The Fila Brasileiro (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈfilɐ ˌbraziˈlejɾu]) also known as the Brazilian Mastiff is a large working breed of dog developed in Brazil. It is known for its superb tracking ability, aggressiveness and an unforgiving impetuous temperament. When a Brazilian Mastiff finds its quarry, it does not attack it, but rather holds it at bay until the hunter arrives. Owing to these qualities, the Brazilian Mastiff is used as a guard dog, as a shepherd dog for herding livestock and as a hunting dog for tracking and controlling large prey. When slavery was legal in Brazil, the Brazilian Mastiff was used to return fugitives unharmed to their slave masters. Owing to its size, temperament and potential for aggression, the Brazilian Mastiff has been banned in many countries.
Ancestry and appearance The Fila Brasileiro is a descendant of the 15th-century English mastiff, bloodhound, bulldog and rafeiros. Its bloodhound ancestry being evident in its long muzzle and pendulous skin. It is a Molosser breed with large bones and loose skin. The breed standard requires males to be between 65 and 75 cm (25.5 inches to 29.5 inches) high at the withers and weigh at least 50 kg (110 lbs), and up to 180 lbs. Females are slightly smaller and are expected to be 60 to 70 cm (23.5 inches to 27.5 inches) high at the withers and weigh at least 40 kg (90 lbs). They have a rectangular build and though they are massive, their natural agility is apparent. The head is big and heavy with a deep muzzle. The ears are large, thick, tapered and either droop or fold back exposing the interior, depending on mood. Neck and back are well muscled, the chest is broad and deep. Unlike the vast majority of canines, the croup is higher than the withers. Legs are heavily boned. The skin is very distinctive of the breed as it is thick and loose all over the body, mainly in the region around the neck. The thick skin forms pronounced dewlaps. In many individuals, the dewlaps proceed to the chest and abdomen. Some dogs show a fold at the side of the head and also at the withers descending to the shoulders. The coat is short and dense and the texture is normally smooth and soft. Their colours vary from solid, brindle, mouse grey, patched, dappled or black and tan. They are almost never white. Typical colours are fawn, black and brindle. Brindles of a basic color may have the stripes of either less or with very strong intensity. Sometimes a black mask is present. Though large in size, the Fila does not appear static. Rather he is harmonious, cat-like and above all powerful. The expression is noble, solemn, dignified but somewhat melancholic. The Fila appears self-assured and calm but is never absent in expression. When at attention, the gaze of the Fila Brasileiro is firm, alert and unwavering. Another typical characteristic of the breed is its gait, which is similar to that of a camel, moving two legs of one side at a time. The gait gives it a typical rolling lateral movement on the throat and the hindquarters which is accentuated when the dogs tail is raised. The head is typically lower than the backline. The characteristic carriage and gait has earned it great success in dog shows.
Coat The coat of the Fila Brasileiro is smooth and short. Black, Fawns (Red, Apricot, or Dark), and Brindled (Fawn, Black, or Brown Brindle) colors are permitted, except Mouse-Grey, Black and Tan, Blue and Solid White. White markings, not exceeding 1/4 of the coat surface area, are permitted on the feet, chest, and the tip of the tail in the FCI standard.
The Fila Brasileiro is believed to have been evolved from a number of breeds,the Mastiff, the Bulldog, Bloodhound & The Rafeiro do Alentejo. The Fila Brasileiro breed was bred and raised primarily on large plantations and cattle farms where they were originated. They were taught to chase down jaguars, cattle, and other animals, as well as runaway slaves. The dogs would grab the slave or animals by the neck and hold them until the farmer arrived. This instinct can be observed among puppies when they are playing. The first written standard of the breed was edited in 1946. The Paulistas were responsible for organization a planned breeding program, opening a stud book to register dogs. Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz, began to systematically breed the Fila Brasileiro and also contributed largely in setting the CAFIB standard, and who now therefore, has the right to be called the "Father" of the Fila Brasileiro. About the registries, CBKC (Brazilian Confederation Kennel Club) follows the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) policy and accepts for registration only dogs with FCI pedigrees, orienting the breeders to make a hip dysplasia control and besides other health problems. The Fila Brasileiro is described as a Brazilian Mastiff or a Brazilian Molosser. In the U.S., the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) does a statistical registry of all Filas that were x-rayed to diagnose hip dysplasia. The Brazilian army compared this breed to Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds in a five year study using these dogs in the jungle under extremely hostile conditions. The following traits were observed: intelligence, aggressiveness, sensibility, temperament, energy, resistance, rusticity and strength. German Shepherds were found to have the highest intelligence and Doberman Pinschers the highest level of aggression. The Fila Brasileiro was found to be superior in every other category.
Temperament The Brazilian Mastiffs are known to be naturally protective. It is also known for its extreme wariness of strangers and agility when protecting or defending its master. The dedication and obedience of the Fila Brasileiro has found its way into Brazilian saying "As faithful as a Fila" The Fila Brasileiro temperament is what characterizes the dog. The Portuguese word for their temperament is Ojeriza; which directly translated into English means dislike and distrust. The socialization period (about the first year with the first 6- 8 months being the most important) of the dog's life is crucial to the temperament of the individual dog. If the pup is exposed to a lot of people in a positive manner (known as 'socializing'), the pup (keeping in mind the dog's natural protective instincts) can be encouraged to behave in a calm manner in public, but emphasis should be placed on the fact that socialization is done differently from other breeds. Despite extensive socialization, the fila is instinctively protective and will naturally guard and protect its owner, their family members and the family pets; this is not something that needs to be trained, it is an innate trait. Strangers should not be left unattended with a fila and, like all other guardian breeds, it may not be the best choice for those who have frequent visitors to their homes. Lack of all socialization with strangers at a young age will result in a dog which is very anti-social.
Common ailments Brazilian Mastiffs are prone to large breed ailments, including Hip Dysplasia, Gastric Torsion and Elbow Dysplasia. The dogs are often prone to bloat or gastric volvulus distension. These dogs require plenty of exercise and hence are not very well suited to city life. Open country with fenced yards are very good for the dogs as it gives them plenty of room to run and exercise.
Life expectancy Filas are known to live up to about nine to eleven years.
Legal status In the United Kingdom, Israel, Denmark, Norway, Malta and Cyprus it is illegal to own any of these dogs without specific exemption from a court. The Fila is a restricted breed in Australia, the states of Qld, N.S.W., Victoria, S.A and W.A the Fila is a restricted or proscribed breed. Imports are also prohibited. They are automatically classified as a dangerous dog in New Zealand and Trinidad & Tobago, meaning they cannot be imported and males must be neutered.
In popular culture It has been assumed that the bloodhound face is used as a logo for the main antagonist "Elite Hunting Club" in Hostel (2005 film), Hostel: Part II, and Hostel: Part III respectively. This is actually a Fila Brasileiro or Brazilian Mastiff. Spike in commercial Mc Donalds