At the start of the 20th Century, Cordoba was a city with two faces.
On one side, there was the bubbling up of what was called the “Belle Époque,” a society that reveled in the arts, and drifted off to sleep at night to the sound of waltzes and accordion-laced mazurkas. That city of Cordoba had the air of a capital eager to demonstrate its importance to the eyes of the country.
The city’s other side – no stranger to the former – was a bit cruder and bloodier, having arrived in this land with the active practice of bullfighting. It promoted a fondness for cock fighting, and nurtured the emergence of and later preference for another type of combat, more brutal and emotional: dog fighting.
These two opposing lives existed together, and not in different social strata, as one might be led to believe, but also in circles that were more evolved and unsuspected. For their barbaric purposes, they used a Mastiff-type dog derived from repeated crossbreedings done with the sole aim of producing spcimens that could excel in the fighting ring. This dog was already considered indigenous, and was called the “viejo perro de pelea Cordobes,” or Old Cordoban Fighting Dog, precisely because his origins were already identified with the territory.
These were dogs of good size, almost completely white, but at times with beige or black spots. They were courageous, fierce almost to the point of ferocity, resistant and tireless to pain: Their wounds did not seem to matter to them, and this allowed them to triumph in any kind of struggle.
The breed founder, Dr. Antonio Nores Martinez.
Antonio Nores Martinez, inspired along with his brother Agustin, ingeniously conceived to turn that old fighting dog, now considered a native breed, into something more noble and useful – that is, a hound for “big game,” able to hunt the wild boar, puma, jaguar, fox and other pests that invaded the Argentine fields, producing huge losses to the main agricultural activity of the time.
To implement their plan, they crossed the “perro de pelea” with other breeds that were already fixed in type and recognized by the international dog world, such as the Boxer, Pointer, Great Pyrenees, Dogue de Bordeaux, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane.
All this was to attempt to give agility, strength, size, scenting ability, endurance and intelligence to this unique dog breed. It was a veritable cocktail replete with challenges – just think that they were combining molossoid dogs with those of Sighthound and Scenthound type. We should remember, however, that even these formal breeds were less developed and less extreme compared to their modern counterparts, in the sense that while they were distinct breeds, their type was less defined than it is today.
But it wasn’t long before the brothers’ work bore fruit, and in the end a new breed emerged: the Dogo Argentino.
I think it’s important to really understand what the essential characteristics of this new breed needed to be, as it was described in the “Dogo” presentation made by Nores Martines to the hunters’ club in Buenos Aires.
The first trait that the dog needed was to be silent on the hunt, so as not to have his barking heard by his prey.
Second, this dog needed to have a good nose, and be able to follow the tracks of his prey without putting his nose to the ground; instead, he followed the trail by air-scenting, as a Pointer does.
The third quality was agility, manifested in a dog that had an elastic and explosive gait without becoming a Molosser of a type that was too heavy.
The fourth quality had to be medium size, in terms of not striving for gigantic size, nor for a dog that was either too small or too light boned.
Finally, this had to be a good guardian, which was one of the prerogatives required of this breed – namely, to defend the things and the people that he loves.
In these few ideas expressed by the creator of the breed are the fundamental characteristics of the Dogo Argentino.
Clearly, this type of brutal and harsh hunting isn’t practiced in our precincts today due to cultural reasons that differ from those in the breed’s country of origin. Fortunately, we live in a society where the dog is not seen as a means to a end, but rather as an end unto himself. Because this type of hunting is a very high risk for our canine friends, it’s best not to encourage it.
That said, even though we don’t partake in it, we need to fully understand a breed’s function and its reason for existing in order to understand the essence of the breed in the international dog scene.
We’ve seen what the breed’s original purpose was, and learned what traits the breed’s founder wanted, but how should a Dogo Argentino be put together?
This is a Molosser-type dog of a lighter build, with a rectangular outline, meaning that the length of body should be longer than the height at the withers. The head is slightly brachycephalic, with a cephalic index greater than 50. The upper profiles of the head have a sinuous appearance in the sense that a slight concavity of the upper profile of the muzzle corresponds to a slight convexity of the skull region. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the skull and must be strong and well developed, with lateral faces that are as parallel as possible, but with a abundant lip that is not overly heavy so the dog can breathe unimpeded.
The facial skull axes are almost parallel; in other words, there is a slight tendency to a minor convergence given that the upper margin of the nose is placed slightly higher than the upper line of the nasal canal. The Dogo’s expression must be marked by a hardness, but it is also lively and intelligent. The eye’s shape tends toward the triangular, and must be in a semilateral position, of a dark color, and covered by thick eyelids to protect the eyeball.
The Dogo’s expression must be marked by a hardness, but it is also alive and intelligent. The shape of the eye tends toward the triangular, and it must be in a semilateral position, of a dark color, and covered by thick eyelids to protect the eyeball.
A pure, clear white coat is the ideal.
The stop is moderate, being the point where it moves from a slight concavity of the muzzle to the convexity of the skull. Good musculature fills the temporal ditch (formed by the arches of the cheekbones), and the masseter (the muscle that runs through the rear part of the cheek from the temporal bone to the lower jaw) must be well developed. These features make the head typical and functional.
Another fundamental characteristic of type other than a typical and expressive head is correct proportions and substance. First off, a dog must be correctly rectangular but not too long, with good width of body and a rearquarter that is not narrow and deficient; with a deep ribcage that arrives at least at the elbow, giving him the correct lung room for good endurance.
For a dog of good substance, we need the right bone proportionate to the musculature, which is well developed and explosive muscle without fat. A Dogo that lacks substance will never be of ideal type.
In terms of movement, the Dogo is predisposed to an elongated trot, with the ability to break into a powerful gallop. He has a gait that is almost feline, in the sense that it gives the impression of him walking very lightly, silent and almost sly; but when his interested is awakened, however, he suddenly changes his attitude, becoming elastic and explosive, and capable of sudden changes of direction.
When gaiting, the Dogo Argentino is able to break into a gallop with ease.
One subject that is often discussed is the coat, which the creator of the breed intended to be a clear white that would make it visible and distinct in the Argentinian mountainsides. The pigment is black, and an anterior face of the muzzle that is well pigmented is sought after, as black eyelashes.
Markings around the eyes should not be greater than 10 percent of the dimension of the head. That’s clearly a general value, as it would not be possible for someone to measure the total surface of a dog's head to make such a calculation. Instead, we say that it should not be so extensive as to be aesthetically displeasing. Markings are dark colored, preferably black.
In wintertime the Dogo grows an undercoat that sometimes develops a few gray hairs. It would be ideal if the coat was always a clear white in all seasons and also that the undercoat was always that same shade of white.
It is very important not to confuse the white of the Dogo Argentino with albinism. This is controlled by a gene in the C series and is a color that, thankfully, is very rare in dogs. It causes the inhibition or total absence of any pigmentation of the skin, coat and mucous membranes.
In recent years, one subject of discussion among breed fanciers and experts is the size of our beloved Dogo. The problem came from the fact that the first standard approved by the FCI gave the minimum height as 60 centimeters (23.5 inches) and the maximum height as 65 centimeters (25.5 inches) without factoring in sexual dismorphism, or the difference between males and females in the breed. In reality, these measurements were far surpassed by male prize-winners in the show ring who measured 70 centimeters (27.5 inches) at the withers, creating not a little confusion in those who followed the breed.
Let’s try to take a step back:
In 1947, the creator of the breed, Antonio Nores Martines, published the definitive standard of his new creation in the May edition of Diana magazine. It did not make any mention of how tall a Dogo should be. This very important detail can be verified: The book by the recently deceased master Ruben Passer Lastra contains a photo of this first standard, which was authenticated by an Argentine notary. The only reference Dr. Antonio Nores Martines made regarding size is found inserted in the commentary that preceded this standard, in which the cynologist said: “I wanted the Argentine Dogo to be a mesomorph or normal type and macrosized, preferring the larger ones – that is, a heavy dog among catch dogs.”
Subsequently, due to an abduction that ended in tragedy, Dr. Antonio died, and as we know the reins of the breed were taken up by his brother Agustin, who recovered the work of his brother and whom we thank for the Dogo Argentnino as we now know it.
Agustin Nores Martines worked on the final draft of the Dogo standard, which was in effect until just a few years ago. In this standard, a reference to the height of the Dogo at the withers appeared for the first time: 60 to 65 centimeters (23.5 to 25.5 inches).
In that same book by Agustin Nores Martines, History of the Dogo Argentino, published after the FCI standard went into effect, the author repented and almost apologized, saying “this height of 60 to 65 centimeters [23.5 to 25.5 inches]. I thought was simply enunciative, but I never thought it would be interpreted as a gag or cliché by the judges.”
“Never did I think that they would interpret this so rigidly, to the point that I have seen splendid examples of the breed disqualified because they were a few centimeters taller than the 65 centimeters [25.5 inches] that I put as a guideline into the standard that was approved by Federación Cinologica Argentina,” he wrote.
The first Dogo World Champion, International Ch. Tilcara de Nores Martinez.
“It is therefore urgent for the institutions that really care about the Argentine Dogo, for the purposes we proposed with my brother Antonio more than 50 years ago, to modify the standard, raising the height to at least 70 centimeters [27.5 inches],” he continued. “As proof that I can impose myself as a good criterion I would just look to Tilcara, a world champion who is around 68 centimeters [26.8 inches], and his son Blanco Aluminè, who was rewarded many times in recent times and who went Best in Show in 1978 and who must be taller than 68 centimeters.”
The only reliable indication on size in Antonio’s first standard was the word “macrotalico,” or macrosized. It clearly refers to large size: Antonio always defines it in that same work as “those that have a large size.”
Even without mentioning the comparative tables of reference heights of other large breeds, which has already done exhaustively by Don Passet Lastra in his book Nuestro Perro Dogo Argentino (Our Dog the Dogo Argentino”), it is clear and evident that a correctly macrosized male Dogo male should be taller than the 60 to 65 centimeters (23.5 to 25.5 inches) put forth in the old standard.
In addition, a brief but precise series of measurements made on Argentinian specimens can be found in V. Valino's book Todo Acerca del Dogo Argentino (“All About the Dogo Argentino”), and here too one finds measurements that are far taller than those mentioned in the old standard.
In the case of Dr. Valino, for the purposes of completeness of information, one needs to say that he, too, in the above book, gave more precise guidelines for the height of the Dogo: 60 to 63 centimeters (23.5 to 24.8 inches) for females and 63 to 70 centimeters (24.8 to 27.5 inches) for males.
In 1993, a first draft of the Dogo Argentino standard written by Dr. Moreno proposed 60 to 65 centimeters (23.5 to 25.5 inches) for the height of females and 63 to 67 centimeters (24.8 to 26.4 inches) for males.
But these guidelines soon became a dead issue because, after fierce battles in the Dogo Argentino Club of Buenos Aires and the Federación Cinologica Argentina, another standard draft, dated February 19, 1997, was presented to the FCI. This new draft offered the following measurements for height: 60 to 65 centimeters for females (23.5 to 25.5 inches) and 63 to 67.5 centimeters (24.8 to 26.5 inches) for males.
From the above, some interesting conclusions emerge:
1) All the authors cited were in agreement for setting a minimum limit of not less than 60 centimeters (23.5 inches) for females and 63 centimeters (24.8 inches) for males.
2) All the authors cited saw the necessity of differentiating height based on sexual dimorphism (i.e. the differences between the sexes).
3) All the authors cited expressed the need to raise the maximum size of males by a minimum of two centimeters to a maximum of five centimeters with respect to the old standard.
The new standard definitively made a point in stating that the height at the withers for females should be between 60 and 65 centimeters (23.5 to 25.5 inches), while for males it should be between 62 and 68 centimeters (24.5 to 26.8 inches). They are very clear descriptions in which the room for interpretation is very small. But it is more important that the Dogo in question maintains the right balance, proportions and substance, which are the primary and essential conditions of type, rather than relying on a centimeter more or less.
Naturally, the sexual dimorphism of the Dogo isn’t just derived from the difference in the height at the withers between males and males. In males, one must have more volume, more substance, a head that is a bit larger, a thicker coat and a heavier forequarters compared to the rearquarters.
By comparison, a female Dogo will have bone that is a little lighter, a coat that is a little thinner, a smaller head, less volume and heavier rearquarters compared to the forequarters. As a result, the pelvis will be slightly wider in proportion to the front.
The standard does not provide any guidelines regarding weight. A Dogo Argentino of medium height with correct physical form should weigh approximately 7.5 kilograms (1.65 pounds) per centimeter of height at the withers for males, and 6.6 kilograms (1.5 pounds) for females.