The Mains family, of Morgan Hill, was not searching for one of the rarest breeds of dog in the world before they found Mac, one of less than 50 Barbado da Terceira canines in the U.S.
The Mains—a family of five with three sons aged 8, 11 and 14—had wanted a puppy since shortly after their rescued 11-year-old English labrador passed away about four years ago, Bill Mains explained. At first, their top criteria was to find a breed that doesn’t shed due to allergy and cleanliness concerns.
As Bill searched for such a dog on the internet, he found out about the Barbado da Terceira (BDT), a breed that originated more than 500 years ago in the Portuguese Azore Islands. Bred as cattle herders and guard dogs, the dogs have a strong lineage with poignant instincts for such farm work, according to the Barbado da Terceira Club.
The more the Mains learned about the BDT, the more they became interested in the breed that is on the verge of becoming extinct.
“We did some more research and became intrigued about all its qualities of being active, family oriented, protective and very intelligent,” Mains said. “I like a strong-willed dog because, for me, that’s a sign of intelligence and (that they’re) willing to be a full fledged member of the family.”
They also learned that breeders and BDT enthusiasts worldwide are trying to increase the breed’s numbers. So Bill Mains flew out to Maryland—where one of only seven BDT breeders exists in the U.S.—and found Mac, short for Macaroon and so named by the breeder. The family brought Mac home to Morgan Hill and registered him in a BDT breeding program, in which he will help increase the breed’s numbers when he gets older.
“We feel good about helping to bring this breed back from (near) extinction,” said Bill, who added that the family’s previous dogs were rescues. Mac is the first family pet from a breeder.
At six months old, Mac is big for his breed, Bill explained. Like other BDTs, he resembles a doodle dog, and thus may not cast an imposing or threatening appearance.
However, he performed his job diligently when this newspaper reporter visited the Mains’ home in east Morgan Hill last week to take photos and interview the family. Mac relentlessly barked at and stared down the visitor, making sure his family knew that an unfamiliar creature was on the property.
Bill said the family has seen Mac respond to his instincts and bond with the whole family since he brought the puppy home in early July. Initially recognizing Bill as the leader of the household, Mac quickly learned that his wife, Ngoc, and sons Liam, Eli and Milo were part of his new crew from observing Bill’s interactions with them.
Mac has been seen “herding” the family members in their backyard by circling around them in an effort to encourage them to form a tighter group, Bill explained.
“He wants to be the boss, but we have to tell him he’s not,” Bill added.
Mac recently completed a puppy training course, but Bill noted he remains “all puppy.”
“He’s destroyed about 10 pairs of shoes,” Bill said.
Liam added, “He’s kind of a big baby.”
“He’s vicious,” said Milo. Eli added, “He’s annoying.”
The BDT is gaining increasing levels of recognition from the American Kennel Club as their numbers grow. In 2021, the AKC recognized the BDT as a distinct breed, and will consider granting them “miscellaneous” status when their population in the U.S. reaches 150, explained BDT Club President Dana Simel. When their numbers reach 500, the AKC will consider granting them full recognition as a breed.
There are currently only 49 BDTs in the U.S., and six in Canada. There are only about 500 members of the breed worldwide. But interest is steadily growing, as the club is expecting at least seven litters from known breeders in 2024, Simel added. In 2018, there were only two known BDTs in the U.S.
The BDT Club was founded in 2020, “so that we could monitor all the dogs that were here, and get more (BDTs) here. We have a breeding schedule (because) there are so few Barbados in the world that we can’t afford to not breed for diversity. We can’t cross breed because that will be the death of the breed,” Simel said.
The American BDT Club works with the Portuguese Kennel Club for the breeding schedule, helping to “ensure the health and vitality, and ensure the breed survives,” Simel added.
In an effort to preserve the breed’s function, the BDT Club is also actively seeking to drum up interest in BDTs among American ranchers and livestock farmers who would use the animals as working dogs.
“They are a tough breed and they herd cattle. That makes them really tough,” Simel said. “I’ve seen these dogs herding bulls and they are just amazing. They protect their livestock (but) if they don’t have sheep or cows, they will protect their people.”