Dogo Argentino

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Dogo Argentino

A powerful and commanding breed of dog, the Dogo Argentino should be muscular, athletic and brave. Created in Argentina in the hopes of developing a versatile hunting dog who would work well in packs, the Dogo Argentino has the potential to get on well with both animals and humans, if adequately socialised from a young age.

A banned breed in several countries, the Dogo Argentino has a bad reputation for being aggressive with humans and other dogs. While a hostile Dogo Argentino certainly poses a potentially deadly risk, the majority of the breed are docile and well-mannered, with many advocates feeling that their reputation is uncalled for.

About & History

A Mastiff-type dog, the Dogo Argentino, or Argentine Mastiff, is incredibly powerful, muscular and should have only white fur. The origins of the Dogo Argentino are pleasingly easy to trace. Unlike many of today’s dog breeds, much is known of the development of this breed.

Created by the breeder, Antonio Nores Martinez, in 1928, the Dogo Argentino is the direct descendant of the now extinct Cordoba Fighting Dog, who itself was developed from Mastiffs and Bull Breeds. Apparently, this dog was so aggressive that the male would often kill the female after mating with her (hardly a good reproductive tactic!). It was used in dog fights, where its high pain threshold and bravery were revered. Many dogs did not survive the fights. By crossing the Cordoba Fighting Dog with other breeds, Mr. Martinez aimed to develop a breed of dog that was as strong and courageous as the Cordoba Fighting Dog, but that was superior in almost every sense, and, in particular, less aggressive with other dogs. Cordoba Fighting Dogs were rarely used to hunt in packs as they were so unlikely to accept the other dogs; a trait much maligned by Mr. Martinez when he hunted wild boar.

The Dogo Argentino was crossed with a huge variety of other breeds, and faultless records were kept of each mating. The Great Dane provided height and jaw strength, a pointer breed was added for its scenting ability, the Dogue de Bordeaux was introduced for its large and powerful head, the Irish Wolfhound provided stature, the Boxer was added for its faithfulness and good nature, the Spanish Mastiff was bred due to its large size and character, as was the Great Pyrenees (who also ensured a white coat; easily visible in the green fields), while the English Bulldog and Bull Terrier added boldness and pluck.

The breed was well established by the year 1947 when Mr. Martinez entered it into a fight with a boar and a cougar. The contest was filmed, and amazingly, the dog won. Their notoriety ensured them popularity in their native Argentina, as well as in nearby countries. They were used mainly as hunters and guard dogs, with farmers eager to have an animal capable of protecting them and their livestock from even the most dangerous of predators, while not being so overly aggressive that they posed a threat to them or their family.

It was 1964, when the Argentine Kennel Club granted them official recognition, and they soon grew in international popularity. Incredibly versatile, as well as continuing to fulfill their more traditional hunting and guarding roles, they were also utilised in the military as personal protection dogs and even as a seeing eye dogs and on search and rescue operations.

Today, the Dogo Argentino is a banned dog in many countries, including the UK, Norway and Australia. This has proved a controversial decision, with many critics claiming the dog is rarely dog aggressive and is even less likely to show aggression towards humans.


Dogo Argentino Large Photo

An intimidating animal, the Dogo Argentino is incredibly muscular, with a strong and imposing body-shape and a big head. Their muzzles are especially large and should measure roughly the same as their skull in length. Their eyes, while often curious and alert, can sometimes appear menacing. They are deep set within their head and relatively small and dark. When not cropped, their ears are short and flop to the outside of the face.

Females will stand at 60-65cm, while the male typically reaches heights of 68cm. The females of the breed will weigh 35-43kg, while the males will weigh up to 45kg. Their skin is elastic, and their coat is short and tight-fitting, with the only accepted colour being white.

Character & Temperament

A versatile working dog that is prized for its bravery and stamina, these animals have been specifically created to work well alongside other dogs in packs. Loyal to their master, they display great devotion and can become very protective of their family. When well socialised from a young age, they have the ability to co-exist with children and other animals, though due to their size, supervision is always required.

A responsible owner will take the time to provide the essential training, resulting in an even-tempered and tolerant dog that will gladly accept new people and pets. A poorly socialised Dogo Argentino poses a big risk to both humans and animals and can become a potentially lethal weapon. Having descended from some of the most infamous dog fighting breeds, it is inevitable that some breed members may show dog aggression, particularly intact males. They do make exceptional guard dogs though, owing to their heightened senses and vigilant natures, but as the breed has retained their hunting instincts, they should not be trusted with smaller animals.


Photo of Dogo Argentino puppy

Not for the novice trainer, the Dogo Argentino tends to display dominance and is frequently bull-headed. The Dogo Argentino will constantly question authority and will only obey the commands set to it by someone it respects. Its trainer absolutely needs to be in control at all times, displaying consistency and firmness.


While generally thought to be healthier than other breeds of their size, the Dogo Argentino is more prone to certain health conditions than other dogs.

  • Deafness – This is a common issue within the population, undoubtedly due to their white colouring, as the genes for hearing and coat colour are closely linked in the dog. It is well known that a blue-eyed Dogo Argentino has a high chance of being deaf.
  • Hip Dysplasia – A painful condition affecting the hips of (generally) larger breed dogs. The hips fail to form correctly, resulting in an abnormal gait and discomfort. Breeding parents should be screened for this condition with x-rays, and an animal with poor hips should not be used for reproducing.
  • Elbow Dysplasia – A disease of the forelimbs that results in pain and lameness, caused by growth disturbances in the elbow joint. Diagnostic imaging can identify the condition, and surgery may be advised.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) – A condition generally associated with larger breed dogs, and those with deep chests. As the name suggests, this is a disorder that occurs when the stomach expands and twists, trapping the contents inside. GDV can be fatal if not corrected promptly by a veterinary surgeon.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Originally bred to be a winning athlete, this dog needs an active owner willing to dedicate time to its daily exercise needs. The perfect companion for long runs and hikes, this breed has incredible stamina and is surprisingly quick for its size.

The Dogo Argentino would greatly benefit from a large, secure enclosure, and is not suited to apartment life. Failure to burn off this dog’s energy each day will undoubtedly result in undesired behaviours, such as hyperactivity, destructiveness, and even aggression. As with all large breeds of dog, juveniles should not be over-exercised, as this can easily damage their developing joints.


The short coat of the Dogo Argentino only requires infrequent brushing. Due to their sheer size, it is essential that they become tolerant of routine grooming tasks from a very young age to avoid injury to their handler. Ear checking, claw clipping, bathing and tooth brushing are a few of the essential requirements that should be introduced to the Dogo Argentino as early in their life as possible.

Famous Dogo Argentinos

Some famous examples of the Dogo Argentino or Argentine Mastiff include:

  • A Dogo Argentino features in the movie Bombón, el perro.
  • Morocho de la Cocha was a famous dog who defeated a puma when defending the children of his family who were out on a walk.
  • Cooper is a particularly handsome Dogo Argentino with over 25,000 followers on Instagram under the handle evas_dogo_cooper.


While the Dogo Argentino is itself a well-documented mix of several breeds, there are no recognised cross-breeds yet.

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