Rafeiro do Alentejo
(aka: Alentejo Mastiff, Portuguese Mastiff, Mutt of Alentejo)
Rafeiro do Alentejo Description
Conformity to the physical type, temperament and movements are basic factors to take into account. Head with a broad, rounded skull, proportional to the corpulence, eyes dark and very characteristically expressive, ears small to medium-sized, triangular, with rounded tips placed halfway along the skull, bending at the base and dangling. 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 chest broad and deep. 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. Hair of medium length, thick, straight and dense, its color black, wolf like, tawny or yellowish, in a fair, striped or white-spotted pattern.
An excellent, safe and self-confident guard dog particularly alert at night. It's not a dog for beginners. It needs a handler who naturally radiates leadership. Calm, steadfast, and brave, but not aggressive. Independent, very watchful, and self-assured. Affectionate with their own family, but suspicious of strangers, especially after dark. The dog can be stubborn and dominant.
These dogs mature quite slowly, reaching full adulthood at about four years old. They guard, but do not herd, livestock. They do not eat much for their size. Extensive early socialization, obedience training and consistent dominant leadership are very important when owning a Rafeiro do Alentejo. This is not the kind of dog to learn useless tricks; they usually want to keep their energy for the real work. Do not allow the Rafeiro do Alentejo to over exert themselves, such as, jumping, running and going up and down stairs, when it is a puppy. The reason is; it needs to save time and energy to develop healthy bones, muscles and tendons. With its highly noble character, it is tough to strangers but docile with children. Undoubtedly a dog more for defense than attack, unmistakable by the low, deep tone of its barking, which can be heard a long way off. Because of its powerful fangs, its courage, and for a dog of its size it is (very fast) it is often used in packs for game, wild boar and other large game hunting. This is a corpulent, sober dog, a dog of peaceful demeanor.
This breed requires little grooming. The coat needs thorough brushing-out during the twice a year shedding season. You can get away with little attention the rest of the year. The Rafeiro do Alentejo is a seasonal, heavy shedder.
Rafeiro do Alentejo are often claimed to be descended from huge dogs on the vast Tibetan highlands, thousands of years ago. The Rafeiro looks and function is between the Anatolian Shepherd Dog and the Spanish Mastiff. In Portugal, with the geographic and climatic differences between North and South, the need arose of moving the cattle annually in search of better pastures. Consequently, for centuries, huge herds, accompanied by powerful mastiffs, were driven between the northern region of Douro and the Alentejo hinterland. As the population settled down, the dogs eventually remained in the southern prairies, where they adapted and began to be used to guard, not only the herds, but especially, in time, the big rural estates.
The official standard of the Rafeiro of Alentejo was first established in 1953 in Portugal.
When training the Rafeiro do Alentejo, the best results are achieved by motivational training methods with a determined, consistent and loving approach. It is very important to begin training as early as possible, because a fully grown dog may be too strong and too big to be corrected and because this dog has his own ideas and will not cater to his owner's every whim. Sensitive to reprimands and eager to receive affection.
They will generally get along with other animals provided they have been introduced to them when they are still young. It is important to socialize them while they are still young.
Due to the rarity of this breed they are relatively healthy, although hip dysplasia may occur, but it is not very common.