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Amores Perros: Dog Fighting in Argentina

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Dog fighting is a blood sport. It was once lauded by aristocrats and embraced by medieval gentry, but after slowly being outlawed, it now demonstrates the presence of underground criminal activity in cities across the world. In Argentina, organisers are often also gang members involved in drug dealing and racketeering, with proceeds from fights funding these covert activities.

It gained popularity in 19th century England when bear-baiting was banned. The dogs formerly used to exercise and rile the bears were then pitted against each other during organised gatherings. The ‘sport’ spread across Europe and into the Americas during the 1800s, where the rules altered and the fights became less structured.

Dogos Argentinos playing in the park. Although a popular family pet in Argentina, the Dogo was bred to be used for pit fighting. (Photo by Andi Lewis)

In Latin America, dog fighting was illegal in most countries by the late 20th century. In Argentina it gained popularity after the ‘Córdoba fighting dog’ was created specifically for pit fighting. However, the practice was banned after several decades on 27th September 1954 under law 14.346, which states it is illegal to “publicly or privately organise animal fights where the animals can die, become hurt or come to any sort of harm”.

Some Latin American countries, however, do not have official laws prohibiting the practice of dog fighting. For example, in Mexico it is illegal for a human to kill or harm an animal. Yet, though punishable, it is not technically illegal to place an animal in the position where it will almost certainly harm another creature. This legal loophole allows sports such as dog fighting to thrive and the trends seem to indicate it is much more popular in poorer areas of the provinces.

What happens at dogfights?

Larry Anders from Seattle visited Argentina in October 2007 and witnessed a dogfight. Surprisingly, he enjoyed the experience and is campaigning for the sport’s reinstatement in the US. He describes a typical fight. “The dog-men arrive after sundown pulling custom trailers containing their prized fighting dogs. Bookmakers quickly jot odds on small chalkboards, and start collecting money as enthusiastic betters yell out […] A referee is in the pit before the fight; his job is to start the contest by placing the dogs within fighting distance of each other before the scratch line. Once the fight starts, the referee stays in the pit and enjoys the spectacle, watching for one of the dogs to turn.”

‘Turning’ is the term used when one of the competing dogs backs away from a fight to signal a temporary surrender. The fights only end when the dog cannot or will not re-enter the fight after one of these ‘turns’.

Pre-fight, however, there is a lot of effort and training involved. Dogs are exercised and conditioned using various techniques and paraphernalia:

Catmill: A central rotating poll with several horizontally protruding beams. Dogs are chained to one beam and smaller animals like cats, puppies or rabbits are harnessed to another. The dogs run in circles, chasing the bait.

Jump Pole: A rope hung from a beam. The dogs jump up, bite, then dangle from it for extended periods, strengthening jaw muscles.

Weights: Dogs have heavy chains and weights wrapped around their necks and strapped to their bodies. This builds neck and body strength by constantly having to bear the load.

Drugs: Dogs are given drugs to increase strength including testosterone, weight gain supplements and cocaine.

Dog fighting in Argentina

The first dog used for pit fighting in Argentina was the ‘Córdoba fighting dog’, which is now extinct. This fierce guard dog showed a willingness to fight to the death and high pain tolerance, even when mortally injured.

However, after several years, breeders realised this dog was unstable as it often turned on its own pack members. Therefore, in the 1920s, physicists and brothers Drs Antonio and Augustin Nores Martinez created the ‘Dogo Argentino’. Based on its cousin from Córdoba, the Dogo is a cross between mastiffs, bull terriers and bulldogs. The Argentine doctors chose these breeds because the breeds showed courage and tenacity during pit fights they had witnessed as children.

The official kennel club of Argentina describe the Dogo as a “very strong, muscular dog with powerful jaws with large teeth”. It has short white fur, occasionally with markings around the eyes and can reach up to 70cm in height.

Jose Miguel Rivero Garcia is a breeder in Argentina. He says that “despicably, Dogos Argentinos are used in fights, which occur in clandestine places that only a specific few know about and normally involve large sums of money”. He added that although he had not personally witnessed a pit-fight, he had been approached as a breeder to provide dogs for them.

Dogos Argentinos playing in the park. While some breeders maintain that they are intensely loyal to their families and make excellent guard dogs, the Dogo is also used for pit fighting. (Photo by Andi Lewis)

In the UK, the Dogo is one of four breeds banned under the 1991 dangerous dogs act. The Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs explain they were considered to have been bred “specifically to be fighting dogs”. After several attacks, the law was updated in 1997 stating that anyone breeding or selling this dog would be fined £5,000 and/or imprisoned for six months.

However, the Dogo remains a popular house pet in Argentina. Some breeders maintain that they are intensely loyal to their families and make excellent guard dogs. One pet owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “If socialised from an early age, this breed can co-exist well with other animals and humans.”

There are strong anti-fighting movements amongst Dogo breeders community. Néstor Boaglio is a breeder in the province of Buenos Aires, he says “I detest dog fighters; they are the absolute lowest of the Dogo Argentino creators. I have never been involved with nor will I ever condone them.” Other breeders deny that the Dogo was even created for the pit-fight. They maintain its purpose was and is to protect rural families from predators such as wild boars and pumas.

Other Dogo enthusiasts actively promote the breed as a family pet and large pest hunter in an attempt to move away from preconceptions of a vicious breed. They claim that it is humans that are dangerous as they purposefully condition the creatures towards violence and claim that any dog can be coaxed into a fight.

The Situation Today

Grupo Novho is a charity that combats animal cruelty based in Argentina. They discovered that generally, the location of fights change every time and is not decided until the last minute, making it near impossible to arrest the people involved.

Laura Velasco is a lawyer and international campaign coordinator for this charity. She explained: “Unfortunately, underground establishments still exist where dog fights are organised. It is difficult to locate them because they act like mafias. There is a lot of money involved in the game, and therefore corruption amongst local law enforcers.

“Very few cases arrive before a judge because with this activity, information is kept close to the chest.”

In March last year, five people were prosecuted and imprisoned in Mendoza for violating law 14.346 and cruelty towards animals. They were the coordinators and dog owners for an organisation with more than 80 participants, among them five minors between the ages of 11 and 17. When police raided the establishment, they found five dogs, two dead and three injured.

There have also been suggestions that dog-fighting tourism is on the rise. Enthusiasts such as Anders travel to Argentina to witness and gamble on the sport that is more strictly policed in their home country. Police in the city of Buenos Aires claim to have no information regarding dog fighting in the capital, whereas province police say that although they are aware that the fights happen, it is near impossible to successfully prosecute anyone, as the activity is so covert. Anders also mentioned that prominent local policemen were present at the fight he witnessed.

Some breeders argue that dog fighting in Argentina is a thing of the past, and that society has moved on since law 14.346 was passed. However, an increase in the number of dogs with fight related injuries being presented at vet practices suggests otherwise. Yet, animal charities remain optimistic. Velasco hopes that “the justice that was carried out in Mendoza will make it easier to bring prosecutions against perpetrators in the future”.

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28 Responses to “Amores Perros: Dog Fighting in Argentina”

  1. Heidi says:

    Thank you to this site for the information. What type of person is still doing this?! It is so sad to think that this dogs are being born for fight. I commend the Argentimes for this article because it is important that the public knows of this issue so they can be vigilent and maybe some times in the future we can be stopping the harm we are causing to the innocent animals.

    It is good in this story to read the testemonies of all the people involved – the article is very detailled and is really give me an impression of the situaton. But a shame on the man who likes the fighting. In my country I am working for animal rights and storys like this are helping us to stop the harm against animals.

    Heidi

  2. Andi Lewis says:

    The Dogo in these photos is mine. I want to be explicitly clear on one fact, he is a large dog that is simply playing with his pals at a local dog park in my home town. There is no blood, there is no fighting going on, they are simply playing. Out of context these images may lead the reader to a different conclusion. My Dogo is an absolute sweetheart and I would never subject him to the brutal activities that are so vividly described in this article.

  3. Daniel says:

    I know the dog in this picture and know for a fact that in this pic these dogs were playing. Shame on you for defaming someones dog and making them look bad without telling them beforehand. I bite my paw at you!

  4. Perdita says:

    As Andi says, there is no fighting going on in these pictures, so I didn’t jump to the conclusion that the dogs pictured were used for fighting. The captions state that the dogs are also popular guard dogs and family pets so I don’t think any defamation has been perpetrated or that anyone needs to be ashamed. I am very impressed at Daniel’s computer skills, however; it must be a nightmare trying to type without opposable thumbs.

  5. Daniel says:

    Thanks for the clarification! I’m a happy pup now. Woof!

  6. Patricia Zerounian says:

    My name is Patricia Zerounian, and the black lab in the photo is my 2-year old dog, Rocket. I am appalled and sickened that the photo Andi took of our dogs was used in a article about dog fighting, an illegal act that I find devoid of moral and ethical conscienceness. While I appreciate The Argentimes for advocating the end to and prosecution of all those involved in any type of animal fighting, I can hardly bear to read the entire article knowing that our two dogs at play are being used as a portrait of this inhumane activity. The photo belies what is really going on – two dogs who really love hanging out with each other at the park, on the hiking trail, and at the beach – and sometimes playing the “I’m bigger than you are” game. I hope The Argentimes will be willing and able to print a clarification in the next issue… along with my appreciation for their articles on human and animal rights, political justice, and environmental stewardship – thank you.

  7. Kate says:

    (On behalf of the Argentimes) Images of dog fights are mostly gruesome and bloody, and nothing like these pictures (if you look up dog fighting on google images you can see examples), however there is always an element of ambiguity and I’m very sorry to Andi if these images have been interpreted by some as pictures of actual dog fights. I hope I have further limited the possibility of people wrongly interpreting the images by adding to the captions to explain that these dogs are playing in the park.

    Before using these photos we explained that they would be used with an article about dog fighting and also that we would make it clear in the article that Dogos are also family pets and most breeders/owners are actively against the use of the dogs for cruel sports. I hope that the message of the article and the images is that those in the wrong are the people that take part in the sport, not the dogs.

    Kate Stanworth
    Picture Editor
    The Argentimes

  8. Captain Guy Webster says:

    I am an expatriate Englishman, living in Argentina since 1992. I have three beautiful female Dogos.

    I am very sad that politicians from my country introduced a law , the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act which was the first case of Breed Specific Legislation which identified specific breeds as being intrinsically “dangerous” This type of legislation has been copied around the world by countries such as Australia, Norway, New Zealand, The United Arab Emirates etc.

    The Dogo Argentino is one of 4 banned breeds included in the Act because according to English law makers the Dogo was bred and created specifically for dog fighting.

    With all due respect to the author of your article (with whom I sympathise for trying to shame the practice of dog fighting) It is not true that the Dogo Argentino was bred for fighting.

    The Nores Martinez brothers cross bred up to 10 diferent breeds to create a sporting dog for hunting game- in particular the European Wild Boar introduced into Argentina as a game animal in the 19th Century.

    The breeds included, Pointer, Bulldog, Bullterrier, Boxer, Mastiff, Great dane, Bordeaux Mastiff, Pyrrenean Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound. The original blood line was taken from an old fighting breed The Cordoba Fighting dog. it is true. But this animal was not emotionally stable enough to work in a hunting pack so the Cordoba dog was cross bred with the other breeds to improve its charavter as a HUNTING dog not a fighting dog.

    If the Dogo was created to fight why would it be crossed with theEnglish pointer?? This cross was to impove the scent following nature of the breed particularly air carried scent.

    Unfortunately the Dogo has an undeserved bad reputation when in fact despite detailed resarch I do not know of any instance of a Dogo argentino carying out an unprovoked attack on a human. (Of course any dog that is treated cruelly, beaten, left chained up or teased will react) Dogos are remarkably patient animals, very good with young children and in my own experience the most calm and affectionate dogs that I have ever seen.

    I am trying to gain awareness in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world about the great qualities of a truely marvelous dog. It deserves to be recognised not only as a fearless and valiant hunter, but a gentle, loyal and affectionate pet.

    By good fortune or great judgement , the Nores Martinez created a masterpiece of a dog , Argentina’s only official pure breed. Let us tell, the world how good it is and try to get it removed from “Dangerous dog” black lists.

    The Dogo is not a fighting dog but he need us to fight for him!!

  9. Will says:

    Ok so I get that the article and the pictures are different things. But are those two dogs in the picture really having a good time? I hear everything you guys are saying, and it seems like the Dogos are cool, but man, they , look vicious, Dude! I wouldn’t want one near my ankles…

    No seriously. I’m sure they’re cute dogs and all, and the pictures state that they’re not killers, sure, but you got to admit, they look kinda mean, huh?

  10. Marc L says:

    This article is completely false. I do not own a Dogo, but have read just about everything I could find since discovering this breed online. This is the first time I have even seen an article calling this dog a pit fighter. It’s primary purpose when created was to NOT be dog aggressive so it could hunt in packs. Maybe there are people that have turned these dogs into fighters. Obviously they possess the physical attributes of a good fighting dog, however, they definitely are not inherently a pit fighting dog.

  11. Pablo Escobar says:

    It’s good to see that there are so many avid dog-fight fans out there – LONG LIVE THE GREAT SPORT OF DOGFIGHTING!

  12. joanna castro says:

    wtf!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! y wnn knw wht thnk bt dg fghtng thnk t’s fr lttl pssys lk ths bcth nmd PBL SCBR……nstd f mkng ths nncnt crtrs fght wh dnt y gt yr pss ss n tht dm rng nd fght fr yrslf………….xctly btch cs y knw y’ll gt yr fckng ft ss bmbd n!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!f y rlly wnn ntrtn yrslf thn wtch FC r smthng…nw tht’s wht y cll fghtng sprt…t nvlvs 2 rl mn btng th sht t f thm…thy chs ths s thr crrr bcs th wntd t….thy chs t fght bcs thy wnt t nt bcs thy hv t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!G T HLL NYN THT SPPRTS DG FGHTNG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!mnn nd f knw wh y wr pbl scbr wld fck y p s dm hrd……….gshh th thngs wld d t y…..(h nd my byfrnd sd tht yr fckn lttl pssy nd tht h’ll tk y n ny tm)nd h’s gng bngr s b crfl

    editor: This comment has been disemvoweled. This is a warning. Please see Lifehacker’s Guide to Weblog Comments.

  13. Also, you can get more expert tips and advice, read stories and view pictures,

  14. Dogman says:

    Idiots.

    Real dogfighters don’t post insipid blather on the internet about dogfights – they simply conduct dogfights.

  15. Diana says:

    Dog fighting is a common issue in many countries. But I truly believe your article may mislead some readers, as the Dogo Argentino was not created for pit fights. It is true that it can be a dangerous dog, because is large and very powerful but in fact, let’s face it, any dog can be dangerous at some point, because their brain works instinctively, thus are very unpredictable for human. I know lots of cases of truly unprovoked agressive cocker spaniels or even chihuahuas. Even if they don’t do much damage what I mean is that many dogs can be potentially agressive regardless their breed. The fact that the Dogo is still used for pit fighting should not be seen as a breed characteristic but as an option for the people who conduct these cruelties. That dog has no choice, because it’s raised and trained to fight, and that’s what you can do with almost any dog. I own a Dogo and all I can say is that it’s the most friendly dog I’ve ever owned, and an excellent companion. He never even barks at strangers, but he jumps happily and swings his tail. Unlike my grandmother’s pekingese who bites people and also bites my Dogo, growls when touched while sleeping, when touching it’s food or toys.
    So, I believe it depends on the dog’s character and no dog should be judged just by the breed.

  16. Gosh I wish people can stop da DOG FIGHTS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I feel soory 4 da dogss!!!!

  17. Frank Thibideau says:

    I love dogfighting, it makes me a lot of money.

  18. Kathy says:

    Thanks Frank Thibideau, now we now who to send the police to so they can arrest you for dog fighting! You are a sick sick man and I curse you for abusing these loving, kind creatures. :P

    Dogos were bred to work together in a pack – they were specifically bred to be super dog friendly, not to fight each other. But any dog that is abused will become aggressive. I have a super sweet 14 year old Dogo who gives kisses every day and who all the little kids in the neighborhood love to walk. :)

  19. bob says:

    STOP DOG FIGHTING NOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Jerry Cantrell says:

    Long live honourable dog figters! long live fierce dogs!
    GO ON DOG FIGHTERS! THE SPORTS OF THE KINGS!

  21. flacker says:

    WHOEVER JERRy cantrell is u are wrong you should go to jail!!!!!!!!! <:( we hate dog fighters they stink and need to get another passion u horrible horrible person

  22. Bobby Tubbs says:

    Dog fighting is a great sport, we fight ours in the Western Division. I’m from New Mexico – I’ve met Larry Anders and his brother, they have some beautiful Reno and Eli Boudreaux APBTs. Some are for sale too, but you must have real money for these animals, even as pups – five figures, starting at $25,000. I’ve heard that another breeder from Florida is cloning Boudreaux terriers too.

  23. stop fascism says:

    I don’t care how the others who commented here are feeling about your article – I still like it.

  24. The Truth says:

    Lets get some things straight.
    1. Dog fighting has been going on since you were a sperm in your dads balls. More than likely, your great great grandfather attended one or 2 maybe he competed.
    2. The dogs that loose are not always killed and on very rare conditions do they die in the pit.
    3. There is a lot of money involved in dog fighting but most professionals are their to show the dogs “they” bred and have been with since birth. That dog will not just be another animal to him, it will be part of his life and he will do everything in his power to make sure he survives and know what he is doing before he is campaigned.
    4. You may know someone who likes the sport but does not say it because of “your feelings”. Who’s the pussy now?
    These dogs were bred for what they do, if you don’t like it then stay out of it. In certain places, Vets are on hand and when the match is over, the dogs are taken to tables and worked on to save their life, much like a professional fighter. Due to it being ILLEGAL, you can not have a vet because he HAS to turn you into the cops or he looses his license.
    one last thing…Even if dog fighting were legal it would still be held outside of the publics view to keep tree huggers, who put animals above humans, from being exposed to it. The dogs are gladiators and don’t believe all the bull shit you read or from the media, HSUS, ASPCA and PETA. They pump how bad it is into your head about they are beaten and abused and forced to do this. I’ve seen puppies that grew up together start fighting and not because of dominance. They will fight to the death or until 1 can no longer continue. A pit is only 24 inches or 2 ft tall. These dogs have the opportunity to jump the wall and run but they don’t. They enjoy what they do and they do what they enjoy.
    5. The pictures you see on google or posters are dogs straight after battle. If I beat the shit out of you, the next day you would look the same way also. You wouldn’t be smiling because your in slight pain from lactic acid build up in your muscles and the swelling. Take 800 mg of ibprofin and in a few hours, everything will be better.
    Do your DD before you just jump on someone’s dick.

  25. Frank Grimes says:

    The truth is telling the TRUTH about dog fighting. I have never seen an animal killed in the pit, and I’ve attended hundreds of matches. Others have seen dogs killed, but it’s rather rare. The dogs are just too damn valuable to waste them the way Michael Vick did.

    And for the idiots who threaten to call the cops – cops GO TO dog fights to ENJOY the matches, not to arrest people. My own brother is one of those cops, and he laughs at bleeding hearts who want to infringe on the rights of others.

  26. Kim says:

    Stop the dog fights go let your’e children fight motherfockers

  27. Informer says:

    This post is incredibly inaccurate. I’m am disgusted with this false information. Please anyone who read this disregard any and all jnfo

  28. Kevin B Wilson says:

    Dog fighting as a sport? It should not have any supporter’s, but unfortunately the human race has it’s fair share of idiot’s.

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