Short-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs. Photo: Manuela Paraíso
Their origins are lost in time and documents place them keeping company to shepherds in the Estrela Mountains at the days of the Roman occupation. The Estrela Mountain Dog is one of the most ancient breeds of the Iberian Peninsula.
He's believed to descend from the ancient Tibetan mastiffs, that scattered across Europe, making way for all the molossoid breeds of the Old Continent, and, as time went by, to have developped in such a way to excel at his task of flock-guardian, on the irregular, steep landscape of the Estrela Mountain Range.
In the early 20th century, the short-haired variety, favoured by the shepherds, outnumbered the long-haired one. However, after the breed was officially recognised as the first standard was published, in 1934, the later gradually started arising interest outside the Estrela Mountains and it began being bred and spread all over the country, adjusting to the task of household guardian.
From the 1980s onwards, the long-haired Estrela was consolidated and became one of the breeds with the largest number of yearly registries by thePortuguese Kennel Club, as opposed to the small population of the short-haired variety - which had been endangered due to a substancial downfall of the herding activity, having nevertheless endured partly thanks to the efforts of a few breeders. Nowadays, however, it is one of the three canine breeds used by Grupo Lobo as livestock guardian dogs in the north of Portugal, as part of a program for the preservation of the Iberian Wolf.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, the long-coat variety started being bred abroad and is currently present in several European and American countries, where breed clubs have been formed. In Portugal, this variety is stable, with a large population - although most of the puppies sold by backyard breeders and puppy farms have low quality.
Short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog. Photo: Manuela Paraíso