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Estrela Mountain Dog: Dog Breed Information and Pictures

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The Estrela Mountain Dog is a mighty breed with an admirable appearance. They were bred as livestock guardian dogs to safeguard herds from potential predators. They get their name after the mountainous terrain they originated from – Portugal’s Serra da Estrela (Estrela Mountains). Besides being efficient in its job, this breed has emerged as a wonderful family dog. Its love for its kin and the kids of the family is commendable. No wonder some owners of this breed mention that nothing can be compared to Estrela’s love. Do you have a big, spacious home? Are you looking for a perfect breed for your kids? Considering the Estrela Mountain Dog isn’t a good idea, then. Read on to know more.

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History of the Estrela Mountain Dog

One of Portugal’s oldest breeds, the Estrela Mountain Dog, developed in Serra De Estrela. Their ancestors were supposedly herding and guarding dogs. However, the guardian dogs of the past were way too different from the modern Estrela. There need to be proper records of the breed’s development. So, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how this breed came to be. The Estrela Mountain Dog’s ancestors may have been brought about by the Romans when they colonized the Iberian Peninsula. Likewise, the Visigoths may have also brought them along when they invaded Portugal.

Shepherds were looking for hardy dogs to survive in the mountainous terrain and perform their job efficiently. They should be strong and large, with a high endurance level. The dogs must be agile and thrive on a marginal diet. At the same time, they should also be loyal and watchful of their surroundings. The Estrela, and its ancestors, met the requirements perfectly.

Most traditional breeds stepped out of their native country and were introduced to the outside world in the 20th century. But nothing seemed to change for this breed as such. They were isolated from the outside world and weren’t known much anywhere else other than their place of origin. Sadly, the Portuguese gave more importance to foreign breeds. But, when it came to their own, they remained indifferent. Adding to the misery, shepherds castrated their dogs so they wouldn’t leave the flocks.

These things impacted Estrela negatively. Between 1908 and 1919, concursus or special shows were organized to preserve and promote this breed. Working trails for these livestock guardian dogs were a part of the show. The trial occurred in a big field where the dog was present with his owner and a flock of sheep. The shepherd was instructed (by the judges) to move his flock. In doing so, there would be stragglers (sheep that got detached from the group as they moved slowly). Estrela’s role was to bring back the straggler and take charge of the flock. That is what he was judged for. The first breed standard, published in 1922, stated the functional features of the breed. There was mention of the breed’s dew claws as well. However, the one written in 1933 was the Estrela Mountain Dog’s official breed standard described more elaborately. The double dew claws and hooked tail were a necessity. However, all colors were permitted. With time, there was refinement in the breed standards, resulting in inclusions and exclusions. For instance, by 1955, the dew claws weren’t mandatory. At the same time, there was a restriction on the standard colors as well.

Before the Second World War, most Estrela Mountain Dog breeders were farmers or shepherds. So they weren’t aware of an official standard for the breed, let alone following the same. The breed’s popularity never remained constant. It was sometimes on the rise and sometimes declining. During the 1950s, people began taking an interest in Estrela. Long-haired dogs, including only a tiny percentage of the Estrelas, emerged as popular show dogs. However, most working dogs had and still have short hair.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the breed again experienced a decline in popularity. It was sorted by 1974 after the Portuguese Revolution. Initially, dog shows were considered a luxury in Portugal. They were meant for the affluent class. After the revolution, even the working class garnered interest in shows showing their native dogs there. They first entered the United States in 1972-73. However, the first documented breed in the US was in 1998. At present, it can be found in several countries. It is a working and guardian dog not just in Portugal but in other parts of the world. The breed gained entry into the Foundation Stock Service of the AKC in 2004. It has also been recognized by the UKC (United Kennel Club) since 1996.

More About the Estrela Mountain Dog

Estrela Mountain Dog

These mighty livestock guardian dogs have a long and eventful history. From being guard dogs and watching over livestock in the past, they have evolved as dedicated house pets. Read on to learn about their appearance, temperament, caring, and more.


They are big and athletic with a muscular build. Their head is strong and in perfect proportion to its body. The skin around their cheeks and skull appear smooth. When it comes to their face, it has an appealing look because of their subtle features. Their nose is big and black, and the muzzle is long but not pointed, tapering to the tip. They even have well-developed, overlapping lips, which aren’t thick, though. Their eyes, which bear an alert, and curious expression, appear medium to small.

The triangular-shaped thin ears are rounded towards the tip. They are also oval-shaped and of dark amber coloration. The long and thick tail hooked at the end is set at a medium height. When the dog is at rest, the tail hands between its thighs. But, when it is on the move or immensely excited, the tail is raised horizontally. It curves in different directions – upward, downward, sideways, and forward.


These are big dogs. The males are between 25.5-28.5 inches, whereas the females measure around 24.5 -27 inches. Regarding weight, the males are heavier, weighing 88 to 110 pounds. The females weigh from 66-88 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

Personality and Temperament

These dogs have interesting personalities – a combination of many things. It has all the traits to qualify as an ideal family pet. It is alert, loyal, and intelligent regarding its family members. At the same time, because of its powerful guarding and watching skills, it would emerge as a fierce family protector when the need arises. They share a comfortable equation with strangers only when well introduced to them. These dogs are excessive barkers, mainly when engaged in the task of safeguarding their domain. Young dogs bark more than their older counterparts.

Health Problems

Overall, the Estrella Mountain Dog is a healthy breed. Yet, like most other breeds, it has its share of health problems. Big herding dogs may mostly be prone to joint issues, and Estrela isn’t an exception. Some of the common health problems Estrelas may suffer from are elaborated on below:

Hip Dysplasia

In a National Library of Medicine survey, 313 dogs were checked for hip dysplasia. The results showed that around 66% of the Estrelas suffered from hip dysplasia. Difficulty in movement, reluctance to climb stairs, and even lameness are common symptoms of hip dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia

They are predisposed to elbow dysplasia as well. Their elbows could appear puffy or swollen. The elbows could also appear stiff. The dogs may show disinterest in walking or exercise.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

It’s a life-threatening condition where the heart loses the ability to pump blood effectively to the remaining part of the body. Common symptoms include coughing, panting, troubled breathing, weak or irregular pulse rate, and a distended abdomen. Dogs with this condition do not live for more than six months. A 1-year-old male of this breed was evaluated for this condition in a screening program. He had a family history of this condition but was asymptomatic during the diagnosis.


Care of Estrela Mountain Dog

They are calm at home but playful outdoors. It is fine if you live in the countryside and have employed this breed as a working dog. They would get their daily dose of exercise during their work. However, if you have kept it solely as a pet, you should give it regular exercise to keep your dog happy and healthy. Daily walks and sufficient playtime inside a fenced yard would be a good option for them. During rough weather, give these dogs ample playtime indoors to keep them going. It could be rolling a ball and asking them to get it or a game of fetch. You can even teach them a new trick, like doing a high five or shaking hands.

They were bred to roam around in ranches or fields. Most Estrelas need ample space to roam around freely. So, they can’t thrive in compact apartments. Dog sports are a great way to provide mental stimulation to your canine. You can train your Estrela to participate in events like rallies, agility, and obedience.

Regarding their daily hygiene, follow the rules well to ensure overall cleanliness in your dog. Trim their nails one or two times a month. A clue that your dog’s nail has gotten long is that they would click against the ground. Maintaining oral health is also a mandate. Brush its teeth three to four times a week with vet-approved toothpaste. Checking their ears once a week is also important to ensure there isn’t any wax buildup and debris formation.


Like all other big dogs, Estrela is prone to obesity. It would help if you gave them a good quality kibble apt for big dogs. If you plan to provide them with a homemade diet, consult a vet before deciding upon anything.

Coat Color and Grooming

The colors of the Estrela Mountain Dog accepted by different kennel clubs include wolf gray, fawn, brindle, and yellow. The dogs with a wolf gray coat appear yellow or fawn with tones of gray. The shades could vary from light to dark. Those having a brindle coat will have a base color of gray, fawn, or yellow, with a blackish brindled pattern. They would also have a black or dark mask and white markings on their chest, neck, and hind and forefeet.

These dogs can either have a long coat or a short coat. For those with a long coat, the undercoat appears thick. The outer coat could be either straight or a little wavy. The area surrounding the limbs is mostly short and dense. However, it mostly becomes softer and thinner around the head and ears. The tail is bushy, feathered, and thick. There is also a lot of feathering around the region behind its forearms, buttock, throat, and neck.

The coat appears coarse and dense in short-haired dogs, distributed evenly throughout the body. It is also shorter on its limbs and head, sans any feathering.

Irrespective of the kind of coat they have, you must brush the Estrela two times a week. It would help remove the dead hair and keep the coat free from matts and tangles.

Children and Other Pets

Children and Other Pets

They share a good rapport with kids. But like all other big dogs, this breed, too, could knock down a kid during play. So, when little ones are interacting with Estrela, parents should mandatorily supervise. With the older kids, they would emerge as great playmates.

Regarding other dogs, they would mingle well if socialized to live with them from an early age. However, they are moderately high when it comes to prey drive. Avoid keeping them with cats or smaller pets.


Training of Estrela Mountain Dog

They are intelligent, with an eagerness to please their owners. So these dogs would be pretty easy to train if their owner is firm and tactful in handling them. When let loose, they could get stubborn and display independent behavior.

Socializing Estrela should be the topmost priority. Start the training regime quite early, when they are in their puppyhood. As they grow, it would help them acquire good behavior towards people and other pets.

Obedience training should also happen simultaneously, which would help discipline these dogs well. When trained on commands, you can keep a check on undesirable behaviors like barking without a cause or chasing anything on the move.


Does the Estrela Mountain Dog shed a lot?

They are moderate shedders but shed heavily twice every year. During that time, they must be brushed every day.

How much does the Estrela Mountain Dog cost?

This dog could cost around $1200. The reason is that these dogs are rare, and finding a breeder is a mammoth task indeed.

What is the temperament of the Estrela Mountain Dog?

The Estrela Mountain Dog is a loyal and protective breed, known for being calm and confident. They are often described as affectionate with their family, but reserved and wary of strangers.

Is the Estrela Mountain Dog a working breed?

Yes, the Estrela Mountain Dog is a working breed. They were originally bred in Portugal for guarding and herding livestock, and they have also been used by the police and marines.

What is the size of the Estrela Mountain Dog?

As an ancient breed in Portugal, the Estrela Mountain Dog has some size standards. They typically weigh between 66-110 pounds for males and 55-88 pounds for females, and stand at a height of 25-28 inches for males and 23-26 inches for females.

Are Estrela Mountain Dogs good with children?

Estrela Mountain Dogs can be good with children if they are socialized and trained properly. They are generally protective of their family and may be wary of strangers, so it is important to supervise interactions between children and dogs.

What is the exercise requirement for an Estrela Mountain Dog?

The Estrela Mountain Dog is a high-energy breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. They enjoy activities such as hiking, running, and playing, and may also benefit from activities that stimulate their natural herding and guarding instincts.


The Estrela may not fit the bill of a cute, cuddly lap dog. Yet, with its adorable looks, and pleasing personality, this breed would excel as a great family pet.

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