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.
The Podengo is a rugged coursing hound that comes in two sizes: medio (medium, standing 16 to 22 inches at the shoulder) and grande (large, 22 to 28 inches). They also have two coat types: smooth and wirehaired. The breed’s enthusiasts describe it as “primitive,” that is, it’s a rustic, no-frills hound untouched by fads and fashion since arriving on the Iberian Peninsula ages ago. Among their distinctive characteristics are large, erect, triangular ears; a pyramid-shaped head that tapers to the nose; and sweetly expressive, almond-shaped eyes.
Podengos, in general, are funny dogs that love to play. They easily entertain themselves with toys, chase each other and stalk each other around the house and yard. They are highly intelligent and learn new things very fast. Since they are a watchful dog though, they are not as easy going and playful with strangers and may view smaller animals like dogs and cats as prey. They may be quite reserved initially and prefer to greet strangers on their own terms. They are very tolerant and compliant, eager to please their family members and put up with most requests we make of them.
The Podengo should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior).A primitive dog, the Podengo will hunt on their own if given the opportunity. Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The wirehaired Podengos will shed in sections. It is important to brush regularly to remove dead hair. The smooth-coated dogs should require slightly less grooming; an occasional brushing will suffice. Neither coat should be stripped. Beyond regular weekly grooming, the occasional bath will keep them clean and looking their best. Their 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 infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.
Podengos are great watchdogs and companions. They are very playful and quick to learn, but not always easy to train. Both size varieties are respected as versatile hunters and companions who use all their senses, as well as their agility, speed, and endurance, running singly or in packs. The medium size is more intense and energetic than the large, who does enjoy relaxing on the couch.
Podengos will both surprise and test the unprepared owner. They require firm training or they will find their own adventures, but they are easily motivated by food and fun. To get the most enjoyment from your Podengo, raise the most relaxed and tolerant Podengo you can by taking him to training classes and provide as much early socialization as possible.
Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as food and contact allergies, hypothyroidism, and deafness. Since no health screening is done in the country of origin, any health testing should be considered a baseline to gather information. The U.S. parent club position has been one that favors testing for “illumination rather than elimination.”
The probable origin of the Portuguese Podengo is with the primitive, multi-purpose hunting dogs obtained, used and distributed by Phoenician traders during the circumnavigation of Africa in 600 BC and reaching Portugal in the 700s BC. This is evidenced by artifacts found under the Lisbon Cathedral. The Podengos were developed into different sizes in Portugal due to their functionality, the largest being the Podengo Grande, which was developed for deer and wild boar hunting. It will exhaust and detain large game and await the hunter’s gun. The Podengo Medio, being slightly smaller, was used for rabbit hunting. Due to Portugal’s relative isolation at the western edge of Europe, unlike the other two sizes, the Medio evolved to its present form without much influence from other breeds and, as a result, has the most strongly established and homogeneous type and greatest genetic stability of the three sizes. The Medio embodies the authentic type of the Portuguese Podengo.
The Portuguese Podengo is one of ten National Dogs of Portugal and has the honor of being the symbol of the Portuguese Kennel Club (the Clube Portugues de Canicultura or CPC). The Club do Podengo Portugues (CPP) is the national breed club in Portugal. Ironically for this breed, which in the Medio and Pequeno sizes has evolved for the past 2,000 years as a dog of the people, the efforts to save and improve the breed over the past 100 years have included many members of Portugal’s upper classes, who saw in this and the other nine indigenous breeds an essential element of the national patrimony.
The first purebred Portuguese Podengos came to the United States in the 1990s and now reside in more than forty-five states. The first documented Portuguese Podengos of any size in America were the wirehaired Portuguese Podengo Medios imported in August, 1994.