The Cordoba Fighting Dog was a breed native to Argentina, where it was pitted against other breed members in fights to the death. Not exclusively used for dog fighting, the breed was also used for hog hunting and as a guard dog. The breed was famous for its incredible courage, determination, and ferocity. Although extinct by the mid-20th Century, the Cordoba Fighting Dog’s bloodlines live on in its descendant the Dogo Argentino. The Cordoba Fighting Dog was also known as the Fighting Dog of Cordoba, the Cordoban Fighting Dog, the Argentine Fighting Dog, and the Perro de Presa de Cordoba.
The history of the Cordoba Fighting Dog began during Argentina’s colonial period. When the Spanish were subjugating the many Native American peoples found throughout Latin America, where they made extensive use of war dogs. The Spanish used a number of different breeds, but perhaps the most commonly used were Alanos; the early ancestors of the modern Alano Espanol. At the time, an Alano was not a breed in the modern sense, but rather a type of dog. The history of the Alano is unclear but it is said that they may descend from the Molossus of Rome, the Alaunt of the Caucasian Alan tribe, or perhaps the Mastiff of Britain. It is also believed that early Alanos arrived with Christopher Columbus, who likewise used them in his efforts to subjugate the native Indians. The Alanos were athletic and ferocious Mastiff-type dogs, used for hunting and bull catching in Spain in addition to their use for war. The Alanos were large, strong, very fierce dogs that were deadly in combat when pitted against man or beast. These dogs would eventually spread throughout Latin America, and probably Argentina as well where they would have found use working in its very important and lucrative cattle industry.
During the 18th and 19th Centuries, the population of the United Kingdom grew dramatically as innovations in agriculture and medicine began to take root. Eventually, the population of Great Britain was so large that the island could not sustain it, Grain imports became extremely important to the British Empire, and trading ties were forged with grain producing nations across the world. Home to thousands of square miles of plains known as the Pampas, Argentina became one of Britain’s major agricultural suppliers. Around the same time, dog fighting was becoming extremely popular in England. In 1835, bull-baiting and bear-baiting, sports that had previously pitted dogs in battles to the death against other animals, were outlawed by Parliament. British fanciers and gamblers then turned their interest to dog fighting, which became one of the most popular sports in urban areas of the British Isles. After a few decades of experimentation, British dog-fighters decided that crosses between the English Bulldog and various types of Terrier made the best fighting dogs. Known as Bull and Terriers, these crosses possessed the size, strength, jaws, determination, and ferocity of the Bulldog and the speed, agility, dog aggression, quick temper, and willingness to fight to the death of the Terriers. Eventually, several distinct breeds developed from the Bull and Terrier, although the Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier proved the most common and long-lasting.
Many British ships carried Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers with them. These dogs provided companionship for the crew and occasionally entertainment in the form of dog fights. These dogs were introduced around the world, and greatly popularized the sport of dog fighting. A number of breeds across the world can trace their origins to these dogs, including the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier of the United States and the Gull Terr and Bully Kutta of the Indian Subcontinent. Beginning in the middle of the 1800’s, Bull Terriers began to arrive in Argentine ports, where they made quite an impression. Argentine fanciers began to acquire these dogs and to fight them themselves. Dog fighting became most popular in Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city and the capital of the province with the same name.
Breeders in Cordoba developed a new fighting breed based primarily on the Bull Terrier, but with crosses to a number of other breeds. The resulting breed became known as the Perro de Presa de Cordoba, which translates to the Fighting Dog of Cordoba or Cordoba Fighting Dog. It is unclear exactly what breeds went into the development of the Cordoba Fighting Dog, but local Alanos and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier were almost certainly used. Other breeds which may have influenced the Cordoba Fighting Dog include the Perro de Presa Canario, Fila Brasileiro, English Bulldog, English Mastiff, Boxer, Bullenbeiser, and the American Pit Bull Terrier. The Cordoba Fighting Dog closely resembled a Bull Terrier, but was significantly taller and with a head more reminiscent of an Alano. Although the breed apparently came in colors such as Brindle and Fawn, Argentine fanciers greatly preferred solid white dogs, which became one of the dog’s trademarks.
The Cordoba Fighting Dog became legendary for its ferocity and courage in the ring. The breed was said to never back down no matter the odds against it, and exhibited extreme aggression with other dogs. The Cordoba Fighting Dog became so dog aggressive that it was very difficult to breed them; a male and a female would usually engage in bloody combat rather than mate. Local hunters quickly discovered that the same qualities that made the Cordoba Fighting Dog a peerless fighting dog also made it very useful for hunting boar. Allowed to run loose by the Spanish to provide a source of food, the wild hogs of Argentina eventually became an agricultural pest, as well as being extremely dangerous. Cordoban Fighting Dogs were one of the only breeds that possessed both the courage to take on a wild boar and the strength to hold onto it until its master could arrive to kill it. However, the Cordoban Fighting Dog was so aggressive that it could not be used in packs because the dogs would instantly begin battling among themselves. Some Cordoban Fighting Dogs were capable of hunting with one other dog of the opposite sex, but this was not always the case.
In 1925, Antonio Nores Martinez and his younger brother Agustin, sons of a wealthy Cordoban landowner, decided to develop a big game hunting breed from the Cordoban Fighting Dog. In the younger Martinez brothers book El Dogo Argentino (The Dogo Argentino) -1973, Agustin writes that his brother’s vision was to create, “A new breed of dog for big game, for which he was going to take advantage of the extraordinary braveness of the Fighting Dog of Cordoba. Mixing them with other breeds which would give them height, a good sense of smell, speed, hunting instinct and, more than anything else, deprive them of that fighting eagerness against other dogs, which made them useless for pack hunting.” The Nores Martinez brothers began to cross female Cordoban Fighting Dogs (which were the less aggressive sex) with males of a number of foreign breeds such as the Pointer, Great Pyrenees, and Dogue de Bordeaux. The resulting breed became known as the Dogo Argentino, and quickly earned a reputation across Southern South America for being the best breed to hunt boar and cougar.
The Dogo Argentino was so successful as a big game hunter, that it would eventually entirely replace the Cordoba Fighting Dog for that purpose. However, the breed was still used in dog fights for several decades. Countless breed members died in combat against other dogs, which greatly diminished the breed’s population and gene pool. As breeders continuously favored more aggressive dogs, it became more and more difficult to breed them, meaning that fewer and fewer were being born to replace those which were being killed. Perhaps most damagingly, a series of political and economic crises during the 20th Century made it impossible for many Argentines to afford the luxury of keeping a dog. Changing social mores also made dog fighting, an incredibly vicious and brutal sport, increasingly unacceptable. As a result of all these factors, the Cordoba Fighting Dog eventually went extinct, although it is not clear exactly when. The breed was still well-known around Cordoba in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but disappeared sometime afterwards.