Cao da Serra de Aires
The Cao da Serra de Aires is a medium sized breed of dog of the herding dog type, and is one of the indigenous regional dogs of Portugal. It is also called the Portuguese Sheepdog in English, the original name refers to the Serra de Aires, a mountain near Monforte in the Aentejo region, often mistaken with the “Serra d’Aire” a range of hills or mountains marking the boundary between Ribatejo and Oesto, north of the Tagus river. The breed is nick named as the “cao macaco” (monkey dog, referring to the macaque or monkey) for its furry face and lively attitude.
The Cao da Serra de Aires is a medium-sized dog, which stands up to 45 to 55 cm long (17 ½ to 21 ½ in) at the withers for males and 17 to 27 kg (37 to 60 lbs) in weight. The females are slightly smaller than the males. The dog’s body is long and has a long coat without any undercoat. The coat is of medium thickness and described to have a “goat-like” texture. The absence of an undercoat makes the dog less resistant to the extreme weather conditions, but as a pet it demands less grooming. Typical coat colours include yellow, chestnut, grey, fawn, wolf grey and black with tan marks. White hair may be mixed 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. This means that the dogs with bobtail are not encouraged for breeding and the tailless dogs cannot compete for the breeding championships. The tail should never be docked. The hanging ears are ste high and close to the head.
The ancestors of this breed were used for herding cows, goats, horses and even pigs. This breed has not much record about its ancestors. It is recognised as one of the old-fashioned types of European sheep dogs. It is also believed to be descended from Briads imported into Portugal in the early 1900s by the Conde de Castro Guimaraes from Cascais, and crossed with the Pyrenean Sheepdog. The landscape of the Serra de Aires is barren and harsh and so it is believed that the breed must have had a difficult time adapting to the climate there.
The Cao da Serra de Aires breed standard was written by Dr. Antonio Cabral and Dr. Felipe Morgado Romeiros and was accepted by the Portugese kennel Club, and the breed was recognised in 1966 by the Federation Cynologique Internationale. The breed has been exported in various 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 normally promoted as a rare breed for those who desire to keep a unique pet.
No health problems or extraordinary health claims have been documented for this breed.
The breed standard states that, the ideal Cao da Serra de Aires shows an exceptional intelligence and is very lively.
It can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at non-competitive herding tests. These dogs having the basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.