Curtó Gracia

Propietario del criadero de Presas Canarios "Irema Curtó" desde 1975. Además de ser el criador de esta raza más antiguo del mundo, y de que sus perros sean la base de gran parte de las líneas de Presa Canario, también es autor del libro "El perro de Presa Canario ,su verdadero origen", del libro "El Presa", colaborador en periódicos, revistas especializadas, documentales, debates, programas de radio, televisión, etc.

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Manuel Curtó Gracia

Manuel Curtó Gracia

Propietario del criadero de Presas Canarios "Irema Curtó" desde 1975. Además de ser el criador de esta raza más antiguo del mundo, y de que sus perros sean la base de gran parte de las líneas de Presa Canario, también es autor del libro "El perro de Presa Canario ,su verdadero origen", del libro "El Presa", colaborador en periódicos, revistas especializadas, documentales, debates, programas de radio, televisión, etc.

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