10 Best Dog Breeds From Portugal

Portuguese water dog against blue sky

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Portuguese dog breeds vary widely in appearance, temperament, and purpose. But these breeds all can trace their roots back to Portugal. Living in a country dependent on agriculture and maritime activity, Portuguese dog breeds tend to be built for a life outdoors—on land or in water. Large shepherds, hunting dogs, and watchdogs are in the majority among Portugal’s native canines, but there are smaller companion dogs as well.

Here are 10 Portuguese dog breeds to know.


Some Portuguese dog breeds are easy to find in the United States, but others are rare to encounter. If you're interested in one of the rarer breeds, look for a breed-specific rescue or a reputable breeder. Just be aware it might take some time for you to find the perfect pup.

  • 01 of 10

    Portuguese Water Dog

    Two Portuguese water dogs outdoors

     Gavin Pugh / EyeEm / Getty Images

    One of the most popular Portuguese dog breeds, the Portuguese water dog originated in the coastal region of Portugal but traveled far and wide aboard ships and fishing boats. Portuguese water dogs are natural athletes and have a special affinity for water. Their uniquely dense coat helps them to stay warm even when wet. The breed’s muscular build also was important, as they were often used to retrieve lost fishing gear from the sea, to carry messages from ship to shore, or even to rescue a person overboard. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working

    Height: 20 to 23 inches (male); 17 to 21 inches (female)

    Weight: 42 to 60 pounds (male); 35 to 50 pounds (female)

    Coat and Color: Wavy or tightly curled coat; can come in black, black and white, or brown; color may also be white or silver-tipped

    Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

  • 02 of 10

    Portuguese Podengo

    Portuguese Podengo portrait

    Rastislav Smolinsky / 500px Plus / Getty Images

    The Portuguese Podengo is the national dog of Portugal. These sighthounds have been used for centuries in Portugal to hunt. Even today, the breed is largely still an active pack hunter in its homeland. As a result, you can expect to find an energetic and active companion in a Podengo. However, the large variety is known to be more laid-back than its smaller counterparts.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Miscellaneous Class

    Height: 22 to 28 inches (large); 16 to 22 inches (medium)

    Weight: 44 to 66 pounds (large); 35 to 44 pounds (medium)

    Coat and Color: Black, yellow, fawn, gray, or chestnut coat; can be smooth or wiry

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 03 of 10

    Portuguese Podengo Pequeno

    Portuguese Podengo Pequeno

    Holly Hildreth / Getty Images

    The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, or PPP for short, is simply the smallest variety of the Podengo breed. However, the American Kennel Club recognizes it as its own breed. These little dogs road aboard ships from Portugal to the Americas, acting as rodent exterminators. To this day they are known to be strong rabbit hunters. Despite their small size, they need a lot of exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound

    Height: 8 to 12 inches

    Weight: 9 to 13 pounds

    Coat and Color: Can come in many colors and may have white markings; two coat varieties: smooth, short, dense coat or long, harsh, wire coat

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 04 of 10

    Portuguese Pointer

    Portuguese Pointer on sidewalk

    Afonso Silva / Wikipedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Portuguese pointer, also called the Perdigueiro Portugues, is a centuries-old hunting dog that excels in birds and small game. With ancestors believed to have come to Portugal in the 12th century, these dogs found their first occupation in the region as hunting companions in the sport of falconry. Later, they became a versatile hunter that was marked by a tireless work ethic and strong affection for their handler.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Stock Service 

    Height: 20.5 to 22 inches

    Weight: 35 to 59 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, coarse coat; comes in yellow or red with or without white markings

    Life Expectancy: 14 years

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Estrela Mountain Dog

    Estrela mountain dog sitting on a beach

    Kirill Greshnov / iStock

    One of Portugal’s oldest native dog breeds is the Estrela mountain dog. Its exact origin is uncertain, but what we do know is these dogs played an integral role in guarding the livestock and farms in Portugal’s mountainous northern region. A thick coat keeps the breed warm in the high elevation climate. Estrela mountain dogs are a formidable opponent for any wildlife or intruders. At the same time, these dogs have a docile nature with their family.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Stock Service 

    Height: 24.5 to 29 inches

    Weight: 77 to 132 pounds

    Coat and Color: Dense coat; comes in brindle, fawn, gray, or yellow with white markings; black face mask

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

  • 06 of 10

    Portuguese Sheepdog

    Portuguese sheepdog portrait

    Inaquim / iStock  

    The Portuguese sheepdog is known for being lively and loyal. There is no certainty as to the origin of this Portuguese dog breed. But the most commonly accepted theory is that Briards (French herding dogs) were crossed with other herding breeds in the area, such as the Pyrenean shepherd and Catalan sheepdog. Today, these dogs are most often seen as family companions. They have an athletic build and a playful nature, even earning the nickname "monkey dog" in Portugal. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Stock Service

    Height: 16.5 to 21.5 inches

    Weight: 37.5 to 59 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long, shaggy coat that can come in several colors; beard, mustache, and eyebrows are typical facial hair

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

  • 07 of 10

    Alentejo Mastiff

    Alentejo mastiff (Rafeiro do Alentejo) standing outside

    chelovekpoddojdem / Wikipedia Commons / CC0 1.0 Universal

    The largest Portuguese dog breed is the Alentejo mastiff, also known as the Portuguese mastiff or Rafeiro do Alentejo. These dogs have long limbs and sturdy bodies. With a calm but watchful nature, they were developed to protect herds and farming settlements in Portugal. They’re ready to defend anyone or anything they feel a sense of guardianship over. It’s interesting to note that centuries of nighttime watch duties seem to have made this dog breed prone to being active at night.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Service Stock

    Height: 25 to 29 inches

    Weight: 77 to 132 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat may be black, brindle, fawn, yellow, or gray; can have white markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 08 of 10

    Portuguese Cattle Dog

    portuguese cattle dog

    Schiowa / Flickr / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Portuguese cattle dog is known by more than one name. You might also hear this breed referred to as Cão de Castro Laboreiro (which means "dog of Castro Laboreiro" in Portuguese). But its most telling name might be "Portuguese watchdog." These dogs were bred to watch over herds of livestock. They are sturdy and courageous enough to stand up to even fierce predators like wolves. This Portuguese dog breed remains relatively rare outside of the region surrounding Castro Laboreiro.

    Breed Overview

    Group: N/A

    Height: 20 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 90 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, coarse, thick coat; bushy tail; coat colors include gray and brown

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

    Saint Miguel cattle dog standing outside

     PLeple2000 / Wikipedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0

    This Portuguese dog breed originated in the Azores Islands. Considered to be an excellent cattle herding dog, it's medium in size but sturdy. Saint Miguel cattle dogs are an active and athletic breed. Displaying determination and a natural tendency to guard, they are also very intelligent and highly obedient. This makes them trainable for a variety of purposes.

    Breed Overview

    Group: N/A

    Height: 18 to 23 inches

    Weight: 44 to 66 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, coarse coat; may be solid with white markings or brindle

    Life Expectancy: 15 years

  • 10 of 10

    Barbado da Terceira

    Barbado da terceira

    Andre Heuzer / Getty Images

    The Barbado da Terceira hails from the Portuguese island of Terceira. It descends from various herding and guard dogs in and around Portugal. The breed didn’t arrive in mainland Portugal until the end of the 20th century, and it was recognized as a breed there in 2004. These dogs are quite athletic and intelligent, and they thrive on human contact. They respond well to training but don't like to be left alone.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Service Stock

    Height: 19 to 21 inches (female); 20.5 to 22 inches (male)

    Weight: 46 to 57 pounds (female); 55 to 60 pounds (male)

    Coat and Color: Shaggy coat; can come in black, fawn, gray, or yellow with white markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years