The Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff) Is a Great Guard Dog

Updated on October 24, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

A Brazilian Mastiff puppy on guard.
A Brazilian Mastiff puppy on guard. | Source

Some breeders of Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff) believe it is an ancestor of the first dogs found by the Portuguese when they met the natives of Brazil over 500 years ago.

Many other breeders believe the old Portuguese texts that state that the native had no domestic animals. Do they really believe that a group of people exist in this world without dogs?

Even if you do not believe they have native blood, the breed is Brazilian, descended from the dogs the European colonists brought to work cattle in their new colony. It may have Bloodhound ancestors, it may have English Bulldog ancestors, and it may even be a relative of the Presa Canario, since some of its ancestors may be from the Azore Islands.

According to João Bapista Gomes, the author of Fila Brasileiro and a well known judge of the breed here in Brazil, the breed origin is most likely the Azore islands. It was crossed with Mastiffs from England and the Brazilian Mastiff was thus developed to work in isolated and dangerous cattle ranches.

Fila Brasileiro.
Fila Brasileiro. | Source
A Fila puppy learning to guard.
A Fila puppy learning to guard. | Source
A Fila puppy.
A Fila puppy. | Source
Fila puppy.
Fila puppy. | Source

What do they look like?

With a strong, rectangular body, the dogs look like workers. Their heads are big and square, their ears are large and floppy, and when they walk around their back end is higher than their shoulders.

They can be black, fawn, brindled, and a lot of dogs have patches of white. According to the First National Symposium of the Brazilian Mastiff (held in Brasilia in 1976) the males are between 65 to 75 cm at the withers, and, though they have to weigh at least 50 kg, often weigh a lot more. Females are a little smaller but still weigh at least 40 kilograms.

What do they act like?

The Brazilian Mastiff is a great family guard dog since they are great company for their owners and people they know well, but they are known for their dislike of strangers.

They have usually been plantation dogs so are used to having a lot of space to run around; the Fila Brasileiro is not a good dog for apartments and busy households where the kids have many visitors. They are not like the Neapolitan Mastiff, satisfied laying around and guarding the estate, and the dogs that I know of who do not get out for much exercise are frustrated and excessively aggressive.

Who should buy a Fila Brasileiro?

Since the Fila does not do well when confined to an apartment or small house, he should only be obtained by someone who has the space to keep one and the desire to own a dog that needs exercise and stimulation. The new owner should be looking for a guardian, but a Fila that is confined to that role is an unhappy dog.

A Brazilian Mastiff at work.
A Brazilian Mastiff at work. | Source

The Brazilian Mastiff also has the honor of being selected as a dangerous breed by the idiots in the United Kingdom. That is ridiculous, as the Fila is no more dangerous than any large breed. They are large, and powerful enough to fight a jaguar, but not a breed that should be banned.


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    • profile image

      Chris 11 months ago

      We rescued a Fila about 3 years ago. She is incredibly loyal and affectionate with my husband and I. She is very athletic and needs to run. Plus she is impetuous and will bound through the house just because she can. The stranger distrust cannot be overstated. Our Fila is hardwired to distrust strangers and I do not feel I can trust her. You have to be cautious and proactive with this breed.

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      Carmen Galban 3 years ago

      Stacey, I have a beautiful 1 yer old Brazilian mastiff. I love her with all my heart. I just lost my job and really need to find a home for her. She is very big and LOVES attention and actually...likes to give hugs, lol. if interested please email me at

    • profile image

      Stacey Couture 3 years ago

      I live in Ontario, have done the research, and have 13 acres. I want a fila brasileiro puppy but cannot find one. Can anyone help me?

    • profile image

      Guilherme 4 years ago

      This is a Fila Brasileiro!


    • mypetfinderph profile image

      Jef 5 years ago from Philippines

      That 6th picture is funny yet so cute! ;)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi I was hoping you would leave a note since you are the only person here on HP with a Fila! Yes, the dogs I know down here in Bahia are droolers too. Yeck!

      I saw your hub about your house for sale. It looks like a fantastic spot and I hope you find something as nice in the new area you all choose to settle down.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Dr. Mark,

      We have a Fila. You didn't mention about the drool. You have to warn people about that. And the snoring. Or the fact they walk like a camel with legs on one side moving forward at the same time. I am not sure if it is only that breed that does that.

      I can definitely attest to the hound in them. When he gets a scent that is all he thinks about.

      I love the photo of the tan dog with the red color running.

      Just a thought for Farmer Rachel, perhaps a llama would work for her.

      Great page about a great dog.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Maybe a good thing! They are great dogs but not for everyone, myself included.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

      Aw, i love the mastiffs. Too bad it wouldn't be workable or maybe good I found out before I ever got one. My dogs are in the house most times.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      The Pyrrenese I saw working sheep in the midwest were excellent dogs with the sheep and with the human caretakers. The Fila is a good cattle guardian, and can handle about any wolf or coyote, but I have not seen him work sheep.

      Does it get pretty cold where you are at? The other advantage of the Pyrrenese is the coat, whereas Filas have short coats fine in the tropics, maybe not great in Pennsylvania.

      Suhail (a hubber) has a Kuvasz, but he is in Ontario, a bit colder up there. You might want to ask his opinion also.

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

      Interesting stuff. Do you know if these guys make good livestock guardians? I'm thinking about a dog or dogs for sheep protection against coyotes and wolves (yes, wolves, despite the government's assertion that there "aren't any" - I know for a fact there are). I'm told that the Pyrrhenese is good for sheep, but I'm looking for a dog that will be a little less likely to attack a person. Any thoughts?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Most of them are happy, as long as they are not locked up!

    • craftybegonia profile image

      craftybegonia 5 years ago from Southwestern, United States

      He looks like he's eager for some fun!