The Dogo Argentino is a Molosser-type breed developed in Argentina as a pack hunting dog. Developed almost entirely by Antonio Nores Martinez and his brother Agustin, the Dogo Argentino was traditionally used to hunt boar and cougar, but has more recently found work as a personal protection animal and family companion. Renowned for its tremendous courage and physical capabilities, the breed is also known for its massive size, powerful appearance, and solid white coat. Although only recently introduced into the United States, the Dogo Argentino is quickly growing in popularity and has already earned a large number of fanciers. The Dogo Argentino is also known as the Argentine Dogo, Argentine Mastiff, and the Dogo.
The Dogo Argentino was the result of a carefully planned and executed breeding program conducted by Antonio Nores Martinez and his brother Agustin. Because the pair kept excellent records and their family continues to breed Dogo Argentinos to this day, more is known about the development of this breed than almost any other. The Dogo Argentino is considered to be a member of the Molosser family, also known as the Mastiffs, Dogues, and Alaunts. Although each breed is different, the family is characterized by massive size, large heads and jaws, a brachycephalic (pushed-in) face, strong protective instincts, and a European or Near Eastern ancestry.
The history of the Dogo Argentino begins with the Fighting Dog of Cordoba, also known as the Cordoban Fighting Dog or Cordoban Bulldog. When the Spanish conquered the New World, they made extensive use of war dogs to subdue the native populations. Many of these dogs were Alanos, athletic Molosser-type dogs which are still found in Spain. Alanos were not only used for war, but for personal protection, bullfights, hunting, and as catch dogs working with recalcitrant livestock. At one point, Alanos and other Molossers were probably found throughout Argentina working in the nation’s massively important cattle industry. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, the British population exploded to the point that the island could no longer provide enough food for its inhabitants. At this point grain imports became very important to the British Empire, and Argentina with its large fertile plains became one of Britain’s primary sources. British ships regularly docked at Argentine ports, and many of these vessels carried dogs. After bull baiting and bear baiting were banned in the 1835, dog fighting became one of the most popular sports in the United Kingdom. British breeders crossed Bulldogs with Terriers to create a dog that combined the power, tenacity, size, and ferocity of the Bulldog with the speed, dog aggressiveness, determination, and athleticism of a Terrier. Such crosses were known as Bull and Terriers, and eventually gave rise to the Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeds. British sailors brought their Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers along on voyages for companionship and to fight them as sport.
In the mid to late 1800’s, Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers began to arrive in Argentina. The Argentines were very impressed by the fighting prowess of these dogs, and were also quite entertained by their battles and the gambling that invariably accompanied it. A number of Argentines acquired these dogs and began to stage their own battles. As a result Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city after Buenos Aires, would go on to become a major dog fighting hub. In an effort to improve upon the imported dogs Cordoban breeders began crossing the biggest and best fighting dogs to develop their own breed for the purpose; a breed which would become known as the Cordoban Fighting Dog. The Cordoban Fighting Dog was primarily based on the Bull Terrier, but was heavily influenced by the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and local Alanos as well. Other breeds may also have gone into its development such as the Perro de Presa Canario, Fila Brasileiro, English Mastiff, English Bulldog, Boxer, and Bullenbeiser, but such records have been lost to history. The Cordoban Fighting Dog became legendary as a fighter, extremely ferocious in the pit, and willing to fight to the death. These dogs were so aggressive that it was almost impossible to get them to mate because they were so likely to fight. Local hunters would also discover that the breeds size and aggressiveness would make it one of the only dogs capable of hunting wild boar. The Cordoban Fighting Dog was not only smart enough to avoid being killed by a boar, but also strong and ferocious enough to hold onto it until it could be killed. Unfortunately, Cordoban Fighting Dogs could only be used alone or sometimes in a male and female pair because the breed was far too aggressive to work with other dogs.
In the early decades of the 20th Century, Antonio Nores Martinez, the son of a wealthy Cordoban landowner, grew up to be an avid hunter. Nores Martinez’s favorite game was the wild boar hunt, but he became frustrated that he was only able to hunt them with one or sometimes two dogs. In 1925, when Antonio was only 18 years old, he became determined to develop a unique breed based on the Cordoban Fighting Dog that would be larger, more athletic, and capable of working in large packs with other dogs. He shared his dream with his brother Agustin, who was 17 at the time. In The History of the Dogo Argentino, Agustin writes that Antonio’s goal 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.”
Antonio and Agustin acquired 10 female Cordoban Fighting Dogs. Females were chosen because they were generally less dog aggressive than the males. The two began to acquire foreign breeds that they felt possessed desirable qualities. They preferred males because the ideal was to use Cordoban Fighting Dogs as dams, but occasionally selected foreign females as well. The two decided to name their breed the Dogo Argentino, or Dogue (a term used to describe Mastiffs commonly used in France) of Argentina. Antonio knew exactly what he wanted his end result to be from the very beginning, and he wrote the first Dogo Argentino standard in 1928, long before the breed was finalized. The Nores Martinez brothers were greatly aided in their mission by their father, who hired a kennel manager to care for their dogs while they attended school. Antonio was always the primary driving force, but Agustin was always his right hand man. The two spent all of their spare money caring for their dogs, and were greatly aided by their father’s friends who regularly donated food. Many of these early helpers were themselves highly interested in the development of a pack hunting dog capable of tackling big game. Antonio would go on to become a highly respected surgeon, and he would use his medical understanding of anatomy and genetics in his breeding efforts. As time went on, the two developed a few other goals. They decided that solid white dogs were the most ideal, as they are clearly distinguished from the black and brown wild boars and green and brown landscape and therefore less likely to get shot or lost accidentally. They also realized that larger jaws provide the greatest bite force and grabbing area.
Because the Nores Martinez brothers kept excellent records and Agustin later wrote a book, we know exactly what breeds were used and for what purpose they were selected. The Cordoban Fighting Dog provided courage, ferocity, gameness, a basic body and face design, and a solid white coat. The Pointer was added for its keen sense of smell, finely tuned hunting instincts, and more agreeable temperament. The Boxer added vivacity and gentleness. The Great Dane added size, strength, jaw power, and boar hunting skill. The Bull Terrier added fearlessness. The English Bulldog increased the size and musculature of the chest, as well as great boldness. The Irish Wolfhound brought hunting instinct and aptitude, size, power, and speed. The Dogue de Bordeaux added size and strength to the jaws and head. The Great Pyrenees helped fix size, the solid white coat, and a gentler temperament. The Spanish Mastiff was also added for size and to help fix type. The resulting dogs were massive in size, but still quite athletic, solid white in color, and Molosser-like in appearance and most importantly, capable of working with other dogs while retaining the courage and tenacity of the Cordoban Fighting Dog. The Dogo Argentino also retained the protective instincts of its Mastiff ancestors. By 1947, the Dogo Argentino was mostly fixed in terms of type, and the breed appeared in Diana Magazine. That same year, Antonio pitted one of his dogs against a Cougar and a Wild Boar in the San Luis Province, and filmed the combat, the dog won.
As a result of their efforts, the dogs bred by the Nores Martinez brothers quickly became legendary throughout Argentina and neighboring South American countries. The Dogo Argentinos became famous for their great courage, extreme endurance, immense power, and excellent temperaments. The dogs began to be extensively used to hunt boar and cougar throughout the southern regions of South America, but also deer, maned wolf, and other game and pest species. Other hunters and landowners began to breed these dogs, both to hunt and to guard their large estates. Unfortunately, Antonio Nores Martinez was murdered on a boar hunt in 1956, by a man who intended to rob him. Agustin fully took over breeding efforts, but moved the primary kennel from Cordoba to Esquel, located in the far south region of Patagonia. Agustin was very highly regarded in the Argentine community, and became the nation’s official ambassador to Canada. He used his diplomatic connections to spread the breed around the world. In 1964, the Argentine Kennel Club granted full recognition to the breed, becoming the first major canine organization to do so. In 1973, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) granted full recognition the Dogo Argentino, making it the first (and only) internationally recognized breed from Argentina and one of fewer than ten from South America.
The Dogo Argentino developed a worldwide reputation for its hunting prowess, adaptability, and temperament. From a very early time, the breed was used in Argentina for personal protection, seeing-eye work, search-and-rescue, and police and military work. In Germany, Dogo Argentinos were first introduced to schutzhund. In Yugoslavia, the breed was put to work hunting boars. In Canada, Dogo Argentinos were used to hunt moose. In 1970, Dr. Raul Zeballos brought the first Dogo Argentinos to the United States, and the breed became increasingly popular in that country during the latter half of the 20th Century. This was largely due to its skill in hog hunting, a very popular sport in the Southern United States, and also necessary to control the population of a highly destructive introduced species. The Dogo Argentino’s popularity in the United States was greatly aided by the breed’s great similarity in appearance to the American Pit Bull Terrier, by far the most common dog in the United States (although not in terms of kennel club registrations).
In 1985, the Dogo Argentino Club of America (DACA) was founded to promote and protect the breeding of the dog. DACA made it their personal and lasting mission to make sure that all Dogo Argentinos were both of show quality and highly capable of performing their job, and the DACA was determined that there will never be two distinct lines of Dogo Argentino. Although initially rare, by the end of the 1990’s, there was a substantial and growing population of Dogo Argentinos in America, especially in states such as Texas and Florida with large hog populations. The DACA made it one of their goals to have their breed fully recognized by America’s two major kennel clubs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) the largest and second largest pure bred dog registries in the world respectively. In 1996, the Dogo Argentino was entered into the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (AKC-FSS), the first step towards full recognition. In 2001, UKC granted full recognition to the Dogo Argentino as a member of the Guardian Dog Group. In 2010, the AKC selected the DACA to act as the Dogo Argentino’s official parent club, and the breed entered the Miscellaneous Class on January 1st, 2011. The Dogo Argentino is now eligible to compete in most AKC events that a member of the Working Group is eligible to participate it, but not conformation events. It is expected that within the next few years, the Dogo Argentino will gain full recognition with the American Kennel Club, at which point it will be placed in the Working Group, unless the AKC goes ahead with a plan to reorganize its groups. In that case, the Dogo Argentino will almost certainly be placed in a group dedicated to Molossers.
Dogo Argentinos are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and are becoming extremely desirable to a large segment of the population. The popularity of this breed is increasing as its hog hunting abilities are becoming better known, and as the popularity of American Pit Bull Terriers and Molosser-type dogs in general is on the rise. Many new breeders are producing Dogo Argentino puppies, and there is some fear among older fanciers that damage to the breed could result. In America, Dogo Argentinos are used as hunting dogs specializing in hog, personal protection animals, schutzhund competitors, competitors in all types of canine activities, and as companion animals. Although the breed has no connection to the American Pit Bull Terrier whatsoever other than some distant Bull Terrier ancestry, it is commonly associated with that breed due to looks alone. Unfortunately, the American Pit Bull Terrier has earned a reputation for viciousness (which is largely unfair and undeserved) and this reputation has carried over to the Dogo Argentino as well, even though the breed is not known for viciousness at all and was specifically developed to be gentle and tolerant of both people and other dogs. The Dogo Argentino is now banned or has restrictions placed on its ownership in a number of American municipalities and counties. The breed has also been outlawed or restricted in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zeeland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, and the Ukraine. Many of these bans are highly criticized, as the breed is not known to be human aggressive and is almost never used for dog fighting because it lacks the dog aggression to do so.
It is commonly said that the Dogo Argentino resembles a massive American Pit Bull Terrier, but anyone familiar with either dog would never confuse the two breeds. This breed is unmistakable for its massive size, molossoid appearance, and solid white coat. Even the smallest Dogo Argentino is a very large dog, but this breed is not a true giant compared to some others. The average male stands between 24 and 27½ inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 80 and 120 pounds. The average female stands between 23½ and 25½ inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 75 and 100 pounds. The Dogo Argentino is very powerfully built and is extremely muscular. However, this breed is a true athlete and should never appear thick or stocky. The ideal Dogo Argentino should look capable of tremendous speed, endurance, and strength. No feature of the Dogo Argentino should appear overly exaggerated, although the legs usually look somewhat long and the head does look large. The tail of the Dogo Argentino starts off very thick and tapers to a very fine point. The tail is very long and is carried either straight or with a curve, but never a in a curl.
The head of the Dogo Argentino is quite large, but does not appear overly disproportionate to body size. The head is generally square but is slightly rounded rather than being not angular or severe. The muzzle and head are distinct from each other, but blend in relatively smoothly. The muzzle itself is truly massive, among the largest of any dogs. The length of the muzzle should be approximately equal to the length of the skull. The muzzle is almost as wide as the skull and tapers only minimally to the tip, giving the breed the largest possible area to bite down with. The bridge moves slightly upwards towards the end. Many Dogo Argentinos have black markings on their thick lips, which is greatly preferred. Most Dogo Argentinos have slightly pendulous lips, but this breed would not be described as jowly. The teeth of the Dogo Argentino should meet in a scissor or even bite, never an overbite or under bite. The eyes of the Dogo Argentino are set far apart and deeply into the skull. Eye color can range from blue to black, but darker colors are greatly preferred, as animals with lighter-colored eyes are often deaf. The ears of the Dogo Argentino are traditionally cropped into a short, erect, triangle. However, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in several countries. The natural ears of this breed are relatively short, but significantly longer than those of most Mastiffs. These ears drop down close to the sides of the head in a triangle shape with rounded tips. The overall expression of most Dogo Argentinos is intelligent, curious, lively, and hard.
The hair of the Dogo Argentino is short, thick, and glossy. The hair is stiff, coarse, and of equal length over most of the body. The hair on the feet, face, and head is usually shorter and softer. Often, skin pigmentation shows through the coat, especially on the ears. The skin is mostly pink, but does have black patches. The coat of this breed should be solid white, and the whiter the better. Some Dogo Argentinos have small patches of black or brown, usually on the head. To be eligible for the show ring, the dog can only have one small marking that may not cover more than 10% of the head, but this is disfavored. Some Dogo Argentinos also have a light ticking, which is acceptable to some kennel clubs, but is greatly disfavored. Occasionally Dogo Argentinos will be born with significantly more colored patches and/or larger ones. Such dogs are ineligible in the show ring but otherwise make just as good pets and working dogs.
The Dogo Argentino has a temperament that is generally similar to that of other Molossers, but this breed is somewhat softer tempered and more driven than many other family members. The Dogo Argentino is an extremely people-oriented breed. This dog forms incredibly close attachments to all members of its family and craves to be in their presence at all times. This can be a problem as more than a few breed members develop severe separation anxiety. The Dogo Argentino is a breed that wants constant close personal contact, and many of them come to believe that they are lap dogs. This is not the ideal breed for anyone who doesn’t want a one hundred plus pound dog constantly attempting to lie on top of or lean against them. Although devoted and affectionate, this breed is often very dominant and challenging, making it a very poor choice for a novice dog owner.
Usually more accepting of strangers than most Molossers, this breed typically becomes very tolerant and polite with proper training and socialization, and many of these dogs are quite friendly. Dogo Argentinos do have a strong protective instinct, and most are initially skeptical of any new introduction, although they tend to warm up quickly. Early socialization is absolutely necessary to prevent them from developing shyness and suspicion, either of which can lead to aggression. Although generally non-aggressive, even the slightest aggression is extremely serious in a dog this powerful.
Not only protective but highly alert, the Dogo Argentino makes an excellent watch dog with a booming bark that would scare off all but the most determined intruders. Dogo Argentinos make capable guard dogs that will challenge intruders, but this breed greatly prefers the use of intimidation over force. This breed is much better suited to personal rather than property protection, due to its intense devotion to its master. Dogo Argentinos will not allow any physical harm to come to a family member or close friend under any circumstances and will fearlessly and relentlessly meet any potential threat. There are multiple accounts of breed members single-handed fighting off full-grown cougars and armed assailants without the slightest hesitation.
The Dogo Argentino has a generally good reputation with children. When properly socialized with them, this breed is typically gentle and tolerant of them. Many Dogo Argentinos greatly enjoy the attention and playtime that children provide, and can be extremely affectionate with them. Dogo Argentino puppies are probably not the best housemates for very young children. Although very few would ever deliberately harm a child, young breed members tend to be extremely rambunctious and clumsy and may bowl over a toddler in an attempt to play.
Dogo Argentinos have a very mixed reputation with other animals, especially other dogs. Bred to work in a pack, the Dogo Argentino had to be capable of working in tandem with other dogs. However, this breed is also descended from very ferocious fighting dogs as well as protection breeds. Some Dogo Argentinos are perfectly fine with other dogs, and may be very friendly with them; others may be highly dog aggressive, especially males. Many male Dogos should be kept alone or at most with a single female, and the same can be said about some females. Proper socialization from an early age can greatly reduce problems, but often does not eliminate them entirely. Even the slightest dog aggression issue is greatly magnified as this breed can seriously injure or even kill almost any other dog with little to no effort. Dogo Argentinos are primarily bred as hunting dogs, even to the modern day. As a result, this breed has an extremely high prey drive and shows very high levels of aggression to non-canine animal species. Most breed members will pursue any creature that they see, and many will attack and kill them if given the opportunity. The average Dogo will be fine with individual cats that it has known since puppyhood, but some are never trustworthy with them.
These dogs can present significant training difficulties. This breed is extremely intelligent and is a very fast learner. Skilled trainers could probably teach a Dogo Argentino to do anything that a dog is capable of other than possibly advanced herding behaviors. However, this breed is very dominant and extremely stubborn. Dogo Argentinos want to be in charge and if they sense even the slightest weakness they often take command. This breed will absolutely not respond to the commands of anyone it considers to be lower on the social totem pole than itself, and only begrudgingly responds to those of people it considers true leaders. Dogo Argentino owners absolutely must maintain a position of dominance at all times; otherwise they will lose control. This breed is also incredibly stubborn. A Dogo Argentino wants to do what it wants, not what anyone else tells it to. If one of these dogs decides that it does or doesn’t want to do something, only the most firm and dominant master can get it to change its mind, and sometimes not even then. Dogo Argentino owners must always be extremely consistent as this breed is smart enough to figure out exactly what it can and cannot get away with, and will choose to live its life accordingly.
This breed is capable of extreme feats of athleticism and endurance, and as a result requires a substantial amount of exercise. The Dogo Argentino needs vigorous exercise every day. Although this breed will accept a long walk, it greatly prefers an opportunity to run, preferably off-leash in a safely enclosed area. The Dogo Argentino makes perhaps the best jogging companion of any Mastiff-type dog and is capable of going at a galloping pace for very long periods. Dogo Argentinos that are not provided a proper outlet for their energy will almost certainly find one on their own, and this breed is very likely to develop behavioral issues such as destructiveness, excessive barking, hyper activity, and over excitability. Any behavioral issue is greatly magnified by the size of the dog, and even a Dogo Argentino puppy can completely and totally destroy a house. All that being said, a Dogo Argentino certainly does not have the exercise needs of a breed such as a Border Collie, and properly exercised breed members are usually relatively relaxed in the home, although this breed is not a couch potato like most other Mastiff-type dogs. Owners of Dogo Argentino puppies must carefully regulate the amount of exercise that they get to avoid potential bone growth abnormalities.
Potential Dogo Argentino owners need to be aware that puppies of this breed can be a quite a handful. They are very rambunctious and clumsy, and will bounce around a home knocking into essentially everything. Imagining a hundred pound three year old rampaging through the halls will give a pretty good idea about what a Dogo Argentino puppy can be like. Many breed members love to chew, which can be quite problematic. Expect to regularly replace toys, as this dog can destroy a supposedly indestructible toy with one hard bite. Although this breed mellows out considerably with age, it will always be considerably more active and excitable than most other similar breeds. Owners must also be aware that even puppies are highly intelligent and determined problem solvers that can figure out how to open doors, escape from enclosures, and find anything they want to.
The Dogo Argentino has minimal grooming requirements. This breed should never require professional grooming; only a regular brushing and an occasional bath are required. It is highly, highly advisable for owners of Dogo Argentinos to expose their dogs to routine maintenance procedures such as teeth brushing and bathing from as early an age and as carefully as possible. It is considerably easier to trim the nails of a willing 40 pound puppy than a resistant 90 pound adult. Dogo Argentinos do shed, and many of them shed quite heavily. While some Dogo Argentinos shed an average amount for a dog of this size, others shed nearly constantly making this breed a poor choice for an allergy sufferer or the highly fastidious.
Although there is a growing fear among fanciers that inexperienced breeders may eventually compromise the health of the Dogo Argentino, this breed remains in considerably better health than the vast majority of breeds of this size. The Dogo Argentino suffers from fewer health problems than most giant breeds, and also from lower rates. As a result, the breed has a life expectancy of between 10 or 12 years, considerably longer than many similar dogs.
Dogo Argentinos do suffer from very high rates of one serious problem, deafness. Although it does not appear that any wide ranging health studies have been conducted, it is known that this is a very common problem in the breed. The genes responsible for hearing and color are closely linked in dogs, and most white coated breeds suffer from high rates of deafness. Solidly white animals with blue eyes are virtually always deaf, which is why dark eyes are so greatly preferred by breeders and in the show ring. Congenital deafness in Dogo Argentinos may either be bilateral (deaf in both ears) or unilateral (deaf in one ear). Unilaterally deaf animals should not be used for breeding but almost always make just as good pets or working animals. Bilaterally deaf dogs are extremely difficult to handle along with being unpredictable, and most breeders have them humanely euthanized when their defect is discovered. It is very important that anyone considering acquiring a Dogo Argentino puppy make sure that it has had its hearing tested.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur 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 it prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
A full list of health problems that have been identified in the Dogo Argentino would have to include: