The Estrela Mountain Dog or Cao Da Serra Da
Estrela as the breed is known in its native Portugal, is a guarding breed which originates from the Estrela mountain region in the North of the country. The breed is old and is thought to have
evolved from the Mastiff dogs the Romans took with them into the Iberian Peninsula, this theory can not be proved or disproved it is safe to say the breed is very old.
The development of the breed was in the hands of the local farmers who highly prized the dogs' guarding ability. As the sheep and goats were often the sole source of livelihood for the farmer, only dogs who excelled in guarding were kept and bred from, this meant that the breed could be quite formidable and not to be taken lightly.
As transportation in the mountain region was difficult, the breed was kept fairly pure by the use of only dogs that occurred locally. The breed has developed over hundreds of years and is still a good guard as well as a family pet. The Estrela had to be capable of dealing with a full grown wolf and so it developed into a strong powerful dog who is supple and agile, and should show no signs of being cumbersome and slow, the breed has a fair turn of speed.
They are also very capable of clambering over very rough terrain. In the times before the wolf was wiped out, the dogs often wore heavy metal spiked collars to protect them against attack.
At one time the breed caught the eye of the
aristocracy and were a decorative addition to the villas and mansions where they were bred and sold as pets, in this way they moved out of the mountains and into the country as a whole. Today, there
are not many Portuguese who have not heard of the Estrela.
As a breed they are wonderful with children, I believe that an Estrela bitch would protect a baby with its life, which makes them the perfect guard or companion dog. Estrelas love human contact but they are not a demanding breed and will adapt to your household quite happily and fit in with you. The guard instinct is strong and so the breed can be noisy - which as far as I am concerned is their only drawback - this is controllable, however.
Being an agile breed it does require good high fencing to keep them in, but I have found that if they have never gotten out then they do not try. An Estrela pup grows rapidly and so they do cost a lot to rear, if it is done properly. As an adult they do not eat a huge amount, and in fact getting weight on them is often a problem. The breed seem to do well on quite a low protein diet, and they do not tolerate very rich food well.
Training should start as soon as you get your new pup home, start as you mean to carry on and you will have a great relationship for many happy years. The average Lifespan is about 10 years which is good for one of the larger breeds, there have been dogs older than this. I hope this has given you an insight into this lovely breed, and in the future if you are looking for the perfect breed for you, I hope you bear the Estrela Mountain Dog in mind.
The Estrela Mountain Dog comes in three recognised colours. The Brindle, Fawn and Wolf Grey. The variations in colour are relitivly wide, however, all should have a clearly defined black mask on the face. The breed also comes in a short coat variety in the same colours.