December 13, 2022

Short Hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long Hair: What’s the Difference?

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Short Hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long Hair: What’s the Difference?

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Short haired Estrela Mountain dog, guarding goats in Portugal

What’s the difference between the short hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs the long hair? From gentle therapy dogs to intimidating herd guardians a dogs appearance plays a crucial role in its acceptability and presence. If you want to find the perfect Estrela Mountain Dog for your environment, you need to know the facts about the Estrela Mountain Dog coat types so you can determine which would suit you best. When prospective dog owners start searching for a dog, function and appearance are often the first things they consider.

A dog’s appearance says so much about a dogs intended function. The Estrela Mountain Dog comes in 2 coat length types, both bringing unique indigenous strengths to the Estrela Mountain Dog breed table.

A short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog has a double coat with hair measuring less than 2 inches, whereas a long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog has a double coat with guard hair measuring more than 2 inches. Both short-haired and long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs have an undercoat. Both short-haired dogs and long-haired dogs are acceptable in the show ring.

In this post, I will explain the key differences between the long-haired and short-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs, including:

  • History
  • Physical features
  • Grooming Requirements
  • Temperament
  • Acceptability
  • Cost

I will also explain which type might be best for you based on your goals and lifestyle compatibility. But let’s get started by discussing the difference between the two coat types.

Short Hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long Hair. What’s the Difference?

Here’s a quick overview of the differences between the two varieties:

QualityShort Haired EMDLong Haired EMD
HistoryStock, companion and herd dog, most indigenous, the original coat of the Serra da EstrelaStock, companion and pet dog. Was introduced in the Serra from the Pyrenean Mastiff. Most popular type.
Less than 2 inches long. May be very short or have a bit of length. Should not be feathered.At least 2 inches long. Ranges from very fluffy to more practical. Will have feathering and may have a mane.
Dense topcoat, straight, coarse fur lying close to the body. Thick undercoat. Longer and thicker hair on the neck. Will not feature excess feathering. Is durable and low maintenance.Soft topcoat, not close lying to the body. Thick cotton like undercoat. Feathering on the ears and legs. Longer and thicker hair on the neck, having the appearance of a mane. Hair will feel soft and goat like.
Double coated features a thick undercoat and a dense guard coat.Double coated features an insulating undercoat and long guard hairs.
Shedding RateModerate. Sheds twice a year. Very low maintenance.Heavy shedding in spring when the coat ‘blows’. May also shed in fall.
TemperamentIntelligent, loyal, protective, trustworthy, affectionate, brave, guard dog, working drive, athletic, confident, versatile, aloof, territorial. Very indigenous and displays the true Serra CharacterIntelligent, loyal, protective, honest affectionate, brave, guard dog, athletic, confident. May be more aggressive if the lines are bad. May be more friendly due to more companion lines breeding.
FunctionWorking-line or show-line, herd guardians, excels in therapy. Excellent family companions.More popular show-line. Some lines are working stock and many are more companion and social partners.
CostLess expensive $800 – $3000 depending on the bloodline.

More expensive $2000-$4000. More popular stud value.
Cliff notes of the Estrela Coat Types

Short Hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long Hair Length and Appearance

long hair estrela mountain dog sitting in fox tails

The first difference between a long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog and a short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog is that the short coat has a double coat with fur that doesn’t cross the 2-inch mark. On the other hand, long-haired types have a topcoat and undercoat with hair measuring more than 2 inches. This creates a significant difference in appearance. Short-coated Estrela Mountain Dogs have a short, dense topcoat, and the fur will be straight, goat-like, and close to the body. In contrast, long-haired coats have longer fur, which is also soft and goat-like, with a dense undercoat complete with feathering on the ears and legs. The hair can appear shiny, it can be straight or wavy, and males may develop a mane.

Long-haired varieties may look more wolf-like or resemble other long-haired mountain breeds.  

An Estrela Mountain Dog with short hair has the classic, unmistakable look of the Serra da Estrela, which was the original coat of the breed. The short-haired style was relatively ignored during the late 1900s and fell out of favor. Consequently, the modern-day public perception of the breed is often the long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog.

If you googled or discovered the Estrela Mountain Dog breed recently, there’s a 90% chance you’ve seen the long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog. However, the short-haired Estrela has a rustic unmistakable beauty and character that deserves equal appreciation and celebration.

Coat Type

A dog’s fur’s primary function isn’t for appearance or to expand on the choice of colors. A dog’s coat’s job is to regulate your dog’s temperature and protect them from heat, cold, and the elements. Surprisingly, both varieties do a great job and provide superior temperature tolerance due to their thick double coats. While temperature regulation is minimally affected due to coat quantity, environments should be considered when choosing a dog. Short coats may function better in hot, arid climates. Burrs, thorns, and other debris will not attach to a short coat easily. Working-line Estrela Mountain Dogs need to be compact and agile. Long cottony coats with hair that attracts debris should be avoided in all working herd dogs.

Long-haired Estrela mountain dogs may be the better choice in climates where winter weather is severe. Their long, thick coats are designed to withstand brutally cold winters.

Which is Bigger?

I’m often asked whether long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs are bigger. The answer is that neither type is bigger than the other. It depends again on the genetics they carry. The short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog often has a better bone ratio and a more robust appearance.

Long-haired Estrela Mountain dogs are not bigger than the short-haired variety. Although their long fur and thick mane may make them look bigger, they are the same size as short hair types. Males weigh approximately 130 pounds and stand approximately 27 inches tall at the shoulders. Females are slightly smaller.

Both long-haired EMDs and short-haired Serra da Estrelas shed hair faster than they can dig holes. And yes, Sierras are industrial diggers. But does any particular type shed more?

Long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs do not necessarily shed more than short-haired types, although the rate of shedding varies throughout the year among short-haired EMDs. The undercoat is the source of a significant amount of hair loss, and it sheds more during the spring and fall seasons, for both types.

Work Acceptability

Short haired fawn Estrela mountain dog guarding sheep in Portugal.

Both long-haired and short-haired Estrela Mountain dogs make suitable working prospects. However, when it comes to searching for puppies as livestock guardian dogs, the short-coated type is the most preferred.

Long-haired working lines are rare among working line breeders and those who rely on serious livestock guardian dog breeds. 

Of course, that’s not to say that long-haired dogs are not exceptional lgds; it is just that those who want dogs for livestock guardian jobs often prefer the more intuitive lines with more functional coats.

Having said that, I have seen long-haired working dogs that are very intimidating and dedicated to their job. Although long-hair may not be convenient in all climates, it may be better suited to harsh winter conditions.

Show Ring Acceptability

The harsh and fickle show world has not always treated the Serra da Estrela types with equal respect. Both types are seen as visually appealing by different people, and after all, beauty is subjective. At certain times, long-haired dogs were seen as more attractive, and short-coated dogs suffered. Ironically the long coats suffered equally during this time, only in a different way. They lost their unique Estrela features and became mere commodities. This era saw the introduction of lighter eyes, excessive black masks, red coats not native to the Sierra, and many other detrimental characteristics.

But if beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, then many show ring judges seem to be unanimously blind when it comes to the indigenous characteristics of the native Serra da Estrela.

My mentor Monika Zwesken, who has worked with both coat types for nearly 40 years, says:

” Fortunately, no Creator cared about the short hair in the last century. The world forgot about it, and this saved it and kept it original. It is not a trendy dog that is genetically modified every few decades. It is a genuine, original national heritage.”

Programs dedicated to helping an original breed don’t do it because of show circuit glory or rewards; they do it because they love the breed.


Both short-haired and long-haired Estela Mountain Dogs have almost equal temperaments. Some people claim that short-haired dogs are better herd guardians and calmer in temperament. But this is only because some of the show lines of long-haired dogs have been removed from herds for generations. Sierra’s more modern personality is vivacious and energetic, while the more indigenous form is calmer, more intuitive, and more serious. Neither is more or less aggressive or friendly than the other.

So, what’s the consensus?

Long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs are not less aggressive or calmer than the short-haired variety. They are neither better companions nor working dogs. The long-haired style became more popular for its superficial appeal. There is no difference between the two. According to my personal opinion, anything the long-haired can do, the short-haired can do better. Because the short-haired dogs often embody the true personality and character of the original Cao da Serra da Estrela because they have been less genetically tampered with. The Short-haired Estrela is often preferred by native shepherds. They carry a strong instinct, a strong working drive, and a character that is unequaled.

Are Estrela Mountain Dogs Aggressive?

There is a misconception regarding Estrela Mountain Dogs being aggressive due to their appearance and molossoid mountain dog origin. Nothing could be further from the truth. The indigenous Sierra is an excellent companion and will do everything in its power to deter a threat while avoiding human injury.

Now, should Estrela Mountain Dogs show aggression? Yes, absolutely if they are deterring a threat to livestock or their owners. But a well bred Estrela will never show unprovoked aggression towards its owner. The Serra da Estrela would die for its owner, and has no intention to harm its humans.

Many popular companion breeds in the United States are far more temperamentally unstable and apt to cause human injury. Yes, it is true that they are a large breed and will not quickly trust strangers. However, with proper training and early exposure to socialization, they are a friendly and affectionate breed. Cao da Serra da Estrela temperaments are determined by their breed lines. If you want a puppy with a gentle temperament, look for parents and grandparents who exhibit the behaviors you desire.

Cost of a short hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs a Long Hair?

Short-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs often cost less than long-haired ones because they are lesser known and often adopted by shepherds that are not economically able to pay show dog prices. They are also mostly used as working lines, for no fault of their own. Short-haired, health-tested, and registered lines might be a bit harder to find, but if you can find a puppy they are pure, indestructible, golden partners.

A short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog will cost between $800 – $3000(high-end) with papers. Long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs are often more expensive. On average, you would need $2,000 to get a decent long-haired puppy, and prices can go as high as $4,000 depending on bloodline and location. They have higher chances of qualifying in the show ring, and most show-line Estrela Mountain dog breeding is focused on the long hair variety. Importing an Estrela Mountain Dog puppy comes with additional fees ranging on average from $2,000-$4000. Any way you look at it, an Estrela Mountain Dog puppy is a big investment, but well worth it.

Stud/Breeding Value

The value of one variety over the other depends on your goals. 90% of the time it is better not to mix the coat varieties. In an ideal world, ethical breeders would preserve both varieties together. The only time breeding between two varieties should occur is to benefit the country’s gene pools. This is if the breeder has knowledge of the lines and understands how they will complement each other, and has clear goals for the litter. For most breeders, the answer to their breeding goals is an Estrela Mountain Dog male that carries the same coat length as their prospective female.

Coat variation is governed by gene variants. Long hair is a recessive trait which means both alleles (gene halves) must correlate with long hair to have a long-haired puppy. 

A short-coated Estrela mountain dog might carry one long-hair gene, and it will not show, but if the same dog mates with another who also has a dormant gene for long hair, the two dormant genes might pair and form a full long-hair gene which would make the puppy long-haired. This is why two short-coated Estrela Mountain Dogs can produce a long-haired puppy.

Which is Better for You – A Short Hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs a Long Hair?

Short haired, brindle Estrela Mountain dog puppy, facial profile

Now that you know the differences between the short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog vs. the long-haired one, let’s look at which type is right for you. Here I will go over some of the situations a dog owner might experience and which type would be the best variety to excel in that role.

Better for Dog Shows: It’s Your Choice.

Both the short-haired and long-haired varieties are qualified for the show ring. The long-haired may be more popular but this should not hold you back if you want to represent the short-haired type.

Short-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs outside of Portugal are very rare, but if your country or breed club has a class for the Estrela Mountain Dog Breed they are eligible to be shown anywhere the long-coated is. Showing a short-haired Serra da Estrela is a distinct privilege for the breed. Most people will never have the opportunity to meet a short-haired dog until they see one in the ring.

If you intend on entering your dog in a show, you can choose a short-haired or long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog puppy. You will need to ensure that the dog has good confirmation and doesn’t have disqualifying features.

Better for Upscale Suburbs: Long-Haired Estrela Mountain Dog

A fluffy dog is likely to present as non-threatening and cuddly. If you live in an upscale neighborhood and don’t want your neighbors or the homeowners’ association having problems with your pet, the long-haired style might be the right choice for you.

Considering that upscale is a subjective term, you may want to opt for a long-haired Estrela Mountain dog if trendy dogs are popular in your neighborhood.

The dog is also considered exotic because of its rarity and distinct looks. This has social currency in upscale suburbia, and celebrities may be more inclined to own a floofy dog.

Better for grooming: The Short-Haired Estrela Mountain Dog

This question is an easy one to answer. As much as we love the big fluffy floofs, the short-haired Serra da Estrela wins this one easily. Yes, the long-haired is not as much maintenance as a cottony type breed, but they do need some grooming and are heavy shedders. The Short-haired is a dog you would probably never need to brush, and you wouldn’t even notice. But please don’t do that. They enjoy brushing and snuggling just as much as their fluffy breed mates.

Better for Civilian Guard Duties: Short-Haired Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long Hair?

 Color plays an influential role here. Both types are equally suitable for guardian work. The Serra da Estrela takes their jobs very seriously and are excellent deterrents, and do not have a quick trigger escalation. But a dark-haired dog may appear more serious and be taken more seriously in this role.

For example, a long-haired fawn Estrela Mountain Dog looks cuddly and truly non-threatening. In contrast, a darker brindle dog, or wolf-like dog will appear more intimidating. If you are searching for a property guardian a darker coat may be more intimidating in both short or long coats.

Better for Therapy Service: Both. Depends On the Breed Lines

When it comes to therapy dogs, the dog’s temperament is of the utmost importance. The only reason the coat should be a factor is when the dog will be working in closed areas where shedding could be an issue. A short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog is best suited to this situation.

If you want to train a therapy dog or work with one, you will need to carefully discuss your goals with an Estrela Mountain breeder. You will need to work with them to choose a pup with an appropriate temperament for your goals.

Better for Livestock Guardian: Possibly the Short-Haired Estrela.

The short-haired are still the most preferred livestock guardian dogs by Portuguese shepherds. Livestock guardian dogs need to have intuitive perception and brave and trustworthy characters. The Portuguese LGD dogs are not the triggered aggressive breeds that some livestock guardians have become. They are as steady and dedicated as the mountains that made them. The more autochthonous they are, the better guardians and partners they are.

Better for Saving Money: Personal Preference

Given that short-haired types may be cheaper than long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs there’s a slight short-term financial incentive to get a short stock coat. A long-haired EMD will require more grooming and maintenance than a short-haired one, and this could add to the cost. Neither type lacks anything significant in any area as far as owning and raising a family dog is concerned. What is most critical when purchasing a dog is finding an ethical breeder who has health tested for preventable genetic issues. This will save you the most money long term.

Conclusion on the Short Hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long Hair Debate

Long hair Estrela mountain dog used as a therapy dog with child giving a hug

A deep dive into a short-hair Estrela Mountain Dog vs Long hair comes to the conclusion that there are differences, but for most people it doesn’t matter. Most people would do best to pay more attention to the breed lines and health of their prospective Estrela dog and the coat should come second. Slight differences may be exaggerated by human preference and judgment.

You should consider a short-haired Estrela Mountain Dog if:

  • You want an indigenous Estrela Mountain Dog
  • Old LGD working lines are your priority
  • You want a maintenance-free, indestructible coat.
  • Care about the preservation of an exceptional companion dog breed that has been forgotten
  • You want a loyal, intuitive, intimidating Guardian Dog.

And you should consider a long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog if:

  • You are looking for a fancy show line to perform in confirmation
  • You want an exotic wolf-like Estrela Mountain Dog (silver, gray, brindle, long-haired)
  • You live in a place where you want a non-intimidating fluffy dog.
  • You need a dark colored, long haired, imposing dog to keep intruders away.

Related Posts You May Like:

A Breed Tribute to the Serra da Estrela

How to Buy an Estrela Mountain Dog Puppy

Estrela Mountain Dog Breed FAQ

7 Reasons NOT to Own An Estrela Mountain Dog

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