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Perro de Ganado Majorero – recovery of the breed

by Manuel Curto Gracia
Irema Curto Kennels

At the end of 1970, without means and scarcely knowledge, I was decided by the breed and selection of the Perro de Ganado Majorero.

My first Perro de Ganado Majorero was Major, of grey coat. The breeder of this dog was Ramon Sosa Roger, of Fuerteventura. Once adult, Major was matched with colilla, a majorero female brought to Tenerife from Gran Canaria – to Gran Canaria was arrived, apparently, according to what was said to me, from Fuerteventura -. Of this mating were born eleven puppies, one dead and ten alive; four were sandy grey, four black with brindle legs, and a brindle female. For the reproduction I reserved a grey male, to whom I called Major II and one brindle female to which I called Bardina. Once adult, in size and phenotype Major II and Bardina were superior to their ancestors, but in temperament the father surpassed them. We must take in consideration that the quality of Colilla left a bit to be desired. After long reflection, I decided to match Major II with Bardina, his litter sister. Bardina give birth seven puppies, of which I selected one for the reproduction; I called him Acorán. This dog was spectacular, dark sandy grey, large, strong, with good bone, double floating finger in a back leg and one in the other -I want to point out that in Fuerteventura this characteristic has been considered always like racial typicity -. Once adult, Acorán looked like a Spanish Mastiff. There was when I began to think that the Perro de Ganado Majorero had to be, unavoidably, a direct descendant of the livestock guardian dogs brought from Spain to Fuerteventura in the first dates of the conquest of the island. Sure.

Major II, Bardina, Acorán, remembered me to the present livestock guardian dogs that are the Spanish Mastiff. Smaller the majoreros, more active, a different breed of course, because our dog was raised, selected, evolved, throughout almost six hundred years in the Canary Islands, and the Spanish Mastiff in the Iberian Peninsula, but both breeds descendent of the Spanish livestock guardian dogs of 1404, that was when they could be brought to the Canary Islands the first ones.

It is probable that later, more livestock guardian dogs were brought to the Canary Islands -to those people who are interested in knowing something on the origin of the livestock guard dogs of Fuerteventura I recommend them to read my book; in the section “the dogs of the conquerors and colons of the Canary Islands”, will find very enlightening references on the matter-.

Just a short time after obtain my first litter of majoreros; I felt the urgent necessity to travel to Fuerteventura to study the dog in his environment. With this aim I planed my first trip to the island.

Once arrived at Fuerteventura, the first thing that I did was to visit Ramon Sosa Roger. The man received me in his house very amiable, and we spoke extensively about the majorero dogs. Throughout all the conversation, Ramon Sosa talked about the dog that occupies us in terms that I had never heard: “Our dog”, “the Perro de Ganado” (livestock guardian dog) “, he said, or, “the dog of the land”.

Soon Ramon Sosa took me to the Playitas to see his dogs, and we went in his car to see several dogs around there.

This breed is finished –said me the man something grieved-, no longer are dogs like those of before, believe me, that is truth. Ramon Sosa told me that he killed to the father of Major from a shot with the carbine he had to work like guard, because a day he attacked his elder son, and another day to his father-in-law when they went to take care of the cattle that he had in Las Playitas. It was a very brave dog and he did not entrusted in anybody, said me Ramon.

Ramon Sosa was during many years de guard from the south part of the island, and like so, in charge to maintain the order between the dogs and the stockmen.

Few years later, a stockman said me that every dog that walked loose by the field if Ramon Sosa liked it, he took it to the Playitas, “for that reason he has had always good dogs”, he affirmed.

In 1984, a friend from Gran Canaria called to inform me that in Tefía (Fuerteventura) was going to be celebrate a fair of livestock and agricultural machinery, in which they were going to be exposing several dogs of the land, that mean Perro de Ganado Majorero. I was in bed with all my body painful. Few hours before, a mare had reared up, and then fell backwards with me mounted on it. This type of falls frequently is mortal. I was saved by chance. Very battered I went to see to a doctor friend mine. This one made me some x-rays of the vertebrae, from the cervical to the lumbar ones. In the cervical you have multiple fissures, said, so go home and direct to the bed and do not move during ten or fifteen days. I, taken by my dog-passion and ignoring the recommendations of my friend the doctor, the morning after, with my photo camera in hand, I took an airplane to Fuerteventura. I hardly could walk bent, the pain was insufferable, I was feeling it in all the bones from the nape of the neck to the waist. The bones had never hurt me like that. That was terrible.

In the airport of Fuerteventura I took a taxi direction Tefía. Goats, ewes, cows, some horses, agricultural machinery, and moored with chains to hoops fixed throughout two white-limed walls of a meter and something of height; were about fifteen perro de Ganado majorero. Nothing special, all in brindle coat, no grey, none with white spots, any black with brindle legs. My deception was great. Those units did not have attractive racial, looked like similar only by the coat.

With severe difficulties, bent, with mi body sore from my half to above, I began to observe them, one after one. These dogs had been taken to the livestock and agricultural machinery fair from Tefía like representation of the majorera breed. While I was watching those dogs, three majorero´s countrymen, and stockmen of course, commented each to other something related to those dogs. The three men were tall; two of them were about forty years old and the other one older. I approached them and asked: What do you think about these dogs? The older man said me: well, they are not great thing. Did they look similar to those that you remember from fifty or more years ago? I asked him again. No, nothing to do, he replied, those of that time were different, they were larger, and they were of another type…, look, come here, there is a female that resembles something the dogs of before…, look that dog, she is different from those others, and this dog…, they are wider, stronger, and their head are more robust, and the way they watch, you see it?, they are not as those of before but look alike.

And how you call to these dogs here in the island, bardinos? I asked to the man. We call bardinos (brindle) only to those that are brindle, to these dogs we call them Perro de Ganado (livestock dogs), or dogs from the land.

Due it was a very warm day, the older man said, what a warm day, come with me, we are going to take a beer.
While we took the beer the stockman told me that he was eighty-three years old and that all his family had always lived on the livestock, and also the agriculture although less.

Time ago, here, almost everybody had Perro de Ganado Majorero, in the field, the man followed, and as I said you, bardinos were called the dogs of brindle coat, Do you understand me?, because we had them in different colours, look -he said me pointing towards a small reddish construction in cube form that was to about six hundred meters-, there lived… – I don’t remember the name of the person to which he talked about-, and had a true perro majorero, of breed, yellow, and there were black with brindles legs, and greys, and brindles with white spots, what happen now is that with time this breed of dogs has been lost, before there were many, but now, to see a good Perro de Ganado Majorero is necessary to walk a lot, I do not say that there is left some, but no longer is like before.

The two stockmen of forty and so years listened but they did not take part, at the most said, yes, sure is thus. After said goodbye to the three stockmen, I seated awhile to write in my notebook a summary of the conversation maintained with that stockman of eighty and three years, and to reflect…

In Gran Canaria, where I lived from middle of 1971 (more or less) until end of 1975 (also more or less) I had heard speak of the majorero dog. The truth is that not too much. I remember that once a friend said me that he had a majorero dog very nice, beautiful. He had it in his house, in the avenue Doctor Chil. Sure that in those days, I did not have a very clear idea but approximated of how was, or could be, a majorero dog. My friend, while we approached to house was losing enthusiasm about the racial quality of his dog. He said, well, I do not know if he is pure, the truth is that I do not understand of dogs you know; you see it and then, give your opinion. When we arrived at his house, my friend said, wait to see if he comes to the door and he barks to you. We waited a little while and the dog did not appear. Then my friend said me, we are going to go inside, is possible that he is above in the garden. We entered. Come on, said my friend, where is the dog, he asked himself surprised. While we were going up by stairs that give to the garden, in where the supposed majorero dog could be, a dog of medium size, brindle, with ears up like a German Shepherd dog, came towards us very friendly. This is my dog, said me my friend, what do you think? It is not a majorero dog, I answered him disappointed. Then my friend, very serious, solemn I dare to say, said me, you know, I was realizing that.

Frequently I say that of religion, politics and dogs almost everybody knows, or thinks that they know. Throughout my expanded life like breeder and trainer of dogs I have dealt with multitude of people, of both sexes, that are convinced that they understand about dogs. In the seven Canary Islands I have dealt with not few people who think that they know of native dogs, I mean dog of the Islands, or that is the impression at least that they want to give. Most of the human inhabitants of Fuerteventura –especially if they are young- are not an exception. I assume that this reality occurs more or less everywhere, I mean that is not something exclusive of the Canary Islands.

Often I have gone to Fuerteventura to learn about the Perro de Ganado Majorero. Therefore I always visited the island supplied with camera, notepad, pencil, and some money in case that I found some Perro de Ganado Majorero that pleased me and whose owner was disposed to sell it to me. Thus I have bought several dogs, of which more than four they did not give anything in the reproduction. Thus I have been gathering in my notepad all whatever the stockmen of that island had told me about the Perro de Ganado Majorero that kept their houses and livestock throughout their lives.

By Manuel Curto Gracia

Irema Curto Kennels


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