The Presa Canario history is a long and intriguing one. Perhaps the most notable point is that the Canary Islands, originally called the Island of Dogs, are named after them. (The Spanish term for dog, or canine, is "cane," which is pronounced kha-nay.) This nevertheless ancient dog — which is documented to have been around in the 16th century — is somewhat new in that the Spain-based Real Sociedad Canina de Espana (RSCE) recognized the breed as late as 1989.
It is believed that conquering Spaniards introduced Mastiff-style dogs to the isles in the 15th century. If you are wondering what breeds came to make a Presa Canario, they are thought to have been the Iberian Presa, sundry bulldogs (by way of British colonists in the 18th century) and a sheepdog called the Bardino Majorero. For the first few centuries, the dogs were used for guarding and driving cattle, killing predators and hunting down prey. At times, however, they themselves were hunted when their populations grew too large.
The dogs of this archipelago eventually came to be called Perro de Presa Canario (the "Canary Dog of Prey"). They were first known outside the islands when an historian, Agustín Millares Torres, wrote about them in his 1881 book, Historia General de las Islas Canarias ("General History of the Canary Islands").
The dogs were also trained for fighting as sport; that was outlawed in the 1940s. Although they were still used for farming purposes, their population declined. In the 1970s, interest was renewed and the dogs became somewhat generalized under the name Presa Canario. Clubs started to spring up in the early 1980s, some of the dogs were exported to the U.S.. By the mid-1990s, the American Kennel Club (AKC) was taking notice.
Although the breed is not formally recognized by the (AKC), its current development is registered under the club's Foundation Stock Service (FSS). The United Kennel Club (UKC) and Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) do recognize the breed, although the FCI recognizes the breed as Dogo Canario, which is a whole other controversy. Some people and clubs believe the Presa and the Dogo are two different breeds, whereas others claim "both" dogs are one breed — all of which continues to make the history of the Presa Canario rich indeed!