Alano Español

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
Photo of adult Alano Español
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The Alano Español is a large, hard-working, sociable breed that descends from dogs brought to Spain by nomadic Iranian tribes after the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century. The breed is also sometimes known as the Spanish Bulldog. The Alano Español was traditionally used for bullbaiting, herding wild cattle and hunting and guarding and is often still used as a working dog, requiring plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. It is therefore best suited to a rural environment.

The breed works well alongside other dogs and therefore tends to have a sociable character, both with dogs and humans, and is also gentle with children. Although, saying that, it should be well socialised from a young age and children should always be supervised, particularly due on account of its size. The Alano Español loves to work and is very amenable to training, which means that house and recall training are not usually a problem. It has a short coat that requires little care and there is little or no record of any breed related health problems.

About & History

The Alano Español is a breed of dog originating from the Iberian Peninsula. It is considered a native Spanish breed with references which go back as far as the 14th century, although its ancestors are thought to have arrived with the nomadic Iranian Alani tribe after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. The breed is sometimes known as the Spanish Bulldog. The breed is a brachycephalic dog of mastiff type, but should be functional and agile, with an athletic physique and elasticity. The Alano Español is a large but light set bull breed used for protection and herding and was predominantly developed for bull baiting, and to manage fierce cattle, roaming over large areas of countryside, as well as for hunting and holding deer and wild boar.

Although the breed has been in decline over the last century after the use of dogs in bullfights was banned there were, however, still some villages where the breed remained popular as working dogs. These populations have been used to establish a more uniform and recognised breed and to increase its numbers. Today, the breeds common uses have changed slightly but it is still very much a working breed and is used as a guard dog, as well as for herding and protecting cattle and other livestock.


Alano Español Large Photo

The Alano Español is not recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale but is recognised by the Spanish Kennel Club, which has a breed standard for it. The following coat colours and markings are considered acceptable:

  • Brindle (all shades)
  • Fawn (all shades)
  • Black and brindle (similar to black and tan in many other breeds, but the tan areas are brindle)
  • All colours are acceptable with or without a black mask
  • Small amounts of white are acceptable on the legs, chest and neck (although large areas of white coat are not desirable)

The Alano Español is a large breed, whose height is 55 to 63 cm tall at the withers and weighs somewhere between 25 and 40 kg. Like most breeds, the females are a bit smaller than the males. The weight and size of the breed should be in proportion with a variation of up to 2 cm in height being acceptable out of the desired height range. The overall length of the body should be approximately 10% longer than the height at the withers and the distance around the thorax should be 25% more than the height at the withers. The breed should have a strong, but fairly short neck with a slight, but never exaggerated dewlap. This should lead to sloping shoulders and long, but straight front legs. The chest should be deep and wide, with arched ribs which is around 30% of the height to the withers. There should be a visible tuck up behind the ribs and the back should be level and muscular, leading to a broad powerful back end. The tail should be thick at the base and narrow towards the tip and set at a medium height.

The breed should have a broad head, with strong musculature and no wrinkles over a slightly convex profile. The muzzle should be around 37% of the total length of the head, with strong jaws and a full set of well aligned teeth. The eyes should be round, medium sized and wide set with colours ranging from hazelnut to yellow to amber, independent of coat colour. The breed should have medium sized ears which are set far apart, folding over onto the cheeks.

The Alano Español should move rhythmically with the majority of the weight on the front legs, giving the movement a cat like feeling. When moving, the head should be carried low and each gait should cover plenty of ground.

Character & Temperament

The Alano Español is a noble, hard-working dog that learns quickly and is sociable and gregarious. It loves people and is reputed to be very gentle and patient with children. Although the breed has an imposing physique it has a well-balanced character and makes a good family dog, although its large size and potential power should always be kept under consideration. The breed does not typically suffer from separation anxiety and makes an excellent guard dog but must be kept active with plenty of mental stimulation to ensure it does not develop unwanted behaviours as a result of boredom.


The Alano Español is a breed that loves to work and is quick to learn, meaning training is generally easy and that training recall is not a problem. It is a sociable breed and gets on well with other dogs, as well as being able to work as part of a team. It is, however, important, largely due to its size, to ensure that it is well socialised from a young age. Its willingness to please and capacity to learn mean that the Alano Español usually picks up quickly on house training, especially when it has a well-established routine and plenty of outdoor access.


There is little information available on the health conditions that may affect the Alano Español, probably partly due to its rarity outside Spain and small population. However, when choosing a puppy it is always important to try and select a healthy family line and visiting both parents can help with this, as any obvious health problems can be picked up on. Like many large breeds, it is likely that the breed may suffer from hip dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition caused by one or several developmental abnormalities in the hip joints. These abnormalities often cause changes leading to discomfort and pain in older dogs. Hip Dysplasia has both genetic and environmental factors that influence its development and dogs over a year old intended for breeding need to have their hips x-rayed and scored by veterinarians to evaluate whether developmental abnormalities are present.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Alano Español is a large breed from working stock and has plenty of stamina. This means that it needs to lead an active lifestyle with plenty of mental stimulation. It is sociable and enjoys the company of other dogs to run and play with. Around an hour and a half of exercise or walking a day should be sufficient to keep the Alano Español happily entertained and in good health when it is fully mature and as much of this time should be spent off the lead if possible. This means the breed is not suited to small houses or apartments or city living.


The Alano Español has thick skin with a short, double layered, dense coat, which should be smooth and shiny and glossy to touch. This means that it barely needs any grooming and occasional brushing during seasonal coat changes is sufficient to keep the breeds coat in good condition and prevent excessive malting around the house.

Famous Alanos Españoles

There are no well-known examples of the breed in popular culture to date outside of Spain, however, the breed was popular with the Spanish nobility for hunting and was well known in Spain due to its use in bullfights. The breed is portrayed in works by Spanish artists, such as Francisco Goya, and is referenced in Alfonso IX's Book of the Hunt.


The Alano Español is a rare breed and there are no common cross-breeds formed by combining it with other breeds.

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