Let's talk Presa Canarios

The Presa Canario’s extravagant size and muscular build are its defining features: this XXL breed hails from Spain’s Canary Islands where over the centuries they have earned a reputation as a reliable guard dog and cattle herder. Presa Canarios seem to positively exude physical strength and athleticism. And it’s more than just an impression: even Presa Canario dogs that have left their cattle-herding days behind them to become affectionate family pets still need plenty of exercise.

Official name: Presa Canario

Other names: Dogo Canario, Perro de Presa Canario

Origins: Canary Islands, Spain

Black and white close-up of a Dogo Canario
 Drooling tendencies

Medium

Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level Medium
Suited to apartment living?  Very low
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* High Kid-friendly?* 

 Compatibility with other pets
Can stay alone?*

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

Inline Image 15
Illustration of a Dogo Canario
Male
56 - 62 cm Height
50 - 65 kg Weight
Female
50 - 66 cm Height
40 - 55 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 8 months
 Adult age  8 months to 2 years
 Mature age  2 to 5 years
 Senior age  from 5 years

Dogo Canario stood on pavement panting

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Get to know the Presa Canario

All you need to know about the breed

The Presa Canario, a molossoid-type breed from the Canary Islands, is a big imposing dog, combining strength and athleticism in one outsize package. It’s easy to see why these rustic dogs, developed from the crossing of local cattle dogs with mastiff-type breeds, made a name for themselves as guard dogs (they also helped farmers herd cattle). The Presa Canario’s huge, square-shaped head and solid, muscular body would make any intruder, human or animal, think twice before encroaching on their territory.

Nowadays though, while the breed is fairly rare, Presa Canario dogs also make affectionate family pets. They get on well with children once trained but because of their sheer size they should never be left alone with little ones. They are naturally wary of human strangers (those guard dog instincts) and while they have many good qualities, they are not known for their ability to get on with other dogs: early socialisation is important to help them overcome this.

You’ll need plenty of space to accommodate your Presa Canario as well as the capacity to commit to training a breed that can sometimes be a little… how can we put this … strong-willed. With a dog of this size, thorough training is particularly important – for both your sakes. Just remember – you’re the leader of the pack!

Dogo Canario preparing to jump

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2 facts about Presa Canarios

1. Cat foot

Feline is really not the word that springs to mind in connection with this hulking breed. So you may be surprised to learn that one of the notable physical characteristics of the Presa Canario is their “cat foot” – neat, round paws with high-arched toes, which make for greater endurance and stability on rough terrain. Luckily, that’s where the similarity ends: you won’t find all 50-odd kilograms of Presa Canario leaping delicately onto a high spot to groom their fur, for example.

2. Canary coat (of arms)

The Presa Canario may be relatively rare but there’s no doubt they are famous in the Canary Islands, where the breed originated. These huge, lovable dogs even feature on the islands’ coat of arms: two Presa Canario dogs support a blue shield on which the archipelago’s seven islands are represented, all topped off with the Spanish crown. The islands themselves are even thought to derive their name from Insula Canaria, Latin for the island of the dogs.

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History of the breed

Nowadays the Presa Canario can make an affectionate companion to humans, but its origins are less peaceful. The breed originated in the Canary Islands, the Spanish archipelago off the coast of North Africa, in the 19th century and was initially developed for dogfighting as well as guarding and herding on farms.

While the Presa Canario’s exact ancestors are not known for certain, the Bardino Majero, a now-extinct breed native to the islands, is thought to feature in its make-up, alongside English Mastiffs and the Perro de Ganado Majorero, another local breed of cattle dog.

Thankfully, by the mid 20th century, dogfighting had been banned, but the Presa Canario breed found itself facing an existential threat, as imported breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs, Great Danes and Doberman Pinscher began to gain in popularity on the islands. An American vet, Dr Carl Semenci, was instrumental in reviving the dwindling numbers of the Presa Canario breed, giving it a chance to thrive once more.

Black and white portrait of a sitting Dogo Canario

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Presa Canarios

1. Colouring

Darker “mask” marking on short-nosed muzzle

2. Head

Massive head and medium-sized ears folded over

3. Body

Long, solid and muscular body

4. Coat

Short, smooth coat in shades of brindle, grey and fawn

5. Tail

Thick tail, tapering towards the end

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Presa Canario

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Caring for your Presa Canario

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Grooming your Presa Canario’s fur is easy – a weekly brush should suffice and is a nice opportunity for a bonding cuddle. The Presa Canario breed needs plenty of exercise – regular walks, chasing a ball, running around following their noses (in a safely fenced space, please, unless you want a huge canine fugitive on your hands) or even swimming are all good ways to keep these sturdy and muscular dogs in great condition. They are intelligent, quick learners – good news for training – but they also have their stubborn side. You need to show you’re in charge, staying calm, patient and firm. Any food treats for training, need to come out of your Presa Canario’s daily allowance to avoid excessive weight gain. Presa Canario puppies also benefit from early socialisation to make sure they develop into content, well-adjusted dogs that can get along well with other dogs and people, even if their instinct is always to protect their pack.

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All about Presa Canarios

After positive and thorough training, as well as plenty of socialisation when young, the answer is yes. Once trained, the Presa Canario is known to get on well with children, although such a large and powerful dog should not be left alone with small ones – the dog’s size and strength means they could easily be knocked over accidentally. They are affectionate and docile with their human families, albeit wary of strangers.

No. Their large size gives Presa Canario dogs an imposing appearance, and thanks to their history, they are often thought of more as guard dogs than family pets. But once they are trained and part of the family, although they are protective, with a big impressive bark that may be put to good use if strangers approach their home, they are also loyal and affectionate.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/