Shaped by the Wolf

The Transmontano Mastiff, or Cão de Gado Transmontano, is an ancient Livestock Guardian breed originating in the Portuguese province of Trás-os-Montes. Descended from Iberian Mastiffs, this is described as a breed shaped by the wolf: Its ability to avoid and/or prevent wolf attacks to flocks have formed its breed characteristics. This dog defends its flock far more than it defends territory, and because of this, it’s said that once he’s outside of his flock, a Transmontano Mastiff loses aggressiveness, and with it, a certain nobility. It is common that when a flock is sold, the dog goes with it, such is its dedication to his “tribe.”

Powerful and independent, these dogs are probably the largest of all Portuguese dog breeds and have been used to defend flocks of sheep and goats for a very long time. The importance of using these dogs by shepherds becomes evident when one considers that in some areas, compensation for sheep killed by wolves comes only if the ranchers or shepherd has at least one Mastiff per 50 head of cattle, sheep or goats.

According to www.caodegadotransmontano.org: “Used since immemorial times to the freedom of vast spaces and to running across the hills, these dogs suffer intensely when kept captive, confined by chains or kennels. This is not a dog to be kept whole days within a kennel with limited horizons forever. Under such circumstances he grows sad, becomes grumbling or gloomy, barks constantly and turns into a truly unhappy animal.”

The breed is recognized by the Portuguese Kennel Club and still awaits recognition by the FCI, and the latest information we have on the registration of adults and litters is that it is conducted through the Montesinho Natural Park in the framework of protocol established with the Portuguese Kennel Club in 1994. Getting a Transmontano Mastiff has to be made at park offices,  or with park rangers that inspect reported wolf attacks. There is a waiting list kept and updated by the Park, and the list includes criteria based on priority which are, in decreasing order of importance: 1)a great need of dogs due to high number of wolf attacks; 2) the owner is an associate of the Transmontano Mastiff Dog Breeding Association; 3) the owner farms within a Protected Area, and 4) How long the potential owner has been waiting.  As of the end of 2005, 169 adult dogs and 418 puppies were registered.

Image: Transmontano Mastiff by Joao Augusto [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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