There are several theories as to the origin of the Portuguese Podengo but the most probable is that it shares common ancestral origin with some of the breeds of the Mediterranean. It is believed that the Podengo descended from the Pharaoh hound of ancient Egypt and may have existed as far back as 5,000 years ago. It was brought by the Phoenicians from Asia Minor around 700 B.C. to northern Africa and the Mediterranean region including Portugal. The abundance of the rabbit population on the Iberian Peninsula along with the need for a more versatile hunting technique encouraged the use of this agile breed given its adaptable qualities and skills in hunting. Later, the Greeks and the Romans introduced other breeds with the same characteristics as evident in the mosaics within the ancient Roman ruins at Conimbriga, Portugal and by the first written record that referred to the Podengo in 1199 A.D. during the time of King Sancho I of Portugal. It remained a popular household pet, vermin controller and rabbit hunter for many centuries and it is more likely that it was deliberately bred down in size to enable it to enter burrows and flush out rabbits. Later, it was brought by Portuguese sailors to central Africa, Brazil, and India in the 15th and 16th centuries. To this date, there are many canines similar to the Podengo that exists in northern Africa and the border countries of the Mediterranean, though some don’t represent sound breeds but the healthy population establishes the origin of the Podengo. In 2002, the breed was introduced to the United Kingdom and was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in 2003. Today, the Podengo is the national dog of Portugal and still holds on to the features of its early ancestors. Although still a rarity, it is slowly gaining popularity as an appealing companion and show dog.
The Portuguese Podengo is a friendly, happy, agile and intelligent breed. Very active and attached, generally good with children and other household animals if socialized from an early age. It is quite easy to maintain; only barks occasionally when it senses something out of the ordinary. It likes to be the centre of attention and is a very fast learner. The Podengo is an expert digger and it likes to dig a lot. It is also a loyal and fearless breed which makes it an excellent candidate for a watchdog.
Grooming is quite straightforward; the smooth-coated Podengo needs less grooming, usually a once a week brushing will do; the wire-coated Podengo needs more frequent grooming, usually several times a week will suffice. Bathe only when necessary.
Due to the fact that the Podengo breed has not yet been subjected to human manipulation, it is extensively free of any genetic defects. It has an average lifespan between 13 to 16 years and is a fairly long-lived breed.
The Podengo is an active breed and requires a lot of daily exercise. It should be taken on daily long walks and should not be confined in a kennel. It will do fine in an apartment living provided that it is taken out daily for a stroll or a session of play in a secured open space so that boredom will not set in. It will do best in a house with a medium-sized, fenced in yard. The Podengo is an expert digger and can often dig its way out of the fence if it is not properly secured. If you love your flowers, don’t leave a Podengo alone in the yard. It is suggested that this breed be kept on-leash when it is in public places.
This breed is very sympathetic of other pets in the house but some lines may not do well with other dogs and will often fight with them. However, like all canines, early socialization is the key to producing a well-balanced breed, free from unsocial and destructive behaviours.