Rafeiro of Alentejo
Other names: Portuguese Mastiff, Alentejo Mastiff
Looking for a gentle giant dog? The Rafeiro of Alentejo is the one for you! This dog is huge; yet, despite his intimidating size, he is kind and gentle towards his family, especially children. Surprisingly, this otherwise calm dog will step up to the mark and protect its family against any danger - he is a truly fantastic watchdog!
It should be understood, that the Rafeiro do Alentejo was bred as a working dog and therefore, has a definite stubborn and willful streak to its temperament. However, with an experienced owner who understands dominant breeds, this big but lovable dog can make a wonderful companion.
Key facts about the Rafeiro of Alentejo
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Origins and history
The Rafeiro of Alentejo is believed to be a descendant of the Tibetan Mastiff and was originally used to move and herd livestock in Portugal. The breed suffered in the mid-late 90s and almost became extinct, but thankfully, a dedicated group of breeders managed to revive the population. Nowadays though, the breed is still incredibly rare, even in its native Portugal.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Section 2 : Molossian type
Physical characteristics of the Rafeiro of Alentejo
Female : Between 25 and 28 in
Male : Between 26 and 29 in
Female : Between 77 and 110 lb
Male : Between 77 and 132 lb
Black, fawn, yellow, grey or white, often with markings of a contrasting colour.
Type of coat
The length of the coat is short or mid-length. The type of coat is thick, straight and dense.
The Rafeiro of Alentejo is a large dog with a characteristic wide, round head. The eyes are dark and expressive, while the ears are medium-sized, triangular ears which hang down to eye level. The neck is short with visible dewlap. The body is robust and muscular, with bulky shoulders and strong, thick legs.
Good to know
The Rafeiro of Alentejo is often described as bear-like in terms of appearance.
He is affectionate and always willing to receive cuddles and affection, though only acts this way towards his family.
This dog prefers to remain on guard, and play sessions could distract him from his mission.
Despite its somewhat intimidating appearance, the Rafeiro of Alentejo is calm, gentle and considerate within the home if well-trained and exercised.
Of average intelligence, he has a strong sense of observation and analysis, which allows him to fulfill his mission of guarding with great efficiency.
The Rafeiro of Alentejo used to be part of huge packs of dogs to hunt large wildlife. Though his prey drive seems to have lessened over time, this breed may still be tempted to chase livestock and wildlife.
Fearful / wary of strangers
He is extremely protective and therefore suspicious of strangers. Early and consistent socialisation is essential to avoid extreme shyness, and maybe even aggression, towards new people.
Overall, they are quite independent dogs, but still very close to members of their social group.
Behaviour of the Rafeiro of Alentejo
The Rafeiro of Alentejo is not afraid of spending extended periods alone as part of his guarding duties, as long as he has been educated for this from a young age.
Easy to train / obedience
This breed of dog can be quite slow to pick up new tricks and learn new commands. His dominant streak may mean he acts stubbornly towards training sessions. Being consistent and extensive in the Rafeiro of Alentejo’s training is essential because without it, he could become overly dominant and hard to control. Positive reinforcement is the best method.
The Rafeiro of Alentejo has an extremely loud bark, but if well-trained, only uses to alert its owners of strangers. However, this breed is noisy in other ways though - expect snores, snorts and grunts galore!
Tendency to run away
Due to this breed’s territorial instinct and fairly high prey drive, he should be kept in a securely fenced area if outdoors and on a lead in public areas until he is perfectly trained.
The Rafeiro of Alentejo will become destructive if left alone for too long.
Greedy / Gluttony
Treats are useful in a training based on positive reinforcement.
The Rafeiro of Alentejo makes for the perfect watchdog! Bred to keep animals safe from predators, his naturally protective and will do absolutely anything to keep his family safe. He will bark at any strange activity or strangers entering his territory, especially at night.
Due to this breed’s independent and dominant nature, the Rafeiro of Alentejo is not recommended for first-time dog owners.
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Rafeiro of Alentejo in a flat
He may cope in a large flat if well-exercised, but should ideally be kept in a house with a large, secure, fenced garden.
Need for exercise / Sporty
It may come as a surprise, but the Rafeiro’s need for exercise is fairly low. He will enjoy around an hour of leisurely walking or a slow jog every day, but should not be over-exerted, especially when young.
Travelling / easy to transport
This is a pretty large dog, meaning he may be difficult to transport.
Rafeiro of Alentejo and cats
A Rafeiro who has been socialised around cats from a young age will tolerate them.
Rafeiro of Alentejo and dogs
Again, if this breed is socialised well around other dogs and animals from a young age, he should be calm and docile, though not necessarily friendly, around other dogs.
Rafeiro of Alentejo and children
The Rafeiro of Alentejo is known to be gentle, warm and friendly around children. Kids bring out the playful side of this breed! However, due to the big size, supervision is still recommended.
Rafeiro of Alentejo and the elderly
He’s too big and potentially hard to handle for an elderly owner.
We do not have enough data to set and average price.
Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £120 to £180 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.
Firstly, it’s important to note that the Rafeiro of Alentejo may drool more than other breeds - you’ll need to get used to keeping cloths and wipes nearby.
In terms of the coat, the Portugese Mastiff is quite low maintenance. A bath only when absolutely necessary, along with a weekly brush, is enough to keep the coat in good condition.
However, this breed is prone to ear infections, so his ears will need more regular checking and cleaning than other breeds.
The Rafeiro is usually a low to average shedder, but sheds heavily twice a year.
Nutrition of the Rafeiro of Alentejo
The Rafeiro of Alentejo requires a dog food formulated for large dogs. As this breed is prone to bloat, its best to split their daily food intake into 2-3 smaller meals, spread throughout the day.
Health of the Rafeiro of Alentejo
The life expectancy of the Rafeiro of Alentejo is 13 years.
Strong / robust
An incredibly strong and robust breed.
The Rafeiro of Alentejo shouldn’t be kept outside in hot temperatures without shade and access to cold water.
Thanks to his thick coat, this breed tolerates colder temperatures well.
Tendency to put on weight
The Rafeiro can be a little lazy, so it’s essential to exercise it daily, manage food portions and keep an eye on its weight.