Perro de presa mallorquin is a typical Molossian of somewhat elongated build, strong and powerful, of medium size. The difference between the sexes is apparent in the head, whose circumference is definitely greater in dogs than in bitches.
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of four large islands and eleven small islands in the Mediterranean off the east coast of Spain. Its people and language are Catalan based. The bigger of these islands is Majorca.
In 1232, King James I of Aragon expelled the Moors from the Balearics. The Spanish brought with them the Iberican Mastiff. Many of today's Spanish breeds of mastiffs, claim to be this breed; the Spanish mastiff, the Pyrenean mastiff or the old Spanish Alano, some Ca de Bestiar breeders believe that their dog was the breed that King James I brought over.
The first written mention of the Spanish Alano was in 1350 in King Alfonso XI's Book of Hunting. The Ca de Bestiars' origin on the island is dated as 16th or 17th century. In the French translation they call the Iberican mastiff, an Iberican perro de presa (chien de combats) in English this is a Catch dog, this name can be given to any fierce breed whether Mastiff or Alano.
The King brought the Balearic islands into Aragon's Spain. Trading began between Majorca and Barcelona as well as France, stopping the trade they did with Genoa and other Italian Republics during the Moorish occupation.
Mastiffs, Alanos and big herd dogs would have found their way to the island through trade and aristocrats settling down and bringing their dogs (Alanos in the 14th century were commonly used in hunting for boar and other wild animals, highly respected by aristocrats). All three of these breeds were probably crossed at different points for various functions.
In 1713, the English took over the Balearics at the Treaty of Utrecht. This is probably when the word CA DE BOU evolved. Ca de Bou is Catalan for Bull-Dog, it is a common mistake to understand this word as a visual element and not a function. In the case of the Ca de Bou it is because of its function as a Bull Baiter that it is named Bull-dog.
The Ca de Bestiar was well regarded by the locals as a good herder and guardian. Their sizes and shapes would depend on the function you were looking for. The old Ca de Bestiar had large powerful bodies, strong necks and thick bones (mastiff type) and there were also the smaller ones like today's. Whatever the function, they could withstand high temperatures.
The English during their reign of the island introduced the sport of bull-baiting. The common belief is that the English brought over bulldogs and crossed them with the local guard/hunting/herd dog which could have been a mix of Alano, Ca de Bestiar and Iberican mastiff. However, I believe this is not to be true, more than likely Majorcan traders took Perro de Toro (Spanish bulldogs, heavier and lower to the ground Spanish Alanos) back to the island to entertain the Englishs' sport of bull-baiting.
The English Bulldog's origin is unclear, the first written mention in England is in 1632. Some people believe the breed originates in Spain, MB Wynn writes in his 1886 book History of the Mastiff the following: "it has been presumed without any decided proof that the Spanish bulldog was originally imported from England, but the truth of this is far from certain, and having inspected some of the most noted Spanish bulldogs that have been imported to this country, I have come to the conclusion that although the Spanish bulldog is or was the remnant of the true Pugnaces, yet it differs considerably to the British bulldog of modern age (19th century), in more characteristics than its greater size".
The Spanish bulldogs imported to England in the late 1800s all weighed around 40kg, about the same as a Ca De Bou. In the standard it says the English looked for a breed which would be well suited for bullfighting. What better than Spanish Bulldogs, when you are only 146 km from Barcelona. The English would have known their bulldogs were not well adapted for the heat. Until then there was probably no reason to have low to the ground dogs but for bull-baiting it helps. This Perro de Toro, Spanish Bulldog was then crossed with the local Ca de Bestiar so that it could withstand the terrible heat of the island during the bullfight.
The English did not have an easy time in the Balearics. Forty-three years after the Treaty of Utrecht, the French (1756) invaded with a force of 12,000, after defeating the British under Admiral Byng, captured Port Mahon. Restored to England in 1763, 19 years later the Spanish took it back (1782). The British seized it again in 1798 and it was finally ceded to Spain by the Peace of Amiens in 1803. The English left in 1803 the island of Majorca leaving behind the sport of bullbaiting. Bull and bear baiting were banned in England in 1835, in Spain it was not banned until 1883.
The Majorcans must have been impressed with the dogs they had created and passed them into other functions guarding, hunting, holding the bull while the butcher came to end its life.
It was probably in the 19th century that the Ca de Bou acquired its look and typicity. The sport of bullbaiting was an expensive one and the new sport and trend of dog fighting was spreading across Europe and the Colonies. Different areas and countries had their fighting dogs. Their shape and sizes would depend on taste, climate, surroundings. Still today you can hear some people say this breed is stronger than another.
In England where the sport began, they preferred bull and terrier crosses, they like them small; in the USA they liked them bigger ie Pitbulls. In France they liked big dogs to fight such as the Dogue de Bordeaux, which was 3 kinds back in the 1800s; Parisian (mastiff type), Bordelais (bull-mastiff, dogue type), Toulousain (Spanish bulldog type, longer muzzle, some believe it to be the Perro de Toro, as Toulouse is next to the Spanish border).
In Spain they had Perro de Presas, different types the Spanish Alano, Perro de Toro (Spanish bulldog, heavier version of the Spanish Alano), Perros de Tierra (low to the ground dogs). In the Canary islands they had Perro de Presa Canario. In Majorca, the Perro de Presa Majorquin (Ca de Bou) had been perfected for the climate and many functions including that of fighting. Dog fights were not banned in Spain until 1940.
The first written mention of the Ca de Bou was in 1907, suggesting that the race was well known in 19th century. The president of the Dogue de Bordeaux club, speaks of them when the best of each breed met in Madrid, for a fight match in the 1920s.
By 1923, the breed is registered in the Spanish stud book, the first official entry is in 1928 and in 1929, the first Ca de Bous are shown at the Barcelona Dog show.
The famine of the 1920s and 1930s did not help the breed. In 1946, the standard is created and is not recognised by the FCI until 1964. By 1964 they were no pure specimens left, the trend for new breeds like German Shepherds, Great Dane and Rottweilers didn't help the cause either. The breed was brought back to life in the eighties. It had been crossed with the ca de bestiar, the Majorcans were still producing dogs based on functionality. Both Ca de Bous and Ca de Bestiar have their special qualities, so to cross them was not rare. From such specimens, they managed to find those that seem to be more Ca de Bou than Ca de Bestiar.
In the nineties, other nations took interest in the breed. In Poland and Russia they found a lot of success. There are rumours of more than 2000 Ca de Bous in Moscow. There are only around 250 in Spain. The race is well appreciated for its function in Puerto Rico, where the Champion Chimo was sent to and other famous Spanish Ca de Bous. Other nations like France, Holland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden also have breeders but not many and the race is pretty well unknown.
In the 21st century, the Ca de Bou's future looks good. There is a bigger interest in the breed and thanks to the internet a closer link between Ca de Bou owners, breeders and passionate people, who love this breed.