“Every dog must have its day.” – Author of Gulliver’s’ Travels Jonathan Swift
Today, the Peruvian Hairless Dog (aka the Peruvian Inca Orchid), the Argentine Dogo, the Brazilian Mastiff, and the Brazilian Terrier will have theirs! But before we shed light on these four fascinating dog breeds unique to South America, first we must ask: what makes a dog breed anyway? This is a heavily weighted global debate and one that will most likely never yield a straight answer.
Kennel clubs and breed registration groups worldwide hold different criteria for how and when they officially recognize a new breed. For instance, despite the existence of over 340 dog breeds globally, the American Kennel Club (AKC) only officially recognizes 196 of them – the Argentine Dogo being the only South American recognized AKC breed as of this year. Whereas the French World Canine Association (FCI) has the largest registry of 339 breeds, including the Brazilian Terrier, Argentine Dogo, Brazilian Mastiff, and the Peruvian Hairless Dog. Let’s take a closer look at these tried-and-true South American canine companions!
1. The Peruvian Hairless Dog aka The Peruvian Inca Orchid
Three words to describe the Peruvian Inca Orchid, aka the Peruvian Hairless Dog, are: affectionate, noble, and loyal. No one really knows the true origin of how these dogs arrived in South America, to begin with, or if they naturally evolved within Latin America from the now-extinct Mexican Colima Dog. However, the most prominent theory purports they arrived during the human migration from Asia to America via the Bering Strait between 2,000-3,000 years ago.
Despite the lack of proof to pinpoint precisely when and how they came to South America, we can say that they lived alongside cultures pre-dating the Inca Empire and accompanied the Incas themselves. There are examples of ceramic artifacts from the Vicus, Mochica, Chancay, and Chimu cultures depicting the Peruvian Hairless Dog, indicating their venerated presence alongside some of Peru’s wilder animals.
2. The Argentine Dogo
The origin of the Argentine Dogo is slightly less mysterious. Two Argentine brothers Antonio and Augustin Norez Martinez, began the breeding task of a lifetime in 1925. The goal was to breed a relative of the now extinct Cordoba Fighting Dog, who would be just as fierce and strong but more predictable, trainable, and docile. Over the next 20 years, they bred the Cordoba fighting dog with at least nine other breeds, and voila, the Argentine Dogo.
Despite being considered a “dangerous breed” in some international circles, they are immensely loved in Argentina. Their primary roles include hunting large game such as wild boar and guarding property; however, they also are regularly trained as search and rescue, police, and therapy dogs.
3. Brazilian Mastiff
The Brazilian Mastiff has European origins. However, it was bred explicitly in Brazil as a working cattle dog. Its closest ancestor is the Portuguese Fila Tercierense, whereas its current closest relative would be the Rafeiro do Alentejo. However, the Brazilian Mastiff was also deliberately bred with the old-style Bulldog, Mastiff, and Bloodhound.
Given the unfortunate prevalence of dogfighting in Brazil (similarly to the Argentine Dogo in Argentina), the Brazilian Mastiff is banned in some countries as a “dangerous breed.” But in reality, if you train and care for this dog with responsibly love, attention, and the correct type of discipline, they are incredibly loyal, brave, tolerant of children, and docile.
4. Brazilian Terrier
Rounding out the club of uniquely South American dog breeds is the trusty Brazilian Terrier. Since the late 19th century, the Brazilian Terrier has been on the scene as primarily a hunting and watch-dog, but more recently, it is considered a companion dog. With the same spry energy as their Jack Russell, Parson Russell, Smooth Fox, and Wire Fox Terrier relatives, the Brazilian Terrier is also alert, intelligent, devoted, and loving.
Whether you’re a dog lover or not, there is no denying that these faithful companions have been by our side for as long as our collective memory serves. Breeders in South America take great pride in these four dogs in particular, who hold a special place in each country’s history and in the hearts of their owners.