The Presa Canario dog, a fraud

Indeed, to say it this way may sound very strong to those who are not aware of what is happening today with the so-called Perro de Presa Canario.

In the Canary Islands, it was famous for being the dog of prey of the land. Their racial characteristics, today little known, their character, their strong temperament, their ability to fight, their endurance, made them very popular, and they were highly esteemed by the island peasants, and by butchers, who used them as an auxiliary in the slaughter of cattle, in the same way as was done in mainland Spain.

Let’s see what is read in the Agreement of the Cabildo of Tenerife dated February 5, 1516: “On the great damage that dogs do to livestock farmers, major and minor, and such dogs have them pegueros (those who manufactured the fish), almocrebes (muleteers), and other people of bad living, who take them with them to ride 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, on the third day, all those who have dogs should kill them, but that this ordinance should not be understood against butchers whose trade is to cut and weigh meat, that each one of them should 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 dogs left to kill the savages, it is allowed that these two dogs remain, because they are trained, as has been seen by experience in Adexe and Abona (South of Tenerife), where Pedro de Lugo, alderman, has them, as long as they do not come to the town”.

It is clear that the English were not the ones who introduced the dogs of prey in the Canary Islands, as someone claims, and I also believed it some time ago. English dogs were brought to the Canary Islands by tourists well into our century. It is possible that the first ones came with their owners in the last century (XIX) when they formed small stable colonies in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Tenerife, but there is no evidence that this was the case, and if they were brought, due to their small number, they did not affect the racial type of the island dogs, hence the Canarian farmers established, and still establish today, a boundary between the prey dogs of the land, the traditional ones, and the bulldogs, the bullmastiffs, the bullterriers, the mastiffs.

The Spanish dogs of prey of the time were very well known beyond our borders. Toro was one of the many bulldogs that the English imported to recover, or rebuild, and improve the Bulldog breed in 1873. This Spanish prey specimen weighed 41 kilograms, measured 56 centimeters at the withers and had a bardino coat. To think that we owe the dogs of prey to the English is a mistake due to a lack of information. I am very surprised that a veterinarian fond of dog breeds and literature, just a few weeks ago, came out with an article in which he repeats what I wrote many years ago, namely, that the Presa dogs and the fondness for fighting came to the Canary Islands from the English, heading the article with two photographs (of two dogs that have nothing to do with the Presas of the past, provided by the Club del Perro de Presa Canario). The female, bardina clara, if I am not mistaken, is the daughter of a half English Bulldog bitch, product of a cross made by me, and given by me at another time to Manuel Martín Bethencourt. The male, completely different (apparently), perhaps because in his genetic inheritance there are partly or totally different breeds, the male, on the other hand, is not related, from the point of view of the prototype, with the female, nor, of course, with the traditional Presa Canario breed -then I have been informed that both dogs are brothers, sons of Campeón de Irema Curtó, who in turn is son of Gruñón (purebred English Bulldog), and Guama de Irema Curtó; Campeón is litter brother to Irema Curtó’s Teguise. With the political and economic fragmentation of Spain (the Spain of the autonomous regions) there has arisen, as if by spontaneous generation, an imperious desire to defend everything that is indigenous, a very understandable and healthy sentiment, because who does not love what is their own, what is closest to them? Of course, in some cases it is done with true knowledge of the facts and in others it is not. And because the easiest, most comfortable and perhaps most profitable thing to do is to talk by ear, so there goes year after year that which the English brought to the islands with their dogs of prey and the love of fights.

There have been those who have written that the Presa dogs, the Majorero cattle dogs and the Canarian Podencos are descended from pre-Hispanic dogs, and have had the audacity, or cheek, to present themselves at a symposium on Spanish dog breeds (the one held in Cordoba in 1982) to expose and defend such a thesis (a good contribution to go down in history).

So, as it was to be expected, with the fashion of the autonomous regions, the interest in the native dogs was born, or reborn. And, as the prey dog of the land was practically expiring (as a breed), there arose the need to recover it at any cost, and, as is natural in these cases, an attempt was made to rebuild rather than recover it. And, as is natural in these cases, an attempt was made to rebuild, more than to recover. How? Well, by using other related breeds (?), or more related to the Perro de Presa Canario. But how was it done, or is it being done? Well, in the worst of ways and with economic interests involved. And these interests come before, of course, the good of the breed that is intended, in theory, to recover, or to rebuild. And how is this? Well, let’s say it clearly and bluntly, so that we all know and understand. Some apparently well-intentioned people arrive, and they say to each other, we are going to work for the breed joining our efforts and knowledge (?), and so that there are no doubts about our good intentions, the first step to take will be the creation of the Spanish Club of the Perro de Presa Canario. And the desired club is founded. Then come the members, and then the really important thing: the official dog shows (all this is forged in Tenerife, more concretely in La Laguna, Ciudad del Adelantado, to make matters worse). But there are no Canary Island Presa dogs. There are, yes, some dogs that are the product of various crosses carried out without any knowledge or qualified quality control. Several breeds enter to conform that which will not become more than a jumbled (from the genetic point of view) drawer of tailor, in which all will put hand according to their preferences. But that is not the worst thing. The worst thing is that they all (suddenly) realize that they (all) come from, or descend from, a family of dogfighters, in whose homes there was a historical champion of fights. And they discuss, and plan, and predict a happy future for the Perro de Presa Canario, which will be talked about all over the world. And they drink whiskey, who knows if to celebrate a priori. And all of them, or a good majority, think only of the extra money they are going to earn with the sale of the litters of those dogs that they call, and advertise in a thousand ways (the more they attract attention the better), canary Presa dogs, sometimes adding, in parenthesis, to make people understand better, “berdinos”, when berdino does not mean breed but color, a word that derives from bardino, an old Castilian word, which means spotted dog or cattle, a mixture of black and white hair (see Critical Etymological Spanish and Hispanic dictionary, by J. Corominas and J.A. Corominas). Corominas and J.A. Pascual).

And since most of the citizens are not very knowledgeable about Canary Island dog breeds, be they native or not, in spite of the many experts on the Presa Canario breed (?), they bite, seduced by the advertisements that appear in the newspapers, and they buy. And the most regrettable thing is that with the foundation of the Club de la Raza all this fraudulent activity has been legalized. And even more regrettable is that the Spanish Central Canine Society, through “its competent judges” (who judge the breed), although they do not judge, because they are not yet recognized, due to lack of knowledge and information on the matter, they also endorse, in a way, all this trade, all this plot. Without going any further, I can affirm that a prominent member of the club that interests us, or the club through that person (who is not known) a few weeks ago bought, with the purpose of crossing, a Bullmastiff bitch in Las Palmas; and that another (prominent) member of the same club obtained the product (a litter) of a Bullmastiff crossbreed in second generation a few months ago. Is this objectionable? No, of course not. Everyone can cross with whatever they want. What cannot be done is to belong to the Club del Perro de Presa Canario and talk, from the outside, about their famous and traditional Canary Island Presa dogs when the only thing they have is some first or second generation crossbred products, which are also sold (sold) at a good price, to people who take advantage of the credibility that the aforementioned club deserves (because it is officially recognized). Thus we can see canine individuals, supposedly of breed, with a twenty-five percent of English Bulldog, another twenty-five percent of German Dogo, another twenty-five percent of Boxer, and the rest, most of the time, nobody knows what. Other canine individuals (of prey) on the other hand are the product of crossbreeding with German Dogo, Bullmastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, and who knows what.

Do you understand me, reader? And we will not go on, because this would be endless.

So what is the right thing to do, forget about “race”? No, never. To forget the Perro de Presa Canario would be to abandon a beautiful project, yes, because the truth is that at this moment the Perro de Presa Canario is only a project in the process of gestation, just as other breeds were in other places in the past. So, if you have to cross, you cross, and you breed, and you select. But be careful, lest ignorance, the desire to appear and the desire to make money at the expense of the still non-existent Perro de Presa Canario.

It is necessary to work on the breed, it is necessary to fix in it, so that it can be considered a breed, some genetic characteristics that define it. If there is no genetic constant, there is no race. Achieving the racial type, in the case at hand, will not be easy. It is not possible to work with such a diversity of crossings at the same time. Nor can we recreate a different bird of prey dog on each island, and never a different bird of prey dog from the traditional one.

The Club Español del Perro de Presa Canario sounds very nice, it’s all very well, but does it correspond to reality? Children, because they are children, tend to engage in games at every instant, and they also abandon them at once, without worrying about them anymore. Can we adults proceed in the same way?

Published by the author in El Día on March 24, 1985.

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