8 Portuguese Dog Breeds You Should Get to Know

Portugal breeds shepherds, hunters, and guardians

Portuguese water dog against blue sky

cynoclub / iStock / Getty Images

Portuguese dog breeds are unique in size, characteristics, and purpose but these breeds call this southern European country home. Part of the Iberian peninsula, some of Portugal’s dog breeds share their heritage with other dogs common to the area—like the Ibizan hound and Pyrenean shepherd.

As a country dependent on agriculture and maritime activity, Portuguese dog breeds tend to be built for a life outdoors—on land or in the water. Large shepherds and watchdogs are in the majority among Portugal’s native canines, but the smaller Podengo Pequeno is a cherished companion as well. Learn more about these 8 Portuguese dog breeds, which are all recognized within their home country and by at least one major kennel club in the world. 

  • 01 of 08

    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 is recognizable almost immediately from its thick, curly coat which can be black, brown, or white. These dogs originated in the coastal region of Portugal, but traveled far and wide aboard ships and fishing boats.

    Often referred to as a PWD or a Portie, the breed has gained popularity in the United States in the last few decades and ranks 50th out of the 195 recognized breeds. Most notably, two Portuguese Water Dogs named Bo and Sunny were residents of the White House during the Obama family's tenure in the White House.

    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, and these dogs excel at dock diving competitions. The breed’s muscular build was important since they were often used to retrieve lost fishing gear from the sea, to carry messages from ship to shore, or even to rescue a man overboard. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 23 inches

    Weight: 35 to 60 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Wavy or tightly curled coat; black, black and white, and brown, though color may also be white or silver-tipped

  • 02 of 08

    Portuguese Podengo

    Portuguese Podengo portrait

    Rastislav Smolinsky / 500px Plus / Getty Images

    The Portuguese Podengo is the national dog of Portugal. These dogs can be either small (pequeno), medium (medio), or large (grande) and further variety is found in the coat, which may be either smooth or wirehaired. Interestingly, the AKC recognizes the smallest Podengo as a separate breed known as the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, or PPP for short.

    These sighthounds have been used for centuries in Portugal to hunt rabbits. 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 any size Podengo. However, the larger variety is known to be more laid-back than the medium and small varieties.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22 to 28 inches (large); 16 to 22 inches (medium); 8 to 12 inches (small)

    Weight: 44 to 66 pounds (large); 35 to 44 pounds (medium); 9 to 13 pounds (small)

    Physical Characteristics: A tapered head and erect ears along with long legs are trademarks of each size variety of these hounds; coat can be black, yellow, fawn, gray, or chestnut in color and is smooth or wiry

  • 03 of 08

    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. 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.

    After centuries of breeding in royal kennels and on hillside farms, the breed was officially recognized in 1932. It’s interesting to note that British immigrants to Portugal took note of the country’s capable hunting dog and sought to incorporate these bloodlines into the development of the English pointer. The Portuguese pointer is also a contributor to the popular Labrador retriever.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 20 to 22 inches

    Weight: 35 to 59 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized dog with solid build and folded ears along with a somewhat short muzzle; short, coarse coat in yellow or red, with or without white markings

  • 04 of 08

    Estrela Mountain Dog

    Estrela Mountain Dog sitting by beach

    Kirill Greshnov / iStock

    One of Portugal’s oldest native dog breeds is the Estrela Mountain Dog. Its exact origin is uncertain and without documentation, but what we do know is that these dogs played an integral role in guarding the livestock and farms of the Estrela region in Portugal’s mountainous northern region. The thick coat keeps the breed warm in the high elevation climate, but can be either long or short in length.

    A large breed dog that can weigh over 120 pounds, the Estrela Mountain Dog was a formidable opponent for any wildlife or intruders that threatened the flocks or herds of the native people. At the same time, these dogs retained a docile nature with their master and family. Known for being loyal and lovable, they are still excellent watchdogs today. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 24 to 29 inches

    Weight: 77 to 132 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Large breed with heavy bones and a thick coat or a shorter but dense coat; a black face mask and folded ears are common characteristics

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Portuguese Sheepdog

    Portuguese Sheepdog portrait; up close of face

    Inaquim / iStock  

    A medium-sized dog breed with wavy hair that often obscures its eyes, 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 common herding breeds in the area such as the Pyrenean shepherd and Catalan sheepdog. The resulting dogs became increasingly common in the Serra de Aires mountains and in 1932 were given official breed status by the Portuguese Kennel Club.

    The Portuguese sheepdog has experienced a bit of a career change in the decades since becoming recognized. Today, these dogs are most often seen as family companions and suburban pets. They have an athletic build but are also playful nature—even earning the nickname ‘monkey dog’ in Portugal. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 16 to 21 inches

    Weight: 37 to 59 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-size breed with long shaggy hair; a beard, mustache, and eyebrows are typical facial hair for this breed

  • 06 of 08

    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. Developed as a natural protector of the herds and early farming settlements in Portugal, the physical nature and temperament of these dogs lends credibility to the thought that they developed from molosser-type dogs. 

    The breed is characterized by a calm but watchful nature. They’re ready to defend anyone or anything that 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 more prone to being active at night. While the Portuguese mastiff has been recognized as a breed in Portugal since 1953, it was only added to the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service in 2005 and hasn’t yet achieved official breed recognition within the United States.  

    Breed Overview

    Height: 25 to 29 inches

    Weight: 77 to 132 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: A large breed dog with an athletic body type featuring long limbs and an alert disposition; the short coat may be black, brindle, fawn, yellow, or gray and feature white markings

  • 07 of 08

    Portuguese Cattle Dog

    portuguese cattle dog

    Schiowa / Flickr / CC BY-SA

    The Portuguese Cattle Dog, like many Portuguese dog breeds, 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). It’s most telling name might be ‘Portuguese watchdog.’ These dogs were bred to watch over herds of livestock and 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 Laborerior, from which the dog gets its namesake. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: Not more than 24 inches

    Weight: 88 pounds or less

    Physical Characteristics: A well-proportioned dog with a short coarse coat, bushy tail, and folded ears; coat color is often described as 'dark wolf color,' 'light wolf color' or 'mountain color',which is a mixture of lighter and darker gray hairs with interspersed brown hair (brindle)

  • 08 of 08

    Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

    Saint Miguel Cattle Dog (cão fila de São Miguel) 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. Its origin is likely intertwined with the Terceira Dog—which has since become extinct. Considered to be an excellent cattle herding dog, the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog is recognized in its native homeland and also by the FCI.

    These cow dogs, as they’re sometimes simply referred to, are medium-sized but sturdy. The breed standard caps the dog’s weight at 77 pounds. They’re an active breed that also makes a great canine athlete. Displaying determination and a natural tendency to guard, they are also very intelligent and highly obedient—making them trainable for a variety of purposes.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 19 to 23 inches

    Weight: 44 to 77 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: A medium-sized dog with pointed muzzle with folded or cropped ears and a full-length or docked tail; the short, coarse coat may be solid with white markings or brindle