Mahalia and Canela da Ponta da Pinta
 
One breed, two varieties

Estrela Mountain Dog

Ponta da Pinta

The increasing popularity the Estrela Mountain Dog achieved in Portugal from the last two decades of the 20th century onwards made him, in this country, the most known and sought after of the Portuguese breeds. However, many people do not know there are two varieties, long and short haired. The first spread across the country and abroad, mainly due to the work of breeders, being widely used as an estate guardian dog but also as a pet; the second, less promoted, is favoured by the shepherds to perform their original job protecting the herd (the short hair requires little grooming) but its sparse popularity and number of specimens still place it at risk.

 

Developped separately eversince breeders started taking hold, for different purposes, with remarkable differences in important morphologic traits (as demonstrated by biologist Carla Cruz in her study “As raças portuguesas de cães de gado e de pastoreio - aspectos morfológicos e comportamentais"), one might say it's two different breeds or, at least, varieties unallowed to breed together for registration in books of origins. It is not the case. Although the Portuguese Kennel Club permits, pending on a fundamented formal request, the outcross of the two varieties, very few breeders (apparently all of them of the short-hair variety) have utilized that useful tool for the betterment of the breed. However, there are several benefits of this outcrossing, for both varieties, including bettering type, temperament, working skills, health and preservation of genetic diversity, which is crucial in a breed that has always been rustic, sturdy, apt for survival under adverse conditions and in a natural environment, with little human intervention. The "mid-coat" or "half-coat" myth, invented last century and referring to an eventual hybrid of the two varities, is an empyrical assumption with no technical grounds (as known by everyone with basic notions of genetics) and therefore should not be an obstacle to that strategy for bettering the breed.

 

For the first time, Ponta da Pinta, which since 2002 has been committed to breeding long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs, fulfills, with a new litter, its old project of a two-way betterment of the breed, by using at stud a short-haired male descending from working lines. Due to him being heterozygous (carrier for the allele that is responsible for the long coat), the litter should include puppies of both varieties; the long-haired ones can only produce offspring of that variety (unless they mate with short-haired dogs) and the short-haired ones will be, like their sire, carriers for the long-hair allele, which means they can produce progeny of both varieties, depending on the matings. This outcrossing of two excellent dogs, our bitch Babilónia da Ponta da Pinta and the short-haired conformation show winner Duque da Casa de São Francisco, is yet another contribution by Ponta da Pinta for bettering the breed - both varieties, in this case.

 

November 2014

 

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