The Portuguese Podengo

Did you know that Portugal boasts several different breeds of its own dogs, one of them being the Portuguese Podengo? 

The Portuguese Podengo or Portuguese Warren Hound is classified as a primitive breed and is therefore considered one of the oldest known breeds of dogs.  Among its ancestors is most likely the Pharaoh Hound, an animal that belonged to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

It is thought that the Portuguese Podengo was introduced around 700 BC by Phoenician merchants to the Iberian Peninsular (they are known as Podenco in Spain) when there was an ensured trade throughout the Mediterranean.  During the Arab invasions, between the eighth and twelfth centuries, the Podengos were crossed with other breeds of dogs probably with the same primitive origins of the Podengo, but both developed differently. It also said that the smaller variety escorted Portuguese explorers on their ships, where they were used for ratting purposes.

The first written reference to these dogs hunting rabbits is in 1199 during the reign of King D. Sancho.  From this date, there are many records relating to them as hunting dogs even being used in royal hunts of this nature.  The Portuguese Podengo however owes its popularity to the most humble people who embraced it as a hunting dog.

The Portuguese Podengo is a multi-sensory (sight and scent) hound as well as being a very distinctive looking dog.  It comes in three different sizes:  

  • Small (Pequeno) – 20 to 30 cm in height and weighing between 4-6 kg
  • Medium (Médio) -40 to 55 cm in height and weighing between 16-20 kg;
  • Large (Grande) – 55 and 70 cm, weighing over 20 kgs

The breed comes with two coat varieties:  wirehaired and smooth coated and are not necessarily interbred.   Coat colours are fawn, orange or black and any of these colours can contain white markings and they are low maintenance. 

Bat-like ears on a flat-shaped head

With large bat-like ears that sit on a flat-shaped head, their small eyes come in an oblique format in shades of honey to brown.  They are compact and sit over a rectangular muzzle which ends in a small brown or black nasal area.  When calm, the tail is slightly drooped, when in motion or excited, the tail is horizontal.  Skinny legs lead to cat-like feet perfect for running after game. 

The Podengo Grande, from which the Podengo Médio and the Podengo Pequeno came from, is similar to a tan-coloured sighthound and was used for hunting wild boar but as this is scarce now, this variety is much more rare.  The Pequeno is still popular in rural parts of Northern Portugal where they are used for small-game hunting; rabbits, as well as for ratting, guard work and companionship.  The Pequeno makes a wonderful pet for an apartment but enjoys company.

The Médio may perhaps be the fastest of three Podengos.  It is intelligent and very lively as well as being courageous and a good watchdog.   The Médio is favoured over the Grande and Pequeno but regardless of its size, the Médio is an awesome companion dog and super-efficient seeker.  The breed can be socialized at an early age and needs organization given by a calm, confident and consistent handler.  Proper canine to human communication is important.  

With a very determined sense of sight, smell and hearing, Podengos tend to get distracted by the slightest noise.  They are able to follow a lead until they are lost and quite often cannot find their way home.  For this reason, they should never be let loose in the street, except in places that are totally closed in.  It is recommended to begin training Podengos at a young age as they are intelligent and very trainable.   Due to their active nature, the Podengos also need a considerable amount of exercise with daily walks.  The breed will become very obedient (even off the leash) and loyal, as long as they are treated with firmness and gentleness, in addition to positive training methods.  They are also very brave and this makes them good watchdogs.  Their sweet disposition makes them excellent family pets and although generally affectionate, some may fight with other dogs.  The Portuguese Podengos are sometimes more affectionate to people than to other dogs.

Podengos are a healthy and hardy breed and need exposure to the sunlight.  They are well-suited to hot climates where they can survive living and sleeping outdoors as long as they have adequate shelter and care.   Their life span is considered to be anything up to 15 years.

The Portuguese Podengo made its debut in dog shows in Portugal in 1902, although the breed standards were only published in 1955.  It was only from this date that the different varietes of Podengos were established with the exception of the wirehaired Podengo Pequeno, which was only included in the standard in 1978. 

In the last decade, the Portuguese Podengo has grown in popularity throughout Portugal and according to data from the Portuguese Kennel Club, is currently among the 10 most popular breeds.  A Club for Portuguese Podengos has also been established and they are becoming more and more popular outside of this country too.  Podengos have also starred in Hollywood movies: 

The only negative and sad side for this beautiful breed is that the hunters do not always treat them properly and in many cases, they are kept tied up or closed up in small, confined areas and given very little food in what is erroneously thought ‘will make them hunt better when hungry’!   They are also transported in crowded groups in very small trailers that don’t even have enough height for them to stand up in.  If they are unfortunate enough to get lost in the mountains whilst out hunting they are just abandoned and left to fend for themselves!  When they are not considered useful for hunting anymore they are literally discarded like a piece of rubbish!

At Aanifeira we have a few podengos that have been abandoned over the years and they are extremely beautiful creatures.  To start with, we have Alf who is a young male Médio Podengo, brown and white, wirehaired and highly energetic.  He is wonderfully affectionate and jumps on the edge of the wall of his box to greet all who pass him.  He has a beautiful face and amazingly coloured eyes.

Ché is a female, light fawn coloured, Média Podenga, again very agile and energetic.  She is around 7 years of age and has been spayed.  She jumps extremely high to meet all who pass her box and is a strong and beautiful dog.

Fanny is an orange and white Média Podenga, a calm and senior girl, also looking for a new home.   

We are open to arrange international adoptions to anyone who is interested in these three beautiful dogs.  For more information please contact us on international@aanifeira.pt   

Bertinha enjoying the sofa!

On a personal note, I own a shorthaired Média Podenga bitch.  The owner, a hunter, was traced but had discarded her (we think) because of her age and perhaps because she was a less efficient hunter – she is now 11 years old.  She is a wonderful pet, well behaved, energetic and incredibly affectionate.  I can highly recommend to anyone who is interested in adopting a Podengo, that they would not be sorry.  It has been a rewarding experience for me having her as one of my pets.

Two sites that also provide excellent information on Podengos as well as focus on the plight of the Spanish Podencos and the horrific treatment that they suffer at the hands of hunters, can be viewed as follows:- 

Podenco Post – ‘Everything about and for the Podencos’

Pondenco World

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About Aanifeira

Aanifeira – Associação dos Amigos dos Animais de Santa Maria da Feira is a non-profit/ no-kill organization with around 400 abandoned dogs and a small amount of cats in its care.
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8 Responses to The Portuguese Podengo

  1. Absolutely fascinating article, I didn’t know there were different types of Portuguese Podengo/Podenco – the more I learn about them, the more I realise what a huge variety of types there are – so much more complicated than my other love, Spanish galgos.

    This is a marvellous article and I will add a link to it from Podenco Post.

    And I soooo hope these deserving dogs soon find forever homes, I’d particularly like Alf, if we didn’t have an 11 year old French lurcher who’s a bit of a grump now!

    • Aanifeira says:

      Thank you Beryl, I too have learnt so much about them since owning one and more so, since writing up about them and seeing your Podenco Post site. I am focused to do as much as I can for them from now on!

  2. Telma Shaw says:

    Hi, thanks for the great article. I love the Podencos and Podengos..especially the bat eared ones!
    Our association has adopted out several Podencos from Spain to the US. They are wonderful companions as you say..very lovable..keep up the good work of being an advocate of this needy breed..
    Telma
    http://www.galgorescue.org

    • Aanifeira says:

      Hi Telma, Tks for the support and we certainly will keep up our work with them. I love the G.R.I.N. site and will put it up on our Blogroll. Pls feel free to put our Aanifeira blog on the G.R.I.N. site http:/aanifeira.wordpress.com The more we work together the better it will be for all these animals. Thank you!!

  3. Ermelinda Gomes says:

    I had two Podengos – Teca and Mico. Teca unfortunately died 2 year ago of old age. Mico is still with us.
    Both of them were found abandoned and in terrible state. By the time I found them I lived in an area with lots of hunters, so probably they were abandoned as mentioned in the article.
    I also have other 2 small dogs and 2 cats (sometimes 3). They all get along very well.
    Definetely Podengos are not a breed for small spaces. They have a lot of energy, but are great companions.

    • Aanifeira says:

      I agree they are so loyal to their owners. I am familiar with your group of animals especially, as you well know, Maria the cat, and will always be very grateful to you for taking her into your family! THANK YOU!

  4. I recently adopted a dog that people have mentioned could be a Pondengo or Basenji mix. Any ideas? http://twitpic.com/6daro7 http://twitpic.com/6k5e7k

    • Aanifeira says:

      Hi, great that you adopted a shelter dog! It’s a bit hard to say on her breed but I would think she is more like a Podengo because the Basenji seems to have a darker orangier more coloured coat whereas I have seen many creamy coloured Podengos like her. Also the ears seem more Podengo (bat-like) whereas the Basenji’s ears look smaller. She looks very sweet and great that you can take her to work with you. They are very loyal dogs so I am sure you will enjoy her company as much as she will enjoy yours! Tks for reading the blog!

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