The Van Trump Report

US Dog Lovers Aim to Save a Rare Cattle Herding Breed

If you’re looking for a dog with a cool back story that can also get the job done, the “Barbado da Terceira”, aka Terceira Cattle Dogs could be worth looking into. The 500-year-old Portugese breed hails from the volcanic island of the same name – Terceira – in the Azores archipelago. Also called the “Terceira Cattle Dog,” there are estimated to be only about 300 left in the world, and just 34 in the US.

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, dog lover Suzanne Hardy started the Barbado da Terceira (BDT) Club, USA in 2020 to bring awareness to the breed, which is on the verge of extinction. Suzanne heard about the breed through a friend who was traveling to Portugal to pick up her own BDT. Suzanne instantly fell in love with the breed and later got Aninah, which was delivered to the US by a couple visiting from Portugal.

Going all the way to Portugal to get a dog does seem a little extreme but at the time, that is one of the only places in the world where they were bred. Suzanne and fellow BDT-lover Wendy Dreese have since launched their own breeding program here in the US. There is also a breeder in Michigan and one in Washington DC. There are so few of the dogs in the US that the BDC-USA Club has them listed and mapped HERE for those that want to meet one in real life.  
The dogs themselves have a very interesting background. For starters, they are a mashup of various breeds that were brought to the Azores islands by colonists and visitors since settlement began back in the 15th century. “Barbado” means “bearded” in Portugese, and references the abundant beards for which they are named. They are mid-sized with thick coats but they don’t shed.

The dogs were specifically developed to herd cattle and guard livestock, and as anyone that’s been around herding dogs already knows, the task requires an exceptionally intelligent pooch. BDT fans say the breed is crazy smart. In some respects, this can make them easier to train. However, the dogs’ strong herding instincts require training from a very young age, as well as firm and consistent reinforcement. So it’s probably not the best choice for a first-time dog owner.

Terceira Cattle Dogs also aren’t city dogs and need a lot of room to run off their abundant energy, as well as “tasks” to keep them mentally stimulated. They allegedly don’t really need a fence either as the fiercely loyal pooches prefer sticking close to home and their people. That means they are also protective of their territory, so can be aggressive toward strange people or dogs. Funny enough, some BDT owners have witnessed their dogs herding deer out of their flowerbeds!  

According to breeders, BDTs are really happiest when they have a cow to herd but “a ball will do.” Check out a video of some BDTs working cattle on a farm in Portugal HERE. You can learn more about Terceira Cattle Dogs at the American Kennel Club HERE, or or the BDT-USA Club HERE. (Sources: BDCUSA, AKC, PALive)

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