The Podengo, meaning 'rabbit hunter' in Portugese, is the country's National Dog, despite being of uncertain origin. Some suggest a likeness with the Pharaoh Hound, which migrated to the Iberian Peninsula, whilst others speculate that the breed is a direct descendent of small Iberian wolves crossed with the dogs of Phoenician traders. Primarily bred for hunting, the Podengo developed a keen interest in hunting rabbit - from where its name derives - and was commonly utilised in ratting and guarding property. Well-established in 16th century Portugal, the Podengo grew to great popularity as a companion dog and is particularly commonplace in rural areas of northern Portugal.
The Podengo comes in three size classifications - Grande, Medio and Pequeno (small). Identifiable for its proportionate build, small inseted eyes, black nose, large upright ears and flat skull. The coat is seen in two varieties - Smooth-Haired and Wire-Haired, which is most common in the United States, in colour variations of black, yellow or fawn. The Grande Podengo is often found hunting larger game than rabbits, including boar. A typical sight hound, the Podengo is happy to hunt in packs or alone.
A lively and intelligent breed, the Podengo requires regular exercise and human companionship. Highly trainable, the breed is well suited to the domestic setting and makes the ideal addition to family life. Its vigilance to change and threat makes this an efficient guard dog, protecting its family if potential danger is perceived. On average, a healthy Medio Podengo will weigh 16-20 kg, with a life expectancy of 10-14 years when shown the appropriate care.
Due to the breed's relative rarity it is difficult to establish the susceptibility of the Podengo to genetic or breed-specific diseases, although no breed is ever completely unaffected. Because of its small size, the Pequeno Podengo may be prone to behavioural problems, so firm leadership is essential from an early age. Typically healthy and long-lived, the Podengo has minimal care requirements and is suited to an active lifestyle.