Demetrio Trujillo Rodríguez is usually found, without difficulty, at his home in El Barranquillo de don Zoilo, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Demetrio Trujillo is a short, slender man with neatly combed hair and a black mustache. Demetrio Trujillo has a somewhat distrustful look on his face, carrying a canary knife in a hard leather sheath on his side. But no one should be frightened by it, in Gran Canaria it is rare the peasant who does not wear it. Demetrio is fifty-eight years old and has been a farmer and goatherd. He is also half a dealer. He likes to buy goats, and sell them, when he feels like it. He always has very good goats in the back of his house. And he likes to show them off, as does his wife. And no wonder. Some people like to show off their car, or their villa, or whatever. Demetrio’s eyes light up when he shows the goats to the visitor, and the latter, who has had them too, and very good ones, really compliments them.
On the roof of the house Demetrio has the dogs of prey. Tinto, a black dog of prey, was tied to it for a long time. El Tinto has been undoubtedly the best fighter in recent years.
I explain to Demetrio Trujillo the reason for our visit. He smiles at us, my son José and me, and invites us into the living room, and invites us to have a drink, and we have a beer while we talk.
Demetrio complains about the lack of unity among dam farmers in both provinces. He talks to me about Tinto, Tie, Morocco. Demetrio talks about dogs, not breeds. The tie and the Morocco (mother and son) were nothing like the Tinto, but for him that was the least of it. What is really important is that a dog is a good dog, “do you understand?”, that. When one speaks of breed Demetrio speaks of breed, otherwise he speaks of dogs. This behavior is very common among the prey and fighting enthusiasts in Gran Canaria, perhaps because in this province no one has taken care to spread the idea of breed, or hardly at all.
We can speak of the Perro de Presa Canario in terms of breed if there is racial uniformity among the canine population of presa existing in the Canary Islands. If this racial uniformity does not exist, and there is no tendency to make it exist, we will not be able to talk about the Presa Canario, and therefore there will be no possibility of continuity. When you have achieved what we call race, it is easy to carry it forward. On the other hand, when what we have is an endless number of completely heterogeneous dogs of prey, as a consequence of multiple crossbreeding, and the idea of breed, which must be carried forward through uninterrupted breeding and selection, and the inevitable process of homogenization, is conspicuous by its absence among breeders, we are lost. I tell this to Demetrio, and he says I am absolutely right. Then I take out the questionnaire from my folder and we focus on it.
-Do you remember the first Presa Canario dog fight you ever witnessed in your life?
-I was eight years old.
-What year was it?
In nineteen hundred and thirty-six.
-What were those dogs like?
They were short, wide, big-headed dogs.
-What were your best dogs of prey?
El Ligero, who was a tawny dog, Corbato, with a brown coat, Palomo, who was totally white, Palgrante, who was white and cinnamon, Asesino, who was black, and Norforte, with a brown coat. And of the current ones, the Tinto, totally black, the Sultán, also black, and the Guanche, with a bardino mantle.
-Do you remember the most named dogs from the time of the fights, up to the time of their prohibition? And then?
-The most named was the Boy, of bardino mantle.
-Who organized the fights, and for what reasons?
-The owners themselves to test their dogs.
-Did fight fans bet money?
-They did not bet.
-What crosses with foreign breeds were made in those years?
-He used to be crossed with English Bulldogs, Bullterriers and Great Danes.
-For what reasons were they crossing?
-Because they gave more width, head and power.
-Do you remember the last typical Canary Island bird of prey dog?
-I don’t remember the canary hound. In those years they were all crusaders.
-Who used to go to dog fights in the good old days?
-Everybody. The fans were very big.
-Tell me, what was the difference between a dog of prey from the Canary Islands and a dog of the land in those years?
-I can’t tell you, because I didn’t know the real hounds here.
-What do you think of the dogs of prey that are being bred nowadays?
-They don’t look good to me at all, none of them.
-Do they look like the ones you lived through in the past?
-What is your opinion on dog fighting today?
-I don’t even go to see them, because there are no dogs to fight. It’s better to watch a stray dog fight than a dog fight.
-I would like to hear from you about the most famous dog fighters of your time.
-Pancho Saavedra, Sendo el de Guía, Salvadorito, Antonio el Moreno, Pepe el Francés, Juan Martín, Ramón Bolaños, Agustín el Bolo, and Paquito el Jardinero.
-What did they live on?
We were farm workers.