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  • Temperament: Alert, Intelligent, Brave
  • Height: 24.5-29 inches
  • Weight: 77-132 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10-14 years
  • Group: Foundation Stock Service

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Breed Standard
Estrela Mountain Dog standing outdoors.
Estrela Mountain Dog lying on the ground outdoors.
Estrela Mountain Dog walking away to the left outdoors in the sunshine.
Estrela Mountain Dog running through the snow.
Estrela Mountain Dog face with snow on its nose.
Estrela Mountain Dog standing outdoors in the snow.
Estrela Mountain Dog lying on the ground outdoors.
Two Estrela Mountain Dogs standing together outdoors.

About the Estrela Mountain Dog

The Estrela Mountain Dog is named for the Estrela Mountains in Portugal and is believed to be the oldest breed in the region. The breed has several distinctive physical characteristics including rosed ears, a black mask and a hook at the end of its tail. He is an inseparable companion of the shepherd and a faithful flock guardian, bravely protecting it against predators and thieves. A wonderful farm and house guard, he is distrustful towards strangers but typically docile to his master.

As a companion in the home, an Estrela will bond for life. He will love and protect his whole family, but a piece of his soul will belong to that one special family member of his choosing. As an Estrela owner tells us: “There is nothing compared to the love of an Estrela.”


Breed Contact Details


Phone: 704-385-9928

Person: Robin Eatman

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Estrela Mountain Dog puppy sitting on a tree stump outdoors.

Find a Puppy: Estrela Mountain Dog

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.



You are going to want to feed your Estrela Mountain Dog a formula that will cater to his unique digestive needs throughout the various phases of his life. Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and extra-large breeds. Estrela Mountain Dogs are a large breed and may have a lifespan ranging from 8 to 10 years.

What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


The Estrela has a thick outer coat that resembles the texture of goat hair and comes in longhair and shorthair varieties. Beyond regular weekly grooming, the occasional bath will keep them clean and looking their best. Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your pet. Their strong, fast-growing nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris which can result in an infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Weekly Brushing




The Estrela is a relatively calm breed, but with children he knows and especially as a puppy, he can be quite playful. If not a working dog, options for exercise could include play time in the backyard, preferably fenced, or taken for daily walks. In inclement weather, indoor activities like chasing a ball rolled along the floor or teaching him new tricks can be good ways to expend energy. This breed, as indicated by his past, needs space and freedom to roam and is not suitable for apartment living. If not given adequate stimulation, he will become destructive in the home. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience and rally can also be a great way to give your dog exercise and mental stimulation.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity


Like all breeds there may be some health issues. Some dogs may be faced with these issues in their lives, but the majority of Estrela Mountain Dogs are healthy dogs.

Working with a responsible breeder, those wishing to own an Estrela Mountain Dog can gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies

Estrela Mountain Dog puppy face.
Estrela Mountain Dog standing outdoors with snow falling.
Estrela Mountain Dog standing outdoors in the snow.
Estrela Mountain Dog puppy standing under a flowering tree branch.
Estrela Mountain Dog standing in a flower garden.


The earliest of the Estrela ancestors were herd-guarding dogs in the Serra da Estrela, in what is now Portugal. Since there are no written records, it is uncertain whether the ancestors which contributed to this breed were brought by the Romans when they colonized the Iberian Peninsula, or later by the invading Visigoths. Regardless, there is no disagreement that the Estrela is one of the oldest breeds in Portugal.

Those early guardian dogs were not the distinct breed we know today, rather, the Estrela developed over a period of hundreds of years. Shepherds would have chosen to breed the dogs that had the characteristics necessary to survive in their mountain environment and to do their job: large-sized, strong, having endurance, agile, deep-chested, able to tolerate a marginal diet, a proper set of the legs, a powerful mouth, a tuft of hair around its neck, an easy, jog-like gait, a warm coat, and a watchful, mistrustful, yet loyal temperament.

Life changed little for the people and dogs of the region, even into the 20th century. The isolation of the region meant the breed was relatively unknown outside it until the early 1900s, and even then, they were mostly ignored in early dog shows. The Portuguese admired foreign breeds much more than their own and shepherds often castrated their dogs to prevent them from leaving their flocks to mate. These factors had a negative effect on the Estrela, so from 1908 to 1919, special shows called concursos were held to promote and preserve the Estrela Mountain Dog breed in the region. Special livestock guardian working trials were included in these shows. The trial consisted of an owner bringing his dog into a large field with many flocks of sheep. The dog was observed by judges for its reactions coming into the field and as the shepherd was ordered to move the flock, which inevitably produced stragglers. The dog was expected to move from his spot of guarding to bring the stragglers back, and then assume a leadership position at the head of the flock. During this period, there was some attempt at a registry, of which there is no surviving record.

The first tentative, recorded breed standard was published in 1922. This standard just reflected the functional features naturally found in the best dogs of the time, although it did mention the dew claws as reflecting a “perfect” dog. The hooked tail and the turned-back ears, which later became part of the official standard, were not mentioned. The first official breed standard was written in 1933. This standard attempted to differentiate the Estrela as a distinct breed. This led to the hooked tail and double dew claws becoming a requirement. All colors were allowed.

Prior to World War II, the Estrela’s breeders were still primarily the shepherds and farmers of the region. Since they were mostly illiterate, they did not make any attempt to follow the official breed standard, if they even knew one existed. But by the early 1950s, interest in the breed returned, and the annual concursos were reinstated. Again, the intent was to stimulate interest among the Serra residents and to encourage them to adhere to the official standard. During this period, the long-haired variety was most popular at shows, but show dogs represented only a small portion of the Estrela population in Portugal, and still do. Many of the working dogs were, and are, short-haired.

To this day, the Estrela Mountain Dog remains true to its guardian heritage. It is still a working dog, guarding flocks in its native Portugal and elsewhere. The Portuguese also use it as a police dog. In the home, it is an ideal family pet because of its alertness, loyalty, intelligence, and its instinct to nurture young, all features it needed in its earliest days.

Did You Know?

The Estrela Mountain Dog is known as the Cão da Serra da Estrela in his native Portugal.
The breed is used by the Marine and Portuguese Police.
The Estrela Mountain Dog has been assigned the Working Group designation.
 Estrela mountain dogs can be used to pull small carts.
The Estrela has been eligible to compete in Companion Events since January 1, 2008.
The Estrela Mountain Dog has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since 2004.
Estrelas can move like wolves - head parallel with their body.

The Breed Standard


Large, mastiff-type molossoid dog. There are two varieties of coat: long and short. Rustic, substantial, with brisk gait and an impressive attitude. The breed has a lively, calm and expressive look; it is well proportioned; well made with harmonious appearance, which is traditionally how the breed has been recognised since a long time.
Important Proportions: Moderately long (sub- longilinear), tending to mediolinear. The depth of the chest is less than half the height at withers. The muzzle and skull should be approximately the same length; if not, the skull should be slightly longer.


Strong, voluminous and long and slightly convex seen in profile. Well inserted and in good proportion to the body, with the skull in proportion to the foreface; all parts in perfect harmony. Smooth skin on the skull and cheeks.
Skull: Well developed, rounded, with slightly divergent longitudinal superior cranium-facial axes, convex profile, slightly developed superciliary arches with slightly apparent frontal furrow, occipital protuberance not prominent.
Stop: Only slightly marked and at approximately equal distance to the tip of the nose and the occipital protuberance.
Nose: Straight and in line with nosebridge; well opened nostrils; large and black.
Muzzle: Long, tapering to the tip, without being pointed; tends to be straight but very slightly convex at the tip.
Lips: Well developed but not thick, well overlapping, not pendulous; mucous membrane of mouth, palate and edges of lips with intense black pigmentation.Jaws/Teeth : Clean cut mouth with well developed jaws; full dentition with strong, white, well implanted and close-fitting teeth, preferably with scissors bite, pincer bite acceptable.
Eyes: Medium sized, tending to small, oval shaped, level set, equal in size and well open, with a keen and calm expression; preferably dark amber in colour. Close fitting lids with black rims. Eyebrows slightly apparent.
Ears: Set on at medium height; hanging, carried falling backwards and laterally against the side of the head, with inner edge visible (so called rose-ear); thin, triangular, rounded at the tip; small in comparison to the body.


Neck: Short, straight and thick; well set and well connected into the shoulders; with a slight dewlap, not exaggerated.
Topline: Straight. Almost level.
Back: Preferably short, well muscled.
Loin: Short; broad; well muscled; well connected to the croup. Croup : Slightly sloping; short, broad and muscled. Height at croup should be equal or slightly superior to the height at the withers. Chest : Broad; deep; well sprung without being cylindrical; well let down to the elbow or slightly below it.
Underline and belly: The underline should rise gradually but smoothly from sternum to the groin; belly not too wide, in proportion to the animal’s substance and harmoniously connected to the body.
Tail: Set on at medium height; long; thick; carried below the horizontal, scimitar-shaped, with a hook at the end.
At rest it hangs naturally between the thighs, reaching at least the hock; when excited and in motion, the tail rises above the horizontal, curving upward and forward, sideways and downward, without being carried over the croup. It should be well furnished with hair, and feathered in the long-haired variety.


General appearance: Upright with strong bone and thick joints, moderately open angulation, with easy movement.
Forearms: Straight, parallel, long, with strong bone and almost cylindrical in shape.
Forefeet: Proportioned, neither too round nor too long, between cat and hare feet (not splayed); thick, tight toes with abundant hair between toes and pads; dark nails, preferably black, well developed; pads thick and hard.


General appearance: Upright, strong bone with thick joints, moderately open angles, with easy movement.
Hock: Slightly let down; moderately open, neither turned in nor out.
Metatarsus (rear pastern) : Vertical, almost cylindrical. Possible presence of single or double dewclaws.
Hind feet: Identical to the forefeet.


Hair: Strong, very abundant, slightly coarse, without excessive harshness, the texture is similar to goat hair.
The undercoat is composed of fine hair, short, abundant and entangled, normally lighter in colour than the outer coat.
– Long-haired variety: Straight or slightly wavy top coat, uneven in some areas. It is shorter and more dense on the limbs, below the elbows and hocks, as well as on the head; on the ears, it becomes gradually shorter from the base to the tip, becoming thinner and softer. It is longer on the tail, which is bushy, thick and feathered, around the neck and throat and on the buttocks, which are abundantly feathered, as well as the back side of the forearms.
– Short-haired variety: Short hair, evenly distributed over the body, slightly shorter on the head and limbs, without feathering.
The following colors are accepted and considered typical:
– Solid: yellow, fawn and grey in all ranges of color intensity.
– Wolf Grey: fawn, yellow and grey tones, commonly in lighter and darker shades.
– Brindle: Fawn, yellow or grey base color with blackish brindling. In the cranium-facial area, a dark coloued mask is typical.
White markings are admitted only at the extremities of fore- and hind feet and on a small extension on the lower region of neck and chest.

Estrela Mountain Dog illustration.

Colors & Markings


Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Brindle Check Mark For Standard Color 057
Fawn Check Mark For Standard Color 082
Wolfgray Check Mark For Standard Color 227
Yellow Check Mark For Standard Color 232


Description Standard Markings Registration Code
Black Mask Check Mark For Standard Mark 004
White Markings Check Mark For Standard Mark 014
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