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 About the Co da Serra de Aires 

The Co da Serra de Aires

Portuguese Sheepdog

What is the history of the Serra?

The Co da Serra de Aires finds its origins in the ancient sheepdogs spread throughout Europe by the Roman Legions during their conquests. It is a medium size sheepdog bred originally in Portugal. The Serra is named after the Monte da Serra de Aires, a farm next to the mount (Serra) with the same name in Alentejo, southern Portugal. Shepherds kept the Serra as a companion and herding dog. Its early characteristics seem to resemble those of the Pyrenean Sheepdog. However, it is thought that the modern type of Serra results from the mix of Briards into the original line. This is reputed to have been done at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Count of Castro Guimares, who owned the Monte da Serra de Aires and wanted to improve the breed.

The Serra is a dog of great appeal with a beautiful coat and engaging disposition. These qualities saved it from virtual extinction in 1970. Interest was aroused amongst the wider community of dog owners and today its appeal to middle-class Portuguese dog owners assures its future. Knowledge and ownership of the breed is increasing in many European countries. However, it is still comparatively unknown most particularly in the United Kingdom.

The breed was recognised in 1932 by the Clube Portugues de Canicultura. In 1996, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) published the original valid breed standard (No 93/27.02.1996). It is held under the FCI Group 1 sheepdogs and cattle dogs. The standard is owned by Portugal and is currently being revised.

The breed is recognised by the FCI and many National Kennel Clubs but not yet by The Kennel Club (UK). You may be surprised to know that the UK is also not a member of the FCI. The FCIs statistics show that it is mainly third world countries that are non-members. The FCI has 82 member countries that include the majority of the developed world. A visit to their website is interesting www.fci.be/

How are Serras used as working dogs?

In Portugal, the Co da Serra de Aires tends and drives flocks of sheep, goats or cattle as well as horses or pigs. It is well adapted to the dry and flat areas of the Alantejo and Ribatejo as well as to the harsh climate freezing and windy in the winter, very hot dry and dusty in the summer. Its shaggy coat serves as a protection against potential injury and the burning rays of the sun.

In other countries, Serras are essentially companion, show and agility dogs. However, in France since 2000, the Des Gardiens de la Houlette Kennel has trained and used their dogs to herd flocks.

What characterises the Serras temperament?

The Co da Serra de Aires is one of the most devoted and clever of sheepdog breeds. They are high spirited, happy dogs that are eager to work. They are very loyal and form a strong bond with their families. They are quick, alert and easy-going. However, without careful training they can be stubborn and dominant.

Serras are exceptionally intelligent. They learn quickly and adapt well to an urban environment. They are very lively and with their monkey-like attitudes and looks they are often referred to as monkey dogs in Portugal. They love their owners and are eager to please. Their temperament has been shaped by the ruggedness and the solitude of the Alentejan fields. They avoid and are sometimes shy and distrustful of strangers.

What care do they need?

They need regular daily exercise and activity to provide mental stimulation. They enjoy long walks with their families which they always tend to herd, as their ancestors used to while tending flocks. As puppies, they require thorough socialization but the rewards are great. Grooming is minimal a good brushing once a week is sufficient since it has no undercoat.

How many Co da Serra de Aires are there in the UK?

At present, we know of only two Serra, Funfun Pikku Hiawatha (Finn) and Nespera do Casal do Vinha (Nespa), on mainland UK. Finn arrived from Finland in August 2006 and Nespa from Portugal in January 2007. There is one Serra in Jersey. This is Charlotte da Caso do Seareiro (Charlie). Charlie arrived in Jersey by boat from France in April 2004. Please let us know if you know of any others.

The breed is increasingly popular across Europe. There is an active and supportive group of European breeders passionate about the Serras qualities and committed to breeding high quality dogs. The European show circuit is very lively. In Germany, Birgit Bremer-Grger breeds both Briards and Serra at her Gaelic Crown Kennel (www.cao-da-Serra-deaires.de/engl_Rahmenseik.htm)

What is the future of the Serra in the UK?

We hope for a bright future under the care and concern of dedicated owners. However, success depends on gaining the interest of possible Serra enthusiasts and the breed being recognised by the British Kennel Club. The evidence from other countries is that the breed has been gaining ground steadily in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Do please sign our pledge to show your support and interest.

FCI Founded in 1911 by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands the FCI is the World Canine Organisation to promote and protect cynology and purebred dogs by any means considered necessary.

Cynology the study of dogs