Bronca de Rey Gladiador
Bronca de Rey Gladiador

Colour of Presa Canario – part 1

Science never solves a problem without creating ten more
– George Bernard Shaw

Sitting here with a dog next to me, her head on my lap, eating some baked apples and  killing time of this wet, dark and definitely to long winter evening I decide to write. Just simple, short note about color of Presa Canario – to be precise. How little did I know of the trouble I’m getting myself into (laughs). Every answer brings another question and every question digged deeper and deeper. From the complicated organism we see in a dog to the chemical reactions and very simple little parts of mechanism making it all possible. How to explain one without another? Truly complicated task and at the same time beautiful, explaining also how everything we know is made – genetics.

In the past Presa Canario was just a dog from the land „perro de la tierra”, perro de presa describing it’s function or perro verdino saying about it’s most common color – a dog of function and a dog used in dog fights. Nobody cared for color in selection for the best psychical and physical characteristics of dog that had to work. In the rural areas there is no place for animals of no use. Nobody keeps animals that bring harm to household and nobody keeps dogs that serve no purpose is it to guard, to hunt, help with management of other animals or any other activities useful for men.  While man can keep for pleasure some small dogs, in regions where food have great value keeping a big dog, a dog like a Presa means the dog earns his food.

Why do we have then, so many discussions about color coming back like boomerang? Answer to this question have it’s beginning in the middle of 1970’s when Presa Canario faced a new era of breeding purebred dogs and people decided to make them a recognized breed and save them from extinction when some years earlier they started disappearing on Islands when ban of dog fights came to life and fascination of other breeds was also present. The peak of all problems started with beginning of 1980’s and time of forming first Clubs of the breed and ideas of how to shape this dogs for official recognition crushed with each other. And they varied a lot. They varied one breeder from another, they varied between Clubs, and they varied between Islands. They vary till this day and as odd as it sounds they even led to attempts of separating this breed into two different ones. First litter of the new era was born in 1977… 40 years later we still face same dilemmas. And we, people from outside the Islands can only refer to what we are told by Islenios or what we read in old publications. We weren’t there.

Let me begin this small journey with just a simple standard variety of colors allowed on our dogs, basing on FCI standard, UKC standard and first approved standard of the breed from 1989 as they differ a little bit among each other and each of them represent views of wide variety of breeders. Than after photographs of various dogs of various colors and markings I’ll reprint descriptions from most respected authors – there will be more publications, almost every publication or article says something about this subject, but it’s not time nor place to quote them all as they will just mirror what is said in those quoted later.

FCI-Standard N° 346 (12.08.2011): All shades of brindle, from warm dark brown to pale grey or blond. All shades of fawn to sandy. White marks are acceptable on the chest, at the base of the neck or throat, forefeet and toes of hind feet, but these should be kept to a minimum. The mask is always black, and should not spread above eye level.

Severe faults:
– Insufficient mask
Disqualifying faults:
– Total depigmented nose
– Unacceptable white marks

UKC-Standard (2004 revised 2017): Any shade of fawn, black, and brindle in any combination of these colors. The face must have a black or dark brown mask that does not extend over the eyes, with or without a white blaze or patch on the head. Minimal white markings may appear anywhere between the chest and the throat, or on the toes.

Serious Fault:
– Mask that extends over the eyes.
-Absence of dark mask, white markings covering more than 20% of the dog, coat color or pattern other than described above.

First accepted breed standard from 1989: Brindle in all range from very warm dark, to light grey and clear blond. Black.  Fawn in all range up to sandy coat.
At times might present white markings around the neck with can go to the head (acollarados) or on legs (calzados), it’s good if presence of white is reduced as much as possible.
In general shows a white patch on the chest, less or bigger in size. Mask is always dark and can reach to eyes.

Sever faults:
– Insufficient pigmentation of nose
Disqualifying faults:

– White markings covering more than 30% of the body, spots on body
– Total lack of pigment on nose

VERDINO: Presa Canario as a name was used mostly on Gran Canaria. While on Tenerife it used to have name Perro Verdino as majority of the Tenerife population was of this color. Verdino is not exactly the same thing as Bardino – as this one is typical color and used to describe another breed Bardino Majorero. Verdino is a mixture of bardino with fawns and whites, with gave something that we can describe as “greenish” tint typical to Presa Canario. People use it also to name any brindle color.

Dark brindle (reverse brindle, black brindle):

 Berke de Rey Gladiador  

Warm dark brindle:

Different shades of red and fawn brindle:

Grey brindle and verdino



Red fawn:

Fawn :


Sandy fawn:

White markings:

Continuing and explaining coat colors of Presa Canario and leaving final decision of acceptance of colors to the reader, let me introduce few quotes from the books that were most influential and say a little about the evolution of describing Presa Canario.

Book descriptions of Presa Canario colors:

Manuel Martin Bethencourt “El Presa Canario” pages 91-93 “Aspecto del Presa Canario” – year 1997

Preferred colors are brindle or stripped, with fawn or black base. Black with golden stripes or fawn with black stripes, it’s proffered to have white patch on the chest, and it’s allowed to have white markings on paws.

All the colors are allowed wit preference of brindle before fawn with black mask, and white markings on legs are allowed but not desired.

All colors are accepted, but, after brindle, is fawn with a black mask, and white patches on the paws are allowed, but not desirable.

The coat color is proffered to be of uniform except to what was said about brindle.
Not desired colors are solid whites and blacks, especially shiny (glossy) black.

Manuel Martin Bethencourt “El Presa Canario” pages 125-126 “Comentarios al estandar racial” – year 1997

Coat of the Presa Canario is rustic, not very short, flat, never satin or shiny. Should be slightly longer a withers, lower part of the neck, and rim of the buttocks. It’s softer on the head, chest and thighs and more harsh on the rest of the body.

It’s color should be as uniform as possible. Most desired is verdino and stripped, as they represent trait most characteristic for the breed. Those dark brindle ones have perfect shade for guards dogs. Among fawns, most desired is medium shade, heading towards yellow ochre.

Usually, all dogs have white patch on chest, from small to bigger one. Mask is always dark tending to be black. Can have white markings on base of the neck or on legs. Other type of markings are seen as defect.

Eduardo Benito Ruiz, Rafael Malo Alcrudo “Las Razas Caninas Espanolas” pages 178-179 “Perro de Presa Canario. Patron racial – Comentario por Manuel Martin Behencour” – year 1992

Brindle (stripped) in all range, from very warm dark to very clear grey and blond. Fawn in all range to sandy. Black.

Can show white markings around the neck (acollarados) or on legs (calzados), it desired that presence of white is reduced as much as possible.

In general have white patch on chest, smaller or bigger in size. Mask is always dark and can reach to eyes.

Comment: Brindle in all range from very dark to very clear colors. Base colors should be golden or greys. Fawn in all range, from red to sandy. Can occur in solid black although possibly rarely. Most desired color is brindle and it represents one of the main characteristics. Dark brindles are perfect for function of guard dog. Among fawns, always in lower numbers, most desired is the medium shade oscillating around yellow-ochre. Usually present white patch on the chest of different sizes. Mask is always black, corresponding with mantle.  Can show white markings around the neck or on legs. White markings of bigger range should be seen as defect.
Serious faults:

– insufficient mask

Eliminatory faults:

– white markings covering more than 40% of body
Comment: White markings never should surpass 30%, it is desired that they are reduced as much as possible, and localized around neck, chest and legs. Markings present in different parts, especially on trunk should be rejected.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 24 “Sobre la exposición canina” – year 1991

Color. According to CEPPC mantle of Presa Canario should be uniform: fawn and brindle. And why this, when Presas Canarios where never selected for color but for their qualities in fight? Colors of traditional presas were always very diverse. Blacks, whites, completely brindle, completely fawn, brindle with white paws, brindle with white around neck and paws and chest, fawns with white paws,  or just with white necks, also brown and grey. As you see we do not have discussion about length of hair. In the past they were mostly all shorthaired, now all are.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 36 “Carta de Clemente Reyes Santana” Tenerife, 24 of January 1986 – book from year 1991

And what it is, what this Senor, secretary of CEPPC says to fans? Well I don’t know. Only knows what he writes, and definitely it’s not very lucky. And now it’s thrown to Central Canina de Espana recognizing “his Perro de Presa” as soon as possible. And this dog is (should be) only of color brindle or fawn while it’s widely known that dogs from the land, true Canarios are bardinos (brindle), fawn, white, black and spotted. This is what I give to acknowledgment of Canina Central Espana (with faith) that it will not let them get fooled by this Senor. Of course I will do everything that I can that Canina Central do not recognize such dog. And if things will get ugly it will be necessary to collect signatures (as many as possible) and send them with a written request not to continue his efforts.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 38-39 “Los actuales presas canarios” publicked in February 1986 – book published in year 1991

On Gran Canaria color doesn’t count to much, Before now, and from very far back in time, perros de presa were selected basing on their attributes, not on their color. White or black, brindle or fawn, with markings or no, it didn’t count. “Good in attack, firm and steady bite” this were the qualities coming without discussion to call a dog a good Perro de Presa Canario. A dog who possessed this qualities could never be gentle with strangers, cowardly or shy, never show indecisiveness if let to attack human intruder. This is a good dog of guard and defense of houses and properties. And future? Future is reality we go through step by step. El Presa Canario is made minute by minute, day by day, year after year, on Tenerife and on Gran Canaria (better on Gran Canaria – time will tell if I’m right or no).


So what interest does the author have of not recognizing the breed as by now? For autor Presa Canario should be: uniform as a whole, of good conformation,  of extraordinary temperament and of all the traditional colors that exist: brindles, fawns, brindles with white, fawns with white, grey, brown and black. And all with pinzer or scissor bite. This were the Presas before their extinction.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 46-47 “El Perro de Presa Canario y su reconocimiento official”  (published  in 1987) – year 1991

When speaking of color we have to say there were Perros de Presa of color white, black, brindle, fawn, brown and spotted; it’s an unquestionable fact. So to say new Presas don’t need to be any different, to each his own taste.  One that likes brindles can breed brindles, and this that prefers blacks let him breed blacks, so as with all the other colors, just one shouldn’t try to push his preferences on the other breeders. The skin should be thick and loose, in manner that we can pull it from body easily,  should form some folds around shoulders when the dog rise his head above the height of the withers. Pres Canario have double dewlap or dewlap divided in two , that starts around jaws, and lips shouldn’t be to loose.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 50 “Al Perro de Presa Canario se le cruza desde tiempo ha”  (published 27 December 1987) – year 1991

It’s reality. We have references of Perros de Presa on Canarias that date back to XVI century. (…) We have different photographs of dogs from XX century and very few fro the end of XIX.. Photographs of Presa type dogs varying one from another, coming from crosses we have no doubt. Were dogs of color brindle, white, fawn, spotted and black. And some are distinguished by their physical aspect (that revels them). For example Quebrao, who belonged to mr. Polo Acosta (Tenerife) in his mozes years. Quebrao was dog completely white, with arched head, he was product of cross between bullterrier and female perro de presa from the land – say mr Polo Acosta – and was born in the 30’s. It’s highly important not the name of the dog or it’s fame but it’s genetic origin. (…) El Nilo, black Presa of Polo Acosta put into fight with El Mocho of Domingo Palma in Las Raices, he was cross of Great Dane and female from the land (information given by Polo Acosta). And so were all. And it is what man was always looking for. Was crossing and looking for cows that give more milk, sheep giving more milk and better meat, and more, chickens giving more eggs and dogs most resistant and courageous and more heart of a fighter. That what men always did everywhere in the world.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 60 “Perro de Ganado Majorero, Perro de Presa Canario”  (published 15 January 1989) – year 1991

Within Perro de Ganado Majorero, in this moment (1989) we have three characteristic colors: bardino (bindle), black (with brindle legs) and grayish-fawn. ILegion Espanola stayed on the Island just for few years. Majoreros of black color were breed used for cattle and guard of majorero people “from forever”, this is what I was told on Fuerteventura. And color grey-fawn is as old as old is the breed on Fuerteventura. And whites with brindle patches, and brindles with white patches, greys with white markings, fawns with white markings. Of color grey-fawn we have just a few dogs, this is the truth. It seams to look like this breed is at same border of almost being extinct. (…)
In this moment Perros de Ganado Majoreros of color bardino (brindle) dominate, and are followed by those of color black with brindle legs and for grey ones you’d have to look with magnifying glass on all Fuerteventura. It came to this point, that some of those call themselves ones of knowledgeable of canarian dog breeds, when they see one of those dogs of color grey, fawn, wolf-like, say that they are products of crossing with german shepherds.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 73 “Empiezan los juicios” – year 1991

Breeder should have standard in his mind. Good dogs aren’t born by chance. Color is not everything, not even in Presa Canario. Let us drop once again this irracional idea of Presa Canario being just brindle. Presa Canario should be brindle, fawn, black, with white markings (without spots on the body). The structure, the temperament, the temperament, the typicality… possession of typicality between all parts being in balance. Flat ribs, skinny necks, enlarged heads etc. etc. will never give typicality look for in perro de presa.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 82 ” Entrevista a d. Francisco Saavedra Bolanos” – year 1991

– Do you remember the first dog fight between Perros de Presa that you witnessed in your life?
– Yes, El Muchacho of brindle color, with a black dog called Negro. I was 14 years old. Negro was dog of law.

– With were your best Perros de Presa?

– Nerón was the strongest. He was son of a white female presa brought from Cuba, with none could imagine how brave she was. El Bicho, who was dog from the land and feare nothing, always had to have him secured (with muzzle). This dog had no name, there was no dog who could stand to him. Did not obey nobody. Had a kinky tail and weighted thirty-five kilos.


– Do you remember dogs most famous from this times of fights to the moment of their forbiddance? And later?
– Yes, Pancho of Pepito Ojeda. Was a great dog, brindle in color and El Moro of Juan Rodriguez with was of cinnamon color and fractured tail. This were the most famous that I’ ever seen. El Boy of Ramon el de Banaderos, El Turco, brother of Boy with was brindle, el Marruecos, brindle cinnamon. Other great dog belonged to Eusebio Gonzalez Padrón and was of brindle color.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 87 ” Entrevista a Salvador Hernandez Rodriguez” – year 1991

– With were your best dogs?
– My best dog  was Nerón. He came from crosses with foreign dogs. Than there was Negrito of black color. And El Merenes. This one costed me one thousand four hundred pesetas of that time. He was very special. At those times for this money you could have bought pair of cows. I’ve had several more but none stupid.

– Remembers dogs most famous of the times of dog fights to the moment of their prohibition?

– Most famous was El Asesino, alongside with El Boy of Agustin Patarrasa, and two that had Luis Barrera. One was Nauce, colored black and he fought with Boy in various occasions. I can’t remember the name of the other one.


– Do you remember last typical Presa Canario?
– Yes, El Molone, son of female belonging to Conde de la Vega Grande. He was dark brindle. Weighted forty five kilos. With this dog I won three trophies on shows organized by Cabildo. We had shows of goats, dogs and cows. This dog had big head and wide chest.

Manuel Curtó Gracia “El Perro de Presa Canario, su verdadero origin”, La Laguna Tenerife page 89 ” Entrevista a D. Demetrio Trujillo Rodriguez” – year 1991

At rooftop of his house Demetrio had perros de presa. There for quite some time was tied El Tinto, perro de presa of black color. Without a doubt, El Tinto was best fighting dog in the last years.

– With were your best perros de presa?
– El Ligero, who was fawn, El Corbato of brindle color, El Palomo with was completely white, Palgrante with was white and cinnamon, El Asesino with was black and Norforte of brindle color. And of those from now El Tinto, solid black, El Sultan also black and El Guanche brindle one.
– Do you remember dogs most famous from times of dog fightes? And later?

– The most famous was El Boy, brindle one.

“Los Perros. Gran Enciclopedia Canina” – page 955-956 “Perro de Pesa Canario – Perro de pelea Canario – Proyecto de Estandar” – year 1985
 * Project of standard from 1983 (wasn’t accepted in this form) *
Color: Of certain roughness. Brindle in different shades, from very warm dark to light grey very of cold shade. Fawn in all shades to sandy, and both of those with white markings reduced as much as possible.
Serious defect:
– total absence of mask
Eliminatory faults:
– solid black or solid white
– spots of black color
– white spots covering more than 40% of body

Presa Canario, picture from El Mundo tel Perro from year 1993. Described as: three colors of Presa

Making this short note already quite a read, next part with genetics and how some things are – and some are not –  possible for this breed will come in another article. Feel free to express your thoughts or suggestions after all this writing was created to answer some of frequently asked questions.

Ewa Ziemska
January 2018

Ewa Ziemska

Breeder and researcher of Presa Canario. Lived in Poland, London UK and presently stays in Kentucky, USA and traveled through whole Europe and 22 States discovering the breed. Speaks Polish, English and Spanish. Master of Science of Management and Computer Modeling and Engineer of Production Engineering of Kielce University of Technology. Avid traveler, photographer and dog book collector. Instagram @reygladiador