Pancho “The King”

In those dates (decade of the 70´s) don Pancho de La Paz Hernandez, nicknamed the King, was around eighty years old -he was born in 1895-, was of medium stature, rose face, dark eyes very vivacious, alway with hat (I never saw him without hat) of dark felt or something similar, and covered with a esperancera (of La Esperanza) blanket -variety of layer of white virgin wool probably of Castilian origin with three or four transverse strips of black ewe wool below-. When we arrived was seated in a bench of wood at the entrance door, the man no longer saw or at a distance, for that reason when he heard us he made since usually they make the old dogs, sharpen the view as if was night or getting dark. Pedro, the son of Gabino and Doña Carmen, made the introduction. Listen, Don Pancho, I bring you here a friend whom wants to speak with you, about the dogs of presa. Don Pancho stood with difficulty and he tended me the hand. Welcome, said Don Pancho, this is your house, for what you need, sit down, is not bad here, I like to seat in this bench, here between these trees, must be because one is old, the years do not respect, you knows?, when I was young I did not stop, I was always doing something; to maintain the family, that I have had many children to feed. Don Pancho, interrupt Pedro, that the gentleman has come so that you tell him histories on the presa dogs that you had, we have said him that you had very good dogs of presa.

Yes, said Don Pancho with satisfaction face, were not bad, although, sure there would be better than them, I do not say that no, I had one white, good dog, yes sir! we called him Teide, and was truth of the land, and the Leon, that was chocolate-like, and the Santiago, that was coloradito (tan), today are not dogs of those, in short, the time passes and everything is lost. To not tire to Don Pancho with our visit, half hour later of be talking with him we said goodbye. Come when you wants, said the man to me, that here you will find me always, unless I dies before.

Soon after I bought a property in the Guillén way -where I live since then-, in front the one of Pancho El Rey. Coincidence of the life. Once in a while Don Pancho said to some of my children, in those years kids, say to your father that comes to visit me when he wants, that we will speak of presa dogs, of how I taught them, in old way. Thus, when my occupations allowed me, I was going to take coffee at home of Pancho El Rey, who always was very contented of being able to speak of his past and his dogs.

By those days someone told an anecdote about him -that already I published years ago- that made me felt the personage most affectionate. In the past, Don Pancho taught dogs of presa, and sometimes without receiving, by liking said him that he did it. In certain occasion a lawyer of La Laguna took him a dog so that he teach him, and to fed him once in a while also one sack of gofio -flour of toasted wheat-, but seeing the lawyer that the dog was more and more skinny, said him: “Look, Don Pancho, that the dog is skinny”. Don Pancho watched the lawyer and with certain sarcasm answered him: “No, the dog eats, yes, which happens is that he has taken the classes very seriously”. They were the years of postwar and the hunger pressed all the spanish families of little economy, Pancho El Rey had, in addition, very numerous family.

One afternoon Don Pancho sent me message so that I go to take coffee with him. When arriving the man was seated in his bench of wood. Very near him they were the dogs Moro and Deny. Moro was a black dog with brindles legs, son of a Spanish Mastiff and a female of presa; Deny was son of Moro and a female of no breed semi lupine of brindle coat. Both dogs were magnificent. To this type of dogs we called them bastos (coarse), said me Don Pancho, and they are not bad, no sir, this dogs are useful for the necessities of the field, to guard, to defend, for the coarse cattle. At a given moment, Don Pancho said to his son Enrique, go to the block of the cows and give a pair of sticks on the dornajo – dornajo is the eat recipient of the cows done of a drained trunk of canary pine-. Enrique went to the block of the cows, the dogs followed laying there, near us. Pancho El Rey continued speaking me of his dogs, I do not know if to distract me, the certain thing was that I forgot the mission that was going to fulfill Enrique. At a given moment sounded two uproarious blows in the stable of the cows, that was distant about twenty steps from us. I was surprised. The dogs rose as impelled and impetuous went towards the entrance of the block, immediately afterwards heard conciliation voices, was Enrique who tranquilized the dogs that barked agitated as if they wanted to eat to somebody. Immediately afterwards, Enrique left the stable with the dogs surrounding him, well,well, that is me, said to them, damn with these dogs, that almost bite me!

To the dogs it is necessary to teach to defend their own house, said me Don Pancho, and the thieves can enter by any place, for that reason the dogs must go to any strange noise and attack. Look, comes, that I am going to show you a thing, said Don Pancho, standing of his bench of wood, comes here, you will see. I followed the passages of Don Pancho, that was entered in the stable of the cows. Entering, in left side was a dornajo with four or five tied cows of red color with heavy chains, in the right side there was a great space to store the hay, and more or less in the center was an old bench of carpenter.

Look, you knows what is that?, a carpenter bench, was of a carpenter friend mine, who when retired not knowing what to do with it, gave it to me, I have had always very special endearing to that bench, for that reason is there, well, I taught to bite to the dogs of presa in that bench, what seems to you?, and you will say that how, well; with burlap coats I made a manikin more large as a man, with head, arms, legs, everything, and I put him also a hat, and I filled it with straw, and with that I taught the dogs to bite, had it hanging of that beam, half meter over the bench, and in the legs, that I sewed and ripped to my wish, I put pork meat inside, and I struck the manikin with a stick while said to the dog, pega perro, pega perro, pega perro!! (strikes dog), and thus until the dog understood, and once the dog learned, bit the legs saying him pega perro, at the same time I gave sticks to the manikin, yes, the animal rose in a jump to that bench and attacked the man of coat like fierce, until broke it and then ate the pork meat, that was his food, soon, was enough that one said to the dog, pega perro, so that the dog bit what were, a cabbage, a tree, a cow, or to a person if it had been necessary.

Don Pancho always said that the dog that does not have collar is as if he did not have master. I always have taken the dogs loose, presumed Don Pancho, for that I taught them, and they always went to my foot, or next to the cart, if I went with the cart and the cows, and if I meet with some friend who went accompanied of a dog, my dog did not go to the encounter of the other, nor to smell it nor to anything, and if the other went towards mine, this one backed down, and if the other wanted fight, mine refused the fight, because a taught dog either does not take the initiative, this one is take by his master, that for something is the owner of the dog, and those dogs that go that way to the encounter of everybody are good for nothing, and by its behavior is evident that their owners do not know to have a dog, and to whom does not know to have a dog I say him that he does not have dog, and less of presa.

For Don Pancho, to have a presa dog was not a game, it was something serious, and it was necessary to have him well taught. Because the dog without teaching does not serve for nothing, he said, however if it is taught serves for everything, a taught dog is of much aid, and he can remove one from many hardships, you understand?

Don Pancho died a few years ago, the time does not pardon, used to say. Moro and Deny also died. His son Enrique (unmarried), who continues living in the same house with an unmarried sister, has a coarse dog without quality some that follows him everywhere, and tied with chains has other four or five, one of them of presa, that gave him his to nephew Ricardo. Ricardo is grandson of Pancho El Rey, son of Ricardo that is not perrero. Enrique does not know to teach a dog, said me in certain occasion Pancho El Rey, he like the dogs but he does not have taste to teach them. Ricardo, the grandson of Don Pancho (that in peace rests and in the Glory be) has had several dogs of presa in these last years, but he has not been contented with any of them, bought to the boys of the club, says, but nothing, has no served. Ricardo has come some days to learn the office of agitator, he likes the work, but…, he works more hours of the desirable ones, has girlfriend, and he want to marry, he has to make house, once in a while have meeting with the architect, who are going to receive from him about two million pesetas for the plans, the direction of works, etc., etc., in short, that this life is not like the one of before, in certain way we live better, yes, but one is nobody, Don Manuel, says Ricardo to me, a job is not more than a job, a pay gives for little. The girlfriend of Ricardo also works, that mean that together they will be able to pay to the architect, and the house will do it with a loan with mortgage, soon, who know when they will be able to have children, because the life is very complicated today, ah!!. Ricardo wants that I sell him a presa, clear, when he will be in the house, that has not begun to build. Ricardo has liking and qualities for perrero, but…

Written by Manuel Curtó Gracia

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