Rafeiro do Alentejo is considered to be one of the best watchdogs of the Iberian Peninsula, highly valued for its natural wariness of strangers. It is said that this breed is most vigilant after dark, but it's an intimidating guard dog at any time of day. The Portuguese Watchdog makes a capable cattle herder, as well as flock guardian and even a boar-hunting dog, said to had been the favourite breed of King Don Carlos. Its origin is most certainly connected to the Alaunt and other great eastern Molossers introduced to the area by traders in ancient times, including the Spanish Mastin Ligero and the Estrela Mountain Dog. Some believe that the Rafeiro de Alentejo is much closer to the original working Mastin Espanol that the modern breed of that name. It should be noted that the closest relative of the Rafeiro de Alentejo is the larger Rafeiro Montano, with which it not only shares its ancestry, but was also considered to be a different type of the same breed in the past. Based on their physical differences and personality traits, these two breeds were officially separated, with the Alentejo Watchdog presently being more popular in its homeland. Although the Rafeiro do Alentejo is smaller, has a shorter neck and lighter build than its cousin from the the mountains, some people have a hard time differentiating these breeds, especially when take into account that both planned and unplanned crossings between the two still happen on occasion, resulting in an "in-between" variety, which can be registered as either breed, depending on what type it resembles more, but also based on the owners' preferences, many of whom still consider the Alentejo Watchdog and the Transmontano Cattledog to be the same.
Even though its popularity in Portugal is secured and the breed can be seen at Shows, the Rafeiro do Alentejo is still not very numerous in urban regions as a pet, being primarily a serious working dog, better suited for experienced owners and rural environments. This brave Moloss is a robust and driven breed, never one to miss a chance to scrap with other dogs, which is why it needs early socialization. Famously intolerant of strangers, it requires careful and firm handling around new people. It is completely devoted to its family and makes a good farm protector and companion. This breed is very agile and athletic, valued for its stamina and speed. The body is well-boned, strongly built and muscular, with sturdy legs and a deep chest. The head is fairly large, with a strong muzzle and defined jaws. The coat is medium in length, but not as rich as the coat of its Transmontano cousin.
The flat, hard coat of the Rafeiro de Alentejo comes in black, yellow, gray, tawny and brindle shades, usually with white markings, but it's also common to see white dogs with large patches of these colours.
The average height is around 28 inches.