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Cão da Serra de Aires
||cão macaco (monkey dog or macaque dog)
|Country of origin
The Cão da Serra de Aires (FCI no. 93) is a
medium sized breed of dog of the herding dog type, and is one of the indigenous
regional dogs of Portugal.
Called the Portuguese Sheepdog in English, the
original name refers to the Serra de Aires, a range of hills or
mountains marking the boundary between Ribatejo and Oeste, north of
the Tagus river. The breed is
nicknamed the "cão macaco" (monkey dog, referring to the macaque or monkey) for its
furry face and lively attitude.
The Cão da Serra de Aires is a medium-sized dog, standing 45 to
55 cm (17½ to 21½ ins) at the withers for males (females slightly smaller)
and 12 to 18 kg (26 to 40 lbs) in weight. The dog's body is long
and has a long coat
without an undercoat, of medium thickness and described as having a
"goat like" texture.
The lack of an undercoat made the dog less resistant to extreme
weather as a working
dog, but as a pet, lack of
undercoat makes for easier grooming. Typical coat colours include
yellow, chestnut, grey, fawn, wolf grey (fulva e a lobeira), and
black, with tan marks. White hairs may be mixed in with the coat,
but there should be no large white patches.
The tail should be long, and a natural bobtail is a disqualification
under the breed standard, meaning that
owners are discouraged from breeding such non typical dogs, and
tailless dogs cannot compete for breed championships. The tail should never
be docked. The
drop (hanging) ears are set high and close to the head. Detailed
descriptions of all of the ideal proportions and colours are listed
in the original breed standard, as well as faults which are aspects not typical for the breed or that
are structural problems.
Head of a Cão da Serra de Aires living in Poland
Ancestors of today's breed were traditionally used for herding
cows, sheep, goats, horses and even pigs in the
Serra de Aires and in the Alentejo.
Although there is speculation about the breed's ancestry, as with
other breeds who came from undocumented, working dog origins,
"...data is rare, or does not exist...most guardian and herding
breeds do not have records before 1900".
The dog is recognisable as one of the old-fashioned types of European sheepdogs,
believed to be closely related to the Pyrenean and Catalan Sheepdogs.
It is also believed to be descended from Briards imported into Portugal in the early
1900s by the Conde de Castro Guimarães from Cascais, and crossed with the Pyrenean
The landscape of the Serra de Aires is barren and harsh and it
has been noted that the breed would have had a difficult time
adapting to the climate there. That it
is a recent breed was validated by a DNA study done in Portugal on
The Cão da Serra de Aires breed standard was written by Dr.
Antonio Cabral and Dr. Felipe Morgado Romeiros and was accepted by
the Portuguese Kennel Club, and the breed was recognised
internationally in 1996 by the Fédération
Cynologique Internationale. The breed has been exported to
other countries, and has become a popular companion and pet in
Europe. In the United States, the breed is recognised by the United Kennel
Club in the Herding Group as of 2006, using the name
Portuguese Sheepdog. It is also recognised and listed
under its original name or various translations of the name by
minor kennel clubs, specialty clubs, and internet dog registry
businesses, and is promoted as a rare breed for those seeking a unique
The Cão da Serra de Aires is a regional herding breed, and in
other areas the Cão de Fila
de São Miguel, Cão da Serra da
Estrela, Cão de Castro Laboreiro and Rafeiro do
Alentejo traditionally did similar work herding livestock in
other areas of the country. Today, most are kept as pets.
No health problems or claims of extrodinary health have been
documented for this breed.
The breed standard states that the ideal Cão da Serra de Aires
is "exceptionally intelligent and very lively."