The Cimarron Uruguayo is a multipurpose working dog native to Uruguay, where it is the only recognized native breed. The breed is descended from dogs imported to Uruguay by European colonists who subsequently became feral. Renowned in its homeland for its incredible ability to survive, the Cimarron Uruguayo is the mascot of the Uruguayan army and the unofficial national breed of Uruguay. The Cimarron Uruguayo is today primarily used as protection animal or for companionship, but in the past the breed’s ancestors were also used for hunting, herding, cattle driving, and war. In the course of the breed’s history, the Cimarron Uruguayo has picked up many names including the Uruguayan Cimarron, Cimarron, Cimarron Creole, Creole Dog, Uruguayan Molosser, Uruguayan Mastiff, Perro Uruguayo, Uruguayan Feral Dog, Uruguayan Dog, Perro Cimarron, Perro Creole, Perro Gaucho, Gaucho Dog, Uruguayan Perro Gaucho, Perro Criollo, Maroon Dog, Cerro Largo Dog, Perro de Cerro Largo, Cimarron de Cerro Largo, and Perro Granate.
The Cimarron Uruguayo was first developed hundreds of years before written records were kept of dog breeding, and spent most of its history as a feral dog. This means that most of the breed’s history has been lost to time, and most of what is said is little more than speculation and educated guesses. By using what information is available, researchers have however been able to put together a fair amount of the breed’s history.
The Spanish explorers and conquistadors that were the first Europeans to discover and settle Uruguay made extensive use of dogs. Christopher Columbus himself was the first European to bring dogs to the new world, and was also the first to use them in battle. In 1492, Columbus set a Mastiff-type dog (believed to closely resemble the Alano Espanol) loose on a group of Jamaican natives, a beast that was so fearsome it was able to kill a dozen natives single handedly without suffering severe injury. From that time on, the Spanish used war dogs to subdue native peoples on a regular basis. These dogs proved especially effective because the Native Americans had never before seen such animals. Native American Dogs were almost all very small and primitive creatures, closely resembling the modern Carolina Dog, and had never been used in battle. The Spanish primarily used three types of dogs in their conquest of the Americas, the massive Spanish Mastiff, the greatly feared Alano, and various types of sighthound. These dogs were not only used to attack Native Peoples, but also for many other purposes as well. Dogs guarded Spanish fortifications and gold reserves. They were used to hunt wild game for sport, food, and pelts. Perhaps most importantly, Spanish Mastiffs and Alanos were vital to the Spanish cattle industry. These powerful dogs had been used to catch and herd cattle in Spain since at least Roman times and possibly much earlier. These dogs would grab on to half-feral cattle with their powerful jaws and hold on until their masters could come to retrieve them.
Cattle working dogs were even more important in the colonies of Uruguay and Argentina than they were across most of Latin America. It was a common Spanish practice for the first European discoverers to release livestock wherever they discovered. The livestock would then breed freely and populate the territory, providing food for subsequent settlers. In the Pampas grasslands of Argentina and Uruguay, the released cattle found a paradise; vast tracts of land with excellent grazing that were almost completely devoid of competition from other herbivores or predators capable of taking down a full grown bovine. The feral cattle of the Pampas multiplied rapidly, becoming very important to the Argentine and Uruguayan economy. Spanish settlers in Buenos Aires and Montevideo brought their Mastiffs and Alanos to their new homes both to subdue the natives and work with the cattle. As has proven to be the case everywhere that humans have brought their dogs, a number of these early European breeds went feral. Much as the cattle that preceded them found a land with little competition and few predators, the feral dogs found a land on which they were capable of living free. As the population of Uruguay was very small during colonial times (never exceeding around 75,000), these dogs also found vast tracts of land that were almost unoccupied by humans on which they could proliferate. These feral dogs became known in Uruguay as Cimarrones, which loosely translates to “Feral ones,” “Wild ones,” or “Escaped Ones.”
The Cimarrones Uruguayos lived in relative isolation from humanity for a number of centuries. They probably benefitted from the country’s very turbulent history, which saw the territory that now comprises Uruguay repeatedly occupied by Spanish, Argentine, Portuguese, Brazilian, and British forces, all of whom sought to control the region and its people. Even after Uruguay was internationally recognized as independent in 1830, the nation was engaged in a near constant civil war between the conservative, agrarian Blancos and the liberal, urban Colorados which lasted for several decades. This instability and conflict initially greatly limited the development of much of Uruguay. One of the most undeveloped regions of the Cerro Largo located on the Brazilian border. Although the Cimarron Uruguayo was found throughout Uruguay, the breed was always most common in the Cerro Largo, which became especially associated with the breed. These dogs became experts at surviving in the Uruguayan wilderness. They hunted in packs for their own food, killing deer, anteaters, rheas, rabbits, mara, and other wildlife. They also adapted to survive the elements such as heat, rain, and windstorms. The Cimarrones also learned how to avoid the region’s predators because when the Cimarron Uruguayo first arrived in its new homeland, Uruguay was home to large populations of Cougars and Jaguars. However, these big cats have subsequently been driven to extinction in Uruguay, leaving the Cimarron Uruguayo as one of the country’s top predators.
When the rural regions in which the Cimarron Uruguayo lived were very sparsely populated, the breed rarely came into conflict with man. But the breed’s home did not remain uninhabited for long. Settlers from the Montevideo and other coastal regions continuously moved inland until all of Uruguay was inhabited. These settlers were mainly farmers and ranchers who wanted to make a living off the land. Domestic livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, and chickens were not only vital to their economic success, but their very livelihoods depended on them. The Cimarrones Uruguayos rapidly discovered that it was much easier to kill a tame sheep trapped in a pen than a wild deer that can escape anywhere it chooses. The Cimarrones Uruguayos became infamous killers of livestock, and were responsible for agricultural losses worth millions in today’s prices. The Uruguayan farmers were not willing to let their stock be slaughtered and began to persecute the Cimarron Uruguayo with all of the weapons at their disposal, guns, poison, traps, and even trained hunting dogs. The farmers pleaded with the government for help, which they received in the form of military aide. The Uruguayan government began a campaign of extermination designed to permanently end the threat that the dogs posed to the nation’s economy. High bounties were placed on any hunters who brought in dead dogs. Countless thousands of Cimarrones Uruguayos were killed, and the breed was forced to retreat into a few last strongholds such as Cerro Largo and the Mountains of Olimar. The slaughter peaked in the late 19th Century, but continued well on into the 20th.
Although its numbers were greatly reduced, the Cimarron Uruguayo was a true survivor. A substantial number of breed members continued to survive despite continuing efforts to exterminate them. These surviving dogs became even greater survivors than their ancestors as only the strongest, fastest, and most cunning had managed to escape the efforts to kill them off. At the same time, the breed was earning a growing number of admirers among the very farmers and ranchers who were so dedicated to destroying it. Rural Uruguayans began to catch Cimarron Uruguayo puppies, often after they killed their parents. These dogs were then redomesticated and put to work. It was quickly discovered that these dogs which had been born feral made just as excellent pets and companions as other domestic dogs, and that they were more useful than most. It was quickly discovered that the breed made an excellent guard dog which would faithfully and determinedly defend its family and territory from all threats both human and animal. This ability was highly valued in an era without modern police forces and in a place where the nearest neighbor might be miles away. The breed also proved to be excellent at working with the cattle of the region. The Cimarron Uruguayo was more than capable of catching and herding even the fiercest and wildest Pampas cattle, just as its ancestors had been doing for generations. Perhaps most importantly, the breed was healthy, extremely hardy, and nearly-perfectly adapted to life in rural Uruguay. As more and more Uruguayans realized the breed’s great value, opinions began to change about the dog. As the breed became more famous, a number of Uruguayans began keeping them primarily for companionship, which further increased the breed’s status.
For many decades, there was no need for farmers to breed the Cimarron Uruguayo, as tame animals could easily be replaced with feral stock. However, as the breed became increasingly scarce due to persecution, a number of Uruguayans began actively breeding the dog in order to preserve it. Initially, these breeders cared solely for working ability and showed little interest in entering the breed in dog shows. This changed in 1969, when the Cimarron Uruguayo made its first appearance in a Kennel Club Uruguayo (KCU) dog show. The KCU showed great interest in formally recognizing the Cimarron Uruguayo, which is the only purebred dog native to the country. Breeders were organized and breeding records were kept. In 1989, the KCU granted full recognition to the Cimarron Uruguayo. Although the breed remains primarily a working dog, there has been substantial interest in showing the breed among its fanciers. The Cimarron Uruguayo is now exhibited at virtually all multi-breed KCU shows, as well as around 20 specialty shows every year. In the meantime, the breed is steadily increasing in popularity throughout the country, and there is growing pride and interest in owning a native Uruguayan breed. Ranchers and farmers across Uruguay are discovering that the breed is ideally suited to their work. At the same time, urban Uruguayans are finding that the dog makes an excellent guard dog and companion animal if provided sufficient exercise. Breed numbers have steadily increased to the point that there are now more than 4500 Cimarrones Uruguayos registered with the KCU. The Cimarron Uruguayo has even made a very unlikely ally, the Uruguayan military. Impressed by the dog’s ability to survive its best efforts to exterminate it, the Uruguayan military has named the Cimarron Uruguayo as its official mascot. Every year, a Cimarron Uruguayo participates prominently in the annual military parades on July 18th. The growing interest in the Cimarron Uruguayo can be seen in a recent agreement between Cimarron Uruguayo breeders and the University of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay to study and document the breed and its genetics.
The substantial working abilities of the Cimarron Uruguayo and the breed’s excellent adaptation to life in South America have not gone unnoticed in neighboring countries. Over the last two decades, the Cimarron Uruguayo is becoming increasingly popular in Brazil and Argentina, and there are now several breeders operating in those countries. More recently, a small number of breed fanciers have imported the breed into the United States which also currently has several active breeders. The KCU made it one of the organization’s primary goals to have their breed formally recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). After years of petitioning by the KCU, the FCI granted provisional acceptance to the Cimarron Uruguayo in 2006. That same year, the United Kennel Club (UKC) became the first major English language kennel club to grant full recognition to the Cimarron Uruguayo as a member of the Guardian Dog Group. The Cimarron Uruguayo is not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), nor does it appear that it will be recognized anytime in the near future. FCI and UKC recognition have greatly increased the Cimarron Uruguayo’s international profile, and the breed is currently attracting fanciers in several new countries. Although the breed is steadily increasing in popularity, the Cimarron Uruguayo remains a relatively rare breed, especially outside of Uruguay. Unlike most modern breeds, the Cimarron Uruguayo remains primarily a working dog, and the majority of breed members are either active or retired herding and/or protection dogs. However, the breed is being increasingly kept as a companion animal and show dog, and its future is likely going to be split between both roles.
The Cimarron Uruguayo is generally similar to other Molosser-type dogs, but has one of the most distinctive appearances of any member of that group. The Cimarron Uruguayo is a large to very large breed, although it should not be a massive one. Most males stand between 22¼ and 24¾ inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 84 and 100 pounds. Most females stand between 20 2/3 and 23 1/4 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 73 and 88 pounds. The Cimarron Uruguayo is an incredibly athletic and muscular breed that appears just as physically capable as it in fact is. Although this breed does look powerful, it should also always appear lithe and agile. The Tail of the Cimarron Uruguayo is of average length but quite thick. When in motion the tail is usually held with a slight upward curve.
The head and face of the Cimarron Uruguayo are very reminiscent of other Molossers but are narrower and more refined. The skull of this breed should be proportionate to the size of the dog’s body, but it should also be slightly wider than it is long. The head and muzzle are only partially distinct and blend in very smoothly with each other. The muzzle itself is relatively long, almost as long as the skull, and also quite broad. The upper lips completely cover the lower lips but should never be pendulous. Unlike other Molossers which often have under bites, the Cimarron Uruguayo should always exhibit a scissors bite. The facial structure and musculature is quite apparent, giving the breed a chiseled look. The nose of the Cimarron Uruguayo is broad and always black in color. The eyes of this breed are medium-in-size, almondAmong experts, the use of Almonds, or Almond derived products in pet food appears to have been met with mixed reviews. While some feel that there is no issue and that the ....-in-shape, and may be found in any shade of brown that corresponds to coat color, although darker eyes are always preferred. The ears of the Cimarron Uruguayo are traditionally cropped into a round shape that resembles the ears of a Puma, but they should always maintain at least half their natural length. This procedure is currently falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural ears of the Cimarron Uruguayo are medium-in-length and triangular in shape. The natural ears of this breed drop down but do not hang close to the sides of the head. The overall expression of most breed members is inquisitive, confident, and powerful.
The coat of the Cimarron Uruguayo is short, smooth, and dense. The breed also possesses a softer, shorter, and denser undercoat underneath its outer coat. The Cimarron Uruguayo is found in two colors, brindle and fawn. Brindle dogs are brown or fawn with black striping, and all shades of fawn are equally acceptable. Any Cimarron Uruguayo may or may not have a black mask and/or black shading. White markings are allowed on the underjaw, lower part of the neck, forechest, abdomen, and lower parts of the legs. Occasionally, a Cimarron Uruguayo will be born with alternate coloration, such as with excessive white or white markings in improper places. Such dogs are penalized in the show ring and should probably not be bred but otherwise make just as acceptable companions or working dogs as any other breed members.
The Cimarron Uruguayo is a working dog first and foremost, and exhibits the temperament one would expect of such a breed. Because the breed is primarily kept as a working dog, there is not much available information on its temperament outside of a working environment. This breed is said to be very loyal and attached to its family. As is the case with all breeds, the Cimarron Uruguayo must be carefully trained and socialized to accept children, and should always be monitored when in their presence. Because the breed tends to be dominant and challenging, the Cimarron Uruguayo is not a good choice for a novice dog owner.
The Cimarron Uruguayo is commonly used as a guard dog in Uruguay, a task at which this breed excels. It is said that this breed will unhesitatingly lay down its life to defend its family and property. This breed is naturally protective, and highly suspicious of strangers. Training and socialization are absolutely essential to ensure that the Cimarron Uruguayo learns who and what are true threats. Although not to be a human aggressive breed, this dog can develop human aggression issues if raised incorrectly. This breed is not only protective but also highly alert, making it an excellent watchdog that will scare off most intruders with its bark and fearsome appearance. This is definitely a breed whose bark is worse than its bite, however, and Cimarrones Uruguayos will resort to physical violence if they deem it necessary.
The only way for the Cimarron Uruguayo to survive in the Uruguayan wilderness was to hunt, and this breed became a masterful hunter. As a result, Cimarrones Uruguayos are usually highly animal aggressive. This breed is driven to chase, catch, and potentially kill any creature that it sees, and is powerful enough to bring down anything smaller than a deer on its own. Most Cimarron Uruguayos will accept individual larger pets (cat-sized or larger) that they have been raised with, but some are never trustworthy around them. This breed is also known to exhibit substantial dog aggression issues. This breed is known to display all forms of dog aggression including dominance, territorial, possessiveness, same-sex, and predatory. Training and socialization can greatly reduce dog aggression issues but they may not necessarily eliminate them entirely, especially in the case of males. Cimarron Uruguayos do best in either a single dog home or one with a single member of the opposite sex.
This breed is considered to be highly intelligent and ranchers and farmers in Uruguay have trained them to be excellent and highly responsive working dogs. Additionally, Uruguayan fanciers have entered the breed into virtually all canine competitions such as competitive obedience and agility with great success. However, this breed usually presents substantial training difficulties. This is not a breed that lives to please, and most Cimarrones Uruguayos would much rather do their own thing than follow orders. These dogs are often very stubborn and sometimes openly defiant and/or willful. Cimarrones Uruguayos are also keenly aware of the social standing of all pack members and will absolutely not follow the commands of anyone whom they see as below themselves on the social totem pole. For this reason owners of these dogs must maintain a constant position of dominance. None of this means that the Cimarron Uruguayo is impossible to train, but it does mean that owners will have to exercise more time, effort, and patience than they would with most breeds.
This breed survived by endlessly wandering the Pampas and has subsequently been transformed into a very hard worker by agricultural breeders. As one would expect, this breed has very substantial exercise requirements. A Cimarron Uruguayo should receive an absolute minimum of between 45 minutes to an hour of vigorous physical activity every day, although several hours would be preferable. This breed makes an excellent jogging or bicycling companion but truly craves the opportunity to run around freely in a safely enclosed area. This breed is also willing and eager to follow its family on any adventure, not matter how physically extreme. Cimarrones Uruguayos that are not provided sufficient exercise will almost certainly develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyper activity, excessive barking, over excitability, and aggression. Because of this breed’s very high exercise requirements, the Cimarron Uruguayo adapts very poorly to apartment life and does much better with a large yard.
Owners of Cimarron Uruguayos must make sure that any enclosure which holds one of these dogs is very secure. This breed is naturally driven to wander and will frequently try to escape. The Cimarron Uruguayos predatory instincts also dictate that it will attempt to pursue most creatures (or cars, bicycles, balloons, people, etc.) which it senses. This breed is intelligent enough to figure out any escape route and more than powerful and athletic enough to make one on its own if none exist.
The Cimarron Uruguayo is a low maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular brushing. It is highly advisable that owners introduce their Cimarron Uruguayos to routine maintenance procedures such as bathing and nail clipping from as young an age and as carefully as possible as it is much easier to bathe a curious 10 pound puppy than a frightened 90 pound adult. There do not seem to be any reports on the breed’s shedding, but it is safe to assume that this breed does shed and that it sheds heavily.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Cimarron Uruguayo which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements about the breed’s health. Most fanciers seem to believe that this dog is in excellent health, and no documented genetically inherited conditions are known to be especially frequent in this breed. However, this breed also possesses a relatively small gene pool which may put it at risk for developing a number of serious conditions. Although without more data it is impossible to make a life expectancy estimate, similar breeds are expected to live between 10 and 14 years.
Although skeletal and visual problems are not thought to occur at high rates in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Even though health studies have not been conducted on the Cimarron Uruguayo, they have been for similar and closely related breeds. Among the problems of greatest concern that have been discovered include: