Portugal is a beautiful country full of incredible vistas and wide-open spaces. Their economy has a large proportion attributed to farming and livestock rearing. As a result, if you are a fan of dogs, you will see some very handsome and imposing cattle guards and playful herders as you travel around.
Portuguese doggos are usually full-time working dogs bred for a purpose, not just as a companion. They must earn their keep, and boy, are they good at it. They also make fantastic family dogs, just as long as you can keep up with their energy needs.
Here are the 11 Portuguese dog breeds that you need to know about.
1. Portuguese Water Dog
The nickname for the Portuguese Water Dog is Portie, and until recently, they were relatively unknown outside of Europe. That is until two handsome specimens became the choice of pooch for Barack and Michelle Obama. The Portie is a natural-born athlete that loves aquatic life. With their dense coat, they can spend hours in cold water and stay warm, saving men who have gone overboard.
2. Portuguese Podengo
The Portuguese Podengo is Portugal’s national dog and is instantly recognizable with their giant ears and cheeky smile. They are sighthounds, which means they hunt by sight, not scent, and they hunt vermin. Despite their high prey drive and their guarding ability, they make fantastic family pets. They are a good choice for families with children due to their sweet and playful nature.
3. Portuguese Pointer
The Portuguese Pointer is a handsome boy bred centuries ago as a dedicated hunting dog. Recorded as far back as the 12th century in Portugal, they were used as hunting companions in the sport of falconry. The Pointer alerts the hawk to possible prey, and the bird watches it intently as a result as it means they are more likely to catch their quarry. They were taken back to England, where they were used in the development of the English Pointer.
4. Estrela Mountain Dog
The Estrela is one of Portugal’s most prolific and successful livestock security dogs. A native of the Estrela region and found on many farms in the northern mountains. At an average of 120 pounds, the Estrela is a force to be reckoned with for predators that might try their luck. They are docile in nature with their immediate family, they are fiercely protective and aloof with strangers.
5. Portuguese Sheepdog
The Portuguese Sheepdog is lovingly referred to in Portugal as the monkey dog due to its playful and goofy nature. They are a family favorite because of their loyal and loving character. They have an obscured athletic build, hidden by their shaggy hair. They are a fantastic working dog that will herd very well and protect the flock when needed.
6. Alentejo Mastiff
Mastiffs the world over are large muscular breeds, and the Alentejo Mastiff is no exception. He is the largest of the Portuguese breeds, and he is a natural protector of herds. They have a calm, watchful, but fiercely loyal nature that makes them keen to defend their family and territory against anything they think is a threat. A little-known characteristic of these dogs is their almost nocturnal nature.
7. Portuguese Cattle Dog
The Portuguese cattle dog has many names, but one very telling name is the Portuguese watchdog. This breed is thought to have been a livestock guardian dog for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They are a tall, muscular, sturdy, and athletic breed, and they have been known to fight wolves in a bid to save cattle. There are believed to be less than 500 Portuguese Cattle Dogs left today.
8. Saint Miguel Cattle Dog
The Saint Miguel is a fierce-looking dog with its brindle coloring and often an all-black face. Sometimes referred to as cow dogs, they are great herders and livestock watchers. With their intelligent and highly obedient nature, they make a great working dog or family companion, or both. They love to be stimulated and worked, so they don’t become bored and destructive.
9. Terceira Mastiff
Terceira Mastiffs are not playful dogs and can sometimes be disobedient if owners do not have the patience to train them properly. They are popular because of their sensitive nature, and they are very affectionate towards their owners and family. They will pick up on and react to your emotions and feelings. They will also sulk and avoid their owners if told off too firmly.
10. Barbado da Terceira
The Barbado da Terceira is known for its expressive nature. They show intelligence, playfulness, and a little mischief in their eyes and face. They are another breed of herding and guard dogs, explicitly chosen for their cattle-herding abilities but have become a family favorite in Portugal. This guy is similar in appearance to the Portuguese Sheepdog.
11. Cão de Gado Transmontano
Also known as the Transmontano Mastiff, he is a working dog used to guard livestock in the mountainous regions. They adapted well to steep fields of pasture and difficult access where they are left by farmers to watch over and protect the flock when the farmers can’t. Until 1995, the breed was exclusive to Portugal, but in 2008 he arrived in America as part of an experiment about wolf attacks on cattle.
The Wrap Up
So, there you have it, like many agriculture-based countries, Portugal has designed and bred to perfection the working cattle dog. Not only did they make them the ultimate deterrent to thieves and predators, but they also bred in a loyal and loving streak. This is what makes many of them an excellent choice as a family companion.
You might struggle to find of these guys in America, or you might have to be placed onto a waiting list for the others. But when you finally find your favorite Portuguese pooch, you can be sure he will be worth the wait.
Featured Image Credit: Karen Appleby, Shutterstock