AKC Dog Breeds: Rafeiro do Alentejo

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Foundation Stock Service® Breed
Height: 25-28  inches  Weight: 100-133 pounds  
  Brindle, black, fawn, yellow, wolfgray; Markings of spotted white, black mask

Believed to be descendants of Tibetan Mastiffs, the Rafeiro do Alentejo was used to guard and move cattle and sheep. Another name for Rafeiro do Alentejo is Alentejo Mastiff. The Rafeiro do Alentejo, like all of the mastiff breeds, is believed to have come from a line of powerful dogs which followed Alexander the Great through Asia Minor and Europe thousands of years ago.  In Spain and Portugal, the early ancestors of the breed were put to work guarding cattle and their new job helped them develop the unique guarding characteristics seen today in the breed.  Although the breed had been widely known in the area for centuries, it was only officially recognized in the late 1940’s.  Just a few decades later, the breed began to deteriorate because of bad breeding practices and had nearly disappeared during the 1980’s.  However, carefully managed breeding programs are now in place to revitalize the Rafeiro do Alentejo. They were also used to guard farms, homes, and estates. Rafeiro do Alentejo are of the very ancient molosser type that migrated with humans from Central Asia. Rafeiro do Alentejo is the biggest Portuguese canine breed.  This breed is still a working breed in Portugal. However, Rafeiro do Alentejo's are extremely rare in North America. The Rafeiro do Alentejo has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since 2005.

General Appearance
The Rafeiro do Alentejo is a Mastiff like dog whose large square head leads to a long muzzle.  Its small, round eyes take up little room on their large head.  On top of their massive heads are equally large, heavy ears that hang down like the ears of a Saint Bernard.  The dog’s broad, muscular neck is covered in loose skin. The breed has long, muscular legs and gigantic feet.  Thick fur covers their entire body and feathers out on their long tail.  Its silhouette is slightly convex and males are bigger and have a bulkier head than females.  The neck is short and strong, with a regular dewlap, the trunk is robust, bulky and muscular. The dog has a deep chest, and should have a general aspect of length.   Strong, upright limbs, both front and rear.  Long and curving tail, on a line with the rump and falling underneath and between the hocks, when in action it may curl up. The fur is short to medium, the same length all over, and can be black, yellow, and fawn (a light brown color) with white markings, or white with other colors. The coat can be streaked or brindled or dappled.


The Rafeiro do Alentejo is powerful, serious, and muscular. This breed is highly diligent and alert, especially at night. Rafeiro do Alentejo's are fierce, independent, agile, and swift. The Rafeiro do Alentejo breed is not recommended for first time dog owners. They are extremely territorial of their home,  family, and anything or anyone placed under their protection. The Rafeiro do Alentejo is affectionate with their family, but highly suspicious of strangers. They typically get along with other pets they have been raised with. Rafeiro do Alentejo's do well with children as they are a calm, docile, and steadfast breed. As with all very large dogs, they are not the dogs for beginners. The Rafeiro do Alentejo is a guard dog that loves its family.  Children can safely be around these large, yet gentle, dogs.  Guarding their family and flock is most important to this breed.  However, they are not aggressive just threatening, especially around strangers at night.  Dominant and stubborn, this breed is very difficult to train if their owner is not a leader.  This breed needs to be socialized and trained at a young age. They mature slowly, are very independent, and often do not respond to traditional force methods of dog obedience training.


The Rafeiro do Alentejo requires very minimal grooming. The coat must have thorough brushing during their seasonal heavy shedding.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

Due to the rarity of this breed they are relatively healthy. Little data exists for health problems in this breed. However, when bred to be very oversize, they may be subject to hip dysplasia, and dogs with deep chests sometimes suffer from bloat.

Activity Level
The Rafeiro do Alentejo does not require much exercise. However, they are not recommended for apartment living. This breed does best with a large securely fenced yard or rural setting. Rafeiro do Alentejo are more active during the night than during the day.


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