The Story of the Modern Ca de
|It took twenty years for the Ca de bestiar Club to get the breed back. Currently there are about 4,000 of these dogs around the world. One thousand of them could be considered ‘excellent’. According to the Club managers, these dogs are a symbol of Majorca.|
The origins of the Majorcan shepherd dogs are not clear. Barceló i Combis referred to them as "alan or shepherd dog (ca de pastor)", while the Archduke Lluis Salvador defined them as "mastiffs or wolf dog". Gabriel Puigserver i Gil de Solà current President of the Ca de bestiar club thinks that "a scientist like professor Barceló i Combis, who knows how to clearly differentiate a wolf dog or mastiff from a shepherd dog, makes us realize that the origin of the ca de pastor cannot be traced to the mastiffs currently found in the Iberian Peninsula".
"The alan dog", Puigserver wrote in "Native pets from Majorca", published by Sa nostra, as a PRAM initiative, "currently extinct, was a strong dog, not as big as a mastiff, and it was used to hunt and capture large animals (deer, wild boar, etc.). Only this dog had to be the fighting dog that helped king James conquer Majorca, and that later on stayed in the island being very helpful to Majorcan farmers".
All experts agree that the ca de bestiar that
exists today descended originally from the alan with the influence of
other breeds making diverse contributions.
Many shepherds, who wanted a shyer dog and one closer to its master, mixed it with the ca mè, which made the ca de bestiar more submissive with a better instinct of closeness to its master.
They also crossed the pure alan dog with the hound from Ibiza, to use the dogs to go after kids in the Tramuntana Mountains. The result was a faster dog that would adapt perfectly to the Majorcan mountains.
More recently, when the first tourists started arriving in the island, other dogs arrived such as the German shepherd, which has been the main responsible for the ca de bestiar’s contamination.
The Doberman, the mastiff and the Great Dane also contributed to the process of destruction of the ca de bestiar breed.
Real connoisseurs of the breed soon recognized the defects of the mixture and rejected those of mixed breed as working dogs. In Majorca they were called feien carn (Catalan: literally "making meat") because they indiscriminately killed chickens, sheep, ducks (or whatever they came across). They didn’t have seny (Catalan: "judgement; common sense"), or they were too heavy. The damage had already been done and the situation was critical until about twenty years ago when a movement to recover the ca de bestiar began. While it has been a difficult task and the work is still not finished, enthusiasts have been converted into saviors of the breed, which was on the edge of extinction. The initiative taken by Alonso Guasp in 1970 has been sustained thanks to the Club del Perro Pastor Mallorquín foundation. In 1980 the Fédération Cynologique Internationale officially recognized the breed.
Josep Biblioni, Secretary of the Club del Ca de bestiar, explained the process of recovery this way: "This breed, emblematic of and the standard for other indigenous breeds, began to be recovered by a small group of people twenty years ago. After much searching – hours, days, weeks, months, and years – a prototype of the breed was produced and then a handful of years later the prize: recognition by the F.C.I.
To produce the standard, a group of enthusiasts and lovers of this dog began to favor pups selected as the best examples of the characteristics they had been looking for. It can be said that today they have already achieved the uniformity and homogeneity that make us feel satisfied, but there is still more work left to do."
Year after year throughout the entire island, the Club de Bestiar organizes Majorcan shepherd dog shows with the conviction that this is the best way to stimulate and promote the breed. These shows have been made possible by the collaboration of dog breeders and exhibitors, and the sponsorship of municipal governments of towns where agricultural and livestock fairs take place with the wide support of the general public.
In 1986, the Ca de bestiar Club created some titles and annual prizes to increase the prestige of shows winners and their respective breeders and owners.
(Please note: this information is a bit dated and some may have changed)
The titles are Champion of Majorca (two categories,
male and female), Best Stud and Best Reproductive Bitch. The prizes
consist of 50,000 pesetas (approximately $265) for each winner
contributed by the Conselleria d’Agricultura i Pesca of the autonomous
government. They also receive a certificate.
In each show, the dogs are judged by experts trusted by the Club such as: Gabriel Puigserver, Josep Bibiloni, Carlos Salas, Joan Coll, Ramón Arbona, Francisca Breijo, Miki Loly, Joan Servera and Alonso Guasp. The prizes and categories they offer are: "excellent", qualification offered to dogs that present all the typical features of the breed; "very good", to the dogs that present a defect not desirable for the perfection of the breed; "good", if the dogs have atypical characteristics, and "pretty good" if they have serious defects that set them apart from the breed archetype, and if they have other morphological defects.
Dogs and bitches are judged separately in three age categories: Pups, till nine months old; Young, from nine to eighteen months and Open Class (Adults), from eighteen months or older.
Only adults judged as "excellent" can have access to the Majorcan championship. In each one of the shows a score is given that is valid for the Majorcan championship, in relation to the number of "excellent's" given. For example, if in the Andratx show four "excellent’s" were awarded, the winner of the show has 4 points for the Majorcan championship, the second in the ranking obtains 3 points, the third, two points, and the fourth, one point. If in Santa Marta, eight "excellent’s" are given, the winner gets eight points for the Majorcan championship, the second, seven points, etc.
The Breeding Championship, where the Best Stud of the Year and the Best Reproductive Bitch are chosen, is very important for the club due to its zootechnical task through which the concept of breed is manifested. This concept can be defined as the grouping of animals with identical characteristics, similar to each other, and very similar to their parents and descendants. Adults and young dogs participate in this show, and the scores are given to the parents. Each "excellent" dog gives a point to the father and one to the mother. The Best Stud of the Year and the Best Reproductive Bitch have to have at least five "excellent" descendants.
CHAMPIONS OF MAJORCA – MALES
CHAMPIONS OF MAJORCA – FEMALES
BEST MAJORCAN STUD
BEST REPRODUCTIVE BITCH
"The Club Ca de bestiar has many other projects", assures Joan Vicens, treasurer of the Club. "We cannot carry them out though because of lack of funds. Possible ways to increase our funds include increasing the number of members and receiving subsidies from regional institutions".
Currently about 4,000 Majorcan shepherd dogs exist around the world. Among them 1,000 can be considered "excellent". Obviously, the focus of the breed is in Majorca but from here dogs have left towards Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Denmark, the United States, France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland.
The ca de bestiar, being a shepherd dog, has had an even more important function from the start: defense. In those years, when people who didn’t have anything had to steal, and people who had property, had to protect it, the ca de bestiar was essential. Bandits, so common in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, used the dogs to attack people on the road. With their black color, they were ideal for night action. Apart from bandits, they were also used by guards and garriguers (lumberers).
Another activity that has been exclusively, and wrongly, attributed to the ca de bou was dog fighting. Shepherds used to spend almost their entire life alone in the mountains. They needed protection from other dogs and robbers. It can be considered normal that they would be proud of their main work instrument (the dog), and that they would try to test it against others. Gabriel Puigserver wrote that Joan Rico from Andratx told him that his grandfather, who was a goat shepherd, had many excellent dogs for herding. They were even better, though, for fighting, and he never had a ca de bou. On holidays, he would organize fights in other villages going from Andratx to Génova. One day in Calvià, he tried the dog against a man that would brag of not being afraid of dogs. You can bet that they had to stop the dog. (NOTE: This was many years ago!!)
There are a lot of anecdotes about the intelligence and loyalty of the ca de bestiar: stories of dogs who saved people lives when they were drowning or lost; dogs that found objects and took them to their masters or that hid a handkerchief or a hat during days…
A shepherd from Monreal (Sóller) had a ca de bestiar, Mosso, that would bring him burning charred sticks to start a fire. The man would send the dog home all the way from the mountain to get some fire. The dog would enter the farm’s kitchen, and would get a burning log that it carried in its mouth.
The dog wouldn’t let it go till it was delivered to its master. One day the workers of the oil mill in the farm made a bet with the shepherd. They took all the charred sticks from the chimney so that the dog couldn’t carry any fire to its owner. However the dog, which only found burning charcoal and was desperate for not being able to assist properly to its master, jumped to get the canyom (a canvas cloth that hangs in farms to dry the hands). After getting the canyom with its teeth, the dog put it on the burning charcoal and took it still burning to the shepherd, who won the bet after all.
The ca de bestiar also has an inclination towards children and sick people. Josep Bibiloni tells us that four years ago, when his wife had their first baby, they left the clinic and went to have lunch to his sisters. In the house, there was a ca de bestiar, Teix, that belonged to Josep.
They arrived and ate while the baby stayed in the cradle. It didn’t take too long before Teix smelled the baby and sat next to him. For fifteen days nobody could approach the cradle except the father, the mother and the grandmother of the baby. Not even Josep’s sister could get close, in spite of the fact that the dog spends time in her house. During the first two years of the baby’s life, Teix guarded the baby and would go fetch the mother every time the baby would wake up and cry. The dog wouldn’t rest until the baby would stop crying.Thirty years ago, another bitch belonging to Joan Vicens from Sa Calobra, was sold to a neighbor from Tuent. For as long as the dog lived, every night at dinner time, the bitch went to visit its former owners, going from Tuent to Sa Calobra. The dog entered the house, played with the children and went back to its new home.
stepped away and let the dog jump out. Sandokan went into the plane and sat on the seat where his owner had been sitting during the flight, and stayed there contentedly. Though the speakers in the arrival hall the owner was paged; he was already waiting for the cage. Accompanied by an airfield official he went back into the plane, where Sandokan still was sitting. Only when Sandokan saw his owner, he left the chair and together they left the plane and the airfield.
A well-known story in all Majorca is that of a
Majorcan shepherd dog called "Sandokán", that six years ago
made a commotion in the Barajas airport. It arrived from Majorca to
Madrid, caged in the cargo hold, while his master was flying in coach
class. When Iberia employees open the cargo door, they ran into
Sandokán out of its cage.
Gabriel Puigserver, veterinarian, tells us that "the personality of the ca de bestiar is something that we are very proud of. It has a very strong temperament, but it is also very obedient. It has a great learning ability and a great instinct for herding, showing interest at a very young age towards animals. Long ago, shepherds began exerting this selective pressure: as the puppies weren’t more than 4 months old, they were already charging at sheep. When we judge them, we appreciate those dogs that, without letting us out of their sight, growl when we get close, but that, when they are ordered by their master, let us check their mouths. We reject the ones that are afraid or untamed; that do not obey their master or that the master cannot control to allow us to examine it. Dog quarrels inside the show ring are quite common in the male open class. This is especially true if the owners get distracted or if there are too many dogs in the ring."
SYMBOL OF MAJORCA
For Puigserver, Bibiloni and Vicens, the three bastions of the Club, the ca de bestiar represents the essence of Majorca. "Almost all the owners of these dogs are from Majorca," our proud interviewees stated, "from farmers to young people between the ages of 25 and 40. The ca de bestiar has the same personality as the people from Majorca. They are not aggressive, but they know how to become aggressive when it’s needed. This is the temperament of the dog as well: it is not loud, warns by growling, asking you not to pass and, if you ignore its advice or you provoke it, it will bite you."
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