The Portuguese Pointer

Brief History of the Breed

The Portuguese Pointer is a breed thought to derive from the old Podengo de Mostra, who’s earliest reference can be found in the “Livro de Montaria” by D Joal 14th & 15th century. These dogs came to be known since the sixteenth century as “Perdigueiros” (from “Perdiz” the Portuguese name for Partridge)

It is thought that natural selection has led to the rising in the Iberian Peninsula of a short haired pointing dog, with already very specific and defined characteristics, and known as the Peninsula Pointing Dog. It is widely believed that this breed was also the direct ancestor of the current Perdigueiro, as well as the English Pointer.

This is a bracoïd type dog, medium sized and compact, with a short and somewhat dense and harsh coat which allows it to sometimes withstand high temperatures. He is hardy, curious and affectionate, moving with extraordinary suppleness, scenting the wind and scouting the ground. When hunting it stops firmly at the smell of the game which he retrieves and brings to hand with joy and enthusiasm.

The “Perdigueiro” is the result of a slow process of evolution which took centuries, while he went through multiple influences genetic, geographic and environmental, as well as human intervention. These influences moulded its distinctive morphological and behavioural identity orienting it to its natural function, the hunt. The breed shows all the characteristics of a ‘pointing’ dog since it instinctively assumes a posture of immobility whenever it scents the hunt, therefor indicating its location to the hunter.

In the sixteenth century, the Perdigueiro became very popular and was used by the commoners, which in fact hindered the interest of the noble hunters. During the reign of King D. Sebastião, a new law came forth: the “Regulation of the Game Preserves of Lisbon” (“Regimento das Coutadas de Lisboa”) which prohibited, and severely penalized the possession of pointing dogs. This led to a sharp decline of the breed in the seventeenth century which had its greatest peak during the nineteenth century, when foreign breeds such as the English Pointer and the Spanish Pachon began to be fashionable. Some random mating’s between breeds were then made, leading to some loss of the phenotype homogeneity that the breed had until then.

In the early twentieth century, especially by the action of Henrique Anacoreta, a great effort was made in order to give back to this pointing dog its morphological type and recourse to the importation of Pointers for the improvement of the “Perdigueiro”. Gradually, this pointing dog regained much of the features which had become famous throughout Europe leading to a first attempt at the formulation of a standard of the breed in 1931 by Leopold Machado de Carmona. This standard would only be approved in 1939 after the contribution of Prof. Manuel Fernandes Marques.

The standard remained unchanged until 1962, when an amendment was introduced restricting the variety of colours permitted for the coat. A new version of the official standard was approved in 2008, mainly due to the necessary adaptation requirements to the FCI standard model. However, thanks to contribution given by several breeders, today the breed shows homogeneity, both in morphological and functional terms.

Nowadays, the breed club in Portugal, Associação do Perdigueiro Português – APP has been useful in the expansion and use of this breed as it promotes this dog, one of the oldest Portuguese Breeds, in its hunting functionality[i]

[1] Caes Portuguese Estaloes das Suas Racas, “Portuguese Dog Breeds”