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El Dogo Argentino
by Michelle Smith Barbour
as published in the Rare Mastiff Magazine, Winter Issue, Volume I, 1997
The Vision

The Dogo Argentino or Argentine Dogo originated in Argentina and is the only national dog of that country. Around 1927, the creator of the breed, Dr. Antonio Nores-Martinez MD, saw the need for an animal that could hunt the large game predators which were devastating the local livestock industry. Russian boar, jaguar, red fox and puma were the primary predators that were responsible for this destruction. His vision was of a large dog who could run 10 miles daily on the terrain of the pampas and with endurance to continue like this for several days at a time. One who could step out of the fields and into a conformation ring but still be capable of family protection.


Dr. Nores-Martinez's description of the ideal Dogo (fig. 1) was outlined in the original standard of the Dogo Argentino written by his brother, Agustin Nores-Martinez. It describes a large dog who gives the appearance of strength and whose musculature is very well defined. Overall a dog aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Since he theoretically built the dog from the jaw out, fully intending it to be capable of surviving by jaw power with the stamina to hold prey. If the Dogo did not possess these qualities, it would, no, could not accomplish what it was intended for. Any Dogo in the field not capable of survival was simply not bred. It was survival of the fittest.


Fig.1 Rough sketch of the early Dogo
The head shape itself is a typical molossoid, mesocephalic often referred to as a square within a square. The square shape of the muzzle is due to the straight dental arches, which maximizes the surface area in which to hold prey . If the dental arches are too oval shaped or mismatched the muzzle can appear snippy or pointed. The square of the skull is due to relief of the dorsal muscles insertion at the occiput which when correct creates a flat plane across the backskull, the insertion of the masseter muscles on either side(lateral) of the topskull, help create the squared look. Preferred bite or how the incisors fit together, is a scissors bite. The upper incisors should fit tightly overlapping the lower ones. However, there must not be a significant gap between the upper incisors and the lower incisors or have the lower incisors overlap the upper, either of which indicate
prognatism.


Also characteristic of the breed is a cold, hard stare meant to intimidate. The general appearance of a good specimen of this breed should leave one in awe, with the impression of strength, capable of doing any job required of him. Although McDonald Lyon was not talking specifically about Dogos, but dogs in general, he said it best with "form follows function" 1.


Good looks alone weren't enough, Dr. Nores-Martinez needed an animal that had tenacity, agility and power. He began his work of developing the Dogo by using the "perro de pelea de Cordoba" or the fighting dog of Cordoba for foundation stock. It was a blend of several different popular breeds such Bull Terrier, Mastiff and Bulldog, used at that time for pit fighting. Truly the breed contained too much aggression towards other dogs which prevented them from being utilized as pack hunters. Certain changes were necessary to make a good large game hunting dog.


Altogether there ten different breeds used to make dog we know today as the Dogo Argentino. The English Short Hair Pointer and Irish Wolfhound were added for their scenting and sighting capabilities respectively. The Great Dane was used to improve head shape and height respectively. Bulldog and Dogue De Bordeaux were used to increase jaw pressure. The Boxer added dexterity. Mastin De Pirineos was added for the white coat, but as flock guardian contributed strength and substance, characteristic of the breed . An English mastiff contributed head, bone and size. A Bull Terrier was added for tenacity. After several generations of trial and error what developed was a solid white dog, with a short, dense hair coat that has the distinction of being the only hite dog of it's size developed to be a silent large game hunter

.

The first Dogos field tested performed marvelously on the hunt. Unfortunately in 1957, not long after field testing of the first Dogos began, Dr. Nores-Martinez was shot and killed on a hunt.

His brother Agustin, could not bear the thought of all his work dying with him, took over the production, field testing and promotion of the Dogo. It is mainly through Agustin, the magnificent Dogo breed was preserved. Thus the breed is known to have a creator, Dr.Antonio Nores-Martinez and co-creator, Agustin Nores-Martinez. Both men are credited for their individual contributions; Antonio for developing the original prototype and Agustin for his tireless effort of carrying on his brother's work and preserving original type



The Reality

When Dogos are used for hunting puma they hunt them one on one. Jaguars which weigh about 300 lb. are hunted with packs of 3 or 4 Dogos. Although there are many variations, a typical boar hunt involves a pack of chase dogs usually greyhound mixes and little hunting dogs together with a pack of 3 or 4 Dogos. The chase dogs would be faster than the Dogos and stayed in front of them. The chase dogs were the first to reach the prey but would not attack. Then the Dogos rush in and catch the face or jaw areas to immobilize the boar. This is the main reason the Dogo cannot have long or pendulent loose lips. The Dogo must be able to breath out of the corners of it's mouth while holding it's prey captive. Hunters would have to be close behind or else the Dogos would be in d anger of being killed by the prey. The hunter delivered coup de grace with a single knife thrust to the heart.


At this time Cordoba, a province in northern Argentina, hometown of the Nores-Martinez family, contained the largest concentration of Dogos. The initial field tests using Dogos, were conducted in this area and in nearby provinces, such as Neuquen. Notable hunters of this era who were involved in the initial field tests are featured in EL DOGO ARGENTINO: the Nores-Martinez brothers (there were several of them) and family members such as their father, nephew, friends like: Amadeo Bilo, professional hunter Jesus Lopez de Abechuco2 and Dr. Raul Zeballos, long-standing friend to the Nores-Martinez family, participated actively in these hunts.



Dissention

As with any breed conflicts sprung up. There were two Dogo clubs in Argentina, each had a different opinion of the Dogo's correct height.The Dogo differed in size according to the region from which they came from. The Dogos coming from the Buenos Aires area being somewhat larger then the ones from Cordoba. Antonio Nores-Martinez's had envisioned a large dog 50 to 60 CM, but said as long as the dog was balanced the points should be awarded to the largest specimen without approaching giganticism.2 This disagreement led to shows being held simultaneously at different locations, with as many as 200 contestants. Sometimes very beautiful specimens lost because of height disagreements. Agustin, using his brother Antonio's notes, transcribed the first breed standard intended to set some form of uniform height range and assist in unification of the clubs

.

Based on the success of the Dogo, the need for uniformity, and progeny breeding true formal recognition was close at hand for the breed. In countries outside of the USA, International recognition can only be given by the Federacion Cynologica Internacional(F.C.I.), whose head quarters currently resides in Thruin, Belgium. Another active organization in Argentina at that time was the Argentine Rural Society. With international recognition would enable the Dogo to compete outside of the country in any type of international show, except the American Kennel Club.


Recognition for the Dogo was sought and obtained from Federacion Cynologica Argentina (F.C.A.) in 1964 and F.C.I. in 1973. The FCI standard included notes (usually enclosed in parentheses) which describe details about the structure otherwise known as "breed type".Any translation of the original standard, even for persons who are fluent in Spanish was difficult due Aregentean dialect and the indigenous use of terminology. The text was written by professionally educated men who were liberal in their use of medical and anatomical terminology. This has created problems in the USA in that faulty tran slations and/or interpretations of this standard (and notes) have led to difficulty in breeding Dogos with breed type.


Among the charter members of the F.C.A. was an Argentine gentleman by the name of Mr. Ruben Passet Lastra. He is widely acknowledged in Argentina and Internationally as an excellent "all around" judges specializing in the Dogo Argentino. Being one of the Charter members,he was present at the first International Show in which the Dogo was exhibited, on October 24 and 25, 1964. From the beginning he has worked diligently to promote this breed in a positive image.


When the breed was first accepted into F.C.A., it was placed in Group 5 which was sort of a Hound group consisting of large game hunting dogs. Dogos were placed here because of it's olfactory capabilities. This group was disbanded in 1990 and all the breeds contained in it were either reclassified to the Working Group or to what is currently the Hound Group. The Dogo was reclassified to the Working Group due to it's molossoid appearance and capabilities beyond that of a hound typical of the Working Group. The Dogo was intended from the beginning to be a hunting dog.



Dogos cross the Equator

Dogos were first introduced into the United States in 1970. An Argentine Geologist, Dr. R. Zeballos moved to Texas bringing 6 Dogos over with him. He established a kennel which housed 27 Dogos. Several local papers as well as magazines featured articles which profiled his kennel. The his work required him to relocate to Colombia.(On the side, Dr. Zeballos was the firstto introduce Dogos into Colombia.) At this time, Dr. Zeballos did not breed any more Dogos. Nor were there any breeding pairs sold to the public. Although they were publicized, the breed did not catch on in the USA.


Then the next documentation of Dogos coming into the United States,were to the Emerald Falls kennel around 1984. Next came a breeding pair came from famous "De Agallas Kennel" With Mrs. and Dr. Moreno as the propietors. Next, Don and Joann Carty received a couple of grandsons fron a World Champion "Bucanero De Riga".


Another notable figure responsible for bringing a number of Dogos to the USA in the mid to late eighties was Graciella Hoff. Graciella Hoff, who was a native Argentine, brought over Dogos under the kennel name of Borinquen. She placed these Dogos in the hands of people who were active in other dog breeds, both rare and AKC recognized. She describes her desire to see the breed get AKC in a chapter on the Dogo included in the book by Cathy Flameholtz call Celebration of Rare Breeds.3 The breed took root. They started to grow in numbers and popularity which is still continuing to grow . Today there are an estimated 1,500 Dogos registered in the United States.


At present, it is known Dogos are versatile, multi-talented and currently used for many purposes. They love a challenge, this attribute makes it easy for them to adapt to most types of training. Dogos have been trained as Independence dogs(USA), leader dogs for the blind (Argentina 2 ) and police dogs in both countries. In the United States, we have Dogos who compete in disciplines such as: French Ring Sport, Schutzhund, Conformation, Obedience and Agility.

There is even a picture of Dogos teamed up in harnesses for sled racing. 4 We have Dogos who are TDI( therapy dogs) and those who have their CGC(Canine Good Citizen). We have Dogos who are quite capable in herding. If one thinks about all the different breeds used in the Dogo's make up, versatility is almost a given.

Temperament and Behavior

My personal belief is that a Dogo with a stable temperament can be trained for any activity. Normal temperament of a well socialized Dogo is confident, inquisitive and quick to learn. They enjoy working hard but enjoy relaxing and just being near their humans. They are protective by nature but more in a defensive way rather than aggressive. However, they can and will show aggression when challenged. If threatened they read the situation and usually react quicker to defend their human than themselves. Dogos were bred to be a hunting dog rather than a guard dog. Whether a dogo can perform well as a guard dog depends on the dog's own nature, socialization, instinct to protect and training.


Lastly, if you are considering a Dogo pup for your family please research through the breeders, clubs and individuals who are involved in the breed. Ask questions and talk to people, most will be happy to discuss what problems are inherent or hereditary in the breed. As the breed has not been in the States this long and there isn't any information in English written about medical problems that have been noted in the breed. Information exists that the original Bull Terrier was deaf so there exists problems with hearing. There is a book called Todo Acerca Del Dogo Argentino5 by noted FCI judge(Dogo Specialist) and published author, Dr. Victor Valino DVM which discusses some diagnoses from his thirty or so years experience with the breed. Unfortunately, the book is only available in Spanish at present.


References
1. Lyon, McDowell, The Dog In Action: For All Breeds, New York: Howell Book House, 1978.
2. Nores-Martinez, Agustin, El Dogo Argentino, Buenos Aires: Editorial Albatros, 1984.
3. Flamholz, Cathy, A Celebration Of Rare Breeds, Centreville: OTR Publications, 1986.
4. Valino, Victor, DVM, El Cachorro Dogo Argentino, Buenos Aires: Orientacion Gr(fica Editora, 1988.
5. Valino, Victor, DVM, Todo Acerca Del Dogo Argentino, Buenos Aires: Editorial Plus Ultra, 1994. EL DOGO ARGENTINO


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