Originally developed by crossing the old European bulldogges, bullterriers, bandogges and mastiffs brought by the Spanish conquerors with the local island dogs, among them the ancient Bardino Majorero, this powerful new breed was used for herding cattle, guarding property and even for exterminating stray cats and dogs. The old-type Presa Canario was also a valued local fighting dog, but was being regularly defetead when matched against the more tenacious and tireless imported bull-terrier breeds, inspiring numerous new crossings throughout history, intended to constantly improve its pit-fighting qualities. The years that followed WW2 introduced the popular European breeds to the Canary Islands, like the German Shepherd Dog, Rottweilers and Neapolitan Mastiffs, among many others. This resulted in driving the Perro de Presa Canario to near-extinction.
Thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders and enthusiasts in the 1970's, the Presa Canario was re-created by gathering the surviving Canary Island Bulldogges, most of which were fighting crosses and not pure Presas at all, and crossing them with the Alano Espanol, American Staffordshire Terrier, German Boxer, English Bullterrier, Neapolitan Mastiff, American Pit Bull Terrier, Fila Brasileiro, Bardino Majorero, Bullmastiff and other breeds and crossdogs. Over the next 20 years, the breed type was established and the Perro de Presa Canario is presently a popular breed worldwide, both as a fighting dog and property guardian. However, some fanciers feel that the re-creation process was rushed, resulting in a range of appearances and personalities within the breed, including examples with erect ears, odd colourings and unstable temperaments. While the revival efforts could be seen as a success overall, it should be noted that the present-day Presa Canario is quite a bit larger and heavier than the original dogs which inspired the reconstruction programme. For better or worse, the modern Dogo Canario has been standardized for shows, which calls for it to be bred true to written type, but there are still many American and European breeders that regularly cross their Presas with Pit Bulls, Cane Corsos and various Bandogges.
Disputes between fanciers and registries over what the correct Canario type is are very common, resulting in various splits within the breed clubs and the rise of breeders worldwide breeding these bandogges based on their own personal preferences and conformation ideals. Even in the Canary Islands, there are a few types to be found within the Presa Canario population and harsh disagreements between native breeders are quite common. In their desire to promote the breed, some enthusiasts often overlook the breed's true history and its fighting past, while focusing on the physical beauty and good guarding abilities only, creating some confusion and controversy. Some traditionalists even go as far as making a distinction between the Perro de Presa Canario and the Dogo Canario, claiming that the latter is a separate breed created for Shows, unlike the working dogs still encountered on the islands.
Due to its legendary devotion to its owner, as well as affectionate nature towards children, the Perro de Presa Canario generally makes a lovely family pet and urban companion. However, because of its severe dog-aggression and great territorial instincts, it requires early socialization and experienced handling. This is a very muscular and powerful bulldogge, posessing a strong prey-drive and tenacity. The body is well-boned and massive, but lean enough to give the Presa its impressive agility and speed. This wide-chested and broad-shouldered Molosser has a large head with a powerful muzzle, defined stop and well-developed jaws. The ears are usually cropped, but unaltered specimens can be seen as well.
The short coat comes in various solid colours, including brindle and some with white markings. Average height is around 24 inches, although taller examples exist.