Best known for its former use in bull baiting, the Alano Espanol, also known as the Spanish Bulldog is a very large indigenous Spanish Molosser type dog. The breed derives its name from the Alana, a group of nomadic pastoralists known to keep large livestock guardian dogs and pursuit dogs. It is believed that the Alani brought the ancestors of the Alano Espanol with them to Spain sometime during the 5th century as they migrated their livestock into Spain in search of fresh pastures for them to graze on.
The name Alano Espanol as it is known today has become synonymous in many ways with the name Spanish Bulldog (Perro de Toro) and in most cases the terms are used interchangeably to refer to the same breed of dog. However, there are differences in appearance between the two in that the Spanish Bulldog is the “bullier” version of the Alano Espanol, similar to the relationship that exists between the Johnson and Scott types of American Bulldog.
Both types are considered to be American Bulldogs but the Johnson type (bully type) when compared to the Scott type is a larger, wider, more squarely built dog with thicker bones; it also has a shorter muzzle with large flews, facial wrinkles and an undershot jaw. Bullmastiff like in appearance the Johnson (bully type) is an athletic, muscular, tightly built dog. The Scott type does not appear as heavily muscled; it is lighter in weight and slightly longer and leaner in its appearance with front legs that are under the body, not thrown out to the sides.
While some prefer one type over the other there are breeders that interbred the two types of Alanons considering them to be one and the same. In Spain the bully-type (Spanish Bulldog) is generally preferred and many individuals consider the Spanish Bulldog (Perro de Toro) as distinct and different from the Alano Espanol. For the purposes of this article they will be considered as the same breed which is in line with the overall consensus of the international community.
Some historians adhere to the belief that the Alano Espanol is closely related to the French Mastiff (Dogue de Bordeaux). While similarities do exist, they are based on the fact that both breeds share genetic ties to the ancient Molossers of Central Europe. This confusion probably arises from the fact that the Alano Espanol was once known as ‘Dogo de Burgos’, in reference to the northern Spain city of Burgos founded in 884 AD, not to the French city of Bordeaux.
The Alano Espanol is an ancient Molosser breed believed to be a direct descendent of extinct Alant and the dog from which other breeds such as the Ca de Bou (Presa Mallorquin) and Presa Canario originated. It is believed that the commonly accepted name of this breed ‘Alano Espanol’ stems from name of the Alans tribe (Alanoi in Greek and Alani in Latin) who are credited by most historians as being responsible for the initial introduction and development of the breed.
The Alans or Alani (occasionally also termed as Alauni or Halani) were a group of Sarmatian tribes and nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD that once ruled a vast territory encompassing all areas from the Caucasus to the Danube. However over time they were gradually driven toward the west by the invading Huns.
They settled in the Byzantine Empire; the predominantly Greek-speaking eastern part of the Roman Empire and Western Europe where they made significant contributions to the subsequent development of Europe. This is a fact that the history of Europe as it is told today largely overlooks. Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff; recognized as the 20th century's foremost authority on ancient Greek, Iranian, and Roman history writes in his work “Iranians and Greeks in South Russia” (1922):
"In most of the work on the period of migrations, the part played by the Sarmatians and especially by the Alans in the conquest of Europe is almost ignored; but we must never forget that it was the Alans that long resided in Gaul, that they invaded Italy, and that they came with the Vandals to Spain and conquered North Africa".
Accompanying the Alans at their settlements and on their conquests was a famous breed of medieval hunting dog known as the Alan (Latin Alanus). Jesse, G.R., a 19th century authority on the origin and history of canine breeds writes in his work "Researches into the History of the British Dogs" II, London, 1886:
"The Alans derived originally from the Caucasus, whence it accompanied the fierce, fair-haired, and warlike Alani".
In their conquests the Alans made use of steppe warfare tactics- a form of warfare that revolves around the use of cavalry, deception and long-range maneuvers. Their knowledge of horses and tactics was later applied to bringing to the Western Europeans the skills necessary to hunt from horseback with the aid of hunting dogs. In Iberia, present day Portugal, Spain, Andorra, and a very small portion of France; these massive hunting and fighting dogs came to be known as Alanos. The coat of arms for the town of Alano in Spain bears two Alan dogs in its coat of arms to this day.
A breed legendary for its powerful jaws, strong bite and unique ability to grip and hold with its rear teeth as well as its front; the Alano Espanol developed into the perfect large game hunting and cattle management dog. In hunting it was traditionally used to grip and hold the prey until the hunter could arrive and make the kill. Its use for cattle also consisted of gripping and holding the animal for marking or vaccination. Those employed in the hunting trade were longer and leaner with longer snouts while those used for cattle management were wider and heavier with a short, flat snout.
It was probably the Normans who were responsible for introducing these early Alano dogs into England. No mention of the breed is found during the institution of the Laws of Canute in 1016; a series of forest laws enacted which basically stated that everything in the forest belonged to nobility to include the branches of the trees. It also stated that any dog belonging to a commoner that was capable of running down a deer should have at least one foot mutilated.
Gaston Phoebus (1331–1391), the 11th count of Foix, who ruled the independent County of Foix, in what is present day southern France, during the Middle Ages. Lists in his “Book of Hunting Dogs” that the Alan Gentil, Alan Viature and Alan Boucherie were the primary hunting dogs of the time. Of the Alan Gentile he states:
"They who by their strength and stature can do more harm than any other breed", and later; "Alans are prickly, and nasty tempered, although giddier and madder than any other kinds of hounds. For a good Alan must gallop on like a greyhound and when he has got up to his game, he must let his teeth in and not let go".
Also in his writings the Alans are clearly described as being a distinct breed apart from the Mastiff.
The “Book of the Hunt of Alfonso XI” (Libro de la Montería de Alfonso XI) in 1347 provides the first written evidence of their presence in Spain. In one chapter he describes the Alans as having "the most beautiful colors".
This would suggest that the breed was already thoroughly distributed throughout the Spanish peninsula prior to this. Other works of the time by a number of authors such as Gonzalo de Berceo, Miguel de Cervantes, Fernandez de Oviedo, Alonso Martinez del Espinar, Covarsí, and Cossio; describe the Alan as a "pug nosed, long bodied and well boned breed that is noted to be a speedy attacker and as a large, strong, thick headed, short muzzled type of dog".
The breed name Alan/Alano as it was used at this time in history was also used to describe those breeds that were similar to the Alaunt but from a different background. This was not at all uncommon in an era were dogs were typically described by function or region and not by their adherence to a uniform set of physical characteristics. This does muddy the waters to a certain extent when trying to decipher which description is actually being applied the now extinct Alaunt and which ones apply to the Alano Espanol. In spanish the Alano was also referred to as "chatos" (flat-faced) or perros de presa ("dogs of prey").
Although the breed name Alano has survived in Spain into the modern era, the present day Alano Espanol bears little resemblance to the ancient version, which was probably closer in appearance to that of a Great Dane.
A revival of the Alango Espanol as a war dog happened during the 15th century through the exploration, conquest, settlement and political rule over much of the western hemisphere by the Spanish Empire. We do know that early breeds of “attack dog”- probably early Alanos- were carried aboard ship by conquistadors as attack and guard dogs to help subjugate natives in newly conquered lands. One historical example of early Spanish attack dogs being used is that of Christopher Columbus. Contrary to what modern history tells us, Christopher Columbus was in actuality a liar, a crook and a narcissistic tyrant consumed by greed and indifferent to the plight of the natives.
In August of 1492 with the support of the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Columbus expedition departed Spain aboard the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria in search of a shorter route to Asia. In October of that same year a lookout aboard the Pinta, Rodrigo de Triana, spotted land and alerted the rest of the crew. The Captain of the Pinta then alerted Columbus who was aboard the Santa Maria by firing one of his ships cannon. In keeping with his unscrupulous and deceitful character Columbus later claimed that he himself had seen a light on the land a few hours earlier. This allowed Columbus to deprive Rodrigo de Triana, the lookout aboard the Pinta, of what was rightfully his and claim the lifetime pension promised by Ferdinand and Isabella to the first person to sight land for himself.
Making landfall in the present day Commonwealth of The Bahamas, he named his newly discovered island ‘San Salvador’. The indigenous people he encountered, the Lucayan, Taíno or Arawak, were a peaceful, friendly and primitive people as evidenced by Columbus in his journals:
"Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language." And “Now I have ordered my men to build a tower and a fort. Not that I believe it to be necessary for it is obvious that with these men that I bring, I could subdue all of this island, since the people are naked (without armor) and without arms. But it is right that this tower be made so that with love and fear they will obey. -- Christopher Columbus 1493.
Wanting to be the first to bring news of the discovery to the Catholic Monarchs and realizing he would need more men and supplies in order to properly subjugate the natives and establish colonies in the new world he returned to Spain. With him he brought kidnapped Indian Slaves, parrots, gold and other exotica that created quite a stir and also provided the factual basis necessary to acquire funding for his return trips.
Impressed with his discovery and the potential to profit from it, Ferdinand and Isabella provided Columbus with seventeen ships, 1,500 men, cannons, crossbows, guns, cavalry, and attack dogs for a second voyage. The return of Columbus to the new world was marked by unspeakable cruelty to the natives.
The Native people were forced to pay a stipend that consisted of food, gold, cotton, and forced sex with native women to the Spanish. Columbus even supervised the selling of native girls into sexual slavery, casually noting in his journals that young girls of the ages 9 to 10 were the most desired by his men:
“A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand." –Columbus
Natives that failed to contribute or that resisted were severely punished by having their noses, ears, hands or feet removed. Dissidents or slaves that tried to escape were routinely burned alive. For sport the Spanish under Columbus would send attack dogs to hunt down the natives. After successfully hunting and seizing one, the dogs would then be loosed to tear off the arms and legs of the screaming natives while they were still alive. If the Spaniards ran short of meat to feed the dogs, Arawak babies would be killed and substituted for dog food.
Thousands of natives were sent back to Europe as slaves, so great was the death toll that the Spanish historian Peter Martyr d'Anghiera would later write in one of his works:
“ ...a ship without compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola."
Numerous accounts of these early attack dogs (Alanos) as used by Spanish explorers can be found throughout historical documents of the era. Bartolome De Las Casas, one of Columbus’s own men and an eyewitness to the slaying, beheading and raping of 3000 natives in one day by the men of Columbus to quell an alleged rebellion by the fed up natives, states the following in his multivolume "History of the Indies":
"Since the Admiral (Christopher Columbus) perceived that daily the people of the land were taking up arms, ridiculous weapons in reality . . . he hastened to proceed to the country and disperse and subdue, by force of arms, the people of the entire island . . . For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small cannon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart."and "Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel," De Las Casas also wrote. "My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write."
De Las Casas was so mortified by these acts that he quit working for Columbus to become a Catholic priest.
Christopher Columbus’s own son, Ferdinand Columbus writes in a biography of his father:
"The soldiers mowed down dozens with point-blank volleys, loosed the dogs to rip open limbs and bellies, chased fleeing Indians into the bush to skewer them on sword and pike, and 'with God's aid soon gained a complete victory, killing many Indians and capturing others who were also killed."
The barbaric acts of cruelty committed by Columbus' were so unspeakable and so legendary that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla had Columbus and his two brothers arrested, slapped into chains, and shipped off to Spain for prosecution in relation their crimes against the Arawaks. However, upon arriving in Spain and after a brief six week stint in jail the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury having been filled with gold through his exploits, pardoned the trio, restored their wealth and let them go free.
It was not just Columbus that used the Alango Espanol for terrorizing Indians. The breed was used to fight by the conquistadors in Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Chile, where they played an important role in the Arauco War.
Francisco López de Gómara (1511 - 1566) a Spanish historian noted for describing the early 16th century expedition undertaken by Hernán Cortés in the Spanish conquest of the New World wrote a description of the early Alano dogs the Spaniards used:
"Their dogs are enormous, they have waving flat ears, big hanging tongues, small yellow eyes sight of which freezes blood in veins. They are very strong and muscled, they aren't still, they walk wheezing loudly with hanging tongues, their fur looks like jaguar".
Gomara gives us yet another example when describing a battle between Governor Vasco Nuez de Balboa and the Indian Chief Chapie. In a meeting between Balboa and Chapie, the Indian Chief knowing he possessed superior numbers forced a conflict with the Spaniards assuming the outcome would be in his favor. In response Balboa let loose his dogs which fearlessly attacked the Indians. This forced them to retreat into a fire line prepared by the Spanish that decimated the Indians.
The Spanish Alano was commonly used in combination with Calvary to create a deadly and effective combination. The efficiency, fearlessness and appearance of the breed led the Indians to refer to the Alano as “the devil’s invention”. Indians running for their lives once the dogs were let loose became a rather common occurance during these times. Aside from their usage on the battlefield, Alanos were also used by the Spanish explorers as hunting dogs, helping to get food for the army.
It was also during this time that some dogs became so famous for their deeds that their names are still remembered to this day. Bercellino the Alano of Spanish explorer Diego Salazar was said to have proven itself to be better than human soldiers. It was said that ten soldiers with Bercellino were more feared than a hundred without the dog. For this reason the dog was treated as any soldier receiving a portion of the booties and a salary. Like most veterans soldiers of the time he had several arrow scars, but earned a reputation for bravery without cruelty. It is said that Bercellino demonstrated the keen ability of natural wisdom by recognizing the difference between a real danger and a non threat and would act accordingly. When called upon he would fight mercilessly, but would not senselessly attack enslaved Indians. He was eventually killed by arrows in a battle with the Indians. Such was his bravery that Governor Balboa honored the memory of Bercellino by paying five hundred golden coins to purchase his son Leoncillo. Consequently he became the first European dog to see the Pacific Ocean. The historian Gomara, wrote that the pay of Leoncillo exceeded that of a standard rifleman. The dog was ever alert against ambushes, able to face off against and vanquish a jaguar, and fearsome, or tame, according to his own appraisal of the situation. Like his father he met his demise after being pierced by arrows in a battle with Indians.
Amadis, another famous Spanish Alano was reported to be able to evade oncoming arrows and spears in order to attack and strike at the heart of enemy lines. Bruto the Alano of conquistador Hernando de Soto was said to have been so brave and strong that during a battle with the Indians it was only after being struck with 50 arrows that he died.
These early Alanos were revered for their ability to function under pressure, it was noted that situations that stressed the dogs valor would motivate them to perform better attacking their human opponents with such virulence as if they were hunting and attacking wild deer or boar.
During the years of Spanish conquest butcher shops throughout the Caribbean region sold Indian bodies as dog food. Other horrific uses of these early Spanish Alanos against natives included the practice of Monteria Infernal, the Infernal Chase or manhunt. Conquistadors would make sport of using their dogs to hunt natives and when captured the dogs were then set loose to feast upon their hapless prey. This practice became the favorite pastime of many conquistadors such as Hernando de Soto and was used extensively against the native inhabitants of the Canary Islands, the Guanches.
Yet another fun event to pass the time and provide entertainment was to place a naked native in a pit armed with a small stick to fight against a dog. The dogs most often killed the native by disemboweling them, although attacks to the jugular were also common, sometimes leading to decapitation. Thus the fear of being thrown to the dogs terrified the natives more than any other fate.
In the struggle against the natives, the Alanos when used as a weapon produced as much surprise and terror as the Spaniards firearms. This brings us to the well known axiom “History is written by the Victors”.
The 1700’s marked the introduction of bullfighting as a popular sport in Spain and the rise in popularity of the Alano Espanol as a bullfighting dog. The first venue to be constructed specifically for the purpose of bullfighting was the La Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain in 1765. The use of the Alango Espanol in the bull fighting ring was so exciting and pleased spectators so much that it quickly rose in popularity to become one the most popular events at these contests.
The success of the breed and their ferocity in the ring led to the Alango Espanol being immortalized by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 –1828, a Spanish romantic painter, printmaker and the court painter to the Spanish Crown. In Goya's ‘Tauromaquia’; a series of 33 prints from 1815, he illustrates the complete range of bullfighting tactics and techniques in use at the time. The images of this series include scenes of bull baiting with Spanish Alano dogs.
The greatest bullfight treatise ever written and published in 1943; the “Los Toros” encyclopedia by José María Cossío notes the following:
"Nothing more strongly arouses the suspicion as to the origin of bullfighting like the early use of the Alans dogs to hold and pay to the bulls."
During the late part of the 19th century the Alano Espanol found itself becoming obsolete as its traditional roles were stripped from it by modernization. Hunters had abandoned the traditional ways of hunting that required this dog in favor of modern weapons and horses. Similarly the modernization of stockyards meant that sleeves and chutes were used to hold cattle which made the Alano Espanol equally obsolete for the purpose of handling cattle as well.
So after centuries of use as a war dog, hunting dog, cattle handling dog and bull baiting dog; the Alano Espanol found itself unemployed when bull baiting was finally banned in Spain in 1883. This was a time in history when dogs were primarily kept for the purpose that they served. Without work and without purpose it was no longer beneficial to keep the Alano Espanol and its numbers rapidly decreased. Lack of an established preservation society, crossbreeding and diminishing numbers over the next 80 years led to its erroneous declaration as an extinct breed by Spanish scientists in 1963.
In the late 1970’s or early 1980’s a group of fanciers and veterinary students led by Carlos Contera and his associates Luisa Arribasa and Luisa Centenera became interested in finding the long lost Alano Espanol. Together they founded and organization called the G.A.P.A.E. (Grupo de Amigos del Perro Alano Espanol) –“Group of Friends of the Spanish Alano Dog” in order to restore the breed. Armed with a historical description of the Alano from the 14th century and a picture of a female Alano Espanol named Cazalla from 1914 the group began surveying the country for any surviving specimens of this legendary Molosser breed.
The results of their survey concluded that Alanos were in fact not extinct; that a few Alanos had managed to survive in relatively pure form in the rural portions of Extremadura (Southwestern Spain) and that a relatively large population of about 300 Alanos existed in the Encartaciones Valley of Northern Spain. These two rural areas had changed little over the centuries and still utilized traditional hunting and cattle management methods that required the use of dogs.
DNA samples were taken from these two groups and analyzed by the University of Cordoba veterinary staff for purity. A breed standard was then drafted and enacted and the best specimens were then selected to become the foundation stock for restoring the breed.
The criterion for selecting breeding specimens was designed to produce dogs with homogeneity not just in appearance but in temperament as well. Dogs were evaluated on their appearance and in the way that they worked cattle; that they knew how to bite and hold cows in place and in a way that would not cause that animal harm; that the dogs would only apply the force necessary to restrain the cow and nothing more; that the animals would refrain from shaking which would cause injury to the cow and was unnecessarily exhausting for the dog when working with larger heavier animals; that the dog would release when asked; and finally how quickly the dog recuperated both physically and psychologically once told to release.
In 2004 The Alano Espanol was recognized by the Spanish Kennel club as an independent breed thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders and the earlier DNA analysis conducted at the University of Cordoba. It is also recognized as an indigenous Spanish breed by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture.
The Alano Espanol of today is used for cattle handling and hunting only. The breed has become legendary for its bite, its obedience and its well balanced personality. The Spanish Alano is still a relatively rare breed with only a small number known to exist in Spain. Some have been exported to North America, where a few breeders are promoting it for its even temperament and hunting ability.
The Spanish Alano stud book currently has around 400 individuals dogs registered, and of those 250 are alive. This has led fanciers of the breed to push for international recognition of the breed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). The current stud book is slated to be handed over to the RSCE, which is the Spanish Delegation of the FCI. Once the RSCE has reviewed the record and any supporting documents for validity and completeness it will submit a request that recognition of the breed by FCI be voted upon.
The Alano Espanol is a large, muscular, and athletic Molosser breed that moves with considerable ease and elegance for its size. Males should be 23 ½” – 25 ½” at the withers with weight of 85-99 lbs while females are slightly smaller at a height of 22 ” – 24” at the withers with a weight of 72-84 lbs. The Real Sociedad Canina de Espana (R.S.C.E), the Spanish delegate to the FCI, allows for a slight tolerance upwards in size but none for dogs that are smaller than the accepted standard. It is a thick boned dog with a sturdy skeleton and strong muscles. The overall build of this dog suits it well for its traditional use in the management of aggressive or semi aggressive cattle and the hunting and holding of big game such as wild boar.
The head of the Spanish Alano is large and well proportioned to its body with brachiocephalic traits common to many bulldog type breeds. The short well developed muzzle has a very pronounced frontal nasal depression. The planes of the skull and muzzle are slightly convergent, not parallel or divergent. When the circumference of the head around the cheekbones is measured it is more than twice the total length of the head. The skull, when viewed from the front is wide and slightly curved, width being equal to the length, with a well defined indentation of the median line down the center of the skull to the stop (pronounced cranial furrow). When viewed from the side there is a prominent arch that begins above the eyes and then flattens backward toward the occiput. Viewing the skull from the top it appears square due to the zygomatic arches (bony arches which is found under the eye orbit) and the powerful muscles covering them. The stop is well defined due to the well developed and slightly bulging frontal sinuses and prominent arch above the eyes.
The broad deep muzzle is very near square with width almost equal to its length, which comprises roughly one third the total length of the head. The depth the muzzle should be more than 50% of its length. The plane of the top and bottom muzzle are parallel, and the chin and nose form a perpendicular line. When viewing the dog from the front the anterior face should look flat and form a trapezoid, wider at the bottom of muzzle than at the top. The nose of the Alano Espanol is large with well-opened nostrils. Nose color should always be black. The nose should be an extension of the topline of the muzzle, not protruding beyond or receding behind its front plane.
The lips are firm and thick with the upper lips hanging slightly. When viewing the dog from the front the upper lips join together and form and inverted “U” under the nostrils. In the corners of the mouth the lips are parted in such as way as to allow and opening for the dog to breathe easier while holding with its jaws. The color of the lips should only be black. The powerful jaws are enclosed in a remarkably big and wide mouth that is well developed and blunt. A slightly undershot bite (no more than ¼ inch) and level is preferred. If the parameters of the head and muzzle are correct a scissor bit is also acceptable. The front incisors should be in a straight line.
The ears set well apart and high above the cheek bones nearer the rear of the skull. The ears may be cropped or uncropped. If the ears are cropped the shape is that of an equilateral triangle. If the ears are uncropped they should be of medium size, triangular in shape while lying close to the cheeks, and not extend below the jaw bone. The medium sized, almond shaped eyes may range in color from amber to black. The eye rims should be tight to the eye so that the third eyelid is minimally visible. The overall appearance of the head should be that of a very alert, intelligent, and attentive dog. When alerted some wrinkling of the forehead occurs.
The neck is slightly arched, flowing smoothly into the shoulders with a slight amount of dewlap. The overall length of the neck should be roughly one third of the dogs height at the withers. The chest is broad and well muscled with a clearly developed forechest. Ribs are long and well sprung. The shoulders are strong, muscular and well-proportioned to the size of the dog lying slightly back. The highest point of the shoulder blade rises slightly above the strong, wide, well muscled and level back. The legs are thick boned and strong but agile, leading to catlike feet with well arched toes.
The loin is well muscled and joins seamlessly with the back. The rump is generally quite round due to muscling. There should be a pronounced upward tuck of the belly commonly associated with that of running dogs. The tail should be an extension of the backline, thick at the base with not much in the way of tapering toward the tip. When relaxed the tail is carried low; if alerted the tail should be carried horizontal or slightly higher than the back, but not in the vertical position.
The short, stiff shiny coat lies close the body tending to be softer in texture on the head. The hair of the tail is slightly longer, more coarse and forms a shape similar to that of an ear of wheat. The acceptable colors for the breed are black, light to dark grey, red, brindle, and various shades of fawn. Dogs of a solid fawn color or red, may have a black or gray mask that should not extend beyond the eyes. White patches on the chest, throat, chin, backs of the pastern and toes are also acceptable. Any patterning that includes tan such as what would be seen in black and tan breeds is wholly unacceptable.
The temperament of the Spanish Alano is remarkably well balanced and calm in spite of its long bloody history as a war dog. It is a breed typically described as very reliable, obedient, albeit strong willed. This is not a breed well suited for the first time dog owner as it can be quite domineering- seeking to establish itself as leader of the household. This can then further manifest itself in the form of aggressive behavior towards humans or what the dog views as subordinate pack members.
It is best suited for an experienced dog owner that can take charge, assume the role of pack leader and correctly apply firm and consistent correction as needed. Under this type of leadership, typically that of an Alpha type personality, the breed tends to be very well mannered, obedient and submissive. Socialization and consistent training from an early age is also imperative in creating a well balanced and obedient Spanish Alano, as due to their size and strength they do have the potential to seriously injure other people or pets.
A natural protector of the home, the Spanish Alano is loyal and dedicated to its master and its family. Unlike many other breeds that tend to form an attachment with a single person, this breed is affectionate and loyal to the whole family. It is also noted for being extremely patient and good with children. Although, like all large dogs children should not be left unsupervised around a Spanish Alano as teasing of the dog could cause it to react aggressively. Friendly and amiable to those that it knows, with strangers the Spanish Alano tends to err on the side of caution, using its natural intelligence to weigh and measure the situation while deciding upon its next course of action. In most cases the mere sight of this breed is more than enough to intimidate those that would be up to no good. If the stranger fails to heed the warning provided by its presence or acts aggressively toward the dog then this breed will act accordingly and attack without further warning.
This is a breed trait, as it is protective but not excessively aggressive, tending to act in a manner that is commensurate with the situation at hand. While it will have no problem attacking and mauling a burglar, it is not prone leave its own property and chase down and attack random individuals unless provoked or instructed to by its master. This is one reason that they are highly revered for use as a guard dog. This breed is not known as a barker, which provides little warning for those that may inadvertently enter into its territory. It is advised that owners of this breed have a fence that can be securely locked to prevent unsupervised entry into the dog’s territory when the owner is not present.
The attack of an Alano Espanol is a unique and serious event that could very well lead to the death of the individual or animal it is directed against. Unlike many breeds that will repeatedly bite and release or that can be fought off once an attack begins; this is not the case with the Spanish Alano. When attacking its prey it will totally ignore pain or fear and grasp and hold its prey regardless of the size, nature or aggressiveness of its adversary, not releasing until it is given the order to do so by its master. It is known to fight wild boars or bulls to the end of its own life for the sake of following its master’s orders. For this same reason it is recommended that only experienced, responsible and stable individuals choose to own this breed. In many ways it can be a bit like owning a guided missile, as the Alano Espanol will just as vigorously attack a human on his master’s command.
This breed does tend to get along well with other dogs in the same household. This trait is owing to the breeds historical use in the performance of its duties as part of a team that included other breeds and other adult dogs of the same sex. It does have a tendency to try and dominate other dogs of the same sex; so these pairings in a household environment should be supervised to prevent injury to either animal. In situations where the other dog refuses to submit, a fight is likely to occur as they try and establish their roles within the pack hierarchy. In households where the dogs have grown up together problems are generally rare.
An intelligent dog with superior skills as a working dog it is the perfect combination of functionality, beauty, strength and undying devotion to its master. Its natural intelligence means that the Alano Espanol is quick to pick up on new concepts and ideas, so training needs to be kept fun and entertaining or the dog will quickly become bored. The overall objective of training this breed is always that of being able to establish and maintain the human’s role as Alpha or pack leader.
Although its history is a violent one that involves use as a hunter, cattle management dog and war dog it integrates seamlessly into today’s society making an excellent family companion and protector of the home. Typically mastiff, he is quiet and reserved in the home, never underfoot and giving the impression that you don’t even own a dog. Another positive is that unlike many mastiff or bulldog breeds, the Alano Espanol is not known to be a drooler. On outings or during play this breeds endless stamina will make it seem as though it will never tire. Exceptionally athletic for a dog of its size it can climb trees with cat like agility and leap to great heights from a stationary position.
It is noted that this breed can be rather difficult to housebreak, which may mean that it may be best kept as an outside dog to prevent damage to furniture through unwanted territorial marking indoors.
Since the Alano Espanol has short hair and lacks any noticeable undercoat it only requires minimal grooming. An average shedder, the occasional brushing would help to reduce this while also distributing the natural oils of the skin keeping the coat shiny. The Spanish Alano is one of the few breeds of molossers that does not slobber and drool excessively, which helps to keep it and its area clean. Bathing for this breed should only be done as necessary to remove dirt and grime as it also removes remove the natural oils of the skin which can lead to dry skin, itching and scratching.
The Alano Espanol is known to be an exceptionally strong and healthy breed of dog. Currently there are no known congenital health defects known to be associated with this breed. However, as with all large breeds you should ensure that the parents are tested for characteristics indicative of hip dysplasia prior to adopting a dog. Bloat or Gastric Torsion although to a lesser degree may also be of some concern as it is with most large breeds of dog.