Description & History

The Portuguese Water Dog or Cao d'Agua, is an ancient breed which for centuries existed wherever fishing villages where to be found along the Portuguese coastline. Nowadays, although its numbers are depleted, it can still be seen in the southern province of Algave.

The origins of the breed are not known but is believed its ancestors were originally herding dogs in Asia, before migrating to western Europe to become employed by Portuguese fisherman.

The breed's love of water, plus its exceptional swimming and diving qualities, enabled the fisherman to use these dogs in a number of ways.

They used to accompany the fishing fleets when they put to sea. Their tasks were many and varied. Whether they sailed in the cold northern waters around Newfoundland or the warmer seas near the Portuguese coast, the dogs were in their element - retrieving and diving for fish which had escaped the nets or retrieving broken or damaged nets and tackle which had been washed overboard. They also acted as couriers carrying messages - in cylinders attached to their collars - between the boats and the shore.

When the fleet was at home, the dogs usually lived on the boats. They were excellent guard dogs making sure their master' property was well protected.

Some years before the Second World War, their numbers declined. Native breeds in a number of countries suffered the same fate as methods in agriculture and the environment changed. Efforts to re-build the breed and save it from extinction were successfully undertaken by the Portuguese Kennel Club, so that nowadays the Portuguese Water Dog is established in other countries besides Portugal.

An interesting feature of the breed is that they have two types of coat - long and curly - although apart from their coats the breed standard is the same for both types. In Portugal they are known as:

  1. The Long-haired Portuguese Water Dog or the Cao d'Agua Pelo Ondulado.
  2. The Curly-coated Potugese Water Dog or the Cao d'Agua de Pelo Encaracolado.

Although not yet established in the British Isles in any great numbers - less than two hundred dogs - the breed has been popular in the United States for some years.

The Portuguese Water Dog is principally a sporting breed. It is robust and is endowed with amazing stamina. It should preferably live near the coast, rivers or lakes on order that that its health remains both mentally and physically sound.

Rosamund Walters.



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