Portugese Sherpdog

FCI standard Nº 93

Portuguese Kennel Club. Revised by Raymond Triquet, Jennifer Mulholland and Renée Sporre-Willes
Group 1 Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs)
Section 1 Sheepdogs
Without working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Tuesday 16 November 1954
Publication of the official valid standard
Tuesday 04 November 2008
Last update
Monday 30 March 2009
En français, cette race se dit
Chien de berger de la Serra de Aires
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
Portugiesischer Schäferhund
En español, esta raza se dice
Perro de pastor portugués
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd
Herdershond Serra de Aires
In his country of origin, his name is

Cão da Serra de Aires


Sheepdog for herding and watching over livestock.

Brief historical summary

Sheepdog used in the Alentejo region for herding and watching different kinds of livestock; sheep, cattle, horses, goats and pigs. An austere and rustic dog perfectly adapted to the area’s temperature changes and with great endurance for covering long distances herding livestock through the Alentejo plains.

General appearance

Medium sized dog, medium long (Sub-longilinear), with appreciable rusticity and sobriety, extremely agile and swift, with ample and suspended movement. Long hair of goat-like texture, without undercoat. It has simian-like attitudes and appearance, which is why it is known in its native region as "monkey dog".

Important proportions

The length of the body is approximately 10% more than the height at the withers. The depth of chest is less than 50% of height at the withers. The muzzle length is 2/3 of the skull length; the width of the skull is slightly less than its length.

Behaviour / temperament

Exceptionally intelligent and very lively. Very devoted to the shepherd and the herd, it can be somewhat wary of strangers and vigilant at night. Nowadays it is also an excellent companion, sporting and guard dog. It is known for its skilful ability to keep livestock in the pastures and also for searching stray animals. It is always vigilant and successfully alerts for the proximity of predators. The breed is extremely devoted to its work and its shepherd. The work is conducted with joy and pleasure.


Cranial region

Medium sized (mesocephalic), strong, broad, neither long nor massive.
Tending to square, slightly longer than broad; divergent longitudinal axes of the skull and muzzle; convex on both axes, but more laterally. The superciliary arches are not prominent. The frontal furrow is pronounced and extends to the middle of the forehead; the area between ears is almost flat with apparent occipital protuberance. 
Well defined.

Facial region

Well defined, slightly raised and with ample nostrils, rounded, cylindrical and truncated almost vertically; preferably black, may be liver coloured in yellow and brown animals, but should always be darker than the coat.
Short, measuring two thirds of the skull length; almost cylindrical; the width being proportional to its length and shape. Straight in profile or slightly concave.
Close fitting, not overlaid, almost straight, thin; firm. Edges of the same colour as the nose.
Jaws and teeth
Normally developed, with perfect opposition of both jaws; full dentition, with 42 solid white teeth; scissors bite, pincer bite accepted.
Medium sized; rounded; preferably dark in colour, but may be hazelnut or amber in brown and yellow animals; set level not prominent. Lively expression, intelligent but docile; horizontal lids black or always darker than the coat, in accordance with the colour of the nose.
High-set; hanging and not folded; triangular. Thin and smooth skin. Medium sized, of the same length and width (approximately 10 cm).


Harmoniously attached to head and body; of moderate length; straight and slightly rising, moderately thick with strong muscles; without dewlap.


Level or slightly sloping.
Strong and harmoniously attached to the neck and back.
Straight or slightly sloping and long; well muscled; almost twice as long as the loin.
Short and arched seen in profile; broad and curved seen from the front; strongly muscled and well attached to the back and croup.
Slightly prominent and sloping; smoothly; of medium length and width; strong muscles.
Down to the elbows; of medium width and depth; slightly arched ribs, with oval rib cage, slanting to the back; the forechest is prominent, broad, well let back and ample.
Underline and belly
Uprising with moderately tucked up belly and slightly rising flanks.


Set on high; pointed; reaching the hocks; tapering from the base. Long and abundant hair. When at rest falls between the buttocks slightly arched and curved at the tip, in action it either extends the backline or may curve slightly over the top line, but never curled over the back.



Strong, upright when seen from the front and side and well set apart; the distance from withers to elbow is slightly less than from elbow to ground.
Of medium length; with a 45º lay back; well muscled; scapula-humerus placed at a 90º angle.
Upper arm
Strong and of medium length; set at a 45º angle; well muscled.
Parallel, close to the chest and with a 135 º humerus-radius angle.
Long; vertical and well muscled with bone of medium thickness.
Lean and not prominent.
Of medium length; and medium thickness; neither sloping nor perfectly upright.


Medium width, upright when seen from the rear; strong; giving a perfect impression of power and agility.
Upper thigh
Of medium length and width; well muscled; hip-femur angle approximately 105º.
Lower thigh
Long; slightly inclined; well muscled; strong bones.
Straight seen from the rear not inclined inwards or outwards. Strong femur-tibia angle approximately 130º.
Of medium length and thickness, but strong; neither sloping nor perfectly upright. May have single or double dewclaws.
Of medium width; low set strong and lean; tibia-tarsus angle approximately 120º.


Rounded (not splayed); long and with tight and pronouncedly arched toes; strong nails, black or darker than coat colour. Thick and hard pads.

Gait and movement

Predominantly it moves in a light and suspended trot, with great reach. The gallop, when the work requires it, is energetic.


Thick; flexible; not very tight; internal and external mucous membranes preferably pigmented.


Straight or slightly wavy; long; with slightly harsh texture preferably goat-like; forming long beard, moustache and eyebrows, but not covering the eyes; dense and evenly distributed over the body, including between toes; hair of medium thickness; without undercoat or woolliness; very long coat on head, body and limbs, including between toes.
Yellow, brown, grey, fawn and wolf-grey, in light, medium and dark shades and black; with tan markings more or less noticeable, but should never be pied, except for a very small white spot on the chest.

Size and weight

Height at withers
Males 45 - 55 cm, females 42 - 52 cm.
Males and females 17 - 27 Kg.


• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

Serious faults

 Animals showing nervous, unbalanced temperament.
 Incorrect implantation of teeth, lack of two premolars (except PM1).
 Stop not pronounced.
 Nose pointed.
 Lips overlapping or pendulous.
 Eyes light, small, slanting or not rounded.
 Ears folded or rose-shaped.
 Forechest too narrow.
 Chest shallow, flat rib cage.
 Top line saddle back or too sloping.
 Croup horizontal or too sloping.
 Underline too much tick-up.
 Limbs tilted fore- or hind feet, cow hocks, and hindquarters must not be straight.
 Tail low set, short or curled over back, when at rest.
 Nails white.
 Hair not harsh enough or not long enough.
 Colour white spot on the chest too large; tan points not defined.
 Gait not ample enough, not suspended, out at the elbows, hocks too close.

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy.
 Lymphatic, light boned.
 Serious deviations from the important proportions.
 Head narrow and long.
 Skull narrow, flat or globular.
 Ears low set, or too wide apart, erect or semi-erect.
 Muzzle convex profile.
 Undershot or overshot, lack of more than two pre-molars (except PM1).
 Pigmentation total lack of pigmentation on nose, eyelids and lips (albinism).
 Tail docked or absent at birth.
 Hair short, curly, or with undercoat.
 Colour white on the extremities of limbs or pied.
 Lack of tan points in brown, grey and black adults.
 Gait too hobbled and heavy, or with serious deviations of forelegs, frailness.
 Oversized or Undersized.

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.




Detailed history

Although its name refers to mountainous terrain in the north-central part of the country, the Portuguese sheepdog is established in the regions of Alentejo and Ribatejo, arid and rocky plateaus located east of Lisbon. These dissemination areas correspond to those where extensive rearing of sheep and goats is practiced in large herds.

The thesis, often formulated, which would make it descend from Bergers de Brie imported at the beginning of the twentieth century by the count of Castro Guimares, is as surprising as it is not credible if one notices that, between 1932, when it was recognized officially, and 1957, this dog was not breeding any breeding: it seems inconceivable that a breed newly created from a few imported subjects and left to itself for nearly thirty years could survive.

In fact, the Berger de la Serra des Aires hardly resembles Briard, and if it were necessary to find a "cousin" from France, it is rather the little Shepherd of the Pyrenees that should be chosen. And, precisely, dogs that seem, at least for appearance, closely related to the Pyrenean Shepherd, there is no lack in the Iberian Peninsula. Admittedly, the International Cynological Federation recognizes only one, the Gos of Catalan Atura, but, for several years, the Spanish cynophilia, in full renewal, has recorded its canine wealth; as numerous as they are abandoned; and, in doing so, found several regional or local dogs that have a certain family atmosphere with the little Portuguese Shepherd (and with the Shepherd of the Pyrenees), namely the Shepherd of Val d'Aran, the Basque Shepherd (Euskal Artzai) , the Shepherd of Galicia, those of Leon and the two Castile, and finally the Shepherd of Upper Aragon. There are, of course, no races, but they are dog populations fairly homogeneous and we have every reason to believe that they are very old. They are also on the verge of disappearing or already disappeared, because of the current evolution of agrarian structures in Spain.

In all likelihood, the Serra des Aires Shepherd must be attached to these dogs, as well as to Gos d'Atura, rather than to the Berger de Brie, which, in the opinion of the Portuguese specialists, does not seem to be adapted to the land and the climate of the Alentejo plateau (and the purse of Portuguese shepherds).

As this importation of Briards in Portugal was not invented from scratch, it can be assumed (the Portuguese cynophilia has never published anything on this subject) that the Count de Castro Guimares resorted to it in order to improve the type of aboriginal shepherd. It is clear that this contribution was quickly "forgotten", both as regards the size of the Portuguese Shepherd (which remained quite comparable to that of other small long-haired Shepherds) as for its general morphology.

That said, the distant past of the Cao da Serra des Aires keeps all its mystery. Indeed, we do not know for sure where all these little Shepherds come from, if, as their similarity of appearance suggests, they have a common origin.

According to what the Spaniards say, more specifically the specialists of Gos Atura and other dogs of the same type in their country, it seems that we should turn to the Bergamasque, and that they would therefore descend from long-haired shepherd dogs that allegedly followed the Roman legions.

On the other side of the Pyrenees, especially if one refers to the existence of Schapendoes in the Netherlands and Nizinny in Poland, it is thought that they arrived in the company of large mountain dogs and that they would come therefore, like them, from Central Asia. it is necessary to know that large mountain dog and small long-haired shepherd complement each other perfectly. The first, responsible for protecting the herds against the great predators, has maintained itself wherever these predators have survived, hence his "mountain" dog name. The second was specialized in the gathering and management of animals, and its utility is exclusively related to the existence of large herds grazing vast areas. Without wishing to opt for either hypothesis, it can be seen that there exists in the Atentejo an imposing mountain dog, the Rafeiro de Alentejo, which was able to complete the work of the little Portuguese Shepherd. In any case, the only possible statement as to its origins is that it is a very old Portuguese race and not a modern creation.

His recent history (in other words dog-eating) is better known. His recognition took place the very year of the establishment of the Portuguese Canine Society, or rather of its draft: in 1932, was founded, within the Club of Portuguese hunters, a section "Canicultura", which was going become the Portuguese Club of Caniculture. But between 1932 and 1957, when the first registered champion of the breed was registered, nothing, or almost nothing happened. Moreover, this first champion, named Alentejo born in 1954 as the specimen that served as a model for the drafting of the standard, a certain Montemor, were of unknown origin. At that time, the race was saved from a probable extinction thanks to the work of Dr. Filipe Morgado Romeiras; owner of these two dogs, in particular; and Dr. Antonio Cabro, who for many years presided over the Portuguese Canine Society, as well as a few breeders and experts.

Today, that is to say from the beginning of the eighties, the breed happily leaves the anonymity and becomes more and more popular in his country. There are about ten famous breeders, having "street" affix, as well as several occasional producers. Some specimens have already been exported to the Netherlands and Belgium, which may augur a future international spread.

Although he is more and more frequently a dog of exhibitions and companionship, the Shepherd of Serra des Aires remains in the soul a rustic worker. It was born to evolve without getting tired on dry and difficult grounds, even if they are not properly speaking mountainous; he is content with a frugal food and can sleep under the stars in any weather.

Such an animal is therefore made to live as much as possible outdoors and can not easily accommodate a sedentary life and too comfortable. His character is that of a dog that evolves freely on large spaces, namely that he is particularly independent, not very docile, tough, determined, proud, while being preoccupied with accomplishing the task at his best. imparted. Very alert and lively in his movements, indefatigable, he needs to "work" or, at least, to have a replacement activity.

Traditionally, his task was to gather and lead large flocks of sheep; but he has also been entrusted with the surveillance of goats, cattle, horses and even pigs. This dog has the spirit of initiative and a temperament strong enough to, for example, win against livestock. In addition, he was very appreciated for his ability to sense storms and storms several hours in advance, which allowed the shepherd, so warned, to be safe with his flock.

Finally, this dog is very vigilant, suspicious and shows little to foreigners. Moreover, he is given all the qualities to become a watchdog and defense, despite its modest size. (The Portuguese canine society is developing a training program for its national breeds.)

Led by a fairly firm hand, he is very receptive to dressage because he has great adaptability. His independent character does not prevent him from attaching himself to his master and from showing him boundless devotion. It will be noted that his expansive and alert nature, his mimicry and his paces made him nicknamed "monkey dog" in the countryside of his country.

One would think that a dog so rustic and kept close to nature rises without problem. It is true that puppies are very robust and require little care, but it should also be observed that many females have quite irregular heat and that the prolificacy of the breed is reduced.

Some physical details, which may not appear clearly when reading the official standard, are to be specified: its coat, unlike that of Gos Atura, for example, is devoid of undercoat; the most common colors are gray, black and brown (the latter color is accompanied by a brown truffle) with pale fire marks on the head, chest, limbs and belly; today, the ears are no longer cut, but large and well drooping.

Doubtless, our little and valiant Pyrenean Shepherd, whose qualities and physiognomy are rather similar, deserves his present success. But why should there not be a small place for a rough and sober little Portuguese worker?

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