The Rafeiro do Alentejo is the largest of the Portuguese dog breeds, an impressive dog in large part because of its corpulence – males can weigh around 130 pounds. Believed to have descended from huge molosser dogs from the Middle East (included the Tibetan Mastiff), the breed also known as the Alentejo Mastiff or Portuguese Mastiff has a body type you’d expect from a mastiff descendent, but its head shape is more similar to a St.Bernard or Great Pyrenees.
The Rafeiro calls Alentejo, “home,” the part of Portugal that borders Spain in the south.This region has climate quite different from areas north of south of it, and because of this, the breed was developed to move livestock from the Alentejo Plateau to the Portuguese mountains, and back again with each changing season.
The Rafeiro do Alentejo was one of the first dog breeds recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale, but it was in real trouble by the 1980s. The Faculty of Veterinaries in Evora, and fans of the breed helped keep the dog from extinction. Development of the Rafeiro do Alentejo continues today, and happily, the breed is no longer at risk of vanishing.
Image of Rafeiro do Alentejo from the AKC breed page and shared with kind permission