Castro Laboreiro Dog (Cão de Castro Laboreiro)

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wolf; brindle coat with a base colour of different shades of grey overlaid with lighter and darker shades of black brindling
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Pros Cons
  • extremely devoted to its family
  • easy to groom
  • excellent guardian and watchdog
  • independent and stubborn
  • difficult to train
  • needs a lot of daily exercises

The Castro Laboreiro Dog is a courageous and reliable working dog, which was developed in the village Castro Laboreiro situated in the highlands of northern Portugal. Currently there are 200-500 purebred specimens living so it’s a truly rare breed. Furthermore it’s regarded as one of the oldest livestock guardians, which came from Iberian Peninsula.

The Castro Laboreiro Dog existed in its native Portugal for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. The first records of this breed dates back to the XVIII century but it was kept by rural Portuguese farmers much, much longer before that. Evidently all suggestions of its ancestry are based on scattered facts and so it they are a mere guesswork.

Up until recently there has been a theory that the breed descended from Mastiff-type dogs, which were imported to Portugal during Roman era. Some dogs’ experts even claimed that its direct forefather is the Molossus, the renowned Roman war-dog and predecessor of most mastiff-type breeds. This theory has been lately recognised as being beneath criticism for two major reasons. First of all, the Castro Laboreiro Dog very remotely resembles the descriptions of majority of Mastiff-type dogs. And secondly, newly conducted genetic research showed that it doesn’t share common ancestry with other Portuguese guarding breeds, considering that most of them are Mastiffs. With much more probability the breed can be ascribed to the group of the Lupomolossoids. Under this classification group dogs’ historians united breeds, which are considered to be a descendant from first guarding dogs. This implies that the breed was developed between 5000 to 7000 years ago when agriculture was introduced to this region.

For centuries the Castro Laboreiro Dog was used by Portuguese farmers as a highly reliable guard dog. The secluded highlands of northern Portugal served an habitant for various predators, which posed notable threat for local livestock. The dog was responsible for detecting a ferocious animal and notifying with its vocal bark about its approach. Throughout its history this region was frequently invaded by various armies as long as robbers and bandits so the security of the household was of first priority for poor farmers. The Castro Laboreiro Dog had to protect the farmer’s families at night.

The breed’s population concentrated predominantly in a small area around Castro Laboreiro but it was rather well-known in Portugal. During the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century local predators were driven to the edge of extinction. During this time the situation with banditry was taken under control by improved police forces. That’s why many local farmers deserted their Castro Laboreiro Dogs and its number shrank drastically. Thanks to several loyal fanciers the breed was preserved and nowadays it’s kept as property guarding dog and a home pet. In 1935 it received international recognition by Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the Castro Laboreiro in 2006.

The Castro Laboreiro Dog specialises in guarding and possesses personality, which is fairly typical for a guard dog. It forms strong bonds with its family and expresses an outmost devotion to it. Furthermore it tends to love and protect every its member equally. The dog needs to be correctly socialised with children to treat them with proper gentleness and attentiveness. At the same time it usually quickly loses its patience so it’s essential to constantly observe its interaction with younger members of the family.

It’s well known that the Castro Laboreiro Dog demonstrates distrust and even aggression when it meets unfamiliar people. Even properly trained specimen will welcome new acquaintances with fierce growl and threatening posturing. Although it seldom resorts to force and confines itself to stern warning. Its ferocity is capable to deter virtually any intruder so it will make an exceptional watchdog. And of course this dog excels as a guard dog both for property and personal.

Due to its powerful protective instinct the Castro Laboreiro Dog has bad reputation with other canines, which are oftentimes perceived as trespassers on its subordinated territory. It doesn’t mean that it can’t live with other dogs. Actually it usually closely attaches to the dog with which it has been raised together. However some males can develop notable canine aggression so they should be kept as a single dog. The breed is usually at odds with other species of animals and pursues and kills stray cats. Castro Laboreiro Dog can get on fairly well only with a home cat, which it has known since its puppyhood.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• gastric torsion;
• eye problems.


The grooming of the Castro Laboreiro Dog requires very little efforts and time. Its owner should brush the dogs’ coat only occasionally and he will never have to take it to a professional groomer. The rest consists of some regular care practices like nail clipping, teeth brushing and ear cleaning. The Castro Laboreiro Dog is predominantly kept as a yard dog so nothing can be stated for sure about the level of its shedding. However it sheds and more frequent brushing will help to reduce this problem.

The Castro Laboreiro Dog is very difficult to train since vast majority of its specimens are independent thinkers and obey poorly even to their master. Many of these dogs are extremely stubborn, sometimes to the point of defiance. This breed also strives to assert dominant stance and will periodically challenge the alpha position of the handler.

It doesn’t purport that the Castro Laboreiro Dog can’t be trained but it definitely means that its master should be more patient, dedicated and consistent when things concern the dogs’ training. It doesn’t respond at all to tough methods of training so it’s necessary to apply only positive reinforcement while working with this dog.

The Castro Laboreiro is well accommodated for very strenuous physical activities and its favourite type of physical activity is walking. On the whole this dog requires impressive amount of exercise to feel itself fully happy and satisfied. The dog should be walked for at least an hour on a daily basis but it truly strives for an opportunity to run unrestrained in the area with a high fence. The Castro Laboreiro is a poor choice for an apartment dweller and really requires a big and spacious yard.