The foundation was an now extinct dog called the Fighting Dog of Cordoba which for all purposes was a "bulldog" and probably close to the modern pitbull. A little larger I would think.
Essentially, two brothers decided to creare the ultimate dog and used 10 or so breeds. What is important is that they took 25 years to perfect the breed and developed two completely separate lines simultaneously. There is a lot of mythology around this dog but here is a recent translation of the history from the founder:
Brief history of The Dogo Argentino
It was year 1925. My brother Antonio and I had yet to reach our eighteenth birthday (he was a year older than me), and by that time we were both absorbed by a true passion for dogs of all breeds, passion which was to remain constant through our entire lives, since so it was, till his untimely death, and so it will be, God willing, till the upcoming of my own.
I have expressed to my own people my last will, which is to die with a Dogo Argentino under my bed, having my grave, where my bones will lie, in the solitude of the Andes, covered just with a rough cross, and the vigilant figure of a Dogo guarding my sleep. They have shared with me every instant of my troubled life, and it is my desire that they accompany me in my final resting place.
That passion we had since childhood took us to translate, dictionary in hand, the book Notre Ami Le Chien, that wonderful source of dog-breeding knowledge to which we must all resort when we want to learn about the origins of any European breed; literary wonder which my father had in his bookcase and I keep as a precious and inherited treasure among the many hundreds of books related to the topic that I still have and consult. More or less at that time we started translating from English, specially the hunting and working breeds we were interested in, from the Hutchinson Dog Encyclopedia, which was also in my father’s library, among hundreds of medicine books which he, as a surgeon and university professor, studied continuously.
Our love for dogs was so great that during the summers, in Santa Isabel, our villa, we managed to borrow, feed and heal the appallingly skinny dogs from workers who went to harvest the crops throughout the region. During those months we dedicated ourselves to healing the animals’ wounds, cleaning them out of bugs, fattening them, and at the end of the season, when their masters returned from the harvest, we gave them back their dogs in such a fine condition that, had they had a pedigree of any kind, they could have been exhibited in a dog show. I mention these anecdotal memories, seemingly unimportant, because they reflect our passion for man’s best friend, passion without which it is not possible to confront and succeed in a task so hard, so full of setbacks, even painful, as creating a new canine breed is.
It was during that time when my brother Antonio developed the idea of creating, via the crossbreeding of various existing breeds -finally they were 10, as we will see further on- a strain of dogs capable of hunting in our farmlands and woods, capable of racing towards the quarry and killing it, or at least grabbing it till the arrival of the hunter. This idea appeared mainly due to the failure of many European hounds which, by the nature of our very vast lands, the size and strength of our wild boar, and other reasons which I explain in detail in my other book El Dogo Argentino, were not up to the task.
I can still remember as if it had happened yesterday -and more than 50 years have gone by- the day my brother Antonio told me about his idea, and his intention of using the dog known as “Viejo Perro de pelea Cordobés” (Old Cordoba Fighting Dog) as a basis for it. This dog was a descendant of Spanish mastiffs brought to America by the colonists, crossbred with Bullterriers and other fighting breeds for the sole purpose of dog fighting. The idea was to use the extraordinary courage and fighting spirit of these dogs as a basis, adding other breeds which could give them height, sense of smell, speed, hunting instinct, and above all take away from them that “fighting among themselves” instinct which made them useless for pack hunting. We wanted them to be friendly and capable of living freely within families and in farmlands; to maintain the bravery of the primitive breed but focused on a useful cause: big-game hunting as a sport and as a means of controlling predatory species.
And with that stubbornness which comes to us from our Spanish and Basque ancestors (Nores Martínez, Garzón, Berrotarán, Bas) we put ourselves to work. And I say “we” without false modesty, since from the very first day I was by his side, helping in everything and fully identified with the goal he had traced for ourselves: Creating a dog useful to man from the basis of those poor Cordoba fighting dogs, those ferocious beasts sentenced for life to yoke and chain imprisonment, and to the painful dilemma of having to kill or be killed.
I want to state here again, as I did in my previous book El Dogo Argentino, that I consider my brother, Dr. Antonio Nores Martínez, the real creator of the breed in its genetic aspect, even if he could not see the hunting Dogo with which he dreamed, due to his premature death. And I consider this, because it was him who developed the original idea, and he continued fighting for it for as long as he lived, putting in it all of his youth’s passion. Later on, when he became a physician, he applied to it all his knowledge of biogenetics, physiology and anatomy, which were so useful for the development of the new breed.
I am the witness of how a failure made him start the fight again with renewed spirit. In front of the tricks of genetics or surprises of the road taken he never gave himself up, and he always got back to the search for the path to success through the mess of difficulties regarding height, color, jaw shape, etc.. The scientific warrior, determined and even stubborn, faced the problems once and again until victory was glimpsed, and with his experience and success, he taught me the wonderful lesson of the one who knew himself a winner.
Says Renan: “To create is to kill death”; that is why I have stated in my previous book that my brother Antonio will perpetuate himself in the forthcoming years, through the noble hunting Dogos he created.
I will not say then, that I vindicate for him the creation of the breed, because nobody could in good faith doubt it, but I feel his work has to be known.
On my behalf I want to say that, having assisted my brother in the genesis of the breed, and with more than half a century “making Dogos”, watching, studying and correcting their anatomy, making crossbreeds, hunting with them from the Pilcomayo river to the Andes, breeding hundreds and hundreds of them, spending a lifetime with them, selecting and sending them to the five continents, keeping in touch with the many good breeders here and overseas, and learning with pride about their performances in countries so far away as Japan and Israel, I feel authorized to know my brother’s intentions and what he thought about how a Dogo Argentino should be like.
I feel as a duty to establish, very clearly, the true history of the Dogo, the breeds that took part in its conformation, what it was that we proposed to ourselves, and the requirements or conditions that a Dogo has to fulfill to be a typical example of the breed. This enhancement is in fact a ratification of what I wrote in my first book. The fears I pointed out in the preface of the four editions turn into reality many times when we see young men who ten years ago had not seen a Dogo acting as judges in the shows, awarding prizes to specimens which are a far cry from what a good Dogo should be.
This book, which contains the step by step, true story of the development of the breed, and the glossary of the standard, is dedicated to all the good faith enthusiasts and judges who want to know how the Dogo Argentino should be. For the others, those who crossbreed Dogos with Bullterriers to make them smaller and fighters between themselves, this book is not intended, but I can offer a piece of advice: Dedicate yourselves to the breeding of the Bullterrier in any of its two varieties -white and colored Bullterrier or Staffordshire Terrier-, breeds which were created for the pit (very noble and courageous ones, by the way), so you can satisfy your low instincts that way, if that is what you want, but, for goodness sake, do not destroy a breed which was created, after many sacrifices, with the purpose of being useful to man!
Since 1937 we are developing in the Patagonia, with true sacrifice, the hunting instinct of the Dogo, while trying, at the same time, to eradicate that fighting tendency of his ancestor. Instead, a few generations of Dogos fighting among themselves will make them involution (and we have already seen it, painfully) towards the useless Cordoba fighting dog, unsociable with his own species, harmful towards domestic animals, and useless as hunters and guard dogs. Happily there are, both in the country and abroad, many groups of judges and enthusiasts, who know what a Dogo is and what it should be, and use it for big game hunting and guard work. This will undoubtedly benefit the new generations, and each one of them will be nearer to what our ultimate goal was, 50 years ago.
We have seen many field trials in Buenos Aires and La Pampa, and we have been really impressed with the courage showed by some puppies while fighting wild boar, making discipline and obedience demonstrations, and attack and defense exhibitions (protection work).
The Old Cordoba Fighting Dog
From the first moment my brother and I agreed that the basis for the new breed had to be that fearless gladiator whom we had seen fighting in the Cordoba of our childhood; a dog now fortunately extinct, who had no further destiny in life than fighting to death in the arena.
I recall them, and my memory gets flooded with names from the past: Tom, Bull, Johnson, Dempsey; all of them property of my uncle Oscar Martínez. For many years I trained them, most of all Tom, who had such a huge strength that he usually carried me virtually flying when pulling from the leash. He was so strong that we used to make him carry wheelbarrows full of sand from our grandparent’s house to the stream, about 100 meters away. And he did not pull with a harness, but with a wide collar instead, which gave his neck a great musculature. I also rememberCaradura- Tom’s father-, owned by another uncle of mine, Mr. Rogelio Martínez; Roy, of the Deheza family; Taitu, property of the Villafañe family, tailors who lived in New Cordoba and who impressed us with their training system: Couches hanging from the roof which the dogs, between them Taitu, used to bite and shake, staying suspended in the air for several minutes. I recall several more: Pimienta, winner of many fights, owned by Mr. Pepe Peña; Mancha, property of the Bas family; Matón and Tunney, of my own; Yarará, of the Dalves family; and finallyTomsito, who belonged to my cousin Dr. Héctor Martínez; his legendary courage made him win many fights in the pit. Obviously we have known many more, but their names and those of their owners are lost in times gone by.
The Starting of the New Breed
These dogs I have mentioned were the foundations. Being so young as we were, it was very difficult for us to obtain the bitches, the place to kennel them, the food, and the keeper, since our ongoing studies prevented us from being personally in charge of all the minor details.
Our uncle Oscar Martínez, whom we owe so much for everything he did for the breed, lent us a large yard where we started taking the females we managed to get from friends and relatives who sympathized with our project. We were able to gather 10 bitches in a relatively short period of time, sisters and daughters of the dogs I have mentioned before. This number grew fairly quickly until we reached around 30 mothers.
We had already secured a place, but we still had the problems of finding a keeper and getting the food. At that time, we were attending high school, day-boarding, and we only had weekends to go to that laboratory where we started, more than 50 years ago, that long and passionate alchemy. For we had learned that “natura non facet saltus”, and Mendel’s law was always to be fulfilled, slowly but surely.
As our father had taught us, based on his scientific expertise, creating a new breed of any animal species is more than just the result of mixing randomly some already existing breeds; you have to take into account a series of genetic laws, such as those from the wise Augustinian monk, in order to reach the proposed goal. You cannot infringe, without being punished, the preestablished, eternal, and immutable laws of nature.
“Rome was not built in a day”, says an old English proverb, and that, we found out since the very first day. We knew the path we had started would be rough, long and difficult, plenty of obstacles; we also knew it would demand many sacrifices from us and from the ones who would follow us in our passion. But in our young 18 years everything seemed to be possible, and that youth was the great spur we had which made us accomplish the most arduous tasks.
The problem of feeding the bitches -sometimes 30 or more- was urgent; and I say bitches for males we never had more than 2 or 3, since we brought them from outside whenever we needed them for service. We fed them with our savings from the pocket-money our mother used to give us on Sundays. We used this money to buy some big cheeses (around 40 pounds each) which we got for 3$each in an old soap factory. This cheese, mixed with other foods, made quite a good meal. But the real solution was provided to us by the generosity of a noble Spaniard called Merino, owner of a sandwich store (“El Buen Sandwich”). This man was a friend of our father’s who, as far as I know, was his family’s doctor. One day, after visiting our premises, he was so enthusiastic that he decided to spare for us several bags full of leftovers from the manufacturing of sandwiches each Saturday. The “fuel” to keep the boilers of the “factory” burning was momentarily secure.
The problem of finding and hiring a keeper was also a very urgent one, but finally our father, with his characteristic kindness and that typical concern for anything that was spiritually sound, solved it by paying the corresponding salary.
We were able to have, in different occasions, two or three different keepers. Finally, when my brother Antonio went to study at the Rosario University, he met Mr. Antonio Orelo, a Spaniard who worked as a male nurse in hospitals, and a fervent dog-enthusiast.
While my brother was away, I had to manage the kennel by myself. When he finally returned home, he brought Mr. Orelo with himself, and he started working as our kennels’ keeper. He did the job with utmost loyalty for many years. Later on, my brother gave him two acres of land and a house in our villa Santa Isabel, where he finally died and where his wife and some of his children still live.
This constitutes, to the best of my knowledge, a brief account of the way the breed started, and of how we managed to solve, despite being so young, the three biggest problems we encountered when trying to make my brother Antonio’s dream come true: The place for the experiment, the people in charge, and the food for the mothers and their litters.
Edited by lefty - 11/8/11 at 6:17pm