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 hot spots like Barcelona and Ibiza, tourists flock to Spain year-round. to experience the wonderful culture.
However, Spain isn’t all about rooftop parties and delicious tapas. In fact, the country has quite a few dog breeds unique to the region. Many of which, can trace their heritage more than 5,000 years to breeds in Ancient Egypt. In fact, many are breeds you’ve never heard of!
Spanish breeds have been bred for everything, from herding to companionship and even dog fights (thankfully, this last one is now illegal). Some breeds will look familiar, sharing heritage with other breeds around the world, while a couple look truly unique.
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Table of Contents
- Dogs From Spain
- The Most Popular Breed in Spain
Dogs From Spain
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. But, as you’ll see below, Spanish breeds are well worth knowing about!
Note: these dogs are ranked in order of popularity based on organic search volume for these Spanish breeds. This is their popularity rankings among the world, and not just in Spain.
The most popular Spanish dog breed is the Papillon. However, the Great Pyrenees, Spanish Water dog, Presa Canario, Pyrenean Mastiff, Ibizan Hound, Galgos Español, Catalan Sheepdog, Andalusian Hound, Spanish Mastiff, Ratonero Bodeguero, Pachón Navarro, Spanish Pointer, Basque Shepherd and Spanish Alano are also popular Spanish dogs.
15. 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. Their 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. Just one look at the Spanish Alano can tell you why.
They’re proud, bulky dogs with a large head that seems to always wear a constant stern look. Though their bullfighting days are pretty much over and the Alano is not as widely popular as it once was, it is still an admirable breed.
Spanish Alano Temperament
Unlike many other Spanish breeds, the Alano Español is much more sociable, especially with other dogs. This is likely because of their history of working as a hunting dog alongside others in a pack. It’s the pack-dog mentality.
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 crucial. Though they are kind to their owners, the prey-drive is still engrained in them.
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 and stick with those they know.
14. Basque Shepherd Dog
Highlights: Outgoing, Calm, Affectionate
The Basque Shepherd is a Spanish landrace dog that originates from the Basque Country of Spain. For several generations, these dogs served the local shepherds as capable guardians and herders for both cattle and sheep.
Despite being around for thousands of years, the Basque Shepherd dog was originally grouped with their close cousins: the Catalan Sheepdog and Pyrenean Shepherd. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Royal Canine Society in Spain finally recognized this breed.
Basque Shepherd dogs come in two varieties: smooth and rough-coat. Though the smooth-haired variety is said to be more “pure” with a more outgoing personality. On the other hand, the rough-coat tends to be smaller with a coarse coat.
Basque Shepherd Temperament
The Basque Shepherd dog, though skilled in herding, can be an excellent modern family dog today. Always full of energy and upbeat liveliness, they love to play and demand a lot of love and attention from their owners.
Thanks to their guard dog instincts, the Basque Shepherd makes a wonderful watchdog, and a decent guardian too. They can be a little protective and tend to be somewhat territorial, so plenty of socializing is necessary for these dogs.
Basque Shepherds can get along with everyone in the home. These dogs were, after all, bred to guard the pack. So whether you have cats, other dogs or children, they’ll keep an eye out for them. And in many cases, they’ll have their backs.
13. 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 developed for hunting small game, such as rabbits and foxes.
They are distinctive for its sturdy stature, but this is contrasted to extremely loose and floppy ears. Even so, this Spanish dog breed is less centered around its exact style and more for its ability to track, run and hunt.
Spanish Pointers, after all, are formidable hunting dogs. Not only did they have high stamina but were also adaptable on the field. In other words, they’re the perfect hunting dog for just about any terrain in the region.
Burgos Pointer Temperament
Like many other breeds with a background in hunting, the Burgos Pointer is intelligent and up for quickly learning tasks. Being bred to constantly run on hunting trips means the pointer will need substantial exercise while domesticated.
However, despite having a hunting pedigree, this is a rather gentle breed with a calm and mild 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 the proper care and plenty of exercise. And like with all hunters, the Spanish Pointer will need plenty of socializing to become a docile pet.
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 them the extra capacity for smell, which made them popular for use in hunting excursions. However, nowadays it is purely cosmetic trait.
However, back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Pachon Navarro was a prized dog among the booming hunting community. Though after the Spanish Civil War the Navarro saw a stark and sudden decline in popularity.
The floppy ears and distinct nose are making a comeback, as enthusiasts in Spain have been at work to bring this breed back to prominence. Though there are still a limited number 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. In fact, they tend to enjoy spending off-time relaxing with 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. Despite this, they’re very friendly to both people and other animals (with socializing).
In order to be happy and content, they’ll need a clear pack leader. Much like other hunters, the Navarro is a pack-dog. So, 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.
11. Ratonero Bodeguero
Highlights: Athletic, Lively, Agile
This Spanish dog breed’s name gives it away. Originally bred and raised to hunt rats and mice in wineries in the region of Andalusia, Spain, this dog breed is now prized for his 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. This is no coincidence, as both breeds have Fox Terrier genetics in their bloodlines. The difference is where they were bred.
The Andalusian Rat Terrier most likely came to Spain’s region of Jerez from the British Isles. As such, they 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 long history in hunting (or rather, ratting), the Andalusian Rat Terrier will love a good chase. They can be very active and energetic on the field. Plus, they especially love spending time playing with other dogs.
The Andalusian Terriers are also bright and alert. Their breeding background ensures that they are always on the lookout, bravely keeping watch for threats to their owners. In other words, they’re fantastic watchdogs.
Being bred to work, they don’t like to spend too much time lying around. Instead, they prefer to be up and doing something stimulating. Whether it’s playing with their owners or simply running around a yard dreaming of chasing rats, they need play time.
10. Andalusian Hound
Highlights: Playful, Loyal, Energetic
As the name suggests, this breed comes from Andalusia, the area in the south region of the Iberian Peninsula of Spain. For a reference, Seville is down there. And since being discovered, they’ve made their way all over the country.
In that region, 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. Plus, they come in small, medium, and large size variations. But a trait that is common across the board is their amazing senses. The sight, hearing, and smell are all phenomenal.
Andalusian Podenco Temperament
These dogs are very energetic and will need an active 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. Frisbee or catch may work well.
They are also quite playful, regardless of size. So if you have small children, a smaller size of the Andalusian Hound 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. I would not recommend them for inexperienced owners, though. They’ll respond much better to firm, consistent training, that is, if you want a loyal dog.
9. Catalan Sheepdog
Highlights: Courageous, Intelligent, Reserved
Covered in shaggy fur from tail to nose, the famous Catalan Sheepdog (or Gos d’atura català) is yet another easily recognizable breed. This Spanish dog comes from Catalonia, a community in the north-east region of Spain. Think Barcelona.
They’re a breed of the Catalan Pyrenean dog, but they specialize in working as a sheepdog or shepherd. From far away they might look like one mess of uniform-colored fur, but upon closer inspection you might realize that they’re 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 towards the end of the first stage, you’ve got a dog that looks like he forgot to shed half its fur!
Catalan Sheepdog Temperament
As a sheepdog must be, this Spanish dog breed is inherently courageous. They are ready to protect and defend their owners should the need arise. I mean, they were pretty much bred to do this job with flocks of sheep.
As you’ll see with quite a few of dogs with a heritage of working with livestock, Catalans 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.
8. Galgos Español
Highlights: Sensitive, Athletic, Calm
The first thing you might notice is the familiar Greyhound body, slender and graceful. It’s no surprise considering they’re called the “Spanish Greyhound.” However, its origins are a little more complicated than that.
They trace their origins back to Asian hounds brought to Spain by the Moors. From there, the first crossbreeding began with local hunting dogs. As a result, the final product was one of the best hare-hunting dog Spain had ever seen.
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 hunting skills.
Spanish Greyhound Temperament
Despite their lithe shape and athletic ability, Spanish Greyhounds are actually quite laid-back dogs. Though they’re always up for a test of their running skills, they are equally content with lounging around with their loved owners.
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. But with strangers, they are less open, instead preferring to remain aloof until familiar with someone.
On the bright side, the Spanish Greyhound does get along well with other dogs. Though with cats or other smaller animals…let’s just say that they love a good chase. Thanks to their prey-drive, they do best in homes without smaller pets.
7. Spanish Mastiff
Highlights: Devoted, Solitary, Laid-Back
With droopy skin and ears, and eyes that are kind yet inquisitive, Spanish Mastiffs will always be immediately recognizable. Not only do they have the typical mastiff breed looks, but also the confident and courageous temperaments.
They are massive, and rightly so, as they were originally bred to protect livestock from larger predators, such as wolves. However, they were more popular during the Middle Ages when such dangers were more of a threat to a shepherd’s livelihood.
Nowadays, the Spanish Mastiffs are just as likely to guard a couch as they are to guard a flock of sheep. They’re certainly not as aggressive and fearsome as the other mastiffs, making them the perfect big dogs for the home.
Spanish Mastiff Temperament
Despite their history as a guard dog, the Spanish Mastiff is more a big lump of affection, at least for their owners. They are highly devoted to their owners and can get along with strangers if properly acclimated.
Even so, they tend to not get along with other dogs. However, this can likely be curbed with 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.
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 better suited for open country-side, rather than urban neighborhoods.
6. 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. Though, it’s not to say they don’t make good family dogs.
The Ibizan Hound is a true hound with lightning-quick speeds and stamina. Considering they were originally developed to hunt rabbits and other small animals, barreling after them at an astounding speed of nearly 40 mph!
This Spanish breed can trace its origins further back than most people can. Around 5000 years to Ancient Egypt, that is. But it’s likely they didn’t make its way over to Spain until around the 8th century AD, where they arrived at the Ibizan Island.
Ibizan Hound Temperament
They will be alert and energetic dogs who love playing with the owners. They are friendly with the family, 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. Rather, they’ll just alert you.
One important thing to note is that they do have a tendency to enjoy chasing or catching small animals. This pretty much runs in their blood. However, if they are acquainted with smaller pets from a young age, they can come to see them as friends, not food.
5. Presa Canario
Highlights: Dominant, Careful, Confident
Despite its name, this dog bears no resemblance to a petite and cute canary bird. Instead, the name comes from its place of origin, the Canary Islands. Specifically, they come from the Tenerife and Grand Canaria Islands.
The Presa Canario, or Canary Mastiff, was bred for both guarding and herding cattle in their past. They came about through breeding programs that crossbred various Mastiff breeds and local cattle dogs on 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 their defining traits is that they have a lot of skin! Really, their loose skin often collects in wrinkles, giving them 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. You’ll also need to expect an energetic and lively dog. Because of this, they usually get along only with other dogs that aren’t also so imposing.
As expected, the Presa Canario is a confident and careful dog – like most mastiff dogs. Part of their breeding left them with a character that knows what to do and expects others to follow suit. It’s why they’re ideal for firm and experienced owners.
But with their owners, these Spanish dog breeds can develop a strong bond. And despite their intimidating stature, they can be very caring and loving. Though, it will take them some time to warm to strangers, as expected from a guard dog.
4. Pyrenean Mastiff
Highlights: Courageous, Humble, Gentle
Another majestic mastiff dog breed, the Pyrenean Mastiff is a formidable beast worthy of the mastiff title. While the origin story of these Spanish dogs are murky, they’re widely believed to have descended from molossers of the Assyrian Empire.
Being isolated in the Pyrenees Mountains meant that they were able to develop separately from their close cousins, the Great Pyrenees and Spanish Mastiff. And although the breeds share similar traits, this mastiff can grow up to 240 pounds!
These monstrous dogs aren’t just for show. In fact, they were bred to protect and guard flocks of sheep from the most dangerous of predators. They still retain their instincts to fight and guard in the face of a perceived threat – or if their pack is needed.
Pyrenean Mastiff Temperament
For the most part, he Pyrenean Mastiff will be calm and gentle. They reserve their energy and immense strength for when it’s needed. But with their vigilant eye, very few humans or animals can get past the Pyrenean Mastiff.
They are completely different dogs when faced with familiar people and strangers. These dogs will be sweet and kind towards their own, including kids and other dogs of the pack. And as the guard dogs they are, they’re naturally aloof with strangers.
As extra large dogs, the Pyrenean Mastiff cannot withstand long durations of exercise. Yes, the dog doe need physical activity, but their bone structure takes a while to fully develop. Never go too hard when it comes to exercising these dogs.
3. 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, they are a match for those with top notch grooming skills…or so you might think.
But, despite the temptation to do so, their coats should never be fully 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 – which makes them fairly low maintenance dogs.
Like several other Spanish breeds, this dog has a history of work as a sheepdog and herding dog. However, they also did some side jobs as a gun-dog, finding and retrieving small game for hunters, especially from water…thus its name.
The Spanish Water Dog has a shorter heritage of only a couple hundred years and his origins are a little vague. However, it is thought to have made its way to Spain via Turkey. Though, we still cannot confirm this yet.
Spanish Water Dog Temperament
Like most dogs with a guarding or shepherding background, they are diligent dogs. They will readily guard their homes on instincts, with great care and attention. And with their 20-inch height, they’re not a dog where intruders can easily brush off.
Spanish Water Dogs 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. In the home, they have an eager to please temperament, so training isn’t so bad.
Not inherently sociable, they can grow to trust and enjoy the company of strangers if given early training. However, regardless of their feelings for strangers, they are highly affectionate, loving and loyal with their owners.
2. Great Pyrenees
Highlights: Intelligent, Patient, Docile
As the name suggests, the Great Pyrenees is a massive dog originating from the region that separates France from Spain, called the Pyrenees Mountains. While some can argue that they’re French dogs, one cannot deny their popularity.
These 100-pound dogs were bred to to watch over sheep in the mountainous region for many centuries. While they’re relatively calm and gentle dogs, their primary job was to be more of a deterrent for predators, such as wolves and bears.
The Great Pyrenees is nothing short of great. It’s their courageous nature that made them such legendary dogs for the mountain farmers. Today, they’ve seamlessly transitioned from ultimate protector to loving and affectionate family dog.
Great Pyrenees Temperament
Without doubt, the Great Pyrenees is a wonderful companion for all types of people. Thanks to their gentle demeanor, they’re some of the best big dog breeds for kids. It’s how they have earned a reputation of being outstanding nanny dogs.
Despite their massive stature, the Great Pyrenees isn’t particularly active. That’s not to say a Pyrenees doesn’t need exercise – they just need less than other large dogs. When protecting the flock, they tend to conserve their energy.
The Pyrenees isn’t as responsive with learning tricks and commands, though they’re still very intelligent dogs. However, they can be strong-willed and stubborn at times, so a novice trainer and owner isn’t ideal for them.
1. Papillon & Phalene
Highlights: Energetic, Petite, Curious
While Spain isn’t the only country to lay claim to this breed, they still deserve a spot on this list for their past and continued popularity in the country. Not only have the French claimed them, but also the Belgian too.
The Spanish dog breed is younger than some others on this list, but still has a history of over 500 years. For many centuries, they’ve been attentive and loving companions to the noble-women of Europe. It’s why they’re still top companions today.
Don’t get too confused. Both 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”) is the same, but with droopier ears.
While the Papillon is a highly energetic dog, this tends to come out in the form of play, rather than long and tiring runs. These dogs are always up for a game with adults, children, and other animals alike thanks to their fun-loving demeanor.
Because of their spurts of energy, they’re popular for agility competitions where their high dog intelligence and mobility really shine. In fact, they’re highly inquisitive and extremely smart (top 10 intelligent, among 138 breeds).
While having a smart dog may seem ideal, this sometimes can look like they’re being naughty, often getting into things and making a mess. However, they are also eager to learn and have lots of devotion to their owners.
But with proper obedience training, this won’t likely be a problem. So long as they have plenty of mentally stimulating tasks, their behavior should stay in check. And despite being generally friendly and self-assured, they can become reserved around strangers.
The Most Popular Breed in Spain
Spanish breeds enjoy constant, but measured popularity. This is actually good for them. With less demand, there is a 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. This leads us to the most popular Spanish breed, at least in its country of origin: the Spanish Mastiff.
They are so popular that they have even been named the national dog of Spain. It makes a lot of sense. Their laid-back expression and calm demeanor perfectly encapsulate the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of southern Europe.
So let us know in the comments section below: which Spanish dog breed is your favorite? And do you currently own one of these amazing dogs?
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