Do you know the Portuguese Podengo ?

   Small and Medium Podengos wire and smoorth haired 
The Podengo Portugues is the Portuguese national breed. It is very fast and agile and extremely durable. Podengos exists in three sizes, small, medium and large. Each  has two hair types – smooth haired and wire haired - for a total of six varieties. The Podengo Português Grande (big) height: 55-70cm; the Podengo Portugues Medio (medium);  Height: 39-54cm, weight: 16-20kg; and the Podengo Portugues Pequeno (small) height: 20-30 cm, weight: 4-5 kg

The Podengo Pequeno (small) height at the shoulder is only 20-30cm which makes him a very handy dog, and yet he is a hardy hunter. This smaller variation of the Podengo Portugues Medio (medium) was breed for hunting. It chases the rabbits out of the tiny rock ledges, and the Podengo Medio would follows them on the flat ground.

The smaller Podengo is a variation of the medium sized Podengo but without losing any of its other characteristics. Not much attention was paid to colour or tone of coat. The Podengo may be uni-coloured with occasional white markings, and his colour can vary from a rich red to a light sandy colour or even black. His coat may be short and shiny or longer and rough. 

   Small Smooth Podengo hunting
Due to its friendly and agile disposition and its small agile size, the Pequeno is suitable for town life. 
The Podengo breed has not yet been manipulated so that it is extensively free of any genetic defects. The Podengo is a happy, attentive, agile, friendly as well as fearless dog. It is easy to keep, only barks occasionally, is very attached, and friendly with children and other dogs. It requires exercise and attention and likes to play. It is a very fast learner. 

Large Wire Podengo 
Historically speaking, the two above mentioned forms of the Podengo are the smaller types of the original greyhoundlike Podengo Portugues Grande (Large) which has sadly become very rare nowadays. The breed goes back as early as the ancient times. The Pequeno was originally used for catching rats and other small animals. Later he was used in combination with the medium. Even though the Pequeno is still being used for hunting, it also has been regarded as a household pet for as long as 3 centuries.

The Portuguese Podengo to this day maintains the characteristics of its early ancestors. The selection of the breed has been made naturally thanks to the absence of human intervention.  It is a natural breed adapted to the environment and hunter functionality. The designation of Primitive Breed is recognized by the Federation Cinológique International (FCI) in the 5th group of "Dogs from Spitz type and Primitive type." 
The Podengo is adapted perfectly to the climate, as well as to the form of Portuguese life. It has a lively character and a resistant and healthy body.


Of the several theories regarding the origin of the Podengo, the most probable to defend is that it, along with other similar breeds of the Mediterranean, descends from the Pharaoh Hound of high old Egypt. It appears to be one of the first differentiated breeds made by the functionality. This type of dog dispersed from Asia Minor (original area of the Phoenicians in 700 b.C.) to the north of Africa and the Mediterranean coast. The Phoenicians introduced the breed to Portugal and all the Mediterranean region.

       Egyptian pyramid inscription
The existence of high numbers of rabbits on the Iberian Peninsula and the need to improve hunt techniques for popularion subsistence, encouraged the use of this type of dog, given their adaptable characteristics and skill in the hunt. Later, both the Greeks and the Romans introduced breeds with the same origins and characteristics. It is thought that the same type of dogs entered the South of Portugal with North African Arabs. Today, in the North of Africa and border countries of the Mediterranean, there are many dogs similar to the Podengo. Although some don't constitute defined breeds, their high numbers proves the origin of the breed. Later, the Portuguese spread the breed to Brazil, central Africa and India.

Geographical distribution 

Medium Smooth-haired 
While today we find Podengos in the whole national territory, their number is greatest in High Alentejo, Estremadura and in the area north of the Douro River. This geographical distribution appears to be the result of incursions of merchants along the rivers Douro and Tejo. 

The small Podengo (Podengo Pequeno) is more likely to be found in the center of the country along the Tejo River and in the high Alentejo. The medium Podengo (Podengo Medio) can be found in larger numbers in the north along the Douro River and in the center along the Tejo. The large Podengo (Podengo Grande) is found most often in Alentejo near the border, given its exclusive use in the thick hunt. In the north one finds more smooth-haired Podengos, and in south, more wire-haired. Contrary to what one would think, the smooth-haired dogs are more adapted to a rainy climate, because they dry quickly, while the wire-haired ones need a drier climate, so as not to accumulate water inside the hair. Hence, the smooth-haired avoids pneumonia and the wire-haired is naturally protected against excessive sun and heat. 


To this day, the Podengo has retained his innate aptitude for hunting. 
Historically the poorer population hunts for subsistence, which is why the Podengo is such a popular breed.  It is rustic and resistant, used to privations and linked to poor people survival since the most historically remote times. This connection might have caused some problems for the breed's acceptance. But today, the Podengo has succeeded to claim its place in Portugal and the world, thanks to hunters and breeders. Podengo now reach excellent classifications in highly competitive national and international exhibitions. 

Small smooth-haired 
The Small Podengo has been known since the XV century. It was used initially to hunt mice, controlling the vermin in the houses, barns and even in the caravels - which is why it has traveled the world!
The Podengo Pequeno has a special aptitude for hunting under the soil, pursuing badgers, foxes and bag-tails. It was used to enter in the burrows and frighten the quarry, or to kill them directly. That's why it is courageous, smart and lively. Characteristics that we see to this day.
But above all, the Podengo is a fearsome rabbit hunter, often used in impenetrable areas, sneaking out from among vegetation and rifts in the rocks. It is known as a "last-resource," exploring where other dogs won't go. 

The Podengo Pequeno is today used as a companion dog, with excellent results, thanks to his obedient character and affectionate nature. The Podengo maintains a great resistance to diseases or genetic defects and demands very little maintenance. The hair has only one layer and presents obvious advantages during shedding. The breed has a great variety of colors and satisfies different tastes. Because of its size, health, coat and personality, the Podengo Pequeno adapts easily to apartments and to the city as well as country living. This is a distinct advantage when compared to the more traditional companion dogs. 

   Medium smooth
The Medium Podengo (Podengo Medio) is an excellent hunter of rabbits; there is no equal in this activity. His physical aspect serves as reference for the breed, and the Large Podengo is his extension. The Medium Podengo is superb at following clues and is able to hunt individually and also in a group. In a group or on his own, the Medium Podengo combines a sense of smell and very select hearing. It is very strong physically and is capable of enduring high temperatures. Training is not necessary, as it has an instinctive aptitude for the hunting. When hunting, the Podengo emits a bark called "sing" or "maticar. The Medio's character is more independent and reserved than that of the Pequeno, although it is used equally as watchdog and companion. This versatility is proven through the use of medium Portuguese Podengos in television series and American films such as "Zeus and Roxanne", "Three Wishes", "Dante’s Peak", "Soccer Dog", and "Secondhand Lions".

Large Smooth-haired
The Large Podengo (Podengo Grande) is used to hunt big animals, like the boar. To this day it continues to hunt in this manner, although it has suffered strong decreases since the 1970s due to the agricultural and forest policies of Portugal. Currently, we are seeing a resurgence of the Podengo Grande, in the two varieties, protected by two breeders who saved the Grande from extinction. It works in packs and follows tracks, being considered an excellent dog in the thick hunt, at times sacrificing of its own life. The Podengo Grande is most often seen in Alentejo near the border, perfectly adapted to the dry and hot climate of the South. 


   Medium Wire-haired
For the record, since 1000 A. D., the Podengo has retained the characteristics that it presents today. The Podengo – Dog that hunt rabbits – had the first written reference in 1199 in the reign of King D. Sancho I. Since then, there are several references in historical records. This breed was also used in the real and nobility hunts as well as being diffused into the general popultion. 
This breed was present in the first canine exhibitions held in Portugal in 1902. Since then, its presence has grown until the present time. In the first Portuguese Book of Origins, LOP, edited in 1956, there appear 29 
Podengos of the several varieties. The Standard of the breed was approved in 1955. It adopted the three sizes and two varieties, except in the small ones, only with smooth-haired. In 1978 the standard was changed, to finally included the small wire-haired Podengo. 
Between 1984 and 2001 the Portuguese Kennel Club registered 4,834 Podengos (see table below), but the total non registry population is much higher .

Registry Portuguese Podengos
 1984 - 2001
Large Podengo Wire-Haired 245
Large Podengo Smooth-Haired
Medium Podengo Wire-Haired 
Medium Podengo Smooth-Haired
Small Podengo Smooth-Haired
Small Podengo Wire-Haired 
Registry Portuguese Podengos
(since 2001)
Large Portuguese Podengo
Medium Portuguese Podengo
Small Portuguese Podengo
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