Breed of the Week: Presa Canario 07/04/16

Presa Canario 2

Breed Stats

Country of Origin: Canary Islands (Spain)

Average Height: Males 23.5-26 inches (60-66 cm), Females 22-24.5 inches (56-62 cm)

Average Weight: Males 110-140 lbs (50-65 kg), Females 88-120 lbs (40-55 kg)

Average Lifespan: 9-11 years

Coat: The fur is very short, coarse and flat with no undercoat.

Colour: All shades of brindle or fawn, sometimes with white markings on the chest, throat and toes.  Commonly have a black mask.


            The Presa Canario is a large and relatively rare type of Mastiff the originated on Spain’s Canary Islands. When the Spanish conquered the islands, there was already a sizable population of large molosser-type dogs living alongside the native population.  In the early 18th century, many English colonists were coming to the islands and many of them brought dogs with them.  The dogs brought from England were eventually cross bred with the native dogs.  The exact ancestry wasn’t recorded but it is likely that various Mastiffs, Bulldogs and possibly even Terriers were bred in.

The word “presa” is the Spanish word for clutch, grip or hold and in the case of the Presa Canario it refers to the fact that they were used primarily as a catch dog.  A catch dog is a type of dog that is used in hunting; they would generally catch and hold down the game until the hunter could catch up.  The Presa Canario was used to hunt large game such as Wild Boar as well as to catch and hold unruly cattle.  Many farmers also used them as general guard dogs to protect their land and livestock.  Due to their large size and strength, the Presa Canario was also used extensively in dog fighting.  It was a rather common occurrence in the Canary Islands until dog fighting was banned in 1940.  However the practice was still somewhat common for about a decade after the ban.

Unfortunately due to the ban on dog fighting, the Presa Canario population plummeted dramatically.  A few farmers still kept them for work and protection, but overall the breed was in trouble.  Luckily in the early 1970s, various aficionados and breeders began to reconstruct the breed.  Again a large range Mastiffs, Terriers and Bulldog type breeds were used.  By the late 1980s, the first couple Presa Canario dogs were imported into the United States, and dog fanciers were quite anxious to obtain such a rare breed of dog.  Unfortunately, the AKC does not yet officially recognize the breed; they only record Presa Canarios under their Foundation Stock Service, which is available for owners of dog breeds that are not yet recognized by the AKC.


FCI: Group 2, Section 2.1 #346

AKC: Working (FSS) – The AKC Foundation Stock Service is an optional service that records purebred dogs that are not yet eligible for AKC registration.

UKC: Guardian Dog group

CKC: Not Recognized


            The Presa Canario is generally docile, affectionate and distrustful of strangers.  They were bred as guard dogs and family companions, so they may act aggressive towards strangers.  Early training and socialization is extremely important with this type of dog.  It is important to train the dog before he/she gets too big for the owner to handle.  Definitely not a breed for the beginner dog owner, a Presa requires a strong, firm yet calm handler.

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