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Presa Canario vs. American Pit Bull Terrier: Breed Differences & Similarities

Trying to decide if the Presa Canario or the American Pitbull Terrier makes a better canine companion? Both of these dogs can be similar in some ways but are quite different in many others. Read on and find out which is the perfect pup for your lifestyle!

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Last Updated: April 21, 2021 | 9 min read

Presa Canario vs American Pitbull Terrier

The Presa Canario and the American Pitbull Terrier are tough-looking canines. Some people believe them to be scary, some believe them to be gorgeous. Some people believe that you would be crazy to own a dog of this caliber, whereas some owners claim that they are both the best dogs that they have ever owned!

They are similar in appearance except that the Presa is much bigger and they have similar coats and grooming needs. On the other hand, the Presa is much more demanding in regard to his temperament, and the training that comes with it. He is definitely not for the first-time owner, whereas the Pitbull is much more sociable and laidback – a more ideal option for a first-time owner.

For the purpose of this article, the American Pitbull Terrier will be referred to as the Pitbull.

Breed Comparison

Presa Canario

  • Height 22-26 Inches
  • Weight 80-130 Pounds
  • Temperament Confident, Calm, Strong Willed
  • Energy Average
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 9-11 Years
  • Price $1,500 and Up

American Pitbull Terrier

  • Height 17-21 Inches
  • Weight 30-65 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Energetic, Loyal
  • Energy Average
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Price $800 and Up

Breed History

The Presa and the Pitbull hail from opposite sides of the world, bred and used for their impressive, but differing, abilities. The Presa is known for his guarding skills, and the Pitbull for his past fighting skills, and as such, they are both still commonly found on dangerous dog lists across the world.

Presa Canario

Tan and Black Brindle Dog
Presa Canarios were bred as herding dogs but today, they are mainly guard dogs.

The Presa Canario is a Spanish dog from the Canary Islands, and his name translates to ‘Canary catch dog’. He was traditionally used to herd cattle, but primarily to guard his flock of animals from wild dogs, and to exterminate them should they try to attack.

They almost became extinct in the mid-20th Century, however, fanciers of the breed began an intense breeding program in the 1970s, and they are now slowly but surely recovering as a breed. They are now mainly used as guard dogs and they aren’t commonly known to be family pets.

American Pitbull Terrier

Blue APBT Standing on a Road
Pitbulls were originally bred as fighting dogs but are primarily family dogs today.

The Pitbull is one of four dogs who fall under the umbrella term ‘Pitbull’ that is used to describe breeds that descended from Terriers and Bulldogs. The Pitbull that we are comparing in this article is considered by the majority to be the original ‘Pitbull’, and often when people refer to a Pitbull dog they are referring to this guy.

The Pitbull was originally bred from fighting dogs in England, and he is the result of breeding the biggest and most powerful dogs in the ring. Once the cruel bloodsport was outlawed in America, they were soon realized to be affectionate and gentle with their humans, and as such, they are now great family companion dogs.

Unfortunately, they have carried their reputation with them into the 21st Century. They are often mistaken for and compared to other large breeds like comparing the pitbull to the Dogo Argentino or comparing the pitbull to the American bully.

Appearance

Strong Dogs Looking at Camera
Both breeds look very similar, but the Pitbull is smaller of the two.

The Presa and the Pitbull are both formidably striking in appearance, they certainly stop people in their tracks, either because they are scared of them or because they are impressively beautiful canines.

Both of their heads are large and broad, but the Pitbull’s head is more in proportion to his body, whereas the Presa’s head, in his breed standards, is simply described as ‘massive.’ Presas are often mistaken for larger dogs like the Cane Corso.

The Presa is often mistaken for a Pitbull because almost everything in their appearances is similar, except for their size. The Presa Canario can be precisely double the Pitbull’s weight, weighing between 85 to 130 pounds, whereas the Pitbull weighs between 30 to 65 pounds.

The Presa is also taller at 22 to 26 inches from paw to shoulder, whereas the Pitbull measures 17 to 21 inches. They are both powerful and muscular, but the Presa is notably bigger than the Pitbull.

They have similar coats, in that they are both short and shiny, with the only difference being that the Presa is slightly more coarse to the touch than the Pitbull, whose coat is smoother. The Pitbull comes in any color you can think of, with the one exception of merle. The Presa also has a variety of colors, but not as wide-ranging as the Pitbull. He comes in various shades of brown, gold, and silver, the color ‘tiger’ is even on the list!

Temperament

Dogs Laying Down With Mouths Slightly Open
Both breeds have a reputation for being vicious, but the Pitbull is a family dog whereas the Persa is a more natural guard dog.

Despite being similar in their appearance, they are quite different in their temperament. The first thing that should be recognized about these two guys, is that the Presa is absolutely not for a first-time owner, whereas the Pitbull can be as long as you are a dominant leader.

The Presa Canario is too much of a dominant dog for a novice dog owner as he will continuously challenge the pack order, and he will continuously challenge his owner for the top-dog position. This is not a challenge to take on lightly, for if he feels you aren’t dominant enough he will become obnoxious, potentially vicious, and you will never regain the balance once you have lost this position.

Although the Pitbull also needs a firm master, the average Pitbull is happy enough to not challenge the status quo. It is for this reason that Presa’s should not be taken into a home where there are children or other animals, as they will always see themselves as above them in the pack, and this can be a dangerous situation for everyone involved.

On the other hand, immediately after the Pitbull’s career in dogfighting ended, he was bred to be a family companionship dog, despite what the media would like you to believe. The Pitbulls with the gentle and affectionate traits were only used for breeding, and as such, unless they are pitched in illegal fighting rings, they are normally loving family pets.

Pitbulls have a soft spot for children, which is why they were nicknamed ‘nanny dogs.’ For this reason, if you have children or would like a dog for family companionship, then the Pitbull would be the better choice for you.

If you are seeking a guard dog, then the Presa Canario is one of the best! Originally left in the field to guard his flock, he would ward off any predators, and even exterminate them if he had to. The Presa undoubtedly retains this skill, and you can rest assured at night that no one would dare attempt to enter your estate with this guy around. Even if he is not used as a guard dog, he will still guard his master and family, and he is very suspicious of strangers even once their master has welcomed them into the house.

The Pitbull, however, will welcome anyone into his estate with open arms hoping to be their new best friend, so for this reason, he does not make the best guard dog.

Despite all the above, both the Presa and the Pitbull are loving with their family and would happily have a cuddle on the sofa at the end of the day. They both think that they are the size of a Chihuahua, so you will often find these muscular lumps laying across your lap if you let them. They are both very attached to their masters and are known to be quite affectionate and clingy, especially the Pitbull.

Exercise

Dark Colored Dogs Standing in a Road
Both breeds have mediocre exercise needs at about an hour each day.

Both the Presa and the Pitbull are average energy dogs, and they will both require up to 60 minutes of active exercise a day. This cannot be limited to a slow walk around the neighborhood like with other breeds. They require intense and energetic activities, such as doggy agility courses, jogging with their master, or interactive games such as fetch or frisbee.

Be warned though, you should never play a game that involves a challenge of power, such as tug of war, with the Presa, for he will view this as a fight for the top dog position in the family.

Between intense activity sessions, the Presa is more likely to enjoy several naps throughout the day. Whereas the Pitbull is likely to be more demanding between the two breeds and will require more mental stimulation.

If these guys aren’t exercised properly, then they will become easily bored and destructive. Powerful dogs such as these will create a lot of damage, so unless you can commit to exercising these guys adequately, then you really should consider another breed, as they need to expel that pent-up energy of theirs.

Training

Well-Behaved Dogs Laying Down
Both the Presa and Pitbul require more aggressive and attentive training.

Similar to the Presa, the Pitbull often displays fear aggression against other dogs. Of course, this is not the same for every Pitbull or Presa out there, but this is the consensus amongst owners.

Both of these guys need early socialization with many dogs of all shapes and sizes as this will increase your chances of having a canine that doesn’t exhibit these aggressive tendencies.

Obedience training is essential for both the Presa and the Pitbull, but particularly the Presa. It would be advised that the Presa is taken to professional puppy obedience classes with a trainer who has an understanding of Presa dogs, for they are a different ball game altogether!

While training with the Pitbull must be consistent, training with the Presa will be a lifelong commitment. However, once you achieve obedience, they are amazing creatures to have around.

Health

Senior Dogs With Graying Faces
Pitbulls live longer than Persas by about five years.

The Presa and the Pitbull are generally healthy dogs; however, the Presa’s lifespan is 9 to 11 years, whereas the Pitbull lives much longer at 12 to 16 years.

They are both prone to Elbow and Hip Dysplasia which is an abnormal formation in the joints that can cause painful arthritis. In addition to this joint problem, Panosteitis and Osteochondritis Dissecans and are commonly found in the Presa as he has a hefty amount of weight to carry on his average frame.

The Pitbull can develop Cerebellar Abiotrophy, which affects his coordination and balance due to part of his brain being damaged.

Nutrition

Puppy Dogs Chewing on Items
Being medium to large animals, but breeds can eat a lot of food.

The Presa will need slightly more food than the Pitbull at three cups a day, whereas the Pitbull only requires 2 ½ cups of Pitbull age-appropriate dry kibble each day. Giving your pup top-quality kibble is the easiest way to keep him in a healthy condition.

A popular debate has been over making your own food at home or feeding your dog commercial food. Store-bought is the more favored option, as the nutritional value is visible on the package. However, it is typically stuffed with flavors, preservatives, and excess fats.

Homemade food calls for more thought and work, often requiring you to calculate your dog’s macros and come up with a dietary plan for their needs. It is best to consult a trained veterinarian nutritionist before tackling this feat on our own.

Grooming

Happy Dogs Playing Outside
The Presa and Pitbull are both fairly low-maintenance when it comes to grooming.

Thankfully, as these guys require a bit more effort in the other areas, their grooming needs are relatively easy. A bath once every two months will be adequate enough to keep them clean as neither of them has a strong doggy odor.

Neither have an undercoat and so they shed very little. Regular brushing once a week will keep the Pitbull looking healthy and shiny, remove dead hair, and promote hair growth. The Presa could do with two brushes a week as his hair is a little coarser. It is ideal to brush them every day during shedding season, typically in the spring.

Both breeds tend to drool, so if there is a chance you can’t handle wiping slobber from your furniture and clothing, you may want to consider another pooch.

Price

Cute Puppies in a Field
You are more likely to find a Pitbull in a shelter, so they tend to be the cheaper of the two.

The Presa costs on average, between $1,800 and $2,000, from a reputable breeder, whereas the Pitbull costs between $800 and $1,000. One of the reasons for the significant price difference is supply and demand.

Rescue centers are inundated with homeless Pitbulls, whereas Presa Canario pups and breeders are quite rare to find. This high supply drives down the prices but drives up the needs for folks to adopt. Consider going to your local shelter for a Pitbull before tracking down a breeder.

Final Thoughts

The Presa Canario and the American Pitbull Terrier are similar in appearance, with the Presa being the bigger version of the two. The Presa is likely to be too much to handle for an inexperienced owner, whereas the Pitbull is much simpler to train and keep in line. If you can train them both to the desired standard, and you can maintain the pack order, then they are both loving dogs with their family.

If you are still deciding between the Presa and the Pitbull, then the best way to choose between the two is to think about the purpose that you want your dog to fulfill. If you are seeking a guard dog, then you should choose the Presa, and if it is a family dog that you are after, then the Pitbull is the one for you.

Leave a Comment

8 Comments

Wilbert C Graham

May 5, 2020 at 6:26 pm

Is a dogo Argentino a good dog to have for a house pet and family pet?

Kelly Wilson

May 5, 2020 at 8:31 pm

Hi Wilbert! Dogos can be great dogs, but they are stubborn and headstrong. They aren't recommended for first-time dog owners. If you can handle a dominant breed, they can be amazing pups!

Joey Galloway

March 23, 2021 at 7:21 pm

Loved your article. As a Presa owner myself, you've hit the nail on the head.

Kelly Wilson

March 24, 2021 at 4:24 pm

Thanks, Joey! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by to comment and share your experience!

Kris

April 21, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Good insight to the Presa breed. We took one on as a rescue without knowing much and this was our first dog, a challenge but worth it. Seems the breed is either prey or protection driven. Ours is prey driven and rabbits drive him crazy. Very smart and will connive if they feel they can get away with it.

Kelly Wilson

April 25, 2021 at 3:07 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Kris! We definitely appreciate you sharing your breed experience with our readers!

Theresa Neace

June 7, 2021 at 3:26 am

I'm an experienced dog owner, I've had dogs all of my life. Absolutely fell in love with the Pitbull breeds and own two of them currently, upon getting the third one I recently found out he is a Presa Canario. I had never heard of the breed so I did a lot of research we always called him a cunning dog or the wild card because you never really knew what he was up to. I also breed a small breed of dog Chiweenies, half Dachshund half Chihuahua. And it's been quite a struggle keeping him from dominating them.

But all in all they get along pretty well now, and he would protect them I'm sure although he loves to herd them like his own little private group. We've gone to love our big guy but he is quite different than a Pitbull in every way. Definitely not a dog for a first-time dog owner. Everything I've read says not a good home for small children, I also have a 10-year-old daughter and they are the best of friends, I must have an exception to the rule.

Kelly Wilson

June 7, 2021 at 5:30 pm

Sounds like you've got yourself a great pup, Theresa! As with all dogs, these comparisons are usually generalizations of what's more common with each breed. Every dog can be different or an "exception" to the rule, depending on their own individual behaviors. Glad to hear you have one that's great with your daughter and other dogs. Appreciate the comment!