Indigenous to Portugal’s Estrela Mountains, the Estrela Mountain dog is a large canine breed serving as livestock guardians for centuries. Besides its black facial mask that gives it a striking appearance, the Estrela is also characterized by a long powerful head, broad skull, sloping croup, tapered muzzle, oval-shaped eyes, droopy ears and a long bushy tail. Its brave disposition and strong guarding skills makes it a preferred choice for homes needing a watch dog.
|Alternative Names||Portuguese Shepherd, Cao da Serra da Estrela|
|Coat||Long or short with goat-like hair texture|
|Color||Fawn, yellow and wolf gray with a dark facial mask.|
|Group||Livestock Guardian, Molossers, Mountain Dog, Working Dog|
|Weight||Male: 99–132 lb
Female: 77–99 lb
|Height||Male: 25–30 inches
Female: 24–28 inches
|Temperament||Protective, Alert, Stubborn, Keen|
|Good With Children||Yes|
|Country Originated in||Portugal|
|Competitive Registration/Qualification Information||FCI, AKC, KC(UK), NZKC, UKC|
Being one of Portugal’s oldest dogs, the Estrela was bred for more than a hundred years, surviving in the rough mountainous terrain, owing to its strong body stature. Its ancestors, used for guarding herds in the Serra de Estrela Mountains may have either been brought in by the Romans during the colonization of the Iberian Peninsula or by the nomadic Visigoths. However, they were rarely popular outside their domain since foreign breeds fascinated the Portuguese more.
1908-1919: Concursos (special shows) were conducted for preserving the Estrelas.
1922: A tentative breed standard was published that focused on the functional features seen in prominent dog breeds of that time, though certain traits common to this breed was left out.
1933: The first official standard was written with the effort of identifying it as a separate breed. Features like the hooked tail, rosy ears and double dew claws were made a basic requirement with all colors being accepted.
1940s: The official standards were not religiously followed since the breeders mostly comprised of farmers and shepherds.
1950s: Interest in this breed was revived, with the concursos again commencing where the long-haired varieties were popular.
1970s: Decline in their numbers making them on the verge of extinction.
1972-1973: Some of them were imported to the US.
1974: The Portuguese revolution saw a rise in their numbers as their importance as working and guard dogs (due to the high crime rates) increased.
2004: It was recorded in the Foundation Stock Service.
Present status: Used as guardian and working dogs mostly in Portugal. Also assigned the status of Working Dogs by AKC.
Being a large, muscular dog, the Estrela Mountain Dog is a daunting opponent for any hunter. It acts as an inseparable companion of the shepherd and a faithful flock guardian. Even in the absence of the pastor, it can take good care of the sheep’s around.
The dog is affectionate to owners but aloof and wary towards strangers. They get along well with the children of the family, being protective towards them.
Though they are comfortable with other pets, this breed may have a concern in mingling with other dogs in their household, owing to their independent nature.
Like most livestock guardians, the Portuguese Shepherd also has a habit of barking excessively, particularly while protecting its household from intruders.
Owing to its aggressive and independent nature this breed is not a suitable pet for everyone, needing to be handled in a firm and tactful way to keep it under control.
Obedience learning: It is mandatory to train the dog to walk calmly and not jump on everyone it sees. When it is adept at following several commands such as “Stop”, “Sit”, “Go”, it can also overcome certain behavioral concerns like barking excessively or nipping at people.
Socialization: Socialize the Estrela mountain puppies by acquainting them to different experiences so that they gradually get to differentiate the good from the bad. Regular visitors to your home can bond with the Estrela by rewarding it with a treat or plaything for every gentle behavior.
Being a large breed, they would need four to five cups of dry dog food on a daily basis.