Presa dogs were brought to the Canary Islands, as well as cattle dogs, podencos, perdigueros, and others, by the Spanish conquerors and settlers (from Spain). There are ample references in the Ordinances of Tenerife, in the agreements of the councils of Tenerife and Fuerteventura. These dogs, already in the Canary Islands, were used for herding, for guarding, and for holding in the slaughter of cattle, and, of course, they were thrown into a fight every time their owners wanted to test their courage. And of course it is complete stupidity to think of organized fights in the Canary archipelago. In other words, the Perro de Presa Canario performed the same functions hundreds of years ago in other latitudes as its ancestors. Then came the decadence and almost total extinction -at this moment (1991) we can speak of its total extinction-. Twelve or thirteen years ago, the love for these dogs was reborn, but this new love obeys to other interests, and it is developed, more than in rural areas, in urban areas. There is a growing awareness that little by little is becoming generalized and that has resulted in what we can call, the new fondness for the Perro de Presa Canario, a canine breed that must be rebuilt, and how? This is what many of us fans are involved in. Canine connoisseurs know that rebuilding a dog breed, with its consequent genetic fixation, is not an easy task, nor is it a two-day thing.
In previous works I have explained which foreign dog breeds have been used for this purpose, with better or worse criteria. The results obtained to date have also been discussed. Now it is a question of putting a stop to certain crossbreeding (experiments) that go on uninterruptedly and that do not lead to anything positive. We have crossed, haven’t we, because there were no specimens of the old lineage, some of them essential crossings (others, several, dispensable, of course, and that only contribute to complicate the already difficult selection of the scent hound we are trying to outline). And the best way to stop these crossbreeds in their tracks (or at least leave them out of play) is to elaborate a draft breed standard. It is essential for us at this moment to have a racial prototype that fits the real Perro de Presa Canario, and this is the one that was famous for several centuries in the Canary Islands. I mean that if the Canary Presa Dogs do not tend to resemble the old Presa Dogs, we can speak of a new breed that has nothing to do with the former. We must give things their true name. The new Presa Canario dog has to resemble the original, otherwise we have failed, not me, but all breeders.
At the moment, there are few, very few, specimens that physically and psychically resemble the old prey dogs, but there are some. The ancient Perro de Presa Canario was a corpulent animal, broad, of medium height (between 58 and 65 centimeters at the withers), and tended to be longer than tall. Its head was voluminous, but not exaggerated, and the skull was equivalent, more or less, to two thirds of the total length of the head, one third corresponding to the nasal cavity. The Perro de Presa Canario was not flat and upturned (snub-nosed). The nasal-frontal depression not very pronounced, the frontal canal very evident, and the jaws very developed; the complete dentition (without lack of premolars), and without prognathism its neck must be very robust, and extraordinarily wide at the top, and the shoulders very powerful; the ribs broad, but not barrel-shaped, and deep; the belly tucked up; the loin, as in all gripping dogs, strong; the hindquarters muscular and powerful, an indispensable condition for a good drive, and not too angulated, and the hock close to the ground. On the other hand, the angulations of the forelimbs should be well pronounced. The Perro de Presa Canario was, and should be, slightly higher at the croup than at the withers, and when it evolves on the ground its head does not exceed the height of the withers. The root of the tail of this dog should be high, thick and fleshy in the first third, then tapering progressively to the tip. At rest it should not exceed the hock, and when the dog is in action the natural carriage is high, in the form of a scimitar.
As for the coat, we can say that there were black, bardino, tawny, white-spotted (calzados, bragados, with a white list on the head; there is no one who can refute this fact. Thus, the new prey need not necessarily be different; then, to each his own preferences. Whoever wants bardinos should breed them bardinos, and whoever wants blacks should breed them black, and so on with the rest of the mantles, but no one should impose their tastes on the rest of the breeders. And the skin must be thick and loose, so that when we pull on it, it comes off the body easily, and can form folds in the shoulders if the animal raises its head above the height of the withers. The Perro de Presa Canario has a double dewlap, or dewlap split in two, starting from both jaws, and the flews should be slightly drooping.
Very important in the Presa canario is the weight. My opinion is that the male should weigh forty-eight to fifty-five kilograms, and the female five to seven kilograms less. Evidently, most of the dams of our days do not exceed thirty-five/forty kilograms. The explanation for this reality is due to the fact that, for the reconstruction of the breed, dogs of low weight have often been used. I will not go into more detail about the breeds that have been used, it is not relevant now.
The psychic aspect of the Perro de Presa Canario is perhaps the most important, so that there is a correct correspondence with its physical power. It should be a serious animal, as if meditative, not very playful, not at all unruly, affectionate, somewhat independent, and with an almost human look. Those feline looks, distrustful, oblique, with small eyes, do not correspond to the true way of looking, of observing everything around, without moving, of the genuine Presa Canario. This is not a walking dog, he has a rather leisurely walk, he leans a lot on his front legs, and looks around, as if he were in a bad mood. He was always grumpy in front of strangers, human or canine. He is a very self-confident dog, with little barking, and when he barks he does it calmly, cavernous.
Today we see many canary dogs of prey that do not stop barking, with or without reason, unrestrained, and they do it in the form of squawks, not to mention the way they run, galloping as if they were hunting dogs. These were not and should not be the characteristics of the Perro de Presa Canario that the Spanish Canine Society should recognize.
The temperament of the Perro de Presa Canario should be that of a proud animal, self-possessed, difficult to bribe, if it has been raised away from the caresses of strangers since childhood. This dog has not feared and should not fear the stick, nor threats. On the contrary, he should be easily irritable if disturbed, or if you enter his territory.
Published by the author in El Día on October 25, 1987.