Interview with Mr. Asensio

In our desire to have a better understanding of the Presa Canario,we have decided to speak to one of the main representatives of the breed in the Iberian Peninsula,Mr.Juan carlos Asensio.Mr.Asensio one of the main introducers of the breed tells us his dogs have the character-temp-,the looks and above all the loyalty towards their master their ancestors used to have,his presas are multipurpose dogs capable of pleasing the most demanding owner.
An always controversial Mr Asensio, he has inconditional followers and detractors too,having all this considered,we couldn´t miss this opportunity to speak with him,hoping he would give us his insight and help us understand this amazing breed:El Perro de Presa Canario.

Q. – How and when did you first get involved with the Presa Canario?
A. – I don´t remember exactly,I was very young,what I do remember is a dog  who deeply impressed  me,I was very young then,this dog was famous for being a real devil with strangers and very good natured with children,I imagine it was a presa,I´m not that sure,his appearance, coat colour and his name “GUANCHE” made me think it was.Later in an international show,a special mention was made about a couple of Presas Canarios,for being an almost extinct breed.Being in those days under a recovery project,it was then when one of the judges who was next to these Presas started clapping, next, one the presas turned towards him and bit him,this is what without any hesitation made me take up the breed.

Q. – Tell us about when you first started with the Presa Canario and about what you expected from this breed.
A. – After that show I mentioned earlier,I decided to get myself some bitches and dogs from Las Palmas and also from Tenerife,to see for myself if there were any differences between them.I was able to notice that the dogs from las Palmas were more dog fighting prone while the ones from Tenerife were great guard dogs,I then started crossing them and breeding them with the right criteria I believe.A powerful dog good capable of standing their own ground against any breed,and ideal as a guard and defense dog came out of these crossings.

Q. – Why this difference between the the dogs from Las Palmas and the dogs from Tenerife?
A. – The Perro de Presa Canario is a very singular and characteristic thing of the Canarian people,each “presero” has his own criteria on what a Presa Canario should be like,this is the reason I believe for the dyscrepancies,I know of many good examples of presas canarios from one of the islands not being allowed to breed with bitches from the other island.This is one of the main reasons they haven´t achieved what I have achieved in the world of the Presa Canario,and also the reason why I´m not as respected.Any old “presero” would to this date like my dogs better,because they are functional dogs and they haven´t changed to meet the commercial aspects of many other breeds.

Q. – Which are the main reasons in your opinion for the the actual gradual loss of character-temp- in the breed?
A. – We have always seen impressive molossers and molosser type of dogs in countries like Mauritania,Morocco.etc,what happens is that not being the before mentioned,developed countries,these dogs are still used for what they were bred and created for,they serve a purpose,and they are not bred with the only intention of making money with them.We can think that it is a shame we cannot have access to these dogs,but we could also think that if we did these dogs would loose their original character and temp and we would start talking about standard,pedigrees,fashion etc…the only ones to judge these dogs should be their owners,never a judge in a show ring,their owners should judge their dogs courage and abilities to guard,hunt,herd etc.If this had been the case for many autoctonous spanish breeds,we would have never seen Presas Canarios with dysplasia and without character,Spanish alanos without any prey drive and Majoreros with clearly visible weakness problems,their owners,breeders and the enviroment would have taken care of culling them.You can see an example of what i´m saying in the best Spanish greyhounds,these dogs do what they have been bred for,these dogs run hares during the hunting season,most of them don´t have pedigrees and they preserve their natural instinct,their owners keep the pedigree of these dogs in their head,and a 99% of these dogs will never see a dog show in their life,why?because their real beauty lies in their functionality,and only their ability to do their work right will tell whether they are good for breeding or not,never for not having the right percentage of colour markings,or size.I believe I have left it very clear as for what the reasons of the decline of “THE AUTHENTIC PERRO DE PRESA CANARIO” is concerned,unscrupulous breeders just trying to make money who instead of being selective when breeding they have just sold papers and pedigrees without worrying about what really mattered.These are the ones who have really harmed the breed.Q. – What would you say a good Presa Canario is in terms of appearance then?
A. – The myth of a standard can ruin any breed,as I have said before I put more importance on functionality and character than cosmetics.There are of course aspects you can never leave aside,the dogs must have a thick and heavy bone,compact,the legs must be well set,these are not cosmetics,its neccessary,we have to take into account the weight the dog must stand,the paws must be “lion like” rather than “cat like”.A small head is not desirable since the Presa Canario is a molosser,as for the coat colour it´s something I do not consider to be important,most of my dogs are brindle, bardino,sometimes fawn,I don´t mind black, reddish or white regardlees of the percentage on the coat.We have to take into account that despite the fact that many will never accept it,many breeds like the Am Staff,Am pit bull,Bull terrier,German Dogo,Neapolitan Mastiff,other types of Mastiffs and many others have been used in the recovery of the breed regardless what many breeders have to say about it,the appearance of white markings,and also black in the Presa Canario is to be expected,and it´s not new either.The Canary Islands were in the past a compulsory stop for merchant and warships to stock up with provisions and drinking water,many of these ships were english and carried with them fighting dogs,old bulldogges,bull terriers,pit bulls.Due to how fond Canarians had always been of fighting their dogs,these english fighting breeds were bred with the dogs from the islands,It´s logicall the white and black appeared frequently in the Presa canario coats.

Q. – Compensating for all this The Perro de Presa Canario has also contributed to the recovery of other breeds too hasn´t it?
A. – That´s right,this is also something many will not admit,it´s something I do not understand as I know for a fact that many light weight Presas Canarios have been bred with Alanos,but we don´t want to start any arguments.

Q. – Has any of your dogs ever been presented in a Dog show?
A. – I have never done it,but their owners have.To me it´s of no significance it´s why I wouln´t be able to tell you about how they did in the shows,whether they won anything or in what shows the dogs had participated.But now that you mention it, I rememeber”Yoko de Atlas Asio” winning in two open shows, best of breed(Excellent first for a young dog,and best of breed in the other one).Volcán de Atlas Asio and his owner M. Escobar also got good results in Dog shows although they are now involved in sports competitions,being the first working spanish breed in the world to be recognized internationally,another dog “Romo” was thrown out of the show for “Going for” a judge,this is something I will never understand, does a dog have to stay still and allow a stranger to come near him with his arm extended?,it´s more likely that only “soft”dogs are allowed in these shows.Let me add that my line of dogs are among the few who still look very much like the Presas who appear on the old engravings,it´s logicall then that if they participate in any of these events they always get good results.I believe that many so called “breeders” would give anything to have the curriculum my dogs have.Q. – What´s your opinion about other breeds from the islands like the Ca de Bou,Ca de bestiar,Majorero etc…?
A. – They were really hard and functional dogs,really fantastic,but I say they were because I believe they have lost all the attributes they were bred for,and we go back to what I mentioned earlier,they might look the same but they have lost their functionality.You must realize that the Majorero sometimes had to spend weeks with a herd without having anyone to feed the dog for weeks,he had to be a very strong dog to carry out his job with such a strict diet.Majoreros have simply gone through a natural selection process,the weak ones simply died,even though there are only a few Majoreros left now,they are the only ones who still preserve the essence of its predecessors.It drew my attention the fact that in the Spanish Breeds show that took place in the Escorial,we weren´t able to see any Majoreros.,such an emblematic breed,we can all make our own conclusions.

Q. – How do you think that last and unfortunate events and the campaign against the so called “dangerous breeds” started by the media and some institutions can affect the Presa Canario?
A. – Well, we have to differentiate two very important aspects that we are not taking into consideration,first we have what happenned,the attack of an amstff pit bull cross against a woman,second we have the use the media and the press make of these events,they inmediatly relate the attack with fighting dogs and dog fighting,a subject that nowadays sells a lot more than the actual attack to the woman.In fact 15 days after this happenend we completely stopped hearing about the accident again,yet we still have many tabloids talking about dogfighting.Why? the answer is simple,the world of dogfighting is enveloped in illegal and multimillionare betting,drugs,the mafia and everything that goes around that world,and of course it gives way to lots more writting on the subject.How will this affect the Presa Canario?I believe the APBT will be one to have more to lose.We must take into account that the APBT is in fashion nowadays and it´s stopping breeders of breeeds such as Rottweilers,German Shepherds and Boxers etc from selling more´s natural many people are happy with what is happening to the Pit Bull.Other breeders of many of these breeds seing what was coming inmediatly became expert APBT breeders.

Q. – Do you think then, that the APBT apart from loosing popularity is also getting worse as a breed?
A. – Of course,it´s exactly the same as what´s been happening with the Presa Canario.,nowadays anyone with a male and a female of Presa Canarios can call himself a breeder,others take advantage of the “boom” and all of a sudden become breeders,other ones realizing there is a great demand for the dogs sell any pit bull crossed dogs for 30.000 Ptas.I was one of the first to own Pit bulls in Spain,and I can say that the ones we used to see before had nothing to do with the ones we see nowadays.In those days people started crossing pit bulls with amstaffs just for the sake of producing more puppies,many of the APBTs we see today are descendants of those crosses.As for the decline of the APBT,dogs have always been fought.,as a mere entertairment, (shephers had always fought their Mastiffs,so did the miners in ireland with their pit bulls,the coachmen their french bulldogs and the Presa Canarios in the Canary islands,etc.)Right now people to see which is the toughest let their dogs loose in the parks,of course if there is a pit bull around the other dog comes out the looser,if the other breed comes out the winner the owner see things very differently.If we sum up to all this the nutters who always with more powerful dogs harass other dogs walking quietly on the streets,all the bad press against the breed,yes,a breed,it belongs to the terrier breeds and recognized as such no matter how many people deny this fact.In the end it will become a an outlaw breed few will have access to,I don´t believe they will ever finish with the breed though.Q. – Going back to the Presa Canario and to end this interview,how would you define your dogs and what does the future hold for the breed in your opinion Mr.Asensio?
A. – The Presa Canario must have in one dog the best of the breeds that have been used for breeding and recovering the breed,in this respect i believe my dogs are great examples of this,it´s why I can just use three words to talk about my dogs:”Loyalty,Courage and Intelligence” all this is worth a lot more than any paper.

Q. – And the bloodline of your dogs?
A. – (He thinks for a momment).They are different,they will be known as Atlas Asio for having the character of the old Presas.

And this is how this interesting conversation finished,after listening to another view of this great breed,a view that didn´t leave any of us indifferent.

Our thanks go to Gabi “from Iron bull” for making this interview possible,also to The restaurant “El Manjar de Tlamanca” for letting use their premises and to Raquel and Toni for their collaboration.

Luis Lozano

Originally published in the spanish magazine “Molosos, terrier y perros de presa” – Year 1998
English translation: Omar Sobarzo Medina, David Espinoza
Thanks to: Gabi – Iron Bull

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