Estrela Mountain Dog (Cão da Serra da Estrela)

Country of origin:
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
solid: yellow, fawn and grey; wolf grey: fawn, yellow and grey tones; brindle: fawn, yellow or grey base colour with blackish brindling
Hair length:
long, short
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • loves children
  • intelligent
  • wonderful family companion
  • great watch and guard dog
  • sheds heavily
  • independent and dominant
  • requires a great amount of daily physical and mental stimulation

The Estrela Mountain Dog (or Cão de Serra da Estrela) is a very powerful, brave, intelligent, playful and independent dog. This is an extremely loyal and protective breed, but it needs a strong-willed owner.

The Estrela Mountain Dog is one of the oldest breeds native to the Iberian Peninsula, where it lived since at least the end of the Roman Empire. It was found primarily in the Serra de Estrela Mountains of central Portugal.

Some think that this breed arrived in Portugal with the very first Iberian farmers; others claim that the dog was brought by the Romans. It is believed that the Estrela Mountain Dog descended from the Roman Molossus dog. It has been used by shepherds to protect flocks for many centuries. Eventually by the XIX century local aristocrats began to use this breed as a guard dog.

In the 1908 the first Estrela Mountain Dog participated in a show ring. In 1922, the first standard for the breed was published. By the 1933, the first official breed standard was established. In 1972, the United Kingdom became the first country to establish the Estrela Mountain Dog outside of Portugal. The following year first breed members arrived to the United States. In 1996, the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the breed.

Many Estrela Mountain Dogs are still used to protect the livestock in the Serra Estrela Mountains of Portugal. However, most breed members are now kept for property and personal protection. In recent years, many of the Estrela Mountain Dogs are used as a companion or show dogs.


The Estrela Mountain Dog is intelligent, alert, self-willed, affectionate to its owners, but aloof to others. This dog tends to be less aggressive and hard tempered than many other guardian breeds. This breed is intensely loyal to its family. Your dog will normally bond equally to all family members. The Estrela Mountain Dog must be never left alone for long periods, as it tends to suffer from separation anxiety. However, this dog is quite independent and prefers to be in the same room with its owners rather lying on them. It is also a dominant breed and needs an experienced owner.

If you train and socialize you dog properly, it will be an excellent companion for a child. The Estrela Mountain Dog is very patient and gentle with children and will be a great playmate for them. Some dogs may become overly protective of their children, and may understand wrong the rough play with other children. Estrela Mountain Dog puppies can bowl accidentally over a small child so you have to supervise them all the time.

The Estrela Mountain Dog will be an excellent guard and watchdog. It is very suspicious of strangers, and always will be wary around them. Therefore it is absolutely important to train and socialize your dog properly. Your dog must distinguish from an early age between real threats and friendly strangers.

The properly socialized Estrela Mountain Dog will be very tolerant of other animals. It has a very low prey drive, and most breed members get along with cats and other pets. However, this dog tends to be territorial, and may drive away strange animals. With other dogs the Estrela Mountain Dogs is less aggressive than other guardian breeds but this is a very dominant breed that can lead to dogfights, especially with other dominant breeds.

Another thing you need to know about the Estrela Mountain Dog is that it has a tendency to bark frequently. These barks can be extremely loud and deep, and your neighbours might not like it.
Health Problems
The most common health problems for the Estrela Mountain Dog include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• obesity;
• anterior cruciate ligament rupture;
• cardiomyopathy;
• osteochondrosis;
• skeletal growth abnormalities;
• heat sensitivity;
• progressive retinal atrophy;
• patellar luxation;
• aspermia.

The Estrela Mountain Dog has two coat varieties: the long and thick coat (popular for the show ring) and the shorter coat type. Both types are surprisingly low maintenance but still will differ a slightly. The short-coated dog must be thoroughly brushed with a slicker brush and a rake at least twice a week and it is less prone to tangles, and the long-coated may need three or four brushings. To remove tangles and mats you can use a metal comb. Trimming is not required, but some owners choose to do it.

The Estrela Mountain Dog shed very heavily and will not be a good choice for allergy sufferers. Bathe your dog only when necessary using the good quality dog shampoos and conditioners.

The Estrela Mountain Dog is a highly intelligent dog, and is an excellent problem solver. This breed can be trained for military work and can competed at very high levels in agility and obedience.

However, the Estrela Mountain Dog is hard to train. It prefers to do its own thing rather than follow commands, and most breed members are extremely stubborn and wilful. Training must be based on rewards and positive methods. The physical correction and other negative methods your dog will simply ignore. The most important thing is to establish yourself as a leader from the very beginning and maintain this position all the time.

The Estrela Mountain Dog requires a substantial amount of excersise and is not recommended for an apartement or small houses without a yard. This breed needs long daily walks and at least 45 minutes of daily exercise. If you give your dog a job it will be completely happy.

The Estrela Mountain Dog will be a great jogging and hiking companion and is perfect choice for an active family. This is a playful breed and will enjoy different games with kids, other dogs or family members. The Estrela Mountain Dog requires a home with a yard, preferably a large one. A properly exercised dog will be very quite and relaxed at the home.