The FILA's history
is so closely linked with Brazilian history itself that, for a proper perspective,
we shall mention the various periods
in which the FILA played a very important role. It is not only linked
to history but to the way of life and daily problems of the first colonists
in Brazil. Invasions, revolutions, the conquest of the interior, the enslavement
of Brazilian indians, the dangers of the jungle, the attack of
the jaguars, the development of the sugar plantations, the Negro slavery,
and so on, are chapters strongly marked by the presence of this wonderful working
Most of the modern breeds have been "manmade." The FILA BRASILEIRO is an exception. It just "happened" as a result of mere necessity. Colonists needed a strong, sturdy, and hard-working dog that would be, simultaneously, a good cattle driver, a good jaguar hunter, a good guard dog and a loyal companion. This is the FILA BRASILEIRO. Courage, character and loyalty have always been his main characteristics through the centuries.
1532. Looking for commercial benefits, such as the exploitation of gold mines and the extraction of "Pau-brasil" wood, besides having in mind the assurance of his new possession, King Manuel of Portugal sent Martim Afonso to Brazil to colonize, to guard, and to exploit the new land. The first village emerged at the coast of São Paulo-São Vicente. But the vast land of continental size could not be kept free from invaders unless a new scheme already successfully used at the Madeira and Azores islands were applied: distribution of the land and donations to Portuguese dignitaries. The first dogs came along with the colonists, as there were no domestic dogs in Brazil. From the Azores Islands, Portuguese herders were introduced; but there are no records reporting this fact. We are just dealing with hypotheses. In fact, we know very little about anything prior to 1600 as, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, there was no press in Brazil and communication was very poor.
1534. Private initiative came to an end. The monarchial power once again took over. A governor was appointed: Tomť de Souza (1549-1553).
1555. The French invasion took place in Rio (The Antarctic France).
1581. Portugal was invaded by Spain (1581-1640). Holland was at war with Spain. The Dutch invasion took place in Baia and Pernambuco States (1580; 1640; and 1654). This was the time of the introduction of the fighting dogs in Brazil.
it is generally accepted that the northwest of Brazil was a main source of
the FILA's development in the 17th Century,
there was another emergence from the south border. Portugal had
its colonies united with Spain during the "Monarquia Universal" from
1580 to 1640 under the reign of Felipe II. A liberal commercial contract
was signed between Portugal and Castilla in order to increase the
interchange of commerce among the Mother Countries and their colonies overseas.
Meal, lard, leather and cattle of European stock started to be furnished to Brazil by Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 1585 on, commerce flourished between the two regions. With the increasingly high prices of sugar cane, Brazil dedicated all its power to the sugar plantations and was no longer selfsufficient. With the new tendencies to produce only sugar cane and to import other less expensive goods, farmers became dependent in a large way on the Buenos Aires merchants to acquire cattle. Uruguay became a big cattle center. To handle and to drive the wild cattle in wide open spaces, it was necessary to have a strong, dependable dog. The Spaniards used "perros de presa" in a large quantity that certainly crossed the borders along with the cattle.
invaders left Brazil. The sugar empire declined and mining started a new
economic cycle. New settlements progressed
in the interior of Brazil.
The explorers known as the "Bandeirantes" pushed Brazil's frontiers past the line of Tordesilhas, which was Brazil's original boundary. They progressed quickly across the state of São Paulo as well as the rest of the country. It is believed that the Brazilian colonists needed a breed with specific qualifications to guard the slaves and to track them down when necessary. Therefore, the ideal dog should have the size, the courage and the strength to meet such requirements. The English Mastiff used to fight invaders in 55 B.C. in England played an important role in the foundation of the breed, as well as the Engelsen Doguen, or ancient Bulldogs that were brought in by the invaders (Dutch, French, Spaniards).
Though every cynologist agrees that three basic breeds contributed to the development of the FILA BRASILEIRO (fighting dogs brought by the Dutch invaders, Mastiffs and Bloodhounds) some facts give way to another theory based solely on historical documents. After Brazil's discovery in 1500, Portuguese colonists came to Brazil bringing everything they owned, including their dogs. From the Azores Islands came the Fila Terceirense, a herder that has nothing in common with the FILA BRASILEIRO, except for its name. Even so, the possibility of a relation cannot be discarded since there is no evidence of any other dogs in the colonies except for those brought by the invaders, and wild dogs. It is said that so many dogs left the Azores islands that the Fila Terceirense became extinct.
There is no proof or evidence that the probable ancestòr of the FILA BRASILEIRO was brought in by the Portuguese people. The only written document mentions a dog with a "heavy head." Portugal had many other breeds like the Rafeiro do Alentejo, Cão de Serra da Estrela, Cão Castro Laboreiro, Podenco Portugûes, and others. No one can tell exactly how much of each breed played a part in the development of the Brazilian breed. Sugar plantations had no fences and the colonists were more interested in the performance of a guard dog or a jaguar hunter than in the purity of a breed. Dogs would mate freely without any discrimination, even with wild dogs in the woods.
Other authors believe that the FILA BRASILEIRO's prime ancestor was the ancient Mastiff, a large ferocious dog used in hunting sports and in battle. It is not probable that dogs brought in from the Azores Islands by the Portuguese colonists were fighting dogs, but more likely they were cattle herders. Hunting was not popular among the Portuguese colonists, so it is obvious that hounds like Bloodhounds and Foxhounds came later on, around 1808 during the Napoleonic invasions of Portugal.
Some feel that the name "fila" came from the Portuguese dog Fila Terceirense; but it is also pointed out that "fila" means "to hold" in the ancient Portuguese language, and this was the main function of the FILA BRASILEIRO...to hold (filar) runaway slaves.
The introduction of Bloodhound strains improved the new breed that had been used to persecute runaway slaves. More refined than the Englishe Doggen (the fighting dogs brought by the Dutch invaders), and with a better scent-tracking talent, the big-headed dog had inborn abilities to perform different tasks extremely well. Gilberto Freyre wrote in his book Ingleses no BrasŪl, "The presence of dogues and bulldogs in our country, especially in Pernambuco, is ancient. It goes back to the 17th Century, if not before, with adventurers and pirates such as Lancaster. . . ."
It was in the States of Pernambuco and Minas Gerais that the FILAs survived in greater number, as a pure breed. In Minas Gerais they were used as working dogs and had plenty of milk and corn to assure their survival. It was only after the 19th Century that hunters were looking for a dog with more speed and who hunted by scent. So Bloodhounds, Foxhounds, and Pointers were introduced to Brazil. No one knows exactly how the primitive FILAs were created and developed, but it is known that they were strong, massive, had a big head and a fantastic temperament.
From the ancient fighting dogs (the Engelsen Doggen or ancient Bulldogs) they acquired their violent and aggressive temperament, as well as being somewhat stubborn, the colors, the typical ear-rose, higher hind legs, and a higher croup than the withers, plus persistance. From the Mastiff they acquired the large heavy head, strong maxilars, short neck, the substance, the slightly curved croup, moderated tail set, the courage, the black mask, and also the Mastiffs basic colors. From the Bloodhound the FILA acquired the abundant loose skin, the pronounced occipital peak, the pendulous lips, hanging flews and dewlaps, the moderated tuck up, the fabulous scent, and the way of barking in a crescendo tune.
Maybe the Fila Terceirense left the legacy of the "crooked tail" and the ability of cattle herding, but it is hard to tell how much influence the Portuguese herders could have had. There is even a possibility of some influence from the most usual breeds found in each region; but even this would be a very low percentage not worth mentioning.
1671. One of the documents found about the breed is dated 1671, in the book by Arnoldus Montanus, written in Flemish, containing illustrations showing the city of Olinda in Pernambuco State, after the Dutch invasion. It shows an ox chart and many FILAs.
settlers coming from the Azores Islands populated the south coast of Brazil.
Their families brought their dogs to Brazil,
but we must remember that these people were dedicated mostly to
fishing. For those observers who enjoy studying resemblences in
Molossian breeds, it is interesting to note how much a FILA BRASILEIRO
looks like a Dog of Prey from the Canary Island (their fighting dogs).
Actually they partially descend from the same Mastiffs and ancient
In Brazil the entire colonial period was one of large sugar plantations. This was a period of splendor and glory of large-landed property. This empire required a great number of workers. At least two hundred was the average number of slaves per Brazilian sugar plantation, and the FILAs were in charge of discouraging any escape. The Paulista "Bandeirantes" explorers and man-hunters gained the greatest notoriety. The exploits of the "Bandeirantes" from São Paulo constitute a great chapter in Brazilian history comparable to the Indian fighters and frontiersmen in the annals of the United States. But the supply of Indians was not sufficient for all purposes and the red men were not tractable workers. The African slaves replaced the Indians as workers. The annual importation of black slaves to Brazil was about 30,000, primarily males.
Around the 16th and 17th Centuries, Spaniards, French and English people were using the Engelsen Doggen, or ancient Bulldog, to chase Indians in America. So in Europe, the big powerful Mastiff-type dog was raised for this task. In England there were two different types of Mastiffs: "Canes Pugnaces" called "Bellicosi" or Bulldogs, and "Canes Sagaces", or Mastiffs. The first ones were matched against gladiators and other animals. When the Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 and made Norman-French the official language of England, Dogues and Mastiffs were so plentiful that people forgot to give them any other name.
1800. The Portuguese nobility searched for refuge in Brazil during the Napoleonic conquest. King JoŠo VI came to the colony escorted by the English navy. English dogs became popular in Brazil, especially after the opening of Brazilian ports to the free flood of commerce with England. The English influence became very strong in Brazil following that period (1810). King JoŠo signed a contract with England giving complete priority to the English crown until 1844.
1816. Portugal and Brazil were declared a single nation.
1822. Brazil declared its independence on September 7, 1922.
1888. Slavery ended in Brazil and the new period of immigration began. The FILA BRASILEIRO remained as a cattle driver and as a guard dog.
1889. On November 15, 1889, the Proclamation of the Republic took place.
1930. Great Danes became very popular in Brazil and some blood strains of this breed were introduced to the FILA BRASILEIRO in some regions, but numerically of little consequence. It was found that new breeds would only cause damage and destroy the wonderful temperament of the FILA BRASILEIRO, which was a well-formed breed already with its own unique characteristics and peculiar traits.
1848. This was the year of greatest importance
for the FILAs. The first official standard of the breed was written by Dr.
together with Dr. João Ebner and Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz. Breeder
Carlos Alberto Bueno, from São Paulo, took the FILAs Bumbo and Rola
to a show for the first time. Bumbo was born on March 15,1945. The
breeder was Mr. Juvenal Peixoto. Throughout the centuries, the FILA
BRASILEIRO has been looked upon exclusively as a working breed,
and only in 1946 was it brought to the public's eye as a show dog.
Brazilian farmers never cared for show dogs and this was one of the reasons for the delay of the breed being officially recognized in spite of its popularity. Until today, most of the FILAs born in the interior, chiefly on farms, do not hold a pedigree, in spite of being purebred dogs. There is still a general belief among Brazilian breeders that expositions are promoted as a beauty contest and not meant for tough, hard, real working dogs unlikely to compete with the elegant toy breeds usually shown in shows.
FILA owners still have a strong preference for specialty shows, and they would like to see their dogs judged by a judge that is a FILA breeder. The "fileiros", as the FILA breeders are called, are famous for being tough people, with a "macho attitude"; but maybe this is due to their quarrelsome actions in self-defense or in defense of their beloved breed. The devotion of the "fileiros" to their dogs seems to be reciprocal and they feel a poor judging is sometimes quite offensive to the breed. More "fileiros" have started arguments in the ring than any other expositor. This fact has been registered not only in Brazil but overseasas well. The FILA BRASILEIRO is a breed that has the power of triggering a passion in their owners as deep as a type of religion. It is mainly based on respect and admiration as well as love, which certainly are very strong feelings.
"The Fila Brasileiro"