Mastiff Breed Types -Which One Is Yours?

Argentinian Mastiff / Dogo Argentino

Posted by John Paul Trueman on

Argentinian Mastiff / Dogo Argentino

Argentinian Mastiff / Dogo Argentino

The Dogo Argentino is a Molosser-type breed developed in Argentina as a pack hunting dog.  Developed almost entirely by Antonio Nores Martinez and his brother Agustin, the Dogo Argentino was traditionally used to hunt boar and cougar, but has more recently found work as a personal protection animal and family companion.  Renowned for its tremendous courage and physical capabilities, the breed is also known for its massive size, powerful appearance, and solid white coat.  Although only recently introduced into the United States, the Dogo Argentino is quickly growing in popularity and has already earned a large number of fanciers.  The Dogo Argentino is also known as the Argentine Dogo, Argentine Mastiff, and the Dogo.

he Dogo Argentino was the result of a carefully planned and executed breeding program conducted by Antonio Nores Martinez and his brother Agustin.  Because the pair kept excellent records and their family continues to breed Dogo Argentinos to this day, more is known about the development of this breed than almost any other.  The Dogo Argentino is considered to be a member of the Molosser family, also known as the Mastiffs, Dogues, and Alaunts.  Although each breed is different, the family is characterized by massive size, large heads and jaws, a brachycephalic (pushed-in) face, strong protective instincts, and a European or Near Eastern ancestry. 

The history of the Dogo Argentino begins with the Fighting Dog of Cordoba, also known as the Cordoban Fighting Dog or Cordoban Bulldog.  When the Spanish conquered the New World, they made extensive use of war dogs to subdue the native populations.  Many of these dogs were Alanos, athletic Molosser-type dogs which are still found in Spain.  Alanos were not only used for war, but for personal protection, bullfights, hunting, and as catch dogs working with recalcitrant livestock.  At one point, Alanos and other Molossers were probably found throughout Argentina working in the nation’s massively important cattle industry.  During the 18th and 19th Centuries, the British population exploded to the point that the island could no longer provide enough food for its inhabitants.  At this point grain imports became very important to the British Empire, and Argentina with its large fertile plains became one of Britain’s primary sources.  British ships regularly docked at Argentine ports, and many of these vessels carried dogs.  After bull baiting and bear baiting were banned in the 1835, dog fighting became one of the most popular sports in the United Kingdom.  British breeders crossed Bulldogs with Terriers to create a dog that combined the power, tenacity, size, and ferocity of the Bulldog with the speed, dog aggressiveness, determination, and athleticism of a Terrier.  Such crosses were known as Bull and Terriers, and eventually gave rise to the Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeds.  British sailors brought their Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers along on voyages for companionship and to fight them as sport. 

In the mid to late 1800’s, Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers began to arrive in Argentina.  The Argentines were very impressed by the fighting prowess of these dogs, and were also quite entertained by their battles and the gambling that invariably accompanied it.  A number of Argentines acquired these dogs and began to stage their own battles. As a result Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city after Buenos Aires, would go on to become a major dog fighting hub.  In an effort to improve upon the imported dogs Cordoban breeders began crossing the biggest and best fighting dogs to develop their own breed for the purpose; a breed which would become known as the Cordoban Fighting Dog.  The Cordoban Fighting Dog was primarily based on the Bull Terrier, but was heavily influenced by the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and local Alamos as well.  Other breeds may also have gone into its development such as the Perro de Presa CanarioFila BrasileiroEnglish Mastiff, English Bulldog, Boxer, and Bullenbeiser, but such records have been lost to history.  The Cordoban Fighting Dog became legendary as a fighter, extremely ferocious in the pit, and willing to fight to the death.  These dogs were so aggressive that it was almost impossible to get them to mate because they were so likely to fight.  Local hunters would also discover that the size and aggressiveness of the breed would make it one of the only dogs capable of hunting wild boar.  The Cordoban Fighting Dog was not only smart enough to avoid being killed by a boar, but also strong and ferocious enough to hold onto it until it could be killed.  Unfortunately, Cordoban Fighting Dogs could only be used alone or sometimes in a male and female pair because the breed was far too aggressive to work with other dogs.

The Dogo Argentino has a temperament that is generally similar to that of other Molossers, but this breed is somewhat softer tempered and more driven than many other family members. The Dogo Argentino is an extremely people-oriented breed.  This dog forms incredibly close attachments to all members of its family and craves to be in their presence at all times.  This can be a problem as more than a few breed members develop severe separation anxiety.  The Dogo Argentino is a breed that wants constant close personal contact, and many of them come to believe that they are lap dogs.  This is not the ideal breed for anyone who doesn’t want a one hundred plus pound dog constantly attempting to lie on top of or lean against them.  Although devoted and affectionate, this breed is often very dominant and challenging, making it a very poor choice for a novice dog owner.

Although there is a growing fear among fanciers that inexperienced breeders may eventually compromise the health of the Dogo Argentino, this breed remains in considerably better health than the vast majority of breeds of this size.  The Dogo Argentino suffers from fewer health problems than most giant breeds, and also from lower rates.  As a result, the breed has a life expectancy of between 10 or 12 years, considerably longer than many similar dogs. 

Dogo Argentinos do suffer from very high rates of one serious problem, deafness.  Although it does not appear that any wide-ranging health studies have been conducted, it is known that this is a very common problem in the breed.  The genes responsible for hearing and color are closely linked in dogs, and most white-coated breeds suffer from high rates of deafness.  Solidly white animals with blue eyes are virtually always deaf, which is why dark eyes are so greatly preferred by breeders and in the show ring.  Congenital deafness in Dogo Argentinos may either be bilateral (deaf in both ears) or unilateral (deaf in one ear).  Unilaterally deaf animals should not be used for breeding but almost always make just as good pets or working animals.  Bilaterally deaf dogs are extremely difficult to handle along with being unpredictable, and most breeders have them humanely euthanized when their defect is discovered.  It is very important that anyone considering acquiring a Dogo Argentino puppy make sure that it has had its hearing tested.