Once home to the fearsome Spanish Armada and the equally terrifying Inquisition, Spain is now better known as a top travel destination in Western Europe, with locations like Barcelona or Ibiza being popular year-round.
In addition to rooftop parties and delicious tapas, Spain has quite a few dog breeds unique to the region, some of which can trace their heritage more than 5,000 years to breeds in Ancient Egypt.
Spanish breeds have been bred for everything from herding to companionship to even dog fights (thankfully, this last one is now illegal). So, as you might expect, they come in all shapes and sizes.
Some breeds will look familiar, sharing their heritage with other breeds around the world, while a couple look truly unique.
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Table of Contents
- Dogs From Spain – Full List
- The Most Popular Dog Breed in Spain
Dogs From Spain – Full List
Though Spanish breeds are just as magnificent as any others around the world, they tend to go under the radar compared to high-demand breeds such as Siberian Huskies or German Shepherds.
But, as you’ll see below, Spanish breeds are well worth knowing about, and by the end of the list, we wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll have fallen in love with one of these dogs!
These dog breeds from Spain are ranked according to Google trends and search queries for each individual breeds. All data is for the USA and dog popularity can vary outside the country.
12. Spanish Alano
Highlights: Sociable, Sturdy, Loyal
This Spanish dog breed has a long and storied history. Their name comes from the Iranian tribe of Alani who made their way to Spain some time around the 5th century AD. The breed’s ancestors likely worked with the Alani as livestock guardian dogs and pursuit dogs.
However, after more than a millennia and a handful of more centuries, the Alano breed began to make a name for itself in bullfighting and the occasional boar hunt.
One look at an Alano can tell you why. They are proud, bulky dogs with a large head that seems to wear a constant stern expression.
Though their bullfighting days are pretty much over and the Alano breed is not as widely popular as it once was, it is still an admirable breed.
Spanish Alano Temperament
Unlike a number of other Spanish breeds, the Alano Español is much more sociable, especially with other dogs. This is likely because of its history of working as a hunting dog alongside others in a pack.
However, this hunting background also comes with a need to get them acclimated to smaller animals from a young age. If you have other smaller pets, this is going to be absolutely necessary. Though they are kind and loyal to their owners, they might mistake a small animal for potential prey.
Despite their large size, they are highly affectionate and not at all intimidating (unless you are shaped like something they might want to hunt). However, like quite a few other hunting dogs, they can be wary of strangers, preferring to stick with those they know.
11. Spanish Pointer
Highlights: Stout, Composed, Adaptable
The Spanish Pointer is often referred to as the Burgos Pointer or Burgalese Pointer. This breed finds its origins in Castile, Spain, specifically the Castilian Plateau where it was bred for hunting small game.
It is distinctive for its sturdy stature, but this is contrasted to extremely loose and floppy ears. However, this breed is less centered around its exact style and more for its ability.
Burgos Pointer Temperament
Like many other breeds with a background in hunting, the Burgos Pointer is intelligent and up for quickly learning tasks.
However, despite having a hunting pedigree, this is a rather gentle breed with a calm demeanor. Though they are not easily startled, they might prefer the open, quiet spaces that the countryside offers compared to the bustle of urban settings.
Despite this preference, they are quite adaptable so long as they receive proper care and plenty of exercise.
Highlights: Loyal, Brave, Docile
One of the more striking features of this breed is its split or double nose. Originally, this was thought to give it an extra capacity for smell, which made it popular for use in hunting excursions.
However, nowadays it is understood that this is a purely cosmetic trait. However, back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was prized among the hunting community. After the Spanish Civil War it saw a stark decline in popularity.
However, its floppy ears and distinct nose are making a comeback as enthusiasts around Spain have been at work to bring this breed back to prominence. Though there are limited numbers of them around the country, this very rarity can make them appealing.
Pachón Navarro Temperament
When not on the hunt, the Pachón Navarro has a calm, laid-back demeanor. They enjoy spending off time relaxing around their owners.
While not the most active dogs, they do still appreciate activities that let them expend their ample energy. Open yards are going to bring them hours of fun and exercise. Apartments on the other hand might leave them feeling cramped and can lead to stress.
They are extremely friendly to both people and other animals, so long as the animals aren’t small enough to trigger some hunting instincts.
Also, in order to be happy and content, they need a clear pack leader. This can be reinforced by taking them on walks and heeling them beside or behind you.
When they know their position in the pack, they will feel more comfortable and ready to engage with those around them. This will be manifested in a docile attitude and calm demeanor, but with an air of interest in those around them.
9. Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz
Highlights: Athletic, Lively, Agile
This one’s name gives it away. Originally bred and raised to hunt rats and mice in wineries in the region of Andalusia, Spain, this breed now tends to be prized for its athletic ability and lively temperament.
A glance might remind you of the Jack Russell Terrier, with some going so far as to rename this dog the Spanish Jack Russell.
Though now recognized as an indigenous Spanish breed, the Andalusian Rat Terrier likely came to Spain’s region of Jerez from the British Isles. It became popular for its lithe body and ability to catch rats from between barrels of wine, protecting the quality of this ever-popular commodity.
Andalusian Rat Terrier Temperament
With their history in hunting, the Andalusian Rat Terrier loves a good chase. They can be very active, and especially love spending time playing with other dogs.
They are also bright and alert. Their breeding background ensures that they are always on the lookout, bravely keeping watch for threats to their owners.
Being bred to work, they don’t like to spend too much time lying around. They prefer to be up and doing something, whether it is playing with their owners or simply running around a yard dreaming of chasing rats.
8. Andalusian Hound
Highlights: Playful, Loyal, Energetic
As the name suggests, this breed comes from Andalusia, the area in the south of the Iberian Peninsula of Spain. For a reference, Seville is down there.
Down in this area there are caves where you can find paintings that bear a striking resemblance to this breed. However, despite the mystic allure this lends the breed, genetic tests point to this dog breed not being as old as originally thought.
There are actually quite a few varieties of this dog, and they come in small, medium, and large sizes. But a trait that is common across the board is their amazing senses. Their sight, hearing, and smell are all phenomenal.
Andalusian Podenco Temperament
These dogs are very energetic and will need an owner to match them. They were bred to go on hunts and chase things down, so to keep them happy you’ll need to find an outlet for their energy.
They are also quite playful, regardless of size. So if you have small children, a smaller size of the Andalusian might be a better bet since they can sometimes get carried away with their boundless energy.
Part of their hunting heritage also left them with a strong desire to please a confident owner. They respond well to firm, consistent training and will turn out loyal.
7. Catalan Sheepdog
Highlights: Courageous, Intelligent, Reserved
Covered in shaggy fur from tail to nose, the Catalan Sheepdog (or Gos d’atura català in Catalan) is yet another easily recognizable breed on this list. It comes from Catalonia, an autonomous community in the north-east region of Spain. Think Barcelona.
They are a breed of the Catalan Pyrenean dog, but they specialize in…surprise…working as a sheepdog.
From far away they might look like one mess of uniform-colored fur, but upon closer inspection you might realize that they are a mess of several different colored hairs.
A unique trait of this dog is that they tend to molt in two stages: first the front half of their body and then the rear half. The result is that toward the end of the first stage you’ve got a dog that looks like it forgot to shed half its fur!
Catalan Sheepdog Temperament
As a sheepdog must be, this breed is inherently courageous. They are ready to protect and defend their owners should the need arise.
As you’ll see with quite a few of dogs with a heritage of working with livestock, they can be suspicious of strangers. After all, how can they know that the person they just met isn’t trying to steal some of their owner’s sheep?
One noteworthy aspect of this dog is their intelligence and ability to perform in agility races and other dog-sports. In general, they have high amounts of energy and are always glad to have ways to expend it with their owners.
6. Galgos Español (aka the Spanish Greyhound)
Highlights: Sensitive, Athletic, Calm
The first thing you might notice is the familiar Greyhound body, slender and graceful. However, its origins are a little more complicated than that.
They trace their origins back to Asian hounds brought to Spain by the Moors. Then the first crossbreeding began with local hunting dogs.
Eventually, the breed was further honed toward perfection by careful breeding with Greyhound bloodlines until they ended up with a dog fit for kings…literally. The Spanish Greyhound was a favorite companion of Spanish Kings for their skill in hunting.
Spanish Greyhound Temperament
Despite their lithe shape and athletic ability, Spanish Greyhounds are actually quite laid-back dogs. Though they are always up for a test of their running skills, they are equally content to spend down time with their owners, with whom they can be very sensitive and affectionate.
This sensitivity and care carries over to children as well, and they can be very protective of them. However, with strangers they are less open, instead preferring to remain aloof until familiar with someone.
They do get along well with other dogs, but as for cats or other smaller animals…let’s just say that they love a good chase. So, they do best in homes without smaller pets.
5. Spanish Mastiff
Highlights: Devoted, Solitary, Laid-Back
With droopy skin and ears, and eyes that are kind and inquisitive, the Spanish Mastiff is immediately recognizable.
It is massive, and rightly so, as it was originally bred to protect livestock from large predators such as wolves. They were highly popular in the Middle Ages when such dangers were more of a threat to a shepherd’s or cowherd’s livelihood.
Nowadays they are just as likely to guard a couch as they are to guard a flock of sheep.
Spanish Mastiff Temperament
Despite its history as a guard dog, the Spanish Mastiff is nowadays more a big lump of affection, at least for its owners. They are highly devoted to their owners and can get along with strangers if properly acclimated.
However, they tend to not get along with other dogs as well. This can be curbed though through careful socialization and training.
In general, they are some of the most leisurely dogs you can imagine. They enjoy few things more than laying around and relaxing, as if their droopy features weren’t enough of a hint.
They’re not opposed to be taken on runs, but don’t be surprised if a light jog quickly turns into a lumbering stride and then into a lazy walk.
Lastly, they might be more suited to open countryside rather than urban neighborhoods. In the open their booming barks can won’t be as likely to annoy your neighbors.
4. Ibizan Hound
Highlights: Playful, Gentle, Intelligent
There is something almost feline, or maybe even deer-like, about this sleek breed. Its long legs, its erect triangular ears, and its narrow snout all lend it an air of intense alertness.
Which makes sense, considering it was originally raised to hunt rabbits and other small animals, barreling after them at an astounding speed of nearly 40 mph!
This breed can trace its origins further back than most people can. Around 5000 years to Ancient Egypt, that is. However, it didn’t make its way over to Spain until around the 8th century AD where it arrived at the Ibizan Island from which it takes its modern name.
Ibizan Hound Temperament
As their looks suggest, these are alert and energetic dogs that love playing with their owners. They are friendly with their owners, whether adults or children, and get along rather well with other dogs. However, they can be somewhat hesitant before trusting strangers. But this manifests as avoidance rather than any aggression.
In fact, they are rather gentle and intelligent. So, while they might make great watchdogs don’t expect them to do much on the protecting side.
One important thing to note is that they do have a tendency to enjoy chasing and/or catching small animals. This pretty much runs in their blood. However, if they are acquainted with smaller pets and animals from a young age, they can come to see them as friends…not food.
3. Presa Canario (Canary Mastiff)
Highlights: Dominant, Careful, Confident
Despite its name, this dog bears no resemblance to a petite canary bird. Instead, its name comes from its place of origin, the Canary Islands.
Specifically, it comes from the Tenerife and Grand Canaria Islands where it was bred for both guarding and herding cattle.
They came about through breeding programs between Mastiff breeds and local cattle dogs in the Canary Islands. The result was a large, imposing dog that helped locals protect and manage their livestock.
In addition to its robust size, one of its defining traits is that is has a lot of skin! It is covered by loose skin that often collects in wrinkles, giving it a lazy, floppy sort of look.
Presa Canario Temperament
These dogs were bred for herding, so they can have quite the dominant streak in them. Because of this they tend to usually get along only with other dogs that aren’t also so imposing.
As expected too, they are confident and careful dogs. Part of their breeding left them with a character that knows what to do and expects others to follow suit.
With their owners they can develop a strong bond, and despite their intimidating size they can be very caring and loving. However, it takes them some time to warm to strangers.
2. Spanish Water Dog
Highlights: Diligent, Affectionate, Protective
Another Spanish breed with an extremely distinctive look is the perro de agua español, or the Spanish Water Dog. Covered in thick curled fur from birth, it is a match for those with top notch grooming skills…or so you might think.
But, despite the temptation to do so, its coat should never be cut or trimmed! Instead, shearing is the way to go, at least once a year. And, oddly enough, brushing is against the rules here too.
Like several other Spanish breeds, this dog has a history of work as a sheepdog and guard dog. However, it also did some side jobs as a gundog, finding and retrieving game for hunters, especially from water…thus its name.
It has a shorter heritage of only a couple hundred years and its origins are a little vague. However, it is thought to have made its way to Spain via Turkey.
Spanish Water Dog Temperament
Like most dogs with a guarding or shepherding background, they are diligent. The readily guard their homes on instinct and do so with great care and attention.
They are also quite intelligent, and even if they are not helping with herds of livestock, they are up for learning tasks to help their owners.
Not inherently sociable, they can grow to trust and enjoy the company of strangers through early training. And a note on training: they respond rather well to positive reinforcement.
However, regardless of their feelings for strangers, they are highly affectionate with their owners and decidedly loyal.
1. Papillon & Phalene
Highlights: Energetic, Petite, Curious
While Spain isn’t the only country to lay claim to this breed, it still deserves a spot on this list for its past and continued popularity in the country.
The breed is younger than some others on this list, but still has a history of over 500 years. It is given multiple origins, with some saying it hails from Belgium while others say Spain or France.
The Papillon and Phalene are really just two variants of a single breed, with the only difference being their ears.
The Papillon is so named because its erect ears combined with the frilled fur around its face give the impression of a butterfly (Papillon being the French word for butterfly). The Phalene (French for “moth”) shares as the traits as the Papillon, but just has droopier ears.
While the Papillon is highly energetic, this tends to come out in the form of play rather than long runs. They are always up for a game with adults, children, and other animals alike.
Because of these spurts of energy, they are popular for agility competitions where their intelligence and mobility really shine.
They are highly curious and extremely intelligent (actually, top 10 intelligent), but this sometimes can look like they are being naughty, getting into things and making a mess. However, they are also eager to learn and have lots of devotion to their owners.
In other words, with proper obedience training this won’t be a problem. So long as they have plenty of mentally stimulating tasks, their behavior should stay in check.
Despite being generally friendly and self-assured, they can become reserved around strangers, preferring to stick to familiar company.
The Most Popular Dog Breed in Spain
Spanish breeds enjoy constant, but measured popularity. This is good for them, meaning that with less demand there is less chance of them being bred recklessly and without care.
However, just because you don’t see them every day does not mean that they don’t have quite the following, especially in European regions.
Which leads us to the most popular Spanish breed, at least in its country of origin: the Spanish Mastiff.
It is so popular that is has even been named the national dog of Spain. Which makes sense. It’s laid-back expression and calm demeanor perfectly encapsulate the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of southern Europe.
As you might have noticed, quite a few of these dogs resemble breeds from other countries as well. The reason for this is because a lot of them share common ancestry.
The difference is the breeding they have gone through over the years. Each country breeds and trains their dogs to meet the needs of the people in their various regions.
For Spain, this meant dogs that could be taken on hunts, or keep watch and work with livestock. Most Spanish breeds tend to be large, with very few being meant to simply be lap dogs, though they are not opposed to sitting on your lap by any means!
Instead, they bred quite a few working class dogs. This led to breeds that are intensely loyal to their owners and develop very close bonds with them.
They make great companion dogs and their affection can warm an entire household.
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