Ca de Bou

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Ca de Bou

The Ca de Bou is a Spanish Bulldog that has an immense head, a lean and muscular body and a short coat that may be brindle, black or fawn. Once used in dog fights and as bull baiting dogs, this breed is now respected as a good guard dog and a loyal family pet.

A dog that will become devoted to its family, owners of the Ca de Bou appreciate the loving spirit and playful nature of the breed. They have a relatively high exercise need and are prone to becoming dominant, so benefit from experienced owners with active lifestyles.

About & History

Ca de Bou is the Catalan translation of Bulldog, which is a term used to describe this dog’s function, rather than a reference to their appearance. They are also known as the ‘Perro de Presa Mallorquin’, and similarly, ‘Perro de Presa’ is the Spanish (Castellano) for Bulldog, while ‘Mallorquin’ is the Spanish for ‘Majorcan’, indicating the breed’s country of origin: Majorca, of the Balearic Islands. The Ca de Bou is also sometimes called the Majorca Mastiff.

Within the Balearic Islands, several Spanish breeds, such as the Spanish Mastiff, Majorca Shepherd Dog and the old Spanish Alano would have interbred over the centuries. The local dogs that were created are thought to have been crossed with English Bulldogs to produce the Ca de Bou, who was specifically to be used as a bull-baiter. The English Bulldogs themselves would have struggled with the humidity, and by crossing them with the local dogs, a more heat tolerant breed was created. Bull baiting, while illegal now, was a popular sport in its day. Packs of dogs would have been set on bulls, while a crowd would watch the ensuing battles.

When bull baiting was outlawed in Spain in the late 1800s, the Ca de Bou took on a new role of a guard dog and hunter, though was still used in dog fighting, a ‘sport’ which was not banned until some 50 years later. Butchers, too, found a use for the breed, who would help keep the bull at bay as it went to slaughter.

There were limited written records of the Ca de Bou in the early 1900s, though over the decades, they became somewhat more prevalent. Their breed standard was written in the 1940s and the FCI recognised them in the 1960s. However, due to their small population size, they were often crossed with other breeds out of necessity. They were most commonly crossed with the Majorca Shepherd Dog. Nowadays, there are a small number of the breed remaining in Majorca – though there are actually more breed examples internationally, with a large interest existing in Russia and Poland. The recent surge in popularity of the Ca de Bou bodes well for its future.


Ca de Bou Large Photo

A Molosser type breed, the Ca de Bou should be powerfully built. They are of a medium size. Females measure between 52 and 55cm, while males stand from 55 to 58cm at the withers. Females weigh from 30 to 34kg and males will reach weights of 35 to 38kg.

The breed exhibits a sexual dimorphism, with males having noticeably larger heads, though both sexes have impressively enormous, almost square skulls, that can have a circumference of up to 60cm! They have powerful jaws that should be slightly undershot, though never than by more than 1cm. Their large, oval eyes are dark, while their ears are described as ‘rose ears’, and are relatively small. Their broad, deep chest should reach their elbows and is supported by strong and muscular limbs. Their tail tapers to a tip though is broad at the base and is held with a curve when the dog is in action.

Their skin is thick and their fur is short and dense. While the brindle coat colour is preferred, fawn and black variants are accepted. Black masks and a small number of white patches are also permitted in the breed’s description. Throughout the world, there is a variety in the breed’s appearance and size.

Character & Temperament

A dog that is comfortable in the companionship of humans, the Ca de Bou will form a strong bond with its family. They are loving towards those in their inner circle and are known for playing kindly with the children of the household.

Quiet and calm, in general, the Ca de Bou is content to relax in their home, serenely surveying their environment. However, one should never assume that they are unaware of their surroundings, as this is a dog that can react in seconds. A superb watch dog, the Ca de Bou may not seem like they are paying attention all the time, when in fact they are always ‘switched on’. Territorial and devoted to their owner, they will not hesitate to defend their home courageously.

While very trusting of those they know, the Ca de Bou has an inherent distrust of strangers, and will be cautious of new arrivals, looking to their master for guidance. Their instincts mean that they will often turn on their ‘guard dog’ mode and need extensive socialisation to ensure they are accepting of house guests.


Photo of Ca de Bou puppy

A strong minded breed, there can be occasions when the Ca de Bou is tricky to handle. However, they tend to be obedient, and have the potential to become well trained in the right hands.

Pack order is an important concept to the Ca de Bou and is something that the trainer should use to their advantage. The owner must be the consistent leader in the relationship, never giving in to any foolish demands or behaviours of their Ca de Bou. Simple habits, such as not allowing the Ca de Bou on the furniture, walking ahead of them through doorways and eating before them, can all help to solidify this relationship.

Extensive socialisation from the day the Ca de Bou joins the family is key in ensuring they mature into a well-balanced and confident dog. Failure to adequately expose the Ca de Bou to a variety of situations will likely lead to a wary and nervous dog in later life; a situation that is best avoided in such a powerful animal.

Keeping training sessions short will be of benefit, as well, as the Ca de Bou is an intelligent breed that can become bored with repetitive sessions.


Often living to the age of 11 or 12, the Ca de Bou does not suffer from many health complaints. There are two conditions that are known to occur with greater frequency in this breed than others though, and of which potential owners should be cognisant.

Hip Dysplasia

A very common skeletal complaint of larger dogs, the impact that Hip Dysplasia can have on a canine life is massive. As the hip joint is not formed correctly, the more it is used, the more it will deteriorate. While it is known to be an inherited condition, other factors, such as diet, weight and exercise, also play a role in the progression of the disease.

Owners should be on the watch for the typical symptoms, such as their dog becoming stiff, moving less and altering their gait. In the later stages of the disease, owners may notice muscle loss in the hind limbs and may even hear a ‘grating’ noise when the animal moves. Diagnosis is usually straight forward, consisting of a veterinary exam and imaging of the joints. Treatment may be surgical or non-surgical.


When a dog ‘bloats’, their life may be in danger. Their stomach expands and fills with gas and liquid, causing a reduction in blood flow and potentially leading to shock. Owners may notice that their dog is pacing aimlessly, appears stressed and is panting and drooling. It is essential that the dog is treated immediately by a veterinarian. While opinions are divided, it is generally thought that the incidence of bloat can be reduced by feeding dogs little and often, using slow feeder bowls and ensuring animals rest after eating or drinking.

Previously, vets would advocate feeding large dogs from high bowls, but recently this has fallen out of favour, and studies have shown that this can actually increase the chances of bloat developing, so should be avoided, unless it is medically indicated for other reasons.

Exercise and Activity Levels

While certainly a dog with a heavy frame, the Ca de Bou should be athletic and active. They should be brought on several long hikes or jogs each day, ensuring that the person holding the lead has adequate strength to control the dog.

A versatile breed, the Ca de Bou can excel in a number of tasks and should be given the opportunity to try out various doggy sports, such as canine agility and Canicross (cross country running with dogs).


Minimal grooming is required from the short-furred Ca de Bou, however, brushing should be a routine chore that they are used to. Similarly, getting the dog accustomed to tasks, such as cleaning their teeth and looking inside their ears, is essential to make an owner’s life easier once the dog is fully grown.

Famous Ca de Bous

An uncommon breed, there are no famous Ca de Bou dogs in existence today. The hashtag #CadeBou on Instagram, however, may be a good place to start your research if you are looking to add a member of the breed to your family.


While it was recently commonplace to cross the Ca de Bou with the Majorca Shepherd Dog, this is a practice that has now largely fallen out of favour.

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