José Ortega y Gasset (Spanish philosopher) said, as he wrote, that in order to understand the present reality it is essential to have a clear knowledge of what the past has been, and only then will we be able to glimpse the future that lies ahead. Of course, Ortega was referring to past reality, not to written history. So, to understand what is happening within the Spanish Presa Canario Dog Club, and why, it is essential to have lived intensely the Canary Island Presa Canario Dog hobby in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, to have met most of the old and new fans that have coexisted in the last ten years, to have seen live the last “traditional (?)” dogs, to have compared specimens photographed thirty, forty, or more years ago.
At this time one hears too often improvised individuals talk about this or that dog they had at home when they were children, how they fought, and how the father or grandfather buried the bong in the plowed field and when he returned home he sent the dog to fetch it, or the keys, or the sickle, or how he used to lie down on the blanket and not let anyone come near, and how intelligent he was, that he only had to talk, and so, these gentlemen, or ladies -there is always a lady-, without more knowledge, without more data, without more work, they put on authority and speak, and give their opinion. And of course they do not know how to tell us if that multitude of canines that were born, lived and died in the Canary Islands, were similar in their racial prototype, if they were Alans, prey, etc., brought to the islands by the Spanish conquerors and settlers.
I remember that, only five years ago, the current secretary of the Spanish Presa Canario Dog Club, Mr. Manuel Martín Bethencourt, came very often to my house to talk to me, to ask me what the Presa Canario Dog was all about, He remembered that as a child he had seen some big and big-headed dog walking behind the carts pulled by oxen in the area of La Laguna and Las Mercedes (Tenerife), and he would ask me about its characteristics, and he would get excited when I told him that we had to recover the breed, no matter what it cost, even if we had to get hold of some foreign specimen to cross it. Immediately this gentleman suggested to me the need to found the Spanish Presa Canario Club. Of course, he did not know that some years ago he had written a letter to the Spanish Central Canine Society asking for information for the foundation of the club, a letter that was never answered, if I remember correctly. Then we did not do anything about it because we considered, some fans in Las Palmas, that there were hardly any prey specimens, and that it was indispensable for the foundation of the club to have three or four basic families that would allow us to work. This is what I told Manuel Martin, but he answered me: “Look, Curtó, if we don’t found the club, Juan Quevedo Martinón and his friends will found it, and the breed standard will be elaborated taking his dog Felo as a model. From the comments he made to me, the current secretary of the Spanish Club of the Perro de Presa Canario did not feel any kind of sympathy towards Mr. Quevedo, and he did not explain to me why. Then, seeing that for me the foundation of the Club was irrelevant at that time, since what really concerned me was the recovery of the breed, he did not come to my house anymore. Soon after, Mr. Martín Bethencourt joined Mr. Quevedo’s little group, and without too much ado they founded the club -the statutes, as I later learned, were drawn up by Enrique Fajardo, with the collaboration of José Enrique García, who both had nothing to do with the prisoners, nor did they believe in the race-.
First to breed, select, crossbreed if necessary, and establish a genetic base as wide as possible, with the existing dogs in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and then the foundation of the club, because if we found the club now -I was saying- without having the necessary specimens of recognized typicity we will look ridiculous in front of the official judges in the exhibitions. They founded the club in a hurry and have made a fool of themselves. And the disputes between them have been tremendous. Small groups have been created – the CEPPC is nothing more than a small group of friends with their inbred dogs and the majority of the fans and breeders, with our dogs, have been left out. The difficult part is consistency in breeding, selection, and then it’s back to square one. And it is easy to get carried away by the desire to appear.
Commentary to the Presa Canario club and some souvenirs
This article, published in the newspaper El Día on November 16, 1984, was my first open criticism of the members of the Presa Canario club and its policy. The atmosphere was one of disagreement among the majority of the fans (in Tenerife as well as in Gran Canaria) about his way of doing things. Its first president, Enrique Fajardo, was at the same time delegate of the Sociedad Canina de Canarias in Tenerife, and he ignored everything about the Perro de Presa Canario, and seeing that the car-club did not walk, he came with his wife to my house to talk to me. He told me things that are not relevant here, or I don’t want them to be, and he proposed (insistently) that I become a member of the board of the club he presided, “because nothing can be done with those people”, Enrique Fajardo’s textual words. I, in turn, thanked him for the invitation and told him that with those oxen it was not possible to plow, so he could not count on me. After some time, Enrique Fajardo stepped down as president of the CPPC and his position was taken by Juan Quevedo Martinón, who throughout his tenure was only a sort of figurehead. The gray brain “de la movida” was, at all times, “my disciple,” Manuel Martín Bethencourt. I say my disciple because this gentleman learned his first canine letters with me in my house, and from my house he took his first dogs of prey. Maján de Irema Curtó first, son of Tamay de Irema Curtó and Felo, and Teguise de Irema Curtó later, daughter of Guama de Irema Curtó and Gruñón, a purebred Bulldog imported from South Africa. Teguise’s full brother is Champion of Irema Curtó, and also Tinguaro of Irema Curtó. From these dogs, and some others from the Irema Curtó kennel, most of the Presa de Tenerife dogs are descended. One only has to study their family trees.