The Fila Brasileiro is a reasonably old Mastiff-type dog breed developed as hunting and a working dog breed in Brazil. It is one of the two native Brazilian dog breeds, and the other one is the Brazilian Terrier. This is a giant dog breed, and it can certainly strike fear and respect just by showing up. These dogs create one of the strongest bonds with their owners. In Brazil, there is a famous expression, “faithful as a Fila,” and there is certainly a reason behind it.
The Fila Brasileiro was known by many different names throughout history, and some of them still exist today. These names are Cao de Fila, Fila, Brazilian Mastiff, or Brazilian Bloodhound.
FUN FACT: These dogs are illegal to own without specific permission in the UK, Malta, Norway, and Cyprus.
24-30 in (61-76 cm)
90-180 lb (41-82 kg)
The Fila Brasileiro is a dog breed with a very contentious history. They were bred specifically to track down enslaved people who had fled into the jungle in an attempt to regain their freedom. The Portuguese colonists who conquered Brazil in the 1500s needed a way to control the enslaved people who worked the land.
While we cannot be certain, it is assumed that the Fila Brasileiro was created by importing the Portuguese Mastiff and the Portuguese Watchdog from Portugal. It is widely assumed that, in addition to the Portuguese breeds, the Bloodhound was introduced to the mix for its tracking abilities. Most canine historians believe English Mastiffs and the Old English Bulldog were bred in to increase the Fila’s potential aggression and bravery.
The colonists were attempting to breed a dog that could scent humans, track them down, and intimidate them into submission. To prevent enslaved people from fleeing, they would latch onto their necks with their powerful jaws and not move until their masters found them. They were not trained to harm enslaved people because slaveholders wanted them returned unharmed and ready to work. In fact, the verb “filar” in Portuguese means “to grab,” so while it was preferable to breed the dog to clamp down firmly without releasing the grip of their bite, it was not preferable to train them to attack and kill aggressively. This behavior can still be seen today when two Fila Brasileiro puppies play fight.
Because it lives in tropical Brazil, the Fila Brasileiro has developed resistance to various tropical diseases and adapted to life in extremely humid conditions. The Fila Brasileiro was renowned in Brazil for its ability to guard the mansions of the elite as well as fend off ferocious predators such as cougars, making it more versatile than several other breeds used to track enslaved people.
Slavery was finally abolished in Brazil during the 1800s. Fortunately for the Fila Brasileiro, their adaptability meant that their popularity did not suffer as a result. The first breed standard was written in 1946 in the Sâo Paulo region of Brazil. The Fila Brasileiro gained international recognition in the 1980s. Many were exported to the United States and Europe as guard dogs. Unfortunately, many of these exported dogs were involved in both dog and human attacks, owing to their owners' ignorance and irresponsibility. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in the breed being restricted, if not outright banned, in many countries around the world. This has not resulted in a decrease in demand for the breed. They are still in high demand all over the world, primarily as guard dogs and very rarely as companion animals.
Dog Breed Characteristics
The Fila Brasileiro is a classic Molosser or Mastiff-type breed that is both large and powerful. While their body is similar to that of a Mastiff, their ears, eyes, muzzles, and skin are more akin to that of a Bloodhound. However, don't be fooled by their smaller stature; they are athletic and agile dogs. When they walk, they have a “camel gait,” meaning they walk with both legs from the same side at the same time.
Many breeders believe that the larger and heavier the Fila Brasileiro, the better. Adult dogs usually reach 24-30 in and 90-180 lb.
Their heads are enormous and covered in droopy skin. Their ears are long and pendulous, dangling to the side of their heads. When they are at rest, their face should have a calm and noble expression. Their body is rectangular in shape, and they are always taller than they are long. Their croup must be taller than their back in order for their body to “curve upwards” towards their tail, which is long and slim with a curved tip.
Many members of the breed have a “dewlap,” which are folds of dense, saggy skin under their neck. Their thick skin folds, in fact, are a feature all over their body, giving them a distinct appearance.
They have smooth, short-haired coats that shed frequently. As a result, they are poor choices for allergy sufferers. A good brushing once a week and regular bathing should keep your Fila Brasileiro's coat in good condition.
The Fila Brasileiro's coat can be brindle, fawn, or black, according to the breed standard. A Fila may wear a black mask at times. White markings are allowed on the feet, chest, and tip of the tail. Coat colors will not make your Fila any less tenacious or loyal.
The Fila Brasileiro is one of the largest and most headstrong purebred dogs out there. Only a few people are truly up to the task of raising and socializing this working breed. Because the Brazilian Mastiff was bred to be loyal only to their owners, consistent and early socialization is essential for raising a Fila Brasileiro who will not become aggressive around visitors or strangers.
Nonetheless, when the Fila Brasileiro is led by a strong and consistent human pack leader, this large dog breed is nothing but devoted. When their exercise needs are fulfilled, the Fila Brasileiro will love nothing more than to rest close to its people. If something piques their interest or irritates them, the Fila is quick to react and can go from lounging to lunging in seconds. This is why, once again, this breed must have an experienced and consistent owner.
The Fila Brasileiro has a surprising amount of energy for such a large dog. The massive dog requires large areas to run freely and burn excess energy, such as fenced-in yards. Even the most active and dog-experienced city dwellers will struggle with the Fila Brasileiro in small spaces such as apartments or condos.
To detect any health issues early, you should keep up with your Fila Brasileiro's regular veterinary checkups, just like you would with any other dog. Your vet can assist you in developing a care routine that will keep your dog healthy. The following are the most important aspects of Fila Brasileiro's care.
Fila Brasileiro has smooth, short hair that only needs to be brushed once a week to remain healthy and look good. Brushing on a regular basis will remove dead hair, and because these dogs are moderate "shedders," brushing will also help you keep the place clean and hair-free. Dog coats contain natural, protective oils that can be washed away if washed too frequently. They will also require basic care, such as brushing their teeth at least three times per week. Examine their ears for signs of infection and redness, bathe them regularly, and trim their nails if they don't naturally wear them down.
Training the Fila Brasileiro is not for the faint of heart, and it will not be accomplished by someone they have not known and trusted since puppyhood. The only trainer they will obey the commands of is a loyal owner they have come to understand is the dominant force in the relationship.
They are stubborn and strong-willed, and they do not live to please, so a good trainer will need a lot of patience. While it is an inherently difficult task, failing to train a Fila Brasileiro exposes you to the risk of owning a potentially uncontrollable, lethal weapon.
We cannot emphasize how important socialization is for the Fila Brasileiro. This breed was created for a single purpose, and going against their genetics is difficult. You will need to teach your Fila Brasileiro puppy appropriate reactions to various situations. The best way to accomplish this is to expose them to various sights, sounds, and situations.
Allow a friend or family member to enter a room unexpectedly while your Fila Brasileiro puppy is present. Such situations can teach a dog that not everyone who comes close to you is an enemy.
Fila Brasileiro and kids
Early socialization and proper training can teach them to behave appropriately even when other children are present. Because of their temperament, they are better suited to families with older children. If you train and socialize your dog correctly, your children will get a great playing partner with plenty of energy. These dogs can play for hours on end without tiring or becoming bored.
Your children will also be given a guard dog who is naturally wary of strangers. You can be confident that they will alert you to any potential dangers that may befall your children. However, this breed might not act nicely when other kids are around. That means you have to take the Fila away if your children bring friends home.
The Fila Brasileiro is not a breed that gets along well with other dogs. They are protective and dominant, so they must be adequately trained and socialized.
They can be taught to get along with other dogs their own size, but they instinctively see smaller dogs as prey. Keep in mind that even if you follow all of the guidelines, your Fila may never tolerate other dogs. It's not in their genes, and taking your dog to a dog park may never be an option for Fila owners.
The Fila Brasileiro is generally considered a very healthy breed that can live 9-12 years. However, like any other dog breed, the Fila Brasileiro can potentially develop health problems. If you are buying a dog, make sure the breeder can provide you with the necessary health tests and guarantees. Always ask to see the results of tests from the puppy’s parents. The health problems these dogs are associated with are:
- Hip dysplasia - Genetic problem affecting hips resulting from an improperly formed hip joint.
- Elbow Dysplasia - Usually, it affects large breeds. It is caused by the uneven growth of three bones making a dog’s elbow.
- Entropion - A defect causing the eyelid to roll inward.
- Gastric Torsion - Also known as bloat. A dangerous condition that causes the stomach to twist (torsion).
- Allergies - These dogs are prone to have allergic reactions to specific foods, products, or medications.
If you decide that this is the right dog for you, it's time to find a good and responsible Fila Brasileiro breeder. Buying a dog from a good breeder will ensure you get a puppy with the best possible start in life. As Fila’s popularity rose, many questionable breeders wanted to take the opportunity and earn “easy” money. They haven’t taken proper care of the dog’s health, and you can never be entirely sure how your puppy will end up. Never buy puppies from questionable sources like social media, yellow pages, or pet stores.
It is essential to get a breed like Fila Brasileiro from a responsible dog breeder. Getting a powerful dog with a problematic character can complicate your life. Talk to the breeder and allow them to help you decide if this is the right breed for you.
World Dog Finder team