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Presa Canario Dog Breed

Presa Canario attack

Among the planet’s most powerful and imposing dog breeds is the Perro de Presa Canario. The name is a mouthful but is usually shortened to Presa Canario or Presa. 

This breed is widely considered to make for a loyal pet and a first-rate guard dog when appropriately raised. But it also has a reputation as a fearsome fight dog with an aggressive streak when it is not well trained. Unfortunately, Presa Canario attacks are known to happen and can prove deadly.

Explore this article for everything you need about the Presa Canario dog breed. From its origins and characteristics to how you should handle a Presa Canario attack, we have all the information you need. Legal options are available to you if you are the victim of a Presa Canario bite, mapped out here in our step-by-step guide.

Presa Canario Breed

Reputation of the Presa Canario

The Presa Canario has a reputation as an aggressive and sometimes dangerous breed. It has gained notoriety over the years due to some high-profile attack incidents – some of which are highlighted in this article.

 You could be bitten by a dog of any breed, but some breeds are more prone to violence and aggression than others. The Presa Canario is one such breed.

It is not uncommon to come across an aggressive Presa Canario. These dogs have a well-deserved reputation as being strong-willed and difficult to control. 

This reputation is enhanced by their appearance. They are large, muscular, and powerful dogs that can look extremely intimidating.

History of the Presa Canario

history of the presa canario

The Presa Canario breed’s origin can be traced back to the 15th and 16th centuries, according to the American Kennel Club.

The first recorded discovery of the breed was on the Canary Islands, off the Spanish coast. It is believed that they are descendants of the Perro de Granado Majorero – a type of mastiff indigenous to the area – and share genetics with a variety of other Spanish breeds.

Presa Canarios were initially bred as work dogs. They were used as sentries and protectors, standing guard over farms on the Canary Islands. In this role, their job was to protect and herd cattle and kill wild animals trying to prey on the farm stock.

Aside from acting as a cattle dog, the Presa was also used in the archaic sport of dog fighting. Owners would pit their pups against each other in vicious bouts and often chose to use Presa Canarios due to their size and power. 

This history of Presa Canario violence shows precisely why many people fear the breed today. These dog fights were common in the Canary Islands until the 1940s or 50s, when they were finally outlawed.

Once dog fighting was largely eliminated, the breeding of Presa Canarios was tightly controlled, causing their numbers to plummet. They didn’t pick up until the 1970s when breeders tried to safeguard the Presa’s future. 

An association was formed on the island of Tenerife in 1982, with the specific aim of ensuring the survival and revival of the Presa Canario.

Presa Canario Characteristics

Physical Characteristics of the Presa Canario

  • Height: Males – 23-26 inches / Females – 22-25 inches
  • Weight: Males – 100-160 pounds / Females – 85-150 pounds
  • Color: A range of shades of fawn and brindle coloring
  • Coat: Short and slightly coarse
  • Ears: Sometimes cropped

The breed’s imposing physical appearance contributes to the fear factor surrounding Presa Canarios. A healthy Presa can weigh up to 160 pounds and will be extremely powerful. This means that a Presa Canario attack will be difficult for anyone to fend off.

The ears of this dog are also usually cropped – though this practice is banned in some countries. The cropping makes the dog’s ears stand upright, giving the animal a more formidable look. 

It is also done for practical reasons, to save them from potential harm when a dog is working with cattle.

The Presa Canario is described as having a large square-shaped head, a sloping back, a strong tail, and a cat-like agile movement.

Behavioral Characteristics of the Presa Canario

  • Intelligent
  • Headstrong
  • Territorial
  • Self-confident
  • High activity level
  • Suspicious of strange people and dogs
  • Protective

The Presa Canario is a guard dog at heart. It is intelligent, curious, and wary of strangers. This breed can form strong bonds with humans and will be calm and attentive when appropriately raised. A Presa is also active and energetic and needs a good amount of exercise to be content.

Presa Canario Temperament

Due to their strong will and protective nature, the Presa Canario temperament can be a concern. Different dog breeds have varying traits, but most dogs are not born aggressive. Dangerous behavior usually comes as a result of wide-ranging environmental factors.

While generally calm in demeanor, you would expect a Presa to be alert and hostile in the face of any perceived danger to themselves or their family. They also do not typically get on well with cats and other dogs. 

If they do not receive the right training, care, or attention as young puppies, a Presa Canario can be disobedient, aggressive, and even dangerous in everyday situations.

Owning a Presa Canario

In the wrong hands, a Presa can represent a serious risk to people and animals around them. Experts believe that first-time dog owners, or owners who have only ever had more good-natured and docile breeds, should steer clear. That is a recipe for a dangerous Presa Canario.

As with all dogs, the behavior of a Presa Canario depends largely on its training. In fact, this is more important with a Presa than most other breeds. This is due to their capacity for aggression if not trained properly, not to mention the potentially deadly effects of a Presa Canario bite.

Top 10 Training Tips for Presa Canario Owners

  1. Presa Canarios need a strong alpha to provide firm training. Your pet needs to understand that you are in charge.
  2. Do not use force to train your puppy – by making them fearful, you may make the dog more likely to attack or exhibit aggressive behavior as it develops.
  3. Make sure your Presa puppy knows and responds to its name. This is a vital first step in teaching it to pay attention and remain obedient.
  4. Start providing frequent socialization for your puppy with different people as soon as you get it home. It is important to start training as soon as possible. Ease the puppy into interactions with new people and make sure it is supervised.
  5. Attend puppy kindergarten sessions and obedience training with your Presa from around 10 weeks old – don’t wait too long!
  6. Use positive reinforcement when possible to help shape your puppy’s behavior.
  7. Visit friends and neighbors with your dog, and invite people to interact with it. It is important that a Presa learns to tell the difference between a stranger and a real threat.
  8. Keep your Presa puppy busy and active with exercise and activities to prevent them from becoming bored and engaging in bad behavior. This breed often needs more intense exercise than walking.
  9. Make sure your yard is secured with a strong six-foot fence. If the dog escapes and is allowed to roam in unfamiliar settings, it could result in your Presa Canario attacking or biting someone.
  10. Presa Canarios have a strong prey instinct – make sure you prevent them from chasing cats and small dogs.

Even in experienced hands, these dogs are difficult to manage. It is smart to be wary of a Presa Canario, especially if it does not know you, because they can and will attack. If you are not careful, there is a strong possibility that you will become the victim of a Presa Canario bite.

Where is the Presa Canario Banned?

The Presa breed is banned in some countries, and even small areas of the United States, by breed-specific legislation. This is a powerful indicator of how dangerous Presa Canario pets are considered to be.

The following locations have bans or restrictions over Presa Canarios:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Malaysia
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Ukraine
Presa Canario banned countries

Australia and New Zealand both have strict bans on importing and selling Presa Canario dogs. These bans were put in place as part of an effort to target dangerous dogs and eliminate Presa Canario attacks.

In Malaysia, Romania, Singapore, and Ukraine, restrictions have been placed on the breed, rather than outright bans. Malaysia has strict limitations on the importation of Presa dogs, with would-be owners having to apply to the government for permission. 

In Romania and Singapore, people can own these dogs, but they have to be leashed and muzzled at all times in public to prevent a Presa Canario bite incident. In Ukraine, restrictions are placed on the breeding of animals.

There are even a couple of instances of bans in very specific areas of the United States. In Lone Tree, Colorado, and Wheeling, West Virginia, the breed is currently illegal.

Presa Canario Attacks

The Presa Canario breed has been responsible for several reported dog attacks. A comprehensive study was carried out into violent dog incidents between 1982 and the end of 2014. Presa Canario bite attacks were the fourth most common among all breeds.

Researcher Merritt Clifton, from the publication Animals 24-7, studied media reports of dog attacks across the United States and Canada through a 32-year period.

Over that time, Presa Canarios were responsible for 111 attacks causing bodily harm. That number includes 18 deaths and 63 maiming injuries that caused permanent disfigurement. 

The study found more than 150 breeds were responsible for at least one attack. Of those 150, the Presa Canario had the fourth-most incidents, behind only the Pit Bull, Rottweiler, and German Shepherd.

Both the Rottweiler and German Shepherd rank in the top eight most-owned dogs in the U.S., while the Presa Canario is outside the top 150, making the statistics even more worrying. 

There are many Presa Canario attacks based on the relatively low ownership numbers, showing just how dangerous this breed can be.

The study also showed that Presa Canarios attacks almost as many adults as children, which is an extremely unusual pattern. This shows that Presa dogs are not scared to bite larger targets that carry more of a threat.


Presa Canario Attack Case Studies

The Death of Diane Whipple

One of the most famous Presa Canario attack cases caused the tragic death of Diane Whipple in 2001. Two Presa Canarios mauled the victim, who was just 33 years old, inside her San Francisco apartment building.

The dogs – named Bane and Hera – were being cared for by a married attorney couple who lived in the same building as the victim. The wife, Marjorie Knoller, was attempting to take the dogs up to the roof when they broke free and launched the vicious and fatal hallway attack. Diane Whipple suffered 77 dog bite wounds and died later that day.

The owners were both jailed after the attack. Marjorie Knoller was convicted of second-degree murder, with a sentence of 15 years to life. She was the first person to be convicted of murder in a California dog mauling case. 

Husband Robert Noel served four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Both dogs were put down. Whipple’s partner also successfully sued the couple for $1.5 million in damages.

The Death of Clifford Clarke

Another fatal Presa Canario attack saw retiree Clifford Clarke mauled to death in his own backyard, outside his home in England. The dog, known as Charlie, had escaped from the yard next door and mauled Mr. Clarke in a vicious attack. 

The victim suffered horrific injuries, including losing one arm. He died from the severity of his wounds and major blood loss.

The police at the scene had to shoot the dog because it was still attacking. Owners Hayley Sulley and Della Woods were jailed after the incident. They were sentenced to two years in prison—the maximum sentence for a dog attack case in England. 

It was reported that they had not fed the dog in 45 hours and had left it in the yard with no shade or water.

Presa Canario Bite Force

Presa Canario bite force

When a Presa Canario bites, it will cause serious damage.

There are very few reliable statistics out there when it comes to the bite force of specific dog breeds, due to the difficulty in testing this figure accurately. Some indicators do exist though.

Studies have shown that dogs of a greater size – with large heads and more powerful jaw muscles – naturally have the most physical capacity for causing damage through biting.

However, a dog’s bite force will also depend on other factors. The force of a bite can be relative to an individual dog, including its mood and motivation for biting, not just its genetics.

Despite the testing difficulties, some researchers believe the bite force of a Presa Canario might exceed 500 PSI. It is also widely believed to be in the top 10 of most powerful canine biters. If it means to hurt you, a Presa can do so with ease.

What to do When a Presa Canario Attacks You

Top 8 Tips to Avoid or Survive a Dog Attack

  1. Do not approach a strange Presa Canario if possible. The breed is naturally wary of strangers and can attack with little warning.
  2. Do not panic! If you end up face-to-face with an aggressive Presa, stay still, do not make eye contact, and keep your arms by your side. You do not want to look like a threat or encourage it to chase you.
  3. Protect yourself but do not fight back. If the dog remains aggressive and launches an attack, use an object such as a purse, backpack, or even a trashcan lid, as a buffer to keep it at bay. If you have nothing to hand, wrap your forearm in a shirt or jacket and hold it out in front of you.
  4. Call for help! Try not to put anyone else at risk, but if you are the victim of a sustained attack by a Presa Canario, you may be left fighting for your life. Call for help from anyone nearby who can arrive quickly.
  5. Get to the high ground. The best way to survive a Presa Canario attack is to climb into a position where the dog can no longer reach you, such as the top of a wall or the hood of a car.
  6. Keep your arteries covered. If you cannot get to safety, make sure you protect yourself. We have shown how deadly a Presa Canario bite can be. If it bites your inner forearm or thigh, there is a major danger that you will bleed out before help arrives.
  7. Fight back if forced to. Hitting or kicking a dog may make its attack more ferocious. However, if a Presa Canario has a strong hold on you with its teeth, you may have no other choice. Aim for sensitive areas.
  8. Stay on your feet. An attacking dog will try to drag you off your feet and is most dangerous when you are on the ground. Stay on your feet at all costs. If you are on the ground, you have to protect yourself. Curl into a ball, tuck your head in, make fists to protect your fingers, and cover any sensitive areas – such as your neck – until help arrives or the attack ends.

What to do After a Dog Attack

Presa Canario temperament

Once the incident is over and the dog has fled or been contained, your first step should be to seek medical attention for your injuries if necessary. The most likely dog bite injuries that you might sustain in an attack include (but are not limited to):

  • Punctures and torn flesh
  • Infections from untreated wounds
  • Permanent scarring
  • Muscle and tendon damage
  • Emotional pain and suffering

The severity of your injuries will determine whether you need to visit a doctor to prevent an infection from taking hold, or a hospital for emergency treatment.

Once you are out of danger and your injuries have been attended to, you should take the following steps:

Checklist: What to do After a Dog Attack

  • Call the police and file a report – do so immediately after the attack if possible
  • Document the scene and your injuries
  • Speak to witnesses – secure statements and contact details
  • Contact an accomplished dog bite lawyer

What You Need to Provide in a Dog Attack Case

  • Write a personal account of the incident. Be honest and thorough – don’t leave anything out.
  • Obtain a copy of the police report from the incident.
  • Provide copies of any medical reports relating to the attack.
  • Provide video footage or photographs showing the attack or the area in which it occurred.
  • Include photos of your injuries at various stages.
  • Collect and provide statements from any eyewitnesses who can offer first-hand accounts.

Important: Make sure all the information and evidence are clear and well organized.

A case involving a Presa Canario attack may be complex and uncomfortable. Dog owners will often urge you not to call authorities or take legal action, and no one wants to be the reason a dog is put down. But the bottom line is that a dangerous dog should not be allowed to hurt anyone else.

In dog bite cases, liability lies with the owner according to the dog bite laws in California. The owner would be responsible for paying any costs, including medical bills and compensation for personal injuries and suffering.

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