Rafeiro do Alentejo
The Rafeiro do Alentejo or Alentejo Mastiff, also called the Portuguese Mastiff, is a breed
Dog breed
Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock....

 of dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

 that originated in Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

. The Rafeiro do Alentejo is of the livestock guardian dog
Livestock guardian dog
A livestock guardian dog is a domesticated canine used to defend livestock against predators. LGDs are commonly referred to as "sheep dogs" since they most often have guarded flocks of sheep, but most are capable of guarding other species of livestock. They are classified as pastoral dogs...

Dog type
Dog types are broad categories of dogs based on function, with dogs identified primarily by specific function or style of work rather than by lineage or appearance....

, and the name refers to its area of origin, Alentejo, in south-central Portugal. The word rafeiro means mongrel
Mixed-breed dog
A mixed-breed dog, also known as a mutt or mongrel, is a dog whose ancestry is generally unknown and that has characteristics of two or more types of breeds. A mixed-breed may be a cross-breed dog, a random-bred dog, or a descendant of feral or pariah dog populations...

 in Portuguese.


The Rafeiro is a very large dog, averaging 47.5 kg (104.5 lb) and 73 cm (28.7 in) at the withers
The withers is the ridge between the shoulder blades of a four-legged animal. In many species it is the tallest point of the body, and in horses and dogs it is the standard place to measure the animal's height .-Horses:The withers in horses are formed by the dorsal spinal processes of roughly the...

. The head is described as bear-like. Eyes should be dark, never yellow. The ears are set medium high and fold downwards. The dog has a deep chest, and should have a general aspect of length (not whippety, the standard says.)

The fur is short to medium, the same length all over, and can be black, yellow, and fawn (a light brown colour) with white markings, or white with other colours. The coat
Dog coat
Dog coat can refer to:*rug , jacket or blanket for a dog*coat , dog's fur or hair...

 can be streaked or brindled
Brindle is a coat coloring pattern in animals, particularly dogs, cats, cattle, guinea pigs, crested geckos and, rarely, horses. It is sometimes described as "tiger striped", although the brindle pattern is more subtle than that of a tiger's coat...

 or dappled.


The breed standard describes the breed as "sober" (meaning "marked by seriousness, gravity, or solemnity of conduct"), his movement as slow and rolling, and as having a calm expression. Individual dogs may vary in behaviour and temperament, and puppies must be well socialized.

As with all very large dogs, they are not the dogs for beginners. Dogs of this size and type have the potential to be a danger to others if not well socialized at an early age, and are recommended only for the experienced dog handler who has the time to socialize and train the dog. This Mountain dog
Mountain dog
Mountain dog is a generic form of canidae, dog, dog breed or landrace typically from mountain environs.They are often a working dog, particularly a livestock or flock guardian or farm dog. By and large, these dogs tend to have a claimed Molosser dog in their genetic heritage...

 matures slowly, are very independent, and often do not respond to traditional force methods of dog obedience training
Obedience training
Obedience training usually refers to the training of a dog and the term is most commonly used in that context. Obedience training ranges from very basic training, such as teaching the dog to reliably respond to basic commands such as "sit", "down", "come", and "stay", to high level competition...

. They are extremely territorial and will protect the sheep, households, and families they feel were placed under their protection. They are not aggressive but protective and are said to get along quite well with children.


Rafeiro do Alentejo are of the very ancient molosser
Molosser is a category of large, solidly-built dog that includes several breeds, probably all descended from the same root stock. The name derives from Molossia, a subregion of ancient Epirus, ancient Greece, where the large shepherd dog was known as the Molossus.The proper noun "Mastiff", however,...

Dog type
Dog types are broad categories of dogs based on function, with dogs identified primarily by specific function or style of work rather than by lineage or appearance....

 that migrated with humans from Central Asia. When the dogs arrived in the Iberian Peninsula is not known; they may have come with nomads sometime in prehistory, or have been brought by the Romans when they ruled the area thousands of years ago. It is often supposed that the breed is related to the Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed and type of domestic dog originating with nomadic cultures of Central Asia.-Names and etymology:...

, but no proof of this exists. Perhaps in the future, DNA evidence will prove when the dogs arrived and what their ancestry is, but for now there is no proof, only legends, guesswork, and speculation.

What is known is that this breed and the ancient types from which it descended have been used to move sheep from mountains in northern Portugal to the plateau of Alentejo and back to the mountain. Due to changes in agriculture and livestock raising, and the elimination of large predators, the breed ceased to have economic use and began to decline. Fanciers
Animal fancy
Animal fancy is a hobby involving the appreciation, promotion, or breeding of pet or domestic animals.Fancy may include ownership, showing, trialling and other competitions, breeding and judging. Hobbyists may simply collect specimens of the animal in appropriate enclosures, such as aquaria and...

, however, have been able to keep the breed alive, although, in Portugal, it is still considered "vulnerable". Today the Rafeiro do Alentejo is most often kept as a companion
Companion dog
Companion dog usually describes a dog that does not work, providing only companionship as a pet, rather than usefulness by doing specific tasks. Many of the toy dog breeds are used only for the pleasure of their company, not as workers...

 and guard dog
Guard dog
A guard dog, an attack dog or watch dog is a dog used to guard against, and watch for, unwanted or unexpected people or animals. The dog is discriminating so that it does not annoy or attack familiar people.-Barking:...


The Rafeiro do Alentejo (Alentejo Mastiff) is recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale
Fédération Cynologique Internationale
Fédération Cynologique Internationale is an international federation of kennel clubs based in Thuin, Belgium. The English language translation, World Canine Organisation, is not often used.Its goals are described in Article 2 of their regulations:...

 in Group 2, Section 2.2 Mastiffs, Mountain Type, Portugal (breed number 96). Other Portuguese breeds in Section 2.2 include the Cão da Serra da Estrela (number 173) and the Cão de Castro Laboreiro
Cão de Castro Laboreiro
The Cão de Castro Laboreiro, or Dog from Castro Laboreiro, or Portuguese Cattle Dog or Portuguese Watch Dog, is a dog breed of the livestock guardian dog type, originating from Castro Laboreiro in the northern mountains of Portugal....

, number 150. The Associação Dos Criadores Do Rafeiro Do Alentejo is the official breed club for the Rafeiro do Alentejo in Portugal. Rafeiro do Alentejo are now included in the Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel Club
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official...

 (as the Rafeiro do Alentejo) and fully recognised by the United Kennel Club
United Kennel Club
The United Kennel Club is the second oldest all-breed registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States and the second largest in the world. According to the website, the club records 250,000 registrations annually. The UKC is not part of the International Canine Organisation, Fédération...

 in the United States, in the Guardian Dog Group
Guardian Dog Group
Guardian Dog Group is the name of a breed Group of dogs, used by kennel clubs to classify a defined collection of dog breeds.- Guardian dogs :Guardian dogs are dogs bred to defend people and their possessions...

 (as the Alentejo Mastiff). It may also be sold by commercial breeders under the Rafeiro do Alentejo name or any of the various translations and English versions of the name, with registration by minor kennel clubs that require little to no breed verification for registration, or listed by internet-based dog registry businesses where it is promoted as a rare breed
Rare breed (dog)
Rare breed is any breed of dog that is small in number. Since dogs have greater genetic variability than other domesticated animals the number of possible breeds is vast...

 for those seeking a unique pet.


Little data exists for health problems in this breed. However, when bred to be very oversize, they may be subject to hip dysplasia, and dogs with deep chests sometimes suffer from bloat.

External links

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