Alano Espanol is among the most unusual breeds of dog for its history. Unusual for the tight relation between the history of the dogs and the history of Europe, Spain and conquistadors. Well known on the Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years, these dogs are probably the first in the history of cynology to have their well described pattern as a recognizable breed. The pattern dates back to the year 1340 and it describes very precisely both the look and the character of Alano.
There are two theories regarding the appearance of Alano on the Iberian Peninsula. The first and the most popular states that Alano came to the peninsula along with the so-called barbarian tribes, the Vandals and the Alans, during the migration period in the fourth century after Christ. Personally I think that this theory is right and that it has its continuation in the later history of the breed. The other theory assumes that the dogs have reached the peninsula in the fifth century b.c. during the Greek and Phoenician colonization, and the development of the grabbing dogs in the various parts of Europe is the result of the tasks they were meant for.
Alanos have always been working on ranches and they've been used for hunting big animals. The dogs used for huntings differed in their build from the dogs used for pasturing and taming cattle and these differences were noticeable in the Middle Ages. The greatest times for Alanos were at the turn of the Renaissance and Baroque, there are many descriptions, sculptures and paintings of Alano from that epoch.
The dogs used traditionally for taming and herding cattle were smaller, heavier with more fiery temperament, they were working at shorter distances, mainly at pens and grasslands. These are known as Perro de Toro and they gave birth to a series of other breeds: Dogue de Bordeaux, Boxer, Ca de Bou, Bulldog. Of the other kind are the taller, high-legged dogs with a longer vat, insensitive to tiredness, used for the montria and rondo style huntings at longer distances. However, the systematic changes changes in the economy, the spread of firearm and the less importance of the grabbing dogs caused these dogs to be claimed extincted at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, the changes in stock-farming and crossing the Monchina breed with the other European meat breeds, and foresting valleys has lead to the reduction of these dogs' meaning for the economy.
Since 1978 a group of passionate monteria-style hunters has begun methodical work to recover Alano Espanol of the lighter long-legged type. The largest population of Alano was discovered in Cantabria. In the Encartaciones Valley a few hundreds of dogs have lived and worked, and a group of the best of them was selected for the further breeding.
fot. M.C.J.Nebot - Tigre - Encartaciones 1996
In spite of crossing the dogs with the proper build conforming the pattern sometimes there appear dogs with shortened vat, strong frontal occlusion and heavier build that is the heritage from Perro de Presa, also known as Perro de Toro. Some breeders claim these two types of grabbing dog have always been pervading each other, the others, basing on historical references, believe that these were the two separate types used for different purposes.
Despite the satisfying results of having found the specimen of Alano and very well-thought and controlled breeders' work, Alano constantly has to confirm its authenticity among the skeptics.
The breeds that are the descendants of Alano, such as Perro de Presa Canario, Ca de Bou, Dogue de Bordeaux, Dogo Argentino, are fully acknowledged by FCI, while Alano was acknowledged by RSCE in 2001.