The Estrela Mountain Dog appeared many centuries ago to protect herds from wolves. Nowadays, it is also used to prevent the Iberian Wolf from extinction.
It is to his ancestral enemy, the Iberian Wolf, that the Estrela owes its existence. From the very early pastoral days in Portuguese land, lost in time, the flocks needed large, brave, agile protection dogs so to minimize the devastating effects of the wolves' attacks - which would kill many livestock thus causing the owners substantial financial loss.
Last century, as farmers abandoned the pastoral activity and with the drastic dicrease in the number of wolves, killed by shepherds and cattle owners, the Estrela's traditional function vanished and the breed faced hard times and, like its natural enemy, the prospect of extinction. While the long-hair variety became popular especially after the 1970s, the short-haired one still strives, surviving mainly due to a few passionate breeders, shepherds and the Grupo Lobo association - which, since 1996, with its programme "Cattle dogs", has placed many specimen of this variety with flocks in the north of the country, as an effort to minimize wolf-caused losses, as the main part of their strategy for the conservation of the Iberian Wolf.