Cabrera was born in Madrid and studied at the city's university. He worked the National Museum of Natural Sciences from 1902, going on several collecting expeditions to Morocco. In 1907, he proposed that the Iberian wolf was a separate subspecies, which he named Canis lupus signatus.
In 1925 Cabrera went to Argentina and remained there for the rest of his life. He was head of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Museo de la Plata, and made collecting trips to Patagonia and Catamarca.
His books included South American Mammals (1940).
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