Alans are also credited with teaching western Europeans the still popular sport of hunting on horseback with hunting dogs ;
a famous breed of medieval hunting dogs was called Alan (med. Latin Alanus) which, according to a 19th century authority on the history and origin of canine breeds, "derived originally from the Caucasus, whence it accompanied the fierce, fairhaired, and warlike Alani" ; the town of Alano in Spain to this day bears two Alan dogs on its coat of arms.
The name of the breed comes from the Alani, nomadic pastoralists who arrived in Spain as part of the transhumance in the 5th Century. These peoples were known to keep large livestock guardian dogs and pursuit dogs which became the basis for the many regional Alaunt types. The first formal, written reference to the breed in Spain is in a chapter of the 14th century "Book of the Hunt of Alfonso XI" (Libro de la Monteria de Alfonso XI) in which hunting dogs called Alani are described as having beautiful colours. Dogs of this type traveled with Spanish explorers and were used as war dogs (as was their role in Eurasia before migration) in the subjugation of Indian (Native American) peoples, as well as in the capturing of slaves.
Etching by Francisco de Goya portraying the dogs in the bullfighting ring as they were used in 1816. Note that the dog''s ears are uncropped, indicating they were only used for bull baiting and not dog fighting.
Bull baiting done in the bullfighting ring with dogs of this type was recorded by Francisco de Goya in his series on La Tauromaquia in 1816. Besides their use in the bullring Alanos were also used for hunting big game such as wild boar.
The large dogs began to disappear as the work they did began to change. Big game became rare, stockyards were modernized and no longer used dogs to hold the cattle, use in bullfights was outlawed, and by 1963 Alanos were thought to be extinct. In the 1970s a group of fanciers and veterinary students made house-to house surveys in western and northern Spain, and found a few examples of the dogs in the Basque areas of Enkarterri and Cantabria, being used to herd semi-wild cattle and hunt wild boar. A standard was written and the dogs were documented and bred, and the Alano Espanol was recognised as independent breed by the Spanish Kennel Club in 2004, though earlier studies at the University of Cordoba clarified the Alano as distinct from any other breed at genetic level. The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture (Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentacion) recognises the Alano Espanol as an indigenous Spanish breed.
Although the breed in Spain is still small in number and the breed has not yet been recognised internationally by the Federation Cynologique Internationale, examples of the Alano Espanol have been exported to North America, where a few breeders are promoting for temperament and hunting ability.
Large dogs that are similar in appearance and may share the history of the Alano Espanol include the molossers of the Canary Islands such as the Dogo Canario (Perro de Presa Canario) as well as the Mastin Espanol (Spanish Mastiff) The Cimarron Uruguayo is a South American breed that also looks somewhat similar, and is descended from the dogs of the Spanish explorers and conquistadores. The breed is also sometimes called the Spanish Bulldog in English. English dog dealer Bill George imported a dog he called "Big Headed Billy" in 1840. He was used to increase size in English Bulldogs.