Rafeiro of Alentejo is an ancient type of Molosser that came from Asia. No one knows exactly when they have arrived in the Iberian Peninsula. Nomads or Romans may have brought them in prehistoric times, but it is not certain. The breed is often related to the Tibetan Mastiff, but there is no proof of that. Future DNA tests may prove their history, but for now there are only speculations and guesses. It is certain though that the breed is of an ancient type and was used to move sheep from mountains in northern Portugal, but due to lack of economical use and elimination of large predators, the Mastiff began to decline.
Rafeiro of Alentejo is a quite large dog. It averages 47.5kg in weight and 73cm in height. It has bear-like head and dark eyes, never yellow. Ears are at medium high and fold down. Fur is characterized short to medium and it is the same all over its body. It can be black, yellow or light brown with white markings. Coat is streaked, brindled or dappled. Males are usually larger than the females.
Character and behavior
The Rafeiro is an excellent guard dog. It is very confident and it is most alert at night. It can become very attached to its own family, but it is also known to be stubborn and quite dominant. The dog is independent and very territorial. They will protect sheep, families and households if they feel they are placed under their protection. They are not characterized as aggressive, but protective and are known to get along well with children. Generally, they get along with other animals if they were introduced to them in earlier age. They do not eat that much for a dog of their caliber.
Training and education
The best results in the training are achieved with a consistent and loving approach. It is advised that education of the dog should begin in its early age because a grown dog may be too big and strong to be corrected, it has its own ideas and may not follow its owner’s every command. Socializing in an early age is very important. These dogs mature slowly reaching adulthood at four years and are not the kind of dog that would learn useless tricks. They prefer keeping their energy for the real work they would think are given. Also, it is very important not to over exert the puppy in its early age, so it would develop healthy bones, muscles and tendons. The breed is also known for its deep, powerful bark which can be heard from a long way. They are also very courageous and are quite swift for their size. Fully matured, its needs for exercises are low.
Very little data exists of the breed’s health problems. It is known to suffer from hip dysplasia if over weighted, but it is not very common. Deep chested dogs sometimes suffer from bloating. Their life expectancy is about 12 years.
Grooming and care
Not much grooming is required. However the coat and undercoat should be brushed occasionally so that dead hair can be removed and also stimulate growth of new one. Other than that, it is easy to take care of it and you can get away with little attention.
Children and other pets
The breed gets along with children very well, especially if raised with them. Same goes for other pets but the Mastiff needs to be well socialized. It is suspicious to strangers as it takes its job quite seriously.
The breed started declining dramatically in the 60’s and 70’s and reached critical level in the 80’s. But that was overcome thanks to a devoted group of breeders who were dedicated in saving theRafeiro of Alentejo.