In the Canary Islands, the dogs of prey were called, and always have been called, dogs of prey, just like that. The bardino, or berdino (north of Tenerife) because of the coat, or mantle, and then, out of ignorance, it has been given a breed meaning. Of course, no one should ever think of calling him a canary bardino. But yes, someone who was not very well versed in the Canarian canine subject came up with the idea, and it was referring to the Perro de Ganado Majorero (Majorero Cattle Dog). Then we wrote to Madrid, to the Comisión de Razas Caninas Españolas, of the Central Canina Española, and we told them that no, gentlemen, that this is a mistake, that there is no breed of dog here that is called that way, in any case bardino majorero. And then, with time, one discovered that in Fuerteventura this dog is called Perro de Ganado, as in the Agreements of the Cabildo of Fuerteventura, as in the Agreements of the Cabildo of Tenerife, as in the Ordinances of Tenerife several centuries ago. No coarse dog, no bardino dog. It is called, yes, bardino to the cattle dog with bardino coat. In Fuerteventura the old farmer knows very well that bardino means a certain color of dog, or other animal, a certain coat.
At the present time (1989) there are three characteristic coats in the Majorero cattle dogs: bardino, black (with bardino legs) and sandy gray. It is clearly false that black Majorero cattle dogs are the product of crosses between Majorero cattle dogs and black German Shepherds of the Spanish Legion. The Spanish Legion settled on the island a few years ago. Black majorero cattle dogs have been bred and used for livestock and guarding by the majorero man “since always”, so I have been told in Fuerteventura. And the sandy gray mantle is as old as the breed is in Fuerteventura. And whites with bardino spots, bardinos with white spots, grays with white spots, fawns with white spots. There are still some specimens of sandy gray color -few, that’s the truth-. What happens is that this breed of dog is on the verge of extinction. Some say that there are still many of these dogs on Fuerteventura. Yes, there are still many, or some of those dogs with bardino coat, product of various crosses, dogs without breed, without any attraction, that nobody with a minimum knowledge of what a canine breed is and a minimum sense of aesthetics is interested in. A few years ago, members of the now extinct Solidaridad Canaria took to heart the idea of recovering “the Fuerteventura bardino dog”, because, according to them, it descended from the dogs of the aborigines of that island. And without being very clear about the canine issue they were getting into, they ended up believing they knew more about these dogs than the islanders themselves. Today there is no trace of that recovery adventure, perhaps to the good fortune of the race we are dealing with.
At the moment, majorero cattle dogs with bardino mantle predominate, followed by those with black mantle and bardino legs, and the grey ones must be searched with a magnifying glass all over Fuerteventura. This is so true that some of those who pretend to be connoisseurs of Canary breeds, when they see one of these dogs with a sandy gray or wolfish coat, say, sardonically, that they are the product of crosses with German Shepherds.
Don Luis Diego Cuscoy told me, when he was director of the Archaeological Museum of Tenerife, three or four years before he died, that a certain lady, or lady from Gran Canaria, surnamed Suárez Randall, member, apparently, of Solidaridad Canaria, had gone to visit him to convince him that the Majorero cattle dogs were descended from those of the aboriginal Majoreros, and that the latter used them against the Franco-Spanish conquerors who arrived on their coasts. Don Luis Diego Cuscoy (as he told me) replied that he was not a specialist in dogs, but that he could talk to him about something, and that was that in Fuerteventura no remains of dogs prior to the conquest had been found, which had been found in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, some bones of small dogs that clearly corresponded to those mentioned by Alonso de Espinosa in his Historia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria (Tenerife), and those described by Bontier and Le Berrier in Le Canarien (referring to Gran Canaria).
And then there are the dogs of prey. These were also called earth hounds, and coarse dog, and curb, when they were English Bulldog crosses. But of course, a land dog is any dog that is from the place where it is raised and used for livestock, for guarding, for whatever.
The dogs of prey that were bred in the Canary Islands were never called canaries (in the Canary Islands), as if they were a Canary breed. In the Agreements of the Councils of Tenerife and Fuerteventura, and in the Ordinances of Tenerife, there is talk of prey dogs and cattle dogs. Then time goes by and we hardly find any written references to dogs in the Canary Islands. And we enter the 20th century and nobody knows anything about canary dogs. José Gibert Buch, in his book “Hunting Dogs in Spain” describes the dog “Barcino”, as he calls it, a fighting dog from the Canary Islands that excels in ferocity and courage, which has recently been included in the “rehalas monteras”, he writes in 1975. As he says, he enters where the other dogs do not dare to do so and charges at any pig, even if it is twice his size. Like the mastiff, it is considered a tooth dog. Because of its appearance -half height and a half-haired roan coat- it does not look strong, nor fierce, nor attacking, but rather like any other livestock guardian dog”.
It is clear that Dr. Gibert Buch is referring to the Perro de Ganado Majorero, but he does not know everything about it, although he describes it fairly. There are a few other references to dogs that are bred in the Canary Islands, but these are loose references that do not tell us anything, and of course at no time do they refer to a certain type of dog of prey that responds to a racial group called Canary. It is from my articles that people start to talk about the Perro de Presa Canario as if it were a canine racial group. And it is not my merit, by the way, because I simply limited myself, at the time, and I have continued to do so, influenced by modern cynology, to catalog a certain type of dog of prey that was bred in the Canary Islands with the denomination of canary, understanding it (or presenting it) as a breed. Whether it was or not is another story. For me the really important thing was to spread the idea of breed, so that the hobby, little or much, would become aware and start thinking about these dogs in terms of breed if it was to become a reality in the future. And to a large extent that end has been achieved. I don’t mean the dog, from which we are still a long way off. For me, the Perro de Presa Canario is still a project in the process of gestation, no matter how much certain people insist on proving the unprovable, and that is that they have in their hands, or in their kennels, the Perro de Presa Canario as a differentiated racial group with a perfectly fixed genetic constant. We started with good ideas, with good projects, but then things got so twisted, with the indiscriminate crossings and recrossings, that it will be difficult for us to bring the project we proposed to a successful conclusion.
Thus, the idea of a breed with respect to the prey dogs that were bred in the Canary Islands was served, and has been assumed, in spite of the fact that there are still enthusiasts who speak of bardinos, or berdinos, to refer to both the prey dogs and the Majorero cattle dogs. The difficult thing, of course, is to get the personnel to agree, because of stubbornness, economic interest, or the desire to appear, it is difficult to bring them together, or to get them to meet, at a round table, to start working in earnest. Will that time come?
Published by the author in El Día on January 15, 1989.