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Rafeiro do Alentejo

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Rafeiro do Alentejo
Rafeiro do Alentejo male
Rafeiro do Alentejo male
Alternative names
Portuguese Sheepdog
Portuguese Mastiff
Country of origin
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Rafeiro do Alentejo, known also as Portuguese Sheepdog or Portuguese Mastiff, is a breed of dog.


The Rafeiro is a large dog, with males weighing around 110 pounds (50 kg) and females, 90 pounds (41 kg).

The following is the summary taken from standard of the Continental Kennel Club:

Description: Head: Bear like, short muzzle. Eyes: Dark. Ears: Hanging. tapered. Nose: Black and self-colored according to coat. Bite: Scissor or level. Neck: Short. Top-line: Level. Chest: Thick. Body: Rectangular, well muscled, strong bone. Legs: Forelegs are long, strong, muscular. Hind legs are strong, hocks are moderately bent. Feet: Oval. Tail: Long, curved at end. Movement: Swift and very agile, with flowing gait. Temperament: High-spirited, yet very lovable.


They are not the dogs for beginners. They mature slowly, are very independent, and often do not respond to traditional concepts of dog obedience. On the other hand, they are extremely territorial and will protect the sheep, households, and families they feel were placed under their protection. Rafeiro do Alentejo are guard dogs without herding qualities. They are not aggressive but protective; they get along quite well with children.


The dogs are descendents of Tibetan Mastiffs, believed to be the oldest breed of dogs. They are closely related to Anatolian Mastiffs, known also as Anatolian Shepherd Dogs. Rafeiro do Alentejo have been used, for centuaries, to move sheep, during winter, from mountains in northern Portugal to the plateau of Alentejo and back to the mountain. Gradually they adjusted to living in Alentejo province. The breed was threatened with extinction but survived largely due to an organized effort by a few dedicated people.

At present there are very few registered and recognized breeders but the number of dogs is steadily increasing. The breed is recognized by the Continental Kennel Club and, recently, the Rafeiro do Alentejo were admitted to the Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel Club.

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