Interview with Francisco Saavedra Bolaños

I went to visit Don Pancho Saavedra Bolaños hand in hand with my dear friend Clemente Reyes Santana, who like Don Pancho is from Gáldar, and carries in his blood the love for Canary Island bird dogs. It was a Sunday, shortly after a somewhat late breakfast.

Don Pancho is a banana farmer. His entire family lives from banana cultivation. On the coast of Gáldar there is no tourism but banana plantations. And they are worried, the farmers, because, they say, the sector is in crisis, but they continue to grow bananas.

“And if not, what do we live on?” they say. There is also some avocado in the area. As we walked towards Don Pancho’s house, Clemente Reyes told me that the man is in delicate health, that seventy-five years are no joke, and that he still has the same passion for dogs of prey as always, and that he is one of the Canarian men who can talk to me the most about dogs and fights.

When we arrived at his house, don Pancho was doing something inside and his wife told us to wait a moment, she would be right back. And sure enough, a couple of minutes later Don Pancho was with us, cordial and pleasant, talking about the past and the present.

Don Pancho Saavedra is moderately tall, robust, has a clean and frank look, and white hair.

Don Pancho is very polite and measured, his hands are clean, his fingernails are transparent, which is rare among men who work in the fields. In a way Don Pancho doesn’t look like a farmer, but he is. One realizes this in conversation.

Among other things, the older man differs from the younger man because he has history. The older man can tell many things about his life. Don Pancho can tell a lot because he has lived a lot, and it shows. Too often we listen to books, which more often than not have been written by young men who tell us about things they have learned in books and very little about life. Don Pancho Saavedra tells us what he has lived, not what he has read. And so that things would not get a little scattered, I felt the need to focus the conversation to stick, as far as possible, to the questionnaire of questions that I had prepared in the tranquility of my house in the countryside of La Esperanza (Tenerife).

-Do you remember the first bird dog fight you ever witnessed in your life?

-Yes, the Muchacho, in a brown coat, with the black dog called Negro. I was 14 years old. El Negro was a law dog.

-What year was it?

-In the year 1928.

-What were those dogs like?

-They were not the old canary prey dogs.

-What were your best dogs of prey?

Nero was the strongest. He was the son of a white bitch brought from Cuba, who did not know anyone because she was so brave. El Bicho, who was a dog of the land and was not afraid of anything, and had to be always muzzled. This dog had no name, there was no dog that could stand anything. He obeyed no one. His tail was curled, and he would weigh thirty-five kilos.

-Do you remember the most famous dogs from the time of the fights, up to the time of their prohibition, and after?

-Yes, Pancho, from Pepito Ojeda. It was a large brown dog, and the Moro, owned by Juan Rodríguez, was a gray dog with a split tail. These are the most named that I have seen. El Boy, of Ramón el de Bañaderos, el Turco, brother of El Boy, of bardino coat, el Marruecos, bardino en canelo. Another great dog was that of Eusebio González Padrón, with bardino coat.

-Who organized the fights, and for what reasons?

-No fights were organized. You had one dog, I had another, and when we wanted to fight.

-Did fight fans bet money?

-No money was wagered. We were going to see which one was the best. That was all.

-What crosses with foreign breeds were made in those years?

-Bullterrier, Bulldog, Great Dane. But it did not work.

-For what reasons were they crossing?

-To achieve a more beautiful breed with more prey.

-Do you remember the last typical Canary Island bird of prey dog? Please describe it to me.

-The prey of the earth was large, with many bembas (belfos), with a big head and a big chest. He had so many bembas that they said they cut them off to be able to fight them. I was four, or five, when I saw two. They said they were the ones from the real land. They were male and female, and they were siblings. They were held by Marcos Mendoza and Antonio Enriquez.

-Who used to go to dog fights in the good old days?

-All the people who knew about it. There were a lot of fans.

-Tell me, what was the difference between a dog of prey from the Canary Islands and a dog of the land in those years?

He was a big-headed, not very tall, broad-chested dog of prey. And the one on the ground was similar to a majorero dog, but perhaps larger. It was the dog used for livestock.

-What do you think of the dogs of prey that are being bred nowadays?

-A piece of crap. There is not a single dog, or very few, that I like. Many are not even good enough to be with one. They have no heart. They are not complete dogs. There is no uniformity.

-Do they look like the ones you lived through in the past?

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-No, not one. There may be one, there may be a nice dog, but if it has no heart, what good is it?

-What is your opinion on dog fighting today?

-Man, they don’t look anything like the ones from before. Today’s fighters are very fine. And I don’t want to know about boquino (prognathous) dogs.

-I would like you to tell me about the most famous dog fighters of your time.

-There were no dogfighters in those years. There were people who had a dog that fought with a dog owned by another man. Maestro Eugenio was one of them, Eusebio González Padrón, el Pollo de Guía, Manuel, Sendo, Juan Pedro, Patarrasa, Juan Aguilera, Juan Barrera, Paco Jardinero, Juan Martín, and others.

-What did they live on?

-From farm work.

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.

Sitio web