Jan 16

Portuguese Water Dog

by in What to see

Kappa, our Portuguese Water Dog
“The dog had long black hair, clipped to the first rib, and with a tuft
at the tip of the tail.”

– a Monk, describing a dog rescuing a child from the sea, 1297 A.D.

To All Who’ve Asked (or wondered):
Yes, indeed. Kappa, above, is related to Bo Obama. Maternally via Heitor do Vale Negro; Paternally via Anacoves la Primera Samba and White Cap Graça Bravata.
Lucky Obamas!


Although my husband insists that no self-respecting male would be seen with a dog without pants (photo, above), I see no reason to mess with more than 700 years of tradition (quote, above).

And so here is our Portuguese Water Dog — in honour of her heritage — proudly sporting fashionable black leggings.

Non-shedding, non-allergenic, super-inteligente, natural clowns, loyal and loving, this breed was virtually extinct in the 1930s. At that time, a man named Vasco Bensaúde located a few excellent examples and the first recovery litter was born on May 1, 1937, securing a future for one of the world’s oldest known breeds.

Although the first written documentation is the Monk’s quote from 1297 at the top of this page, during the Roman occupation of Portugal the dog’s particular grooming already had a name: the “Lion Cut”, indicating the full mane at the front and the clipping of the hindquarters. The engraving, above, shows a Portuguese Water Dog swimming to meet King Miguel as he landed in Belém in 1828. In 1981, Guiness Book of Records (dubiously) noted the Portuguese Water Dog as the “rarest breed in the world.”

The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) is a working dog, intimately connected to its owner, and used by fishermen along Portugal’s extensive coastline to assist with fishing, barking to alert to schools of fish in the water and carrying messages ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore.

The PWD’s esteem amongst the coastal population, especially just south of Lisbon and in the Algarve, is a testament not only to the breed’s working tradition but also of the fishermen’s attitude towards these dogs: they were never sold, but always only given as a gift, because they were believed to be “priceless.”

As recently as the early 1900s, the Portuguese Water Dog was still an indispensable part of the fishing boat ensemble, not just on the wharves, but also on the boats. With its well-known bravery and loyalty, it was ready and attentive to the fisherman’s movements, recovering fish that wriggled off of hooks and objects that fell from the boats, as well as herding alongside the nets — under the water — in order to keep fish from escaping. “But the dog did not always go after a fish. Sometimes the dog, seeing a fish fall from a line, did not jump into the water to catch it, as it normally would. Instead it would run into the depths of the boat, hiding inside, howling. In these cases, the fishermen never insisted that the dog follow the original command because, according to them, this attitude was a signal that sharks were in the vicinity…” (1)

Unapologetically playful and energetic, the Portuguese Water Dog’s loving nature is evidenced in their work with hospitals, hospices and autistic children worldwide.

A fantastic companion, this breed is not for everyone. Most importantly, Portuguese Water Dogs are not happy alone. They must not be left in an empty house, day after day, for this is a dog determined to love and be loved.

(1) Text and 1828 engraving used by permission from www.PedradaAnixa.com. Thank you, Isabel, for your assistance and for our wonderful dog.

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