The Presa Canario originated in the Canary Islands and dates back to the 15th and 16th century. The breed is believed to have descended from mastiff-type dogs brought by Spanish conquistadores to the Canary Islands where it was bred and developed to guard farms and drive off or kill wild dogs.
Dog breeds that likely contributed to the Presa Canario's bloodline include the Iberian Presa and other types of mastiffs and bulldogs. The Bardino Majorero, a sheepdog with notable intelligence, courage and guarding instincts, was later added to the mix. With its powerful build and daring characteristic, the Presa Canario became popular in the dog-fighting circles until the practice was prohibited in the 1940s.
The number of the Presa Canario breed began to decline, not only because of the dog-fighting ban but also due to the introduction of other guard dog breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog and the Doberman Pinscher. In the 1970s, the interest for the breed increased, and some breed enthusiasts decided to reconstruct the Presa with the goal of developing a massive, strong, fearless, highly territorial and calm dog breed.
By 1982, a breed club was formed in the Canary Islands. It was recognised by the United Kennel Club in 2003, but The Kennel Club in the UK has yet to recognise the Presa Canario as a breed of its own right.