It is a reality. There are references to dogs of prey, in the Canary Islands, dating back to the XVI century. And it is entirely possible (I dare say certain) that these dogs have been on these islands since much earlier, from the earliest times of conquest and colonization. And presumably they were maintained, due to the relative isolation of these islands, with an indisputably high rate of racial purity. But were canary dogs of those past centuries a breed? To tell the truth no one knows, but it is to be assumed that the canine prey population was indeed composed of individuals with similar characteristics (from their origin) in terms of phenotype and genotype. We know of specimens supposedly descended from those ancient prey, but nothing is clear.
There are several photographs, from this century, and some, very few, from the end of the last century. Photographs of prey type dogs, most of them the product of late crossbreeding, no doubt. There are dogs of prey of bardino mantle, white mantle, fawn mantle, and there are spotted, and black. And some are distinguished by their physical appearance (which gives them away). For example, the Quebrao, which belonged to Don Polo Acosta (Tenerife) in his younger years. El Quebrao was a completely white dog, with a hollow head, son of a Bullterrier and a land bitch -according to Don Polo Acosta-, and was born back in the thirties. It is extraordinarily important, not the name or the fame of the dog, but the genetic origin. Racial purity does not occur indefinitely among domestic animal species. It only occurs among wild species. The human being has always crossed, always, related species, or not, looking for very specific results. The dog has not escaped this reality. And the famous Morocco (Tenerife) was another Bullterrier crusader and prey of the land (again according to Don Polo Acosta). And who knows how many of the so-called prey dogs of the earth would not be canine individuals product of crossbreeding, in first or second generation. Nilo, don Polo Acosta’s black dam, who was thrown into a fight with Mocho de Cho Domingo Palma, in Las Raíces, was a Great Dane crossbreed and dam of the land (also according to don Polo Acosta). And so many others. The fact is that man has always been incorrigibly restless; he has crossedbred in search of more milky cows, more dairy cows, more meat and better sheep, more laying hens, and more resistant and feisty dogs. This is how man has been in his existential endeavors everywhere.
The concept of “breed”, in canine terms, we owe, it seems, to the British. In Great Britain, the first dog shows were organized (they say), grouping canine individuals by the function they performed. The hunters on the one hand, and depending on the type of hunting they practiced, the shepherds on the other, the hunters of prey on the other, etc. Nowadays no one can afford to take the disrespect of attending an official dog show with a mongrel. The only thing we talk about now is race. And only pedigree and pedigree specimens are sold, and of quality, hey, then the quality is or is not. Let us say, then, that racial purity has been (or is) arrived at as one arrives, with time, at being an aristocrat, from irrelevance, from the plebs, from non-blue blood. The dog breeds with pedigree are, today, the aristocracy in the vast canine world, and the dogs without pedigree, that is, those without breed/breed. Of course, the time may come when, by the grace of man, a good number of canine individuals may ascend to the group of those with breed/caste, of those with pedigree. And that depends, of course, on many factors, which we are not going to expose because they are well known by the fans. Today, what counts most in the canine world is profitability. Romanticism counts for little in this world. Profitability is a function of the usefulness (or uselessness) of the canine group in question.
There are still some who have not noticed the issue. Nowadays, dogs have two main stakeholders, who love their bones, their fur, their affection, their hunting, their running, their ability to get bored like silly oysters in the apartments while their masters work in the office, in the workshop, or in the garden, where the lawn, the plants, the soil, everything is so well cared for…, they are only there to be contemplated. These interested parties I am referring to are, on the one hand, those who breed them to sell them, and on the other hand, those who buy them to keep them. And there are, of course, the intermediaries. What a pest this is.
In the Canary Islands the Perro de Presa Canario has been crossed for a long time, and no one has to tear their hair out over it. Those who do not seem to like crossbreeding (?) are the members of the Spanish Club of the Perro de Presa Canario, who talk, lecture, write, about the recovery of the breed. These guys have come out smart. They have understood that if they tell the truth, that is, that their dogs are the product of several recent crosses, nobody will buy a puppy from them, and on top of that, the Sociedad Central Canina Española will not recognize “their little dog”, so authentic, so autochthonous, with which they hope to earn a lot of money and fame in the future (more than now, much more).
But why would I be messing with these guys again? Well, well… look, this is like a game. I don’t like to be lied to, to be cheated, to be swindled by selling me a puppy as if it were a real Presa Canario, descendant of the ancient Presa Canario. And since this is so, I put myself in the place of the people who are not even the least bit amused to be swindled and on top of that “lifted” forty or sixty thousand pesetas, which is like saying a trifle.
I would ask these CEPPC guys to show their faces, as well educated people do, and say: Yes, friends, our dogs are the product of crosses with foreign breeds that we have carried out with all our good faith, hoping to achieve a type of Presa dog as similar as possible to the traditional Canary, of which we know so little, and that’s all. But of course, we are back to what we said before, there is the genotype involved, and there is the disavowal, thus, in exchange for nothing, or in exchange for losing possible sales, as it has been said. But don’t worry guys, in spite of all that you say, talk, write, everything, or almost everybody knows that the dogs you breed and sell are the product of various crosses with imported breeds. That is at the island level, as the Castizos say today. The bad thing is that outside these island borders the vast majority of fans have not heard of such a fraud, and that is sad. I am sure that if this happened in another country further north (well, it would not have happened), the justice system would have taken action. Because all fraud is punishable by law. And there is a lot of money at stake here. Believe me those who have not stopped to think about it.
Published by the author in El Día on December 27, 1987.