What is a Breed Standard?

The breed standard is the ‘template’ of a breed.  It should describe all the attributes of a breed so you can distinguish one breed from another.  It is what is used at dog shows when judging the breed to decipher which dog most closely matches that particular breed standard.  it should also be used by breeders when planning litters as each breeder should be striving to breed dogs that meet the breed standard in every way.  Of course, one person can interpret a sentence very differently to another, which is why at shows you will see different dogs winning (when in theory it should be the same dog at every show!).

At the EMDC (UK), we try to encourage people to fully understand the breed standard for the Estrela, and as well as having the British Estrela Standard, we also have the Portuguese and the American Standards for comparison.  We have also devised an ‘Illustrated’ breed standard, this is to hopefully put into pictures what is meant by the breed standard, and we have tried to focus on what is correct, rather than incorrect.  Please note we have tried to use pictures of dogs that are no longer shown, or which reside in a different country.

We hope you find this page useful, and welcome any guidance to improve it further.

Here are the breed standards in pdf – click on each one to view / download / print.

Estrela Mountain Dog Breed Standard (UK)

Estrela Mountain Dog Breed Standard (Portugal) 

Estrela Mountain Dog Breed Standard (USA)

The Estrela Mountain Dog Breed Standard (UK)

This is an illustrated version of the Estrela Breed Standard used in the UK.  We have tried to use pictures that show what is acceptable and unacceptable in the breed.  Because of this we have used pictures of dogs that are either no longer shown, or that live in a different country.  We have used, as much as possible, dogs from Portugal, their home country, as they have the best selection of dogs with good breed type.

We would like to say ‘thank you’ to all those who have allowed us to use photographs of their dogs to illustrate this breed standard. Without their help, this would not have been possible.

© The Kennel Club – Unauthorised Reproduction of Text and Images Prohibited

A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.



General Appearance

A sturdy, well built dog of mastiff type, conveying an impression of strength and vigour. Never cumbersome. Has distinctive small ears, folding backwards, and hook to tail.

NB:  This breed has developed over the ages to protect its flock and family.  Both dogs and bitches are expected to fulfil these tasks and therefore both require the physical attributes to allow them to perform effectively.  When the Estrela is attentive the ears may be brought forward and the tail raised to increase the impression of size.


A hardy guard dog, active and has considerable stamina.

NB:  The Serra da Estrela is a very rugged and challenging landscape requiring extreme sure-footedness and agility.  The dogs are expected to work in the high plateau for many months at a time.

Pictured is a small part of the Serra da Estrela mountain range.  On visiting this National Park, you will often see Estrela Mountain Dogs at work.  This is the terrain the dogs need to be able to negotiate to do their jobs, much of it is rock strewn and very sheer.


Loyal, affectionate to owners, aloof to others. Intelligent and alert. Self-willed yet trainable.

NB:  Although the Estrela has a reputation for being stubborn they are actually only using their inherent working instincts and this must always be respected.  They may be aloof and stand offish with strangers but nervousness must never be tolerated.

Estrelas love children and are loyal to their owners

Head and Skull

Head long and powerful with broad, slightly rounded skull. Moderate stop set halfway between nose and slightly defined occiput. Muzzle moderately tapered. Topline of muzzle almost straight, with slightly aquiline nose. A narrow head and pointed muzzle undesirable. Large black nose with well-opened nostrils. Jaws well developed. Lips black, tightly closed and not pendulous. Roof of mouth black.

NB:  This breed has been bred to fight wolves, bears and any other intruders so a long powerful head is of the utmost importance.  The Estrela head has soft, gentle lines unlike that which is expected in many mastiff breeds.  If the dog has good black pigment, it should not be necessary to check for a black roof to the mouth.


Neither deep nor prominent, of medium size, oval in shape with calm and intelligent expression, preferably amber or darker. Black-rimmed eyelids closing well, with rather prominent eyebrows.

NB:  Please take special note of the fact that the correct Estrela eye is dark amber although a darker colour is acceptable.  A pale or staring eye is untypical.  The expression is described as if ‘looking to the distant mountains’.  If you try to attract their attention a true Estrela will probably ignore you.


Small in relation to body, thin, triangular, rounded at tips. Moderately high set. Rose ear folding backwards, with inner edge apparent, carried close to skull.

NB:  The ear is moderately set, an ear which is set too high gives the impression of flattening the skull which is incorrect.


Teeth very strong. Jaw strong with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

NB:  The original Standard allowed scissor or level bite and this should be kept in mind.


Short, muscular and well set on. A hard, thick tuft of hair under throat. Dewlap undesirable.

NB:  In the long coated Estrela an apparent dewlap can be present which is formed by a mass of hair.  This would not be as noticeable in a short coat.


Forelegs straight, well muscled and with strong, round bone. Moderately sloping shoulders and upper arms. Short pasterns which appear nearly vertical when viewed from the side.

NB:  Correct moderate shoulder assembly allows for easy movement with correct unexaggerated extension.  A front should have good width without exaggeration.


Back preferably short, slightly higher at withers and almost level. Short coupled, broad, well muscled loin. Slightly sloping croup. Chest moderately deep and broad. Ribs well sprung. Underline very gently rising.

NB:  The topline is almost level and should only fall away slightly over the croup.


Moderate angulation. Thighs well muscled. Hocks moderately well let down. Rear pasterns vertical.

NB:  Over or under exaggerated angulation can lead to an incorrect gait.  Stance should always appear balanced.


Oval with thick, hard pads and tightly closed toes. Abundant hair between toes. Dark, or preferably black nails.

NB:  The feet are better described in the Portuguese breed standard as follows:

Proportioned, neither too round nor too long, between cat and hare feet (not splayed); thick, tight toes with abundant hair between toes; dark nails, preferably black, well developed; pads thick and hard.

Dewclaws:  With the importation of several animals the matter of dewclaws has become debatable.  The Estrela may carry single or double dewclaws or have them removed.  Many breeders are now finding difficulty in vets agreeing to undertake this procedure.


Set on slightly low. Reaching to the hock. Forming a distinctive, rigid hook at the tip. Well furnished and feathered. Carried low. On the move may be carried slightly higher than the level of the back.

NB:  The tail is considered an important breed feature which is well described by the Portuguese Standard as below:

Set on at medium height; long; thick; carried below the horizontal, scimitar-shaped, with a hook at the end.  At rest it hangs naturally between the thighs, reaching at least the hock; when excited and in motion, the tail rises above the horizontal, curving upward and forward, sideways and downward, without being carried over the croup. It should be well furnished with hair, and feathered in the long-haired variety.

Gait / Movement

Free and easy purposeful jog trot. Has a tendency to converge at a faster pace, without weakness. Should not be penalised for carrying the head level with the topline in motion.

NB:  Estrela movement is a very light effortless motion which could be maintained over long periods of time.  A tendency to move the breed at an excessive speed should be discouraged.

Coat – two types

Long Coat:  Outer coat thick and slightly coarse without being too harsh. Lying close over the body, flat or slightly waved, never curly. Undercoat very dense and normally lighter in colour than the outer coat. Short and smooth hair on head diminishing in length from base of ears to tip. Thick and abundant round the neck and chest forming a ruff, particularly in the male. Forearms, thighs, rear pasterns and tail abundantly feathered. Short, smooth hair on front of legs. A woolly or fluffy coat undesirable.

Short coat:  Short, thick and slightly coarse, without being too harsh, with a shorter, dense undercoat. Any feathering should be in proportion.

NB:  There is a marked variance in the acceptable lengths of the long coated Estrela.  In the 1960s, Professor Marques described a long coat as any coat over 2 inches in length.  The goat-like texture of the coat is extremely important as this gives weather-proof properties.

In the photograph are the Best of Breed long hair and Best of Breed short hair Estrelas from the Monografica (breed club show) in Portugal, 2008.

At this show, the short hair female was awarded Best In Show


Recognised colours

Fawn:  which varies from burnt yellow through reddish gold to a deep red. With or without guard hairs. The fawn should never be so pale as to be a dirty white.

Brindle: any of the previous permitted colours with the addition of streaks or smudges of black or brown varying in intensity.

Wolf Grey: a mixture of grey and black hairs intermingled, with or without guard hairs.

Black muzzle or mask highly desirable. White markings on chest, underside, feet or tail are tolerated but undesirable.

NB:  One of the beauties of this breed is the huge variance of colour which is allowed.  It is worth noting that paler coats will often also lead to a slightly paler eye.  Pigment should always be black.

Size – Height

Dogs: 65-72 cm (25.5 – 28.5 inches)

Bitches: 62-68 cm (24.5 – 27 inches)

A tolerance of 4 cm (1.57 inches) above these limits is allowed.

NB:  There is a great range in size allowed but please remember that this is a mountain dog.  To fulfil its job as a stock guard the breed needs to have strength and substance to allow the dog to tackle the predators it may encounter.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

NB:  In the Estrela, the following are considered to be serious faults:

  • A cumbersome appearance
  • True nervousness or aggression
  • Lack of substance
  • Untypical movement (including poor shoulders or weak back-ends)
  • Too much or too little stop
  • Flat, large pendulous ears
  • Short muzzle or snipey muzzle
  • Light eyes
  • True dewlap
  • Round or hare feet
  • Too much or too little angulation
  • Straight or short tail
  • Soft coat
  • Too much white


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Last Updated – July 2003