Rafeiro do Alentejo

Type: Mastiff

Height: Males: 27 - 30 inches; Females: 25 - 28 inches.

Weight: Males: 110 - 155 lbs.; Females: 95 - 121 lbs.

Life Span: 12 years is average.

Litter Size: Anywhere from 9 - 13 puppies. This breed has large litters.

Country of Origin: Portugal

Activity: Low

Watch-dog: High. Especially high at night, when they are more alert.

Guard-dog: High. This breed's sole purpose is to protect whatever it deems its own.


Description: The Rafeiro do Alentejo, which is the Rafeiro of Alentejo, is a large dog that rather looks like a short haired Saint Bernard. They have a wide, bear like head, and are longer than they are tall. They have more length than brawn as a big dog, but are still rather bulky and loosely muscled. They have been used for centuries as a guard dog and herding dog of sheep. The name comes from the region in which they originated, the Alentejo province south of Lisbon, Portugal. Characteristic of a guard dog, this Portuguese Mastiff has great guarding tendencies and is not afraid to be aggressive if the need be. In fact, this breed rarely makes a good house dog, as it is naturally more protective than most breeds. It is also difficult to command, as it is rather willful and hard-headed. They are peaceful around family and children, but can be threatening to strangers. Their deep bark can be heard from a long way off. They need plenty of space, being used to having the outdoors as their home. The Rafeiro do Alentejo can be portrayed as "too much dog for most people."  They are, however, readily trained in guarding flocks of sheep, and make a fine hunter as well.

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Other Names: Portuguese Mastiff, Alentejo Mastiff, Portuguese Watchdog , Mastiff Portuguese, Rafeiro Alentejo

Colors: Fawn or yellow with white markings, black, wolf-like, or white with markings of these colors. They can be either dappled, streaked or brindle.

Coat: Short or preferably of medium length, heavy, dense, straight and evenly covering the body down to the space between the toes.

Temperament: Rafeiro do Alentejos are different from other dogs. They are not for beginners, and should only be kept by a dog-experienced person. They mature slowly and do not respond to the typical training methods. They can be trained, however, to do a job. These dogs are independent, extremely territorial, and good protectors. They will protect their household, their sheep, and their families that they feel are under their protection. They are particularly alert at night, but still vigilant during the day. They are more aggressive than the average breed, which can simply be interpreted as

With Children: Yes, good with children. Calm and peaceful.

With Pets: Yes, if raised with them and socialized when young.

Special Skills: Guard dog and hunter.

Care and Training: This breed needs an average amount of exercise. They do not like to exert all their energy on meaningless activities, however, as they would rather save energy for protection or hunting. They should be given a regular walk to keep them in shape. Care of the coat requires only a bristle brush and slicker only once in a while. The short hair is not high maintenance, but the coat does shed heavily twice a year. It should simply be brushed out thoroughly. The ears, nails and teeth should be checked and/or trimmed periodically. Training should begin at an early age. The importance of this training is stressed on this breed, as once they become a large dog that can become uncontrollable if not properly socialized and trained. They are stubborn, independent and therefore need to be taught as a puppy how to behave. If this is done, other training should come easier.

Learning Rate: Medium. Obedience – Low. Problem Solving – Low.

Special Needs: Socialization, training, a fenced yard, and leash.

Living Environment: The Rafeiro do Alentejo needs a lot of space to roam, as well as needs to be fenced in. They also do better with a job to do. Therefore, the best owner for this breed would be a dog-experienced owner living in a rural environment with a job or activity for the dog to do.

Health Issues: Hip dysplasia is rare. This breed is rather healthy.

History: This breed has survived in the Alentejo region that is south of Lisbon in Portugal for some time. They are thought to be a very old breed that descends from the Tibetan Mastiffs of Asia. They are thought to have come from the Estrela Mountain Dog and the Mastin de Espanol. In the winter times, the Estrela Mountain Dogs would come south into the Alentejo, and thus spread their genes. From the other side of the border was thought that the Mastin de Espanol contributed to the breed as well. Apparently there were more than one coat type back then, but the smooth coat gained dominance in popularity. Another theory which is more widely accepted is that the Rafeiro do Alentejo was created from the Anatolian Shepherd Dog. They are also thought to have been bred with the St. John's Dog. The Rafeiro do Alentejo was used for centuries to move sheep during winter from the northern region of Portugal, Douro, to the plateau of Alentejo, then back to the mountainous northern Portugal again. In the late 1940s a census was sent out to gather information on the breed, and in 1953 a standard was set by Antonio Cabral and Filipe Romeiras. From the 1960s to the 1980s the Rafeiro do Alentejo's numbers went down extensively, resulting in poor quality dogs, as well as poor numbers. But due to the efforts of several avid breeders, the Rafeiro do Alentejo was brought back to stable numbers again. The breed is still relatively rare outside its native Portugal, but its numbers have increased slowly but steadily.

First Registered by the AKC: FSS (Foundation Service Stock - not yet eligible for the AKC)

AKC Group: Working Group

Class: Working

Registries: FCI (Group 2)