- Breed group — Foundation Stock Service (American Kennel Club)
- Height — 22-26 inches
- Weight — 84-110 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Short, straight coat
- Coat color — Colors include brown, fawn, gold, orange, silver, and tiger. Markings are typically brindle and may have white on the chest and feet. Coat colors don’t change between puppies and adults.
- Exercise needs — High
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — Seldom
- Life span — 9-11 years
- Temperament — Intelligent, loyal, and energetic
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — Canary Islands
Presa Canario fun facts
- The Presa Canario was originally bred to work on farms. The Presa Canario was first developed in the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa to herd sheep and cattle, and protect livestock from wild animals.
- The breed almost went extinct. Presas were heavily used for the inhumane practice of dog fighting up until it was banned in the 1940s. The Presa Canario population then dwindled in the following years, until a group of reputable breeders worked to bring them back.
- Presas go by several other names. Presas are also known as “Canary dogs,” “Canary mastiffs,” and “dog Canarios.” In Spanish they are referred to as Perro de Presa Canario, which means “Canarian catch dog”.
Presa Canario temperament and characteristics
With their robust, muscular builds and prominent heads, Presas can come off as intimidating. But the breed is actually known to be quite gentle and affectionate with their humans. Caution should still be exercised around infants and small children, as the dog’s are highly energetic and don’t always know their own strength. Owners should also be careful with other dogs as they tend to quarrel with animals they weren’t raised with and don’t consider part of their “pack.” The Presa Canario is known to exhibit guard dog tendencies, and therefore can often be territorial when it comes to strangers outside of their family. With proper training and socialization, they’ll be more friendly with visitors. Because of their high exercise needs and large stature, the breed fares better in houses and larger estates with fenced-in yards than apartments.
Common Presa Canario health problems
Presa Canarios are generally considered a healthy breed, but like all dogs are prone to some health issues. Here are some conditions for owners to be aware of:
- Hip dysplasia. Common in large breeds like the Presa Canario, this chronic condition occurs when the head of a dog’s femur bone and hip socket don’t fit correctly. It can lead to arthritis later in their life and may require surgery in severe cases.
- Epilepsy. Presas with epilepsy will typically begin experiencing mild to severe seizures when they are six months to three years of age. Medication and periodic blood panels are used to help manage the condition.
- Panosteitis. Presa Canarios are among the breeds susceptible to panosteitis, a condition in which a young dog’s leg bones are inflamed. Because this condition mostly resolves itself by the time the dog is two, it is often referred to as “growing pains.”
- Eye problems. The breed may experience eye problems that, if left untreated, can lead to loss of vision. Owners should check their dogs eyes to make sure they’re bright and clear with no cloudiness or discharge.
Cost of caring for a Presa Canario
As with any dog, Presa Canario owners should familiarize themselves with different health insurance options and enroll as soon as they bring their dog home to reduce out-of-pocket veterinary expenses. Alternatively, putting together a pet savings account can protect you and your dog in the event of an emergency. Understanding the typical costs associated with different treatments will help you to plan ahead. While costs are different for every dog, Presa Canario owners can expect to spend between $1,000 to $2,000 dollars a year caring for their pet.
History of the Presa Canario
It is believed that the Presa Canario was first developed by Spanish conquistadors in the Canary Islands back in the 15th or 16th centuries. Their full lineage remains uncertain, but likely includes cattle dogs called Iberian Presa and other Spanish breeds like the Presa Espanol and sheepdogs called Bardino Majorero. These dogs were bred to work on farms herding cattle and sheep as well as protect the homestead from wild animals.
Presa Canarios were also popularly used for the inhumane practice of dog fighting. Although the practice was banned in the 1940s, unscrupulous people continued to do it illegally in the following years. Presa Canarios became less popular as German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, and Great Danes found their way to the islands, and the breed began to go extinct.
In the early 1980s, an organization called Club Español del Presa Canario was formed on the island of Tenerife to bring back the nearly extinct Presa Canario. The Presa eventually gained a foothold in the United States, and the American Kennel Club officially accepted the rare breed as a member of the Foundation Stock Service in 1990. However, the Presa has yet to achieve full AKC recognition as of 2023.
Caring for your Presa Canario
Before bringing home a Presa Canario puppy, owners will want to puppy-proof their home, find a good local vet, and schedule vaccines. Because the breed will need a ton of outdoor exercise and playtime, signing up for FidoAlert is a good way to secure a free Fido ID and tag in the event they go missing.
Presas are a high-energy breed that will need at least an hour of physical and mental stimulation every day to tire out. Additionally, these dogs are known to gain weight fast if not properly exercised, which can have repercussions on their health. Because they were bred to work on farms, they love being outside and partaking in activities that give them a job to do. Owners with their eyes set on a Presa should plan on taking long walks, hikes, and even competition training like conformation or obedience trials. Presa Canarios were bred in a Mediterranean climate and fare better in warm weather than cold weather.
Presa Canario owners won’t have to spend too much time cleaning dog hair off their furniture. The short-haired breed has no undercoat and barely sheds. Owners should brush their dog once weekly to keep their coats straight and shiny. Baths will only be necessary once a month unless the dog gets into some dirt or mud. They have strong nails that grow in fast, so frequent trimming is important to avoid splitting and cracking (not to mention scratched-up floors). Presas should also have their ears cleaned and teeth brushed regularly.
Diet and nutrition
The Presa Canario is a large breed that will require more calories than most others. Because they’re highly active, they’ll need ample water as well. The breed has a tendency to become overweight, so owners should consult with their vet to calculate how much to feed their dog relative to their size. Every dog is different, but generally the breed should have 3-4 cups of high-quality dry food each day divided into two meals. Owners should consider mixing in canned food instead of a raw meat diet to meet the breed’s high protein needs.
Training your Presa Canario
Presa Canarios are highly intelligent and love to please their owners, making them a great student when it comes to training. Their roots in dog fighting has created a stigma around them that has even led to some countries around the world placing a ban on the breed. But in actuality, they are quite docile and affectionate dogs when they’ve been properly trained and socialized from a young age into adulthood. They are guard dogs at heart with a ton of power, which are great traits in any watchdog, but can naturally lead to aggression towards perceived threats. They respond well to positive reinforcement and ample praise. While reward-based training is effective, giving the Presa Canario too many treats during sessions may lead to rapid weight gain.
Breeds similar to the Presa Canario
Not quite sure that a Presa Canario is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Mastiff. If you like large breeds, they don’t get much larger than the mastiff. Weighing up to 230 pounds or more, these gentle giants are more calm than they appear and make great family dogs.
- Australian shepherds. With a history of working alongside cowboys, Australian shepherds are also experienced herders and excellent watchdogs. The breed is highly intelligent, active, and loyal to their humans.
- Cane corso. Between their similar stature and history as farming animals, it’s no surprise that people often compare the Presa Canario to the Cane corso. This breed also loves attention and outdoor play.
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Frequently asked questions
Do Presa Canarios bark a lot?
Despite being territorial, Presas are considered a quiet breed who don’t often resort to barking. When they do, their barks are loud and deep and may come off as intimidating.
Are Presa Canarios a good family dog?
While they may look tough, Presa Canarios are actually quite loving towards their families and very loyal to them. They have a ton of energy and do well with active owners, but may not be a great fit for homes with infants and small children as they’re not always aware of their size and can get rowdy during play.
Are Presa Canarios healthy?
While the Presa Canario is a generally healthy breed, they can also be prone to several health issues including hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye problems.
Are Presa Canarios aggressive towards other dogs?
Presa Canarios can exhibit aggression towards other dogs, especially if they perceive them to be a threat towards their humans. Consistent obedience training and socialization from a young age can make this the exception, not the rule.
Are Presa Canarios difficult to train?
Presa Canarios are highly intelligent and considered very trainable. Because they love to please their owners, methods that involve positive reinforcement and praise are most encouraged.