The Fila Brasileiro, also called the Brazilian Mastiff, the Brazilian Guard Dog, the Brazilian Molosser, the Dogue Brasiliero and the Cao de Fila, is an old breed dating back to the 1600s, when it was used by Brazilian ranchers for all types of hunting, guarding and herding. Originally developed to hunt large game, including wild boar and jaguar, this breed is naturally distrustful of strangers and can be extremely aggressive. Filas bond closely and strongly with their people and are not recommended for novice dog owners.
The mature male Fila should be between 25½ and 29½ inches at the withers, with females ranging from 23½ to 27½ inches in height. Males should weigh 100 pounds or more, with the minimum weight for females being 88 pounds under the Brazilian breed standard. The Fila's coat is short, smooth and dense, coming in brindle and all solid colors except white, mouse-gray or blue. An unusual feature of this breed is that its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a "going downhill" appearance. The Fila Brasileiro is not recognized by the American Kennel Club. It is recognized by the American Rare Breed Association and by the Federation Cynologique Internationale.
The Fila Brasileiro was developed by Brazilian ranchers who needed a fearless, all-around working dog of enormous strength and stamina that could hunt large game, guard livestock and protect property and possessions. Filas also were used to work semi-feral cattle and hunt wild game, where they would track, attack and hold their prey until the hunters arrived to make the kill. The breed was named after the Portuguese word "filar," which means "to hold or secure." Filas reportedly were at one time used to track down and capture runaway slaves, without seriously hurting them. They are well-known and well-employed as fearless guardians of person and property.
Breeds thought to have contributed to the modern Fila Brasileiro include the Bloodhound, Bullenbeisser (an ancient bulldog), Mastiff and Rafeiro do Alentejo, forming the basis for his exceptional tracking skills, courage, tenacity, herding and guarding instincts and loose skin. Developed strictly as a working dog, the Fila was not bred to a fixed "type" until the 1950s. The official Brazilian breed standard was developed in the 1960s. Their deep distrust of strangers can make them dangerous if a strong and dedicated owner does not train, socialize and supervise them. In show competition, judges are told never to touch the Fila if they value their fingers. The breed developed a following in the United States in the 1970s. The Fila Brasileiro Club of America was formed in 1984, followed by the Fila Brasileiro Association (located in Texas) in 1992.
The average life span of the Fila Brasileiro is between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include bloat, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.
Fila Brasileiros have a unique temperament. They are 100% devoted to their family – affectionate, playful, incredibly loving with kids; but they are also fiercely protective of those who they consider to be their family. Fila owners agree that their dogs love everything that is "theirs" and hate everything that is not. More than any other breed, Fila Brasileiros are intolerant of strangers. They make excellent guard dogs, but they should only be adopted into families who are experienced dog owners, who have the time to devote to proper training and socialization, and who have properly researched the breed and understand the potential liabilities. For those who have the time and means to work with a Fila, they are also the most loyal breed of dog, in fact there is an old Brazilian saying about loyal friends - "faithful as a Fila."
Filas Need plenty of exercise to maintain health and happiness, but it can be tricky to get the proper balance of exercise. As puppies, over-exercise can lead to joint problems, but exercise helps them burn off their extra energy, which keeps them from becoming destructive chewers. As adults, Filas mellow out considerably and are much happier lounging around the house than going outside for a long walk or run. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of low exercise, but Filas should be walked several times a day, and also be allowed to run and stretch their legs.
Fila Brasileiros are not apartment dogs. They are far too large and far too wary of strangers and strange noises to be comfortable or safe in a busy building. They are much more suited for people who live on farms or large, stately homes where they have fenced areas to roam.
Training and socialization needs to begin early on in the life of a Fila. They can exhibit extreme dominance, so it is critical to establish leadership as early as possible. Do not ever treat a Fila harshly. While they are completely devoted to the ones they love, they won't hesitate to bite if they feel they are being threatened. Calm-assertiveness and lots of patience are important. Filas respond well to lavish praise and treats.
Severe aggression toward strangers is an inborn trait in Filas and can not be trained out of them. This makes them excellent guard dogs, but can make them difficult family dogs. They generally do not manifest aggression unless touched, or if they feel threatened, but they do not give any outward signs that they are going to attack – they just go for it. Guests should never, ever approach your Fila – in fact, show judges won't even touch this breed. Their temperament is not for everyone, so proper research should be conducted before adopting this breed, even as a guard dog.
There can be legal liabilities that go with owning a Fila. If your dog attacks, you are almost guaranteed to be sued. Many homeowners insurance policies will not cover Fila Brasileiros.
Upon first glance, it is easy to see that the Fila Brasileiro has Bloodhound and Mastiff in his ancestry. The sheer bulk and build of the dog screams Mastiff, but the face is that of a giant Bloodhound. The skin hangs loosely from the body and the muzzle is large, with heavy upper lips, but is proportional to the rest of the body. The nose is black and has broad nostrils. The eyes are wide set, almond-shaped and large. The color ranges from yellow to chestnut, and should harmonize with the coat coloring. The ears of the Fila are pendant, large, thick, V-shaped, broad at the base and tapering at the end with rounded tip. The back is strong and powerful and rises up to meet the hindquarters. The gait is a hallmark of the breed, and is described as a camels gait. The Fila's feet are large and should point forward. The tail is wide at the root, and tapers toward the tip. It is medium set, held high, but should not curl.
Size and Weight
Male Filas should ideally stand from 25.5 to 29.5 inches at the withers and tip the scales around 110 pounds. Females should stand 23.5 to 27.5 inches and weigh approximately 90 pounds.
Coat and Color
The Fila sports a dense, smooth coat, usually in fawn or brindle but they may also be solid black, brown, chestnut or yellow. Stripes of differing shades are fairly common. The coat is rough to touch, and there is not a lot of hair around the ears or muzzle. There may be some white markings on the chest, feet and tail, although this isn't desirable per some breed standards.
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Sources: American Kennel Club