Hailing From Portugal, Greece and the Balkans, One-of-a-Kind Gems

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

playful native dogs

Story at-a-glance -

  • Here in the U.S., the handsome, lively Portuguese Water Dog is the most recognizable native dog of Portugal
  • The Balkan Peninsula is home to the Molossers, a group of solidly built, large dog breeds that all descended from the same common ancestor
  • Hailing from Greece is the Greek Shepherd or Greek Sheepdog, bred for centuries to guard livestock in mountainous regions

Dogs Native to Portugal

Breeds that originated in Portugal include:

Barbado da Terceira

Estrela Mountain Dog

Cão da Serra de Aires

Portuguese Podengo

Cão de Castro Laboreiro

Portuguese Pointer

Cão de Gado Transmontano

Rafeiro do Alentejo

Cão Fila de São Miguel

Terceira Mastiff

In the U.S., the most well-recognized dog hailing from Portugal is the handsome Portuguese Water Dog, originally from the Portuguese region of the Algarve. The closest relative of these dogs is widely thought to be the Standard Poodle. The breed was raised to herd fish into fishermen's nets, retrieve lost tackle and broken nets, and to work as couriers between ships and also between ships and shore. In Portuguese, the breed is called cão de água, or "dog of water."

Portuguese water dog

The Portuguese Water Dog is a relatively rare breed, and while some breeders claim they are hypoallergenic, there's no scientific evidence to support the claim that hypoallergenic dog breeds exist. Their tendency not to shed, however, is a definite plus for many families.

Portuguese Water Dogs are known to be loving, intelligent, and easily trained in obedience and agility. Due to their doggy smarts and working drive, they require regular intensive exercise and mental stimulation. These big dogs are gentle and patient, but like most intelligent, active dogs, boredom can encourage undesirable behaviors.

Balkan Dog Breeds

The Balkan Peninsula includes former Yugoslavia, including Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece and the European part of Turkey. Dogs native to the Balkans include:

Croatian Sheepdog

Montenegrin Mountain Hound

Karst Shepherd Dog

Serbian Hound

Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound


Serbian Tricolor

Yugoslavian Tricolor Hound

Also hailing from the Balkan Peninsula is the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog, known in Serbian as Šarplaninac, an ancient breed believed by many to be either one of, or the oldest true Molosser in the world. Molossers are solidly built, large dog breeds that all descend from the same common ancestor.

The Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog is a close relative of all Balkan dogs. It is the Balkans where Molossers, which have played an important role in the development of most modern mastiff and shepherd dog breeds, originated.

sarplaninac dog

These dogs are large and strongly built, with a long, dense, coarse coat that can be rough or smooth. Males weigh between 75 and 100 pounds; females are slightly smaller at around 65 to 90 pounds.

The Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog has an extremely protective nature. As a natural herding dog, if no sheep are around he'll switch his focus to his humans, herding them away from danger or undesirable areas. These dogs are known to be gentle with children and smaller dogs, highly intelligent, and when trained are able to work independently without human supervision.

Dogs Originating in Greece

Dogs native to Greece include the Alopekis, Cretan Hound, Greek Harehound, Molosser, Molossus of Epirus, the Kokoni (small Greek domestic dog) and the Greek Shepherd.

The Greek Shepherd, also called the Greek Sheepdog, has been bred for centuries to guard livestock in mountainous regions. These dogs are medium to large in size, solidly built and very strong. Their double coat is thick and dense, and their tails range from long to nonexistent. Adult males can weigh up to 110 pounds; females are smaller, topping out at around 90 pounds.

Greek sheepdog

As a livestock guardian dog, the Greek Shepherd is typically an independent thinker, fearless, decisive and loyal. These dogs need early socialization, consistent positive reinforcement training, and intelligent guidance by an owner who understands the ways of guardian dogs.

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