13 Top Dog Breeds From Spain

Hounds, mastiffs, sheepdogs, and other canines from Spanish Iberia

Spanish Galgo at the beacj

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The Spanish Royal Canine Society states there are just about two dozen dog breeds native to its country and only half are recognized by any international kennel clubs. Many of those are extremely rare, even in their home country of Spain. Spanish dog breeds were livestock protectors, herders, and hunters. In periods of war, the Spanish used starved dogs in combat to fight with ravenous, viciousness. Despite their bloody history, today, most of the dogs make excellent family companions and working dogs.

Many of these Spanish breeds are hard to find in the U.S. Do your research to find a reputable breeder and be aware that you might have to go on a waiting list to secure a puppy.

Breed Characteristics

Many of these dogs have strong working or hunting drives. Do your research to determine if the typical breed traits and characteristics will be a good match for your home and lifestyle. These dogs usually require mental stimulation, plenty of exercise, and goal-oriented, positive reinforcement training.

Here are 13 Spanish dog breeds recognized by the Spanish Royal Canine Society and at least one international kennel club.

  • 01 of 13

    Catalan Sheepdog

    Catalan Sheepdog sitting in a field

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    This is an ancient breed that has been used to herd and protect livestock in the northeast of Spain. Rare outside of their home country, they're more common in European countries than in the United States. Their distinctive long coat kept them warm when working in the mountainous and often chilly Pyrenean mountains. The Catalan sheepdog is an intelligent, driven, and hard-working breed. They'll be best suited to an active home that loves spending time outdoors. They're smart and easy to train but require physical and mental enrichment to prevent behavioral issues. The breed is incredibly loyal and protective. Their tendency to herd and chase needs to be kept in check.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Pastoral Group (UKC); not an AKC recognized breed

    Height: 17 to 19 inches

    Weight: 37 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Double coat; topcoat is long and flat or wavy; comes in sable, fawn, or gray, and shades of red, brown, white, or black throughout the coat

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 02 of 13

    Ibizan Hound

    Ibizan Hound running through long grass

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    With their large, erect ears and svelte shape, the Ibizan hound is a distinctive and elegant sighthound. They originate from the Balearic Islands, off the coast of Spain. These dogs have a very long history; their ancestors can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Fast, agile, and full of stamina, it hunts rabbits and hares. With a high prey drive, they may not be suited to living with small furries, and you have to work hard to achieve a solid recall. This breed can be aloof with strangers but is usually calm and even-tempered. They make good family dogs in an active household.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 28 inches (males); 22 to 26 inches (females)

    Weight: 50 pounds (male); 45 pounds (female)

    Coat and Color: Coarse hair that can be smooth or wiry; comes in solid red, solid white, or white and red patterns

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 03 of 13

    Perro de Presa Canario

    Perro de Presa Canario Standing in a garden

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    Often shortened to presa Canario, it means prey dog from the Canary Islands. This large mastiff-type breed is an impressive guard dog and livestock herder on farms. Sadly, people also used them for dogfighting. They're calm, intelligent, and utterly devoted to their families. They can also be strong-willed, and they're best suited to an experienced home that can handle this strong breed and tame its guarding traits. They can be aggressive towards other dogs and could attack if they perceive a threat. Early and ongoing socialization and training are critical with this breed.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 84 to 110 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short and coarse coat in brown/black, fawn, or brindle, occasionally with white markings

    Life Expectancy: 9 to 11 years

  • 04 of 13

    Podenco

    Podenco Canario standing in front of a wooden pallet

    Natasha Cottrell / Getty Images

    There are several podenco types in Spain, meaning "hound" in Spanish. These sighthound breeds are characterized by their pointed, large, erect ears and sleep shape. They come in a wide variety of sizes. The Ibizan hound is considered a podenco. These sighthounds were commonly used for hunting rabbits across the different regions of Spain. Unfortunately, podencos are often mistreated by traditional hunter owners, who treat them as tools instead of caring for them as valued creatures.

    The podenco plight has achieved international attention, and many are being rescued and adopted. Podencos can make excellent family companions. They tend to be affectionate and playful and enjoy being active. They can be strong-willed and may need a little extra patience when it comes to training, especially with recall since they have a strong prey drive.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 13 inches to 28 inches

    Weight: 18 pounds to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Smooth, wire, or long-coated in a variety of colors, most commonly brown or red and often with white markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

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  • 05 of 13

    Spanish Galgo

    Spanish Galgo standing in a garden

    Sveta Elfimova / Getty Images

    Perhaps the most recognizable of all the breeds to originate in Spain, the Galgo Espanol is easily confused with the greyhound. They are often called the Spanish greyhound. Although they're slightly smaller, they look similar and have a comparable temperament. Galgos, with their incredible bursts of speed, agility, and stamina, have been used for hunting in Spain for hundreds of years. Like podencos, they often suffer extreme cruelty, neglect, and even death at the hands of their hunter owners.

    Due to public outcry, people are stepping in to help Galgos across Spain. The lucky ones are finding loving forever homes in their home country and internationally. They can make wonderful family pets. Like greyhounds, they tend to be couch potatoes around the home and like nothing better than a comfy sofa to curl up. They have a high prey drive and may not be suited to living with small furries.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 25 to 26 inches

    Weight: 60 to 65 pounds (males); 50 to 55 pounds (females)

    Coat and Color: Short smooth or rough coat that comes in a wide variety of solid and mixed color varieties, including brindle, black and golden

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 06 of 13

    Spanish Mastiff

    Young Spanish Mastiff lying on mossy groung

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    The Spanish mastiff or mastín Español is a giant breed developed to protect livestock in rural Spain, especially Merino sheep. They have a long history, and their ancestors were thought to have arrived in the country with the Greeks and Phoenicians over 2,000 years ago. They were popular with Spanish shepherds as they're intelligent, independent protectors that take their guarding and defensive duties seriously. Fiercely loyal and generally calm, despite their size, they don't need huge amounts of exercise. They can be territorial, protective, and strong-willed and need to be well-socialized to avoid problem behaviors.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Molossoid/mountain (FCI); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 28 to 35 inches

    Weight: 140 to 200 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick, medium-length coat that comes in a variety of colors including black, fawn, red, gray, and yellow, and can be seen with brindle or white markings

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 07 of 13

    Spanish Water Dog

    Spanish Water dog stading on sandy beach

    Antonio Rubio / Flckr / CC BY 2.0

     

    The Spanish water dog stands out because of its distinctive curly, woolly coat that can form into cords when long. The breed was initially developed as a hard-working all-purpose farm dog that could guard, herd, and catch vermin. With webbed feet, a waterproof coat, and strong swimming skills, people also used them for waterfowl retrieval and fishing boats. Active, alert, and intelligent, this Spanish dog often excels at competitive dog sports. They can have a stubborn and independent streak, and without the proper socialization, they can be wary of strangers and territorial.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 17.5 to 19.5 inches

    Weight: 30 to 50 pounds

    Coat and Color: Unique curly and wooly single coat that comes in black, brown-beige, white, solid, or parti-color with white as the second color

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 08 of 13

    Bichon Frise

    Bichon Frise standing on grass

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    The bichon frise is most commonly associated with France, where they grew in popularity as a companion dog in the 16th century. But this merry little breed originated from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where people used them as sailing dogs and sometimes even as eager little herders. Bichons are compact, playful, and usually have happy-go-lucky personalities with moderate exercise requirements. They are a popular choice as a family dog and can adapt well to apartment living. Bichons can be prone to separation anxiety. The breed's coat needs a fair amount of maintenance to prevent mats from forming.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 9 to 12 inches

    Weight: 7 to 12 pounds

    Coat and Color: Fluffy and curly white hair and may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream

    Life Expectancy: 14 to 15 years

    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13

    Majorca Shepherd Dog

    The perro de pastor Mallorquin or Majorcan sheepdog was used in the Balearic Islands for guarding sheep and as a general-purpose farm dog. Its lineage traces back to the 1200s, although its history likely dates back to ancient times. While still used on Spanish farms today and kept as a companion animal, this breed is rarely spotted internationally and is considered a rare breed. It comes in both shorthaired and longhaired varieties.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (UKC); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: Up to 27.5 inches

    Weight: Up to 88 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short-haired or long-haired with very fine, thin undercoat in black, usually with a patch of white on the chest

    Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

  • 10 of 13

    Pyrenean Mastiff

    The Pyrenean mastiff is an intelligent livestock guard dog from the Pyrenees Mountains, which ranges from Spain and France. It protected flocks from wolves, bears, and thieves. This dog doesn't have a high prey drive but instead guards its family and other animals. It loves children and people it knows. A strong breed, it does not back down when threatened. It's a big drooler, so expect a little clean-up in its wake.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Molossoid/mountain (FCI); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 25 to 31 inches

    Weight: 120 to 240 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick, double coated with a white base coat with patches of color, including medium gray, deep gold, sand, dusk, black, silver gray, light tan, sand, brindle, and red

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

  • 11 of 13

    Majorcan Bulldog (Ca de Bou)

    The Majorcan bulldog or mastiff, otherwise known as the ca de bou in Catalan, or perro de presa Mallorquin in Spanish, was used on the island of Majorca for blood sports like bullbaiting and dogfighting. It likely developed during the Catalan period in Majorca between 1270 and 1570. This breed is devoted to its family, having a loving spirit and playful nature. They are a high-energy breed, can become dominant if not trained appropriately, and benefit from experienced owners who live a more active lifestyle.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Molossoid/mountain (FCI); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 20 to 23 inches

    Weight: 66 to 84 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short and rough coat in brindle, fawn, or black

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 12 of 13

    Spanish Hound (Sabueso Espanol)

    This scenthound originated from the far northern part of the Iberian peninsula in the mountainous area to hunt for all types of game, ranging from boar, hare, bear, deer, fox, and more. It was first described in the 14th century by King Alphonse XI. This dog remains a working gundog employed for wild boar hunting in the North and rabbit hunting in the South. It is a gentle, easy-going breed that makes an excellent companion dog.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (FCI, UKC); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 18 to 22 inches

    Weight: 53 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Fine, smooth, flat hair in white and orange, ranging in hue from lemon to dark russet brown

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

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  • 13 of 13

    Spanish Pointer (Perdiguero de Burgos)

    The Burgos pointer, also called the Burgalese or Spanish pointer, originated from the Castile region, primarily in the province of Burgos. It dates back to the 16th century, likely descended from the old Spanish pointer and Spanish scenthound. This hardy breed was historically used for deer hunting, today it is used for hunting small game like hare, quail, and partridge.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Gundog (UKC); not an AKC-recognized breed

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 55 to 66 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, bushy, smooth; white and tan or white and liver or dark brown in their coloring

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Breeds to Avoid

The smallest dog from Spain is the bichon frise, topping off at about 12 pounds. The rest of the dogs from this country are larger, working dogs. So, if you're looking for a Spanish-type dog, steer clear of teacup toy dog breeds. Also, if you look closely at this list of Spanish breeds, there are no wolfy or fox-like spitz breeds. Those northern, Arctic breeds are not representative of dogs from the Iberian peninsula.