10 Facts You Should Know About Presa Canarios (with Pictures)

Taylor A Ritz Also known as the Canary Mastiff, the Presa Canario is an incredibly intimidating and powerful breed originally created to herd livestock. These dogs are not for everyone but can make incredible pets and companions for the owner willing to take the time and dedication to properly train this unique dog.

1. Where Does the Presa Canario Come From?

Presa Canarios are known as Canary Mastiffs because they originate from the Canary Islands. Indigenous dogs called Bardino Majeros inhabited the islands before the conquest by Europeans. These dogs participated in myths, funeral customs, and as guides to the afterlife for native peoples. Though there is little documentation from before Europeans came to the Canary Islands, there are plenty of records of this breed afterward. Presa Canarios are likely the result of breeding these indigenous dogs to imported Mastiffs. Presa Canarios were intended as cattle dogs but were later used for fighting. They were utilized in the defense of castles as well as in dog-fighting entertainment. Dog-fighting continued until the 1950s when it was banned, after which only a few dedicated breeders kept the breed alive.

2. What Does a Presa Canario Look Like?

The Presa Canario is a large dog with a thick, muscular body. Their head is broad and square, typical of a mastiff-type dog. Ears are typically cropped to stand erect; where ear-cropping is banned, ears hang down and fit close to the head. They are longer than they are tall, giving them a slightly cat-like appearance. They also have a slight slope to their topline; the hips are typically taller than the shoulders.

3. What Is a Presa Canario’s Coat Like?

A Presa Canario’s coat is short and coarse, with no undercoat. They appear in shades of fawn and brindle. Though it isn’t considered the standard, they can sometimes also present in solid black. White markings can appear on the chest, feet, and sometimes muzzle. Presas should have a black mask on the face that does not extend above the eyes.

4. How Big Is a Presa Canario?

Presa Canarios have been bred for their intimidating size, but just how big are they? Male Presa Canarios can weigh between 100 and 125 pounds and stand 24 to 26 inches tall at the withers, or shoulder. Females are slightly smaller, weighing between 88 and 110 pounds and standing 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall.

5. Are Presa Canarios Aggressive?

While Presa Canarios are loving and loyal to their families, they are also extremely powerful and incredibly protective. As a result, they are distrustful of strangers and animals they do not know. Presa Canarios are very territorial and will not back down from a fight. Though they are generally quiet, they have a deep and intimidating bark. Overall, Presa Canarios are docile and affectionate towards their family, but they were bred to defend and protect.

6. What Are the Exercise Requirements for a Presa Canario?

The Presa Canario requires exercise on a regular basis. Their exercise should be vigorous and engage their minds as well as their bodies. Their intelligence requires them to be regularly challenged. Any family considering a Presa Canario should have access to a large fenced-in yard. They may be low-energy inside, but they have plenty of endurance for long walks or hikes.  A tired dog is a well-behaved dog; dogs that do not get enough exercise can become bored and resort to undesirable, and even destructive, behaviors. 

7. How Do You Train a Presa Canario?

In addition to regular physical exercise, Presa Canarios need plenty of consistent obedience training. Training and socialization are vital from an early age for any dog, but especially for one as large and powerful as the Presa Canario. Due to their massive size, an unruly Presa can be downright dangerous. These dogs are intelligent, but also stubborn and independent, so training requires patience and dedication. Note that due to their protective and suspicious nature, you will likely always have to take caution when bringing new people into your home.

8. How Healthy Is a Presa Canario?

Presa Canarios, like many giant breeds, experience their fair share of genetic health issues. The owner of a Presa Canario should be aware of the following potential issues:
  • Hip/elbow dysplasia (bones of the hip joint/elbow don’t fit together correctly)
  • Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Canine epilepsy
  • Bloat (potentially fatal twisting of the gastrointestinal tract)
  • Hypothyroidism (thyroid does not produce sufficient hormone levels)
  • Entropion (eyelid folds inward)
  • Demodectic mange (inflammatory skin disease caused by mites)
Presa Canarios have a life expectancy of 9 to 11 years.

9. How Do You Properly Groom a Presa Canario?

Presa Canarios have a short, rough coat and very low-maintenance grooming needs. To cut down on shedding, you may brush your Presa Canario periodically with a firm bristle brush. Wipe them down with a towel or chamois. Only bathe your Presa Canario when necessary; their short coat will not retain much smell most of the time. Over-bathing can strip your dog’s coat of the natural oils that keep their skin and coat healthy.

10. Does a Presa Canario Make a Good Pet for a Family?

Presa Canarios are loyal, protective, and loving to a fault. They bond quite strongly with their human packmates and take pride in keeping them safe. That being said, they were bred to protect their people and territory; their large, powerful, intimidating presence can be a problem. Considering the adoption of a Presa Canario into your family is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Potential owners should assess their ability to raise and train such a strong and stubborn animal before making the decision to bring one home.

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Taylor Ritz

Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She is a former zookeeper and animal trainer. She has her own dog, Dobby, with whom she has bicycled across the U.S. and thru-hiked the Long Trail.

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