Dog breeds are flesh-and-blood echoes of our human history — living vestiges of the diverse cultures, mores and traditions that sometimes challenge our modern sensibilities. And few breed exemplify this better than the Fila Brasileiro.
At left is the first article written about the Fila Brasileiro, published in 1942 and provided courtesy of Chico Peltier. Written in the first part of the last century, it reflects attitudes about race and the breed’s slave-tracker origins that might strike a sour note to some readers. And some might argue that the breed’s fiercely protective temperament is an anachronism in today’s increasingly urban world. But only in knowing where a breed has come from can we understand where it is going.
Modern Molosser subscribers can also read Chico Peltier’s very impassioned argument against Filas that show evidence of cross-breeding. His “modest proposal” is that they should be spun off into another breed called the Brazilian Mastiff, much in the same way the modern-day Akita has been split into two breeds.
What do you think?
By João Laraya
In collaboration with the passionate breeder Benedito Faria de Camargo
Its behavior, its development and its features resemble the old Molosser more than any other breed.
To call someone “as faithful as a Fila” in Portuguese is a common way of characterizing a person’s loyalty and devotion. However, few know about the origin of this phrase, and even fewer know about the noble and superb dog breed behind it, which became a dignified example of loyalty.
The dogs arrived in Brazil many centuries ago, together with the first colonists. They were never intended to be improved, but underwent all kinds of crossbreeding. Today, their distinctive and peculiar features are being conserved in the few remaining specimens. This is very interesting, since it shows the breed’s strength, having resisted deterioration over time like no other imported breed in Brazil. These excellent watchdogs, who show blind devotion to their masters, accompanied the Bandeirantes, the Portuguese settlers and fortune hunters fighting their way through the vast land of Brazil.
Later they were used for chasing natives and to watch over the slave houses. They were also employed by the “Capitães do Mato,” who were responsible for tracing and returning runaway slaves. Still today, Filas seem to harbor distrust of people of color, which goes back to that very time. Filas do not bark much. They courageously attack humans, drag them to the ground, hold them down with their paws, and hurt them only if their quarry offers resistance. They have preserved these characteristics from the time when they were used for chasing natives and slaves, which were supposed to be caught unharmed.
Farmers appreciated the Fila for how easily it learned to handle the cattle and for its stamina on long journeys.
They are also said to have been used for hunting big cats and tapirs (which I do not know much about).
During daytime, these dogs are tame, affectionate toward their families, and fond of children and domestic animals. At night, they become courageous guards that would not allow anybody to approach their masters.
Its behavior, its development and its features resemble the old Molosser more than any other breed. Despite being smaller than the Great Dane and bigger than the Bullmastiff, the Fila is more reinforced than these two.
Filas have a striking similarity to lions, or rather lionesses: a big, round head, a large chest, brawny shoulders, strong legs with enormous paws, short yellow or bay hair, the skin hanging loosely from the body, the agile and imposing cat-like gait.
The predominant color is dark bay, but there are also brindle specimens with an amber-like base color and black stripes, as well as wheaten and light bay colored specimens. The muzzle and the lips are black; the tail should be long and slightly curled.
In Brazil, where a more pronounced interest and love for dogs is becoming visible and where selecting more refined traits is being considered, following the example of more advanced countries, nothing was done for one of our local breeds, which shows such extraordinary attributes as the Fila does.
The Kennel Club has shown interest in the breed, thinking about actually buying a male and several females to initiate a more precise selection and to make the genealogical records. However, for the time being, they have not matched their actions to their words, and the time keeps passing.
Breeders even import Great Danes, Boxers and others at horrendous prices, forgetting that we have a dog like the Fila, heroically persisting, waiting for someone to free it from the ostracism in which they left it.