By Macy Gen Veterinary AssistantMacy Gen Last updated: 18th October 2022

Rafeiro do Alentejo


Macy Gen Veterinary Assistant Macy Gen
Last updated: 18th October 2022

Also known as the Portuguese Mastiff or Alentejo Mastiff, the Rafeiro do Alentejo is a large-sized dog, having its roots in Portugal. Bred with the purpose of guarding livestock, these dogs are characterized by a round bear-like head, medium-sized muzzle, black, oval-shaped nose, , medium or highly set triangular ears, short, strong, neck and a long tail, slightly curved at the base. Sober and calm, yet fierce and protective….this versatile personality makes it qualify as a remarkable guard dog.

Rafeiro do Alentejo Pictures

Quick Information

Other namesAlentejo Mastiff, Mutt of Alentejo, Portuguese Mastiff
CoatShort to medium length, straight, dense and thick
ColorBlack, gray, fawn, yellow, brindle
GroupLivestock Guardians, Molossers, Mountain dogs, Rare dogs
Lifespan/ Life Expectancy12 to 14 years
HeightMale: 27 to 28 inch
Female: 25 to 28 inch
WeightMale: 100 to 132 pounds
Female: 100 to 120 pounds
Litter size9 to 13 puppies
Temperament Alert, calm, sober, loyal, affectionate
Good with childrenYes
Climate Compatibility Adapts to all kinds of climate well
BarkingDeep, low set
Shedding (Does it shed)Average
Competitive Registration Qualification/ InformationUKC, FCI, AKC

Video of a 6 Day Old Rafeiro Do Alentejo Puppy Drinking Milk


The Rafeiro do Alentejo are believed to be descendants of molossers which migrated to Central Asia along with their human family about 1000 years ago. Because of their huge size and immense courage, they were made to protect the livestock. They were even assigned the task of taking the sheep from the mountains in the northern part of Portugal to the Alentejo plateau and bringing them back again. However, with changes being brought in the agricultural as well as livestock raising patterns, their importance began to lessen, causing their numbers to decline rapidly. The initiatives taken by a few fanciers of this breed helped in retaining their numbers, though they are still regarded as “vulnerable” in Portugal. They are confined to the plains of Alentejo, mostly used as guard and companion dogs.  Its breed standards were officially established in 1953 in Portugal.

Temperament and Personality

They are sober and calm, with a slow rolling gait, but may attain streaks of independence and show stubbornness especially while at their task or protecting and guarding. “Gentle giants,” as they may be called because of their courteous and lovable demeanor, they are complete family dogs, devoted towards their masters.

However, they display alertness and suspicion when dealing with a stranger that may get more intense if they spot someone entering into their territory post evening. Having a deep, loud bark which can be audible from a long distance, they warn their masters, the moment they sense any unusual intrusion. Though alert, but do not attack, they could at times get aggressive if the situation arises, in pursuit of safeguarding their kith and kin.

They are friendly and playful with children, though parental supervision is needed while smaller kids are interacting with them as these big-sized dogs could knock them down in the course of play. The Rafeiro de Alentejo would get along with other dogs and even non-canine pets when brought up with them.



A fully grown Portuguese Mastiff has average exercise needs, being contented with a brisk walk daily or even a little bit of jogging. If you have a big fenced yard, allow it sufficient playtime. Keeping their herding lineage and big size in mind, they do well in large, spacious homes instead of small apartments. If they are confined indoors, engage them in activities like fetching and hide and seek.  Involving them in dog sports like rally, agility, and obedience is another way of keeping them active.


Being a low shedder, a weekly brushing would be fine to keep its coat free from mats and tangles. Trimming its nails, cleaning its ears and eyes as well as brushing its teeth are the other grooming needs essential.

Health Problems

A generally healthy dog with a moderate lifespan, there is little information about the ailments these dogs suffer from. Hip dysplasia is one of the common problems they suffer from. They may even suffer from stomach torsion and bloating since they have large and deep chests.


Though calm and gentle, they seem to have a will of their own, thus not a good choice for first-timers. Rather an owner who can handle them in a firm way would be suited for them.

Socialization: Socialize your Alentejo Mastiff, at an early age so that it may understand when to get suspicious on sighting an unknown person in their territory and when not to. You should acquaint it with people of varying heights short or tall, with or without a mustache, dark or bright complexioned… so that they do not judge people just by their appearance but even develop the knack of analyzing a situation before concluding.

Obedience: Being a herding dog, they might develop a tendency to nip. So training them in obedience, particularly following commands is essential so that they refrain from doing something destructive the moment you say, “stop” or “no.”


High-Quality dry dog food is essential to keep them in good health. However, do not overfeed as this might result in obesity and bloating.

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