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Estrela Mountain Dog

Estrela Mountain Dog Books

Group: Pastoral - Breed Standard


Although the exact age of this breed is unknown, it is regarded as an ancient breed, and indeed is reputed to be the oldest breed in the Iberian Peninsular. Originating in Portugal, the Estrela Mountain Dog was developed as a flock guardian. In the summer they would go up into the high pastures in the Estrela Mountains, guarding the shepherd and his flocks from predators such as wolves and occasionally bears. In the winter they were used as a general guard dog, often being left to guard the children. They were also known to be used as draught dogs, although this was not a common use.

The breed was first introduced to Britain in 1974, with the first litter being born in quarantine on May 14th. A year later (to the day) they were recognised by The Kennel Club. The Estrela Mountain Dog is currently classified as a rare breed by The Kennel Club, which means that they are unable to gain the title of Champion in the UK.


Height: dogs: 65-72 cms (25½ ins); bitches: 62-68 cms (24½ - 27 ins). A tolerance of 4 cms (1½ ins) above these limits is allowed.

The Estrela is well built, sturdy and of the Mastiff type. A hardy dog, with plenty of stamina, he gives the impression of strength and vigour. A powerful head, being long with a broad and slightly rounded skull. The ears are carried falling backwards against the side of the head, and are small in relation to the body. The neck is short and thick, with what seems to be a dewlap, especially in dogs, although a true dewlap is not desired. Under the throat is a thick tuft of hair. The straight forelegs are well muscled, moderately sloping shoulders with rounded forearms. The pasterns are short and appear nearly vertical from the side. The back is short and slightly higher at the withers than at the loins. The deep chest is well sprung without being barrel chested. The well muscled loins are short, and the lower line gently rises from the sternum to the groin. The thighs are also well muscled and the angulation is moderate. The thick feet have an abundance of hair between the pads. The dewclaws on the hindlegs are usually removed. A long hairy tail is well feathered and has a hook which resembles a scimitar. When the dog is excited, the tail is carried higher. The Estrela has a distinctive purposeful jog trot, which is free and easy with plenty of drive.

There are two coat types — The long coat has a thick, fairly harsh outer coat on the body which resembles goat hair. The undercoat is very dense and usually lighter in colour than the outer coat. The hair on the head is smooth and short while around the neck it is thick, and forms a ruff on the chest. An abundance of hair and feathering covers the thighs, lower hocks and backs of the forearm. The short coat is also moderately harsh and thick, again resembly goat hair. The dense undercoat is also shorter and feathering should be in proportion. The recognised colours are fawn, which varies from burnt yellow through to reddish gold and to a deep red, with or without guard hairs, but never be so pale as to look like a dirty white. Brindle, any of the permitted colours, with the addition of streaks, or smudges, of black or brown. Wolf grey.


The true Estrela character is a loyal, loving soul-mate. They are stand-offish with people they do not know, and upon meeting strangers, they will wait, gauging your reaction first and will then act accordingly. Although an independent breed, love affection, but never tend to become nuisance. They can be stubborn and self-willed but with lots of Tender Loving Care will always give in to your wishes in the end! As older puppies and young juniors they tend to try "pushing their luck", but a firm hand and consistency should soon prevail. They should never be nervous or show unprovoked aggression, a true Estrela is a delightful friend for life. An Estrela should be totally trustworthy with children of any age, at any time. If they are respected for the magnificent animal they are, they are a joy to own and make wonderful family pets. Although they love all the family, they do tend to bond more with one member. Activity is fairly low key ? they like to play, but they also sleep a lot. A cool place is always welcome.

Breed Health

In general the Estrela is a healthy breed. However, some close breeding seems to be introducing certain health problems, hips need to be watched (see hip dysplasia) and there are also some gastric problems. The Breed Club encourages breeders to hip-score their breeding stock. The average life-span of an Estrela is about 10-12 years.

Breed Care

The Estrela does not require much grooming, and a good brush once a week should keep their coat in good condition. Pads, hocks and pasterns can be tidied with a little trimming if desired. More attention is needed when the dog is moulting, and a good 'slicker' brush, a wide toothed comb and a good rake will make grooming easier. They moult seasonally and will lose their complete undercoat. This can be quite drastic - some moult to a skimpy bikini, others will always retain a fair coat. However, the hairs are easy to clean up.


An Estrela will do as much or as little exercise as you want, your company comes first!


Estrelas will work with you as a partner but do not react well to being dominated. Ask him and he will do anything for you, eventually! They are very intelligent but like you to think otherwise. Patience helps when training them! They are not very obedient nor willing to please and can be single minded, stubborn, selectively deaf, the rest of the time they're great! See our books on training

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Last link added: 11 Jan, 2006