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History of the Breed

Of the several theories regarding the origin of the Podengo, the most probable descends from the Pharaoh Hound of old Egypt. 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. The existence of high numbers of rabbits on the Iberian Peninsula and the need of improving hunt techniques linked to the subsistence of the population, 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. 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.

Functionality - To this day, the Podengo has retained his innate aptitude for hunting. The poorer population hunts for subsistence, which is why the Podengo is such a popular breed. The Podengo has succeeded to claim his place in Portugal and the World, thanks to hunters and breeders. Podengo now reach excellent classifications in highly competitive national and international exhibitions. 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 he has traveled the world! The Podengo Pequeno has a special aptitude for the hunt under the soil, pursuing badgers, foxes and bag-tails. It was used to enter in the burrows and frighten the hunt, or to kill them directly. That's why he 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 "last-resource," exploring where other dogs don'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 anomalies 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 city as well as country living. This is a distinct advantage when compared to the more traditional companion dogs.

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 group or on his own, the Medium Podengo combines a sense of smell and very select ear, being very strong physically and capable of enduring high temperatures. Training is not necessary, as he has an instinctive aptitude for the hunt. In the prosecution of the hunt, the Podengo emits barks 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" and "Dante’s Peak."

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 with the sacrifice of its own life. The Podengo Grande is most often seen in Alentejo near the border, perfectly adapting to the dry and hot climate of the South.

Evolution 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, as this breed was also used in the real and nobility hunts, besides his popular diffusion. 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 Race was approved in 1955, 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.