Whilst Yogi, "our gentle giant" does not originate from the Algarve, I have to share this wonderful breed with you. A true gentle giant, she is just over two years old and 65 kilos, so whilst not a suitable breed for everyone, we feel blessed that we found out about the Cão de Gado Transmontano
Having done our research we found Joao Augusto and his wife: a couple passionate about the breed and we collected Yogi at 8 weeks old, having been sent regular photos and videos of her with her mother and siblings from literally the day she was born. I never thought we would pick up a puppy at 8 weeks already weighing in at 11 kilos! They are fully weened from their mother at this age by the way so there were no concerns that we were bringing her home too early. Had Yogi been going to a shepherd she would have started her training with the rest of the shepherd's dogs at this age.
The Cão de Gado Transmontano or Transmontano Mastiff is a breed of livestock guardian dog and originates from the North Eastern part of Portugal and is considered still to be a rare breed, mostly still found to this region. With a decent amount of land on the edge of the Serra do Caldeirão up in the hills just above São Brás de Alportel in the Algarve and wanting a big dog we felt that she would be a perfect addition to our family.
Known as the "shepherd of the hills" the breed originate from the the Trás-os-Montes region of Portugal, with only slight human intervention in the breeds development. This region is characterised by a very mountainous landscape and consequently difficult to move a herd easily. To keep sheep and goats safe in this type of terrain, this breed has great stamina allowing it to cover many kilometres per day. The importance of these dogs to "Transmontane" herders many years ago to protect their herds from wolves was such that one dog would be exchanged in return for fifty head of cattle!
The rural exodus and emigration affecting this region has caused numbers of the breed to decline. To respond to this problem, exhibitions and programs are held annually to protect and spread interest in the breed. The work developed in the Montesinho Natural Park (Parque Natural de Montesinho), where litters are monitored and made available to local shepherds, has been very successful for the preservation of the breed and passionate breeders such as Joao and his wife who I mentioned earlier are ensuring this breed will be around for many years to come. Click to see them on Facebook: Quinta do Outeiro Grande - Cão de Gado Transmontano | Facebook
I do at this stage need to clarify some of the characteristics of the breed. They are an intelligent and obedient breed but hugely independent and naturally stubborn. We knew from when we got her that it would be important to take her to classes to be trained and socialised and this has certainly helped with her obedience: it is necessary to be firm but fair in these early months of training. The breed have a long memory so they will never forget if you are not kind to them. If someone visits it is essential that they are introduced to Yogi as a "friend": you won't get passed her if she does not know you but once she has met someone on friendly terms we have realised she will never forget them and they will be greeted with excitement thereafter. She loves to be stroked and receive attention which can be quite interesting if she decides she wants to join you on the sofa as there really isn't much space left once she lies down! The breed choose one person as their "master" and we noticed this trait when she was still less than 4 months old. Whilst her "master" is not me, if I am with her on my own then she will switch her allegiance, obeying me and staying very close if I am out with her. They do like to dig! In a working situation this would be to make a hollow to lay down in and keep cool in the hot summer months. This trait does not go away just because she is a house dog so we do have to keep an eye on her desire to still make a lovely big hollow in the ground!
There is no doubt the natural urge to protect and herd is in the genes. At 8 weeks old. Yogi, settled immediately into our family, and whilst knowing that Milly our Pug was the alpha bitch, she was soon "herding" her when out on walks making sure that Milly was safe and where Yogi wanted her to be. If I walk her alone in the hills she won't ever stray than more than 10 metres from where I am: constantly looking back to check my whereabouts. When I am on our land on my own she literally will do what I call her "patrol round" and check everything is safe and secure before taking herself up onto a top terrace and lying in the shade but keeping an eye on the whole valley at all times. As you can see from the picture above she has a perfect vantage point. A friend approached one day on his bike to come to visit and she suddenly sat up and barked to let me know he was approaching well before he even came into site. The breed have several different barks and knowing it was her friendly bark I knew who was coming. I never have any fear when I am on my own with her. As a breed they make very good watchdogs for your property.
A day never goes by when we don't feel blessed to have such a wonderful addition to our family.