The bluest ocean water you might ever see from an airplane is the water surrounding Puerto Rico, and specifically, at night around certain bays on the island. The water actually glows a bright blue hue at the touch of a hand, and while travel guides describe this as classic “Caribbean blue water,” scientists know that the real source of the color is bacteria, half-plant, half-animal organisms that emit a flash of blue light when stirred up at night. People come from all over the world to see the Bioluminescent Bays in Puerto Rico.
This must have astonished the Spaniards who arrived in 1493 and made Puerto Rico an important military outpost for Spain. There are far better sources that cover the history of the island over the subsequent centuries. Our interest is in the descendants of the Spanish Mastiffs brought to Puerto Rico by Spain’s military in the 16th century.
The mastiffs that served as guard and sentry dogs bred with jíbaros (native dogs once domesticated that had become feral) as well as other dogs that had been brought to the island including the Mastin Espanol, Dogue de Bordeaux and Bloodhound. Over many years, a consistent phenotype emerged, an impressive and fierce molosser used for protection, bloodsport, and sadly, to retrieve slaves.
The dogs became uniquely adapted to hunt boar and steer in the hot, humid climate of a wet tropical land, and this made them desirable to country folk who would exchange chickens or produce for a puppy. In the late 19th century, overseers of plantations growing tobacco, sugar cane and coffee came to recognize that these were dogs with a particular look and set of characteristics, and called them Gran Mastín de Borínquen, or Puerto Rican Mastiffs.
In 1979, the dog was established as an internationally recognized breed by la Sociedad Cynologica Caribena, and it is now regarded as the only dog breed native to Puerto Rico.
These mastiffs form a deep bond with their owners to whom they are fiercely loyal and protective. They are affectionate towards children, and often act as their guardians. They can be stubborn (and large!) so it’s essential that proper socialization and good training occur at an early age. It’s not a breed recommended for first-time pet owners, but that may be a moot point since the breed is rare and can be difficult to find.
We talk about the Puerto Rican Mastiff because today is National Borinqueneers Day, a recognition of the sacrifices of the Puerto Rican Regiment of the Volunteer Infantry. Congress first authorized a volunteer military presence in Puerto Rico in 1899, the year after the island became a United States territory. In 1908, the Puerto Rico United States Volunteers officially became part of the United State Army and was designated the 65th Infantry Regiment.
At the end of WWII, the infantry was demobilized, but reactivated for the Korean War. It was during that conflict that the 65th adopted the nickname “The Borinqueneers,” a name that honors the Taíno Indians, the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico. Their operations during the the Korean War resulted numerous decorations, including more than 2,700 Purple Hearts, 600 Bronze Stars, 250 Silver Stars, nine Distinguished Serve Crosses, and one Medal of Honor, among other commendations and awards.
So Happy National Borinqueneers Day to our Puerto Rican friends!
Image found unattributed on-line and happily credited upon receipt of information