Big dogs often come with equally outsized opinions. And you need only look as far as the Fila Brasileiro for a spirited debate that has endured for four decades, with no signs of abating any time soon.
Our guest columnist is Francisco “Chico” Peltier, a long-time and very vocal advocate for what he and his club, the Clube de Aprimoramento do Fila Brasileiro (the Fila Brasileiro Improvement Club), or CAFIB, term the “pure Fila.” The CAFIB was founded some 40 years ago as a reaction against cross-breeding to other breeds – specifically, English Mastiffs, Neapolitan Mastiffs and black Great Danes – that has changed the landscape of the breed – in his opinion, most decidedly not for the better.
This debate is an important one not just for those who seek to understand the schism that exists in this native Brazilian breed, but also to draw lessons that may benefit other breeds facing similar crises. The state of the Boerboel in the face of the popularity of black dogs in that South African breed comes immediately to mind.
“Uncle Chico,” as he refers to himself in his impassioned emails, has a well-trafficked blog (www.filabrasileirochicopeltierblog.wordpress.com ) as well as a website (www.filabrasileirochicopeltier.com.br) that between them have hundreds of articles, photographs and documents about the breed that he loves – and, at times, mourns.
In this essay, after providing a history of the breed and describing the forces that have divided it, he provides a solution for a “happily ever after.”
What do you think?
Brazilians worry a lot about the state of their indigenous species – the golden lion tamarin in Amazonia, the broad-snouted caiman in Pantanal, the turtles of northeastern Brazil. Further afield, they fret over the seals, whales and polar bears in the Arctic, even panda bears in China.
But, unfortunately, most don’t value the only native Brazilian dog breed – our Cão de Fila Brasileiro, or Fila Brasileiro, which became internationally recognized in 1950.
The Fila Emerges
The following historical overview is very much based on the knowledge and articles of Paulo Godin, a journalist and all-rounder judge at the well-known Confederação Brasileira de Cinofilia-FCI, or CBKC. He wrote hundreds of columns that were published in the old Jornal do Brazil and in Revista Animais & Veterinária, both based in Rio de Janeiro, as well as his excellent book “Fila Brasileiro: um Presente das Estrelas” (“Fila Brasileiro: A Gift From the Heavens”).
The Cão de Fila developed some centuries ago, in the interior of our country, particularly in the south of the state of Minas Gerais. It was the result of random crossings between breeds brought by our colonists and possibly native dogs, without much human intervention. Nobody knows for sure. What we do know is that it was a breeding blessed by Mother Nature.
In the beginning, this dog was known in central Brazil only by its names, which were connected to its function: Onceiro and Boiadeiro, i.e. “a dog that is used for hunting jaguars and handling bulls.” He lived without a care in the fazendas, or rural houses, and many of the dogs fed themselves simply by hunting. They were frequently used for handling livestock, hunting jaguars and other large animals, and protecting properties and the animals that belonged to them.