Cao de Castro Laboreiro
The Cao de Castro Laboreiro, or dog from Castro Laboreiro, or Portuguese Cattle dog or Portuguese Watch dog is a dog breed of the livestock guardian dog type, originating from Castro Laboreiro in the northern mountains of Portugal.
The name, “dog from Castro Laboreiro”, refers to a small town, Castro Laboreiro, in the far north of Portugal. It lies in the same mountains as the Peneda-Geres National Park. This mountainous, rocky area was once very remote but now is served by modern highways. The modern breed is a descendent of a very old molosser type, which worked with livestock herders in the mountains, defending against wolves and other large predators.
The origin of this breed is still unknown, although many legends are given. The Portuguese breed club notes that everything written about their origin is fiction, without any scientific proof or historical accuracy. Most of the guardian and herding breeds do not have records before 1900.
The modern breed is the general type of livestock guardian dog which moved with the pastoralist nomads of the transhumance into many areas of the world. It is generally theorized that the origin was in Mesopotamia where modern sheep and goats were domesticated. Modern genetic studies show that the modern breed is unique from other similar breeds in Portugal; and in future, DNA studies may provide more evidence about the movements of the ancient types from which the modern breed has developed.
With the eradication of wolves and other large predators, this breed lost its original use. Changes in the agricultural methodologies made these dogs abandoned and became a problem for those who raised cattle and horses. Today, most of the breed has been removed from its native range and purpose and is mostly kept as a companion and a guard dog. It is also promoted on the internet as a rare breed for those who seek to have a fashionable and unique pet. The number of specimen of this breed does not exceed 500 in the whole world.
The desired appearance for which this dog has been bred is wolf like in outline. It is a large dog but is not at all oversized. Height should not be more than 60 cm (24 in) at the withers and weight should not be more than 40 kg (88 lbs). The females are somewhat smaller than males. Coat colours are even described in wolf terms, dark and light wolf colour, and the mountain colour is considered the most authentic colour by the breeders. The mountain colour is similar to the coat of a wolf which is a mixed light and dark grey interspersed with individual hair (not spots) that are brown (called pine-seed) or dark red (called mahogany) in a brindle.
There has been no detailed documentation about the health issues specific to this breed. Dogs represented as Cao de Castro Laboreiro may be mixed with other breeds, which may have other genetic health problems. The buyers should enquire the breeders about the type of health testing done on the sire and dam; responsible breeders would be able to provide the right information.