This is a large, formidable, beautiful dog. Its ears are rose-shaped and fold back at the top, like a Greyhound’s ears. They have distinctive black masks that contrast with their yellow, brindle, or fawn coats. They occasionally have white markings.
The coat is thick and coarse, with the feel of goat’s hair, and comes in long-haired and short-haired varieties. You’ll see the long-haired type in the show ring; the short-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs are usually working dogs.
As with some other mountain dog breeds such as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Estrela Mountain Dog is particularly good with children. Patient, kind, and gentle, it makes a great family dog as well as a fierce guardian. This beautiful and versatile dog is able to switch from protective mode to nurturing mode as needed. You will enjoy living with your Estrela Mountain Dog as long as the leadership is clear.
Grooming is surprisingly easy for most of the year — just a brush a week — but twice annually they shed heavily and need several daily brushings.
The Estrela Mountain Dog is intelligent and confident. Human leadership must be established as early on as possible. They are trainable but can be stubborn, so you need patience and time to make this a great family dog. Because this is a roaming dog, you must also give it plenty of mental stimulation and exercise.
The Estrela Mountain Dog is robust, with few recorded health problems and a long life expectancy for a large working dog. Hip and elbow dysplasia are the most common issues.
The Estrela Mountain Dog is called the Cao da Serra da Estrela in its homeland of Portugal. It is one of the oldest breeds in the Estrela Mountains region. It took hundreds of years of breeding the best guardian-herding dogs to produce today’s standard. This meant selecting dogs that were large, strong, fearless, independent, and loyal.
In 1933, the standard of the breed was developed. Because there was so little documentation by the original shepherd breeders, the standard was not honed until the late 1950s. The Portuguese police use these dogs for police work; the breed is sometimes used to pull carts.
There are a number of U.S. breeders, as well as the Estrela Mountain Dog Association of America. You can even find one through an Estrela Mountain Dog rescue.