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Portuguese Podengo

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
The Portuguese Podengo is a primitive dog breed from Portugal that comes in three sizes, small (Pequeno), medium (Medio) and large (Grande). It has several other names including Podengo Portugues, Portuguese Rabbit Hound, Portuguese Rabbit Dog, Portuguese Sighthound, Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, Portuguese Podengo Medio and Portuguese Podengo Grande. It has a life span of 12 to 15 years and as well as coming in three sizes also has two coat types, the smooth and the wiry. It is a hunting dog related to such dogs as the Ibizan Hound, Pharaoh Hound, Basenji and Cirneco dell’Etna. Unlike some hounds though rather specializing in one sense to hunt by it uses sight, hearing and scent. In the right home it can also be a beloved and loyal companion.
The Portuguese Podengo at a Glance
Name Portuguese Podengo
Other names Podengo Portugues, Portuguese Rabbit Hound, Portuguese Rabbit Dog, Portuguese Sighthound, Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, Portuguese Podengo Medio, Portuguese Podengo Grande
Nicknames PP
Origin Portugal
Average size Small to large – comes in three sizes, small, medium and large
Average weight 8 to 66 pounds
Average height 8 to 28 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Two coat types – smooth or wire
Hypoallergenic No
Color Yellow or fawn and may have white markings
Popularity Not that popular, ranked in Miscellaneous class in the AKC
Intelligence Average to above average
Tolerance to heat Very good
Tolerance to cold Very good
Shedding Moderate, some hair will be around the home
Drooling Low
Obesity Average – can gain weight if over fed or under exercised
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush once or twice a week
Barking Occasional to frequent – may need training to stop on command
Exercise needs High – needs active owners
Trainability Easy to moderate depending on experience
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good but best with an experienced owner
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good, socialization is essential as have high prey drive
Good with strangers Good but wary and need socialization
Good apartment dog Low – the smaller size might seem to be good but ideally all sizes need access to a yard.
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy – a few issues such as patellar luxation, eye problems, joint dysplasia and mange
Medical expenses $435 – $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 – $260 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $460 – $675 a year for license, basic training, toys, grooming and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $970 – $1420 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Portuguese Podengo Pequenos of America, also check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None Reported

The Portuguese Podengo’s Beginnings

There is not much known for sure about the origins of the Portuguese Podengo, it is an ancient breed from before the times of dog breeding records being kept. It was also very much a rural dog and so was not well known out of those remote areas. There are a couple of theories about where it comes from, one being the ancestors came from the Middle East and a growing number support the idea that it came from the Mediterranean Islands. It has been around in Portugal since around 700 BC. However it got there it became a favored hunting breed there. The country has no sight or scents hounds that are native, so this dog filled in for both. Over the many years there it is likely there has been crossings with local dogs and two coat types developed, the smooth and the wiry.

There are three types, the original is the Grande, the largest type which was used to hunt game such as wolf, deer and boar. It was developed to be strong, bold and brave and was often used in packs. Portugal farmers had a problem with the amount of rabbits there were so over time hunters then developed a smaller version of the Grande, called the Medio. This happened sometime before the 11th century. It is unclear whether they used smaller Grande dogs to breed down or whether they used different breeds. This dog was perfectly suited for finding rabbit and chasing them down and being smaller was easier to feed and look after. But it was not small enough to get through thick brush or into tight hiding spaces and so the Pequeno was developed. The Medio and the Pequeno were often used together, one would chase down in open fields, the other would go in to flush the rabbit out of a tight space.

Very quickly Portuguese sailors realized the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno were also great for hunting mice and rats on ships. As it accompanied them around the world the breed began to reach other places in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Italian and Spanish sailors also adopted them onto their ships, it is even thought they were on Christopher Columbus’ exploration to the New World. Over the years they began to be kept in larger packs and kennels. However in the last couple of centuries large game became rare in Portugal and the Grande became less useful and their numbers dropped. Also there was now a problem with interbreeding, where once they were mostly kept separate and pure, now the interbreeding was causing problems for the breed, and by the end of the 1900s the Grande was thought to be facing or at extinction.

New Lease on Life

Over the dog’s long history breeders have always been more focused on its working ability whatever size it is, rather than its looks. Steps were taken to help revive the Grande’s numbers and breeders still today breed all three sizes to be a working dog though it is also a popular companion in Portugal too. It has been named by Portugal as a national breed. Very recently some became interested in it as a show dog and that led to its FCI recognition in 2008 but it recognizes this as one breed with 3 sizes.

It has been in the US likely since Portuguese immigrants came in the 1900s who brought their dogs with them. But it was not especially noticed until the 1990s. In 1995 the GLPPC was formed (Great Lakes Portuguese Podengo Club) now called the American Podengo Portugueso Medio/Grande Club. It did represent all three types but the Pequeno became the favorite in the US and fanciers decided to separate and founded the PPPCA (Portuguese Podengo Pequeno Club of America). At first as elsewhere all three sizes were seen as one breed in the US and the UKC gave it in 2006. But the AKC then divided it into two, the Pequeno was recognized by itself but the Podengo Portugueso (which covered the Medio and the Grande) is still in Foundation stock status. It is a rare breed in the US though.

The Dog You See Today

The Portuguese Podengo can be small to large in size. The smallest weighs 8 to 13 pounds and stands 8 to 12 inches tall. The medium weighs 35 to 44 pounds and stands 16 to 22 inches tall. The large weighs 44 to 66 pounds and stands 22 to 28 inches tall. All though have the same look though and all can come in the two coat types. It is similar looking to other Mediterranean hunting dogs like that Pharaoh Hound and the Ibizan Hound. It tends to have legs that are a little shorter in proportion to the rest of its body and it is longer than it is tall making it rectangular shaped. Its tail is thick, long and held low with a curve when it is relaxed and then sickle shaped or horizontal when it is moving.

There are two coat types all three sizes can come in, the smooth coated which is dense, short and smooth and the wiry coat which is rough, long and harsh. The latter usually have some facial hair too. Common colors are any shade of fawn or yellow sometimes with white markings, but there can be black or brown too though that is not favored for show dogs.

The dog’s head is wedge shaped and lean and some have rounded skulls but it is more common for the PP to have a flattened skull. The long head blends into the longish muzzle which is wider at the base and then tapers quite a bit at the end. Its lips fit tightly and the nose should be a darker color than its coat. It has erect ears but they point out to the side and are large and triangular in shape. The eyes are almond shape and can be amber brown to honey in color.

The Inner Portuguese Podengo

Temperament

The Portuguese Podengo forms very close attachments to its family and so while it is mostly a hunting dog it can also be a good companion when with the right owners. Some can form closer bonds with one owner and will choose them over the rest of the family, but it should still be loyal to the others. How affectionate it is though can vary from one dog to another some are very expressive of their love and some are less so. Most of the time in Portugal they are kept in kennels outside as the climate is warm and they enjoy the company of other dogs. It does not like being left alone for long periods.

This breed is an alert one and they make very good watchdogs so will let you know if a stranger is approaching, or if someone is trying to break in. It does tend to bark fairly frequently though so a command to stop it barking once it has alerted you is likely needed. It is an intelligent, lively and fearless breed, it is also wary of strangers so needs good socialization and time to adjust or it could be nervous and even fearful. Be warned one thing owners do need to be ready for is that some of these dogs like to mark their territory so need to be trained patiently not to do that on your furniture.

Living with a Portuguese Podengo

What will training look like?

Training the Portuguese Podengo should be fairly easy if you have some experience and it is certainly easier than some other hound dogs. It is fairly intelligent and with a firm, consistent but also rewarding approach things should go well. Make sure you set rules and stick to them if it is being trained by someone too quick to give in things will not go as well. Keep it positive and offer it rewards and treats and praise it for the successes it has. Avoid being harsh and keep sessions fun and short so it does not get bored. Also start socialization as soon as you bring it home and introduce it to different people, places, sounds, animals and situations.

How active is the Portuguese Podengo?

The Podengo is an active dog that needs to be either working daily or given plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. This means it needs to be with hunters who will hunting with it often, or with active people who can take out it every day for two long walks, play time, safe off leash time and such. The smaller dog can adapt to apartment living if it has to, though all do best with some space outside in the form of a yard. It has a lot of stamina and energy so be prepared for it to be able to go on for longer than you might think. Also be prepared that it likes to dig and when out it needs to be on a leash as it will want to chase after moving things. Expect to give it around an hour a day of activity. It is agile and does well in several canine sports.

Caring for the Portuguese Podengo

Grooming needs

This is a low to average maintenance dog, it sheds moderately so there will be some hair around to be vacuumed. Brush it once or twice a week to control the loose hair and to keep its coat healthy and looking good. Smooth coats can be wiped down now and then too, but wiry coats may need some extra care, they can sometimes have a stronger doggy odor and they have facial hair to deal with. It should only be bathed as needed otherwise it dries out its skin. Make sure for the same reason that you just use a dog shampoo on it.

If its level of activity does not wear its nails down naturally it will need them to be cut when they need it. You can do this with proper dog nail clippers and make sure you know where to cut. There is a part of the nail that has blood vessels and nerves and cutting this will hurt it and cause bleeding. Its teeth should be brushed with a toothpaste and toothbrush for dogs, two to three times a week. The ears need to be checked weekly for infection signs such as redness, irritation, wax build up and discharge and also wipe them clean. Use a dog ear cleanser with a cotton ball or a damp cloth and only wipe where you can reach.

Feeding Time

The Portuguese Podengo will eat between ½ to 4 cups of a good quality or better dry dog food, and that should be split into at least two meals. The Pequeno will need about 1/2 to 1 ½ cups, the Medio will need 2 ½ to 3 cups and the Grande will need 3 to 4 cups. How much each dog needs can vary also depending on not just size but also health, metabolism, level of activity and age. Make sure your dog has access to water and that its regularly changed.

How is the Portuguese Podengo with other animals and children?

When socialized and raised with them the Portuguese Podengo can be good with children. It can play happily and burn off energy with each other. Some are more affectionate and loving than others towards them though, that can vary somewhat. Make sure the children are taught how to touch them in a kind and safe way. It is important to socialize with other animals as its high prey drive means it has strong chasing instincts so it is not best with non-canine pets. Make sure you keep it on a leash when walking. Being a pack dog it is usually very good with other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of this breed is 12 to 15 years and it is considered to be a very healthy breed with as yet no identified genetic issues. However health issues that dogs similar to this breed can have include joint dysplasia, patellar luxation, mange and eye problems. They can also suffer from hunting injuries.

Biting Statistics

When looking at North American dog attack reports where people have had injuries that are at least bodily harm or worse over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Portuguese Podengo. It is not a dog that is usually people aggressive but that does not mean it is 100% safe, no breed is, all dogs would react in certain ways if stimulated to do so, and dogs can have bad days just like us. There are choices a responsible owner can make to limit the risks though such as giving it good socialization, making sure it has at least basic level of obedience training, giving your dog the attention it needs and the mental and physical activity it need.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Portuguese Podengo puppy of pet quality will cost about $1000 from a decent breeder, and then even more from a top breeder of show quality dogs. Always take the time to read reviews on breeders and find one that has experience and knowledge. Do not be tempted by the quicker but unsavory options of puppy mills, pet stores or back yard breeders. On the chance you are hoping to rescue a dog consider looking at either breed specific rescues or even check local shelters. While most are mixed breeds there, if you are just looking for an active companion there are plenty of dogs that can fit those needs. For an adoption fee of $50 to $400 you could give a deserving dog a new forever home.

When it is time to get your dog some things it will need in the home you can expect a cost of $200 to $220 for items like a crate, carrier, collar and leash or harness, bowls and such. It should be taken to a vet when it has settled for a good physical exam along with some other medical needs like blood tests, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering and chipping which are going to cost about $260 to $290.

Then there are the ongoing costs that need to be dealt with when you are a dog owner. Feeding your Portuguese Podengo will cost $75 to $260 a year depending on its size, for a good quality dry dog food and treats. Basic health care like check ups, shots, flea and tick prevention along with pet insurance will cost between $435 to $485 a year. Then other costs like grooming (if needed), miscellaneous items, a license, basic training and toys will come to between $460 to $675 a year. This means you can expect an annual cost that starts at between $970 to $1420.

Names

Looking for a Portuguese Podengo Name? Let select one from our list!

The Portuguese Podengo is a great hunting dog but being so active it is not one for inactive owners. It needs active owners, a role or job to do if it is not being kept to hunt with, and it needs lots of socialization due to its high prey drive. It can get on with children but not all of them are very affectionate, it really varies. In Portugal it tends to be more a hunting dog and kept in kennels outside in packs, but while it is rare elsewhere it tends to be a companion dog in places like the US.


Featured Image Credit: Neo Lee, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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