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

A Brazilian Mastiff puppy on guard

A Brazilian Mastiff puppy on guard

The History of the Fila Brasileiro Breed

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 Batista 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

Fila Appearance and Physical Features

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 centimeters at the withers, and, though they have to weigh at least 50 kilograms, often weigh a lot more. Females are a little smaller but still weigh at least 40 kilograms.

Fila Personality and Behaviors

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 Brazilian Mastiff?

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

Are Brazilian Mastiffs Dangerous?

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are Fila Brasileiro dogs dangerous?

Answer: Any big dog can be dangerous if it is not socialized. A Fila is no more dangerous than any other large breed dog.


Jasoninphoenix on August 06, 2020:

Sorry... I have owned Filas and bullmastiffs all my life. NEVER leave an adult fila with strangers. They could kill them. They are bred to naturally hate anything strange and anything that does not live in it's territory. A true Fila owns you, you don't own it. Also, your statement about danger applies to most big dogs, but a fila or dogo Argentina or caucasion mastiff are definitely dangerous breeds and not for inexperienced owners. If your Fila gets lose and there are people walking in front or around your home, they are ih n serious trouble and filas by nature will not listen to their owners commands while "defending" their territory/estate. Period. If you find a Fila that is not like this, you have watered down Americanized Fila. At which point you might as well have an English Mastiff or bullmastiff as a guardian. Oh, and they will follow you everywhere if they can.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 27, 2020:

Madisyn, I am sorry you have had such negative experiences. No dog is "naturally human aggressive". Filas can be great family guard dogs, but should only be in some areas, not tied up in a back yard or forced to live in a small apartment.

Madisyn O'Daniel on May 26, 2020:

Filas are naturally human aggressive dogs. They will be affectionate towards their owners but yes, they are most certainly dangerous to others. Filas aren't naturally trained protection dogs, they don't stop at a command. If they manage to get to a person or even another dog they can and will kill them.

Sue Lynn Lester on April 07, 2019:

I have 5 grown filas and 2 puppys they are great dogs and will.protect their family and their home. That is their job and they do it. They are great dogs but not for a greenhand.

Chris on April 04, 2017:

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.

Stacey Couture on June 07, 2014:

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?

Guilherme on September 26, 2013:

This is a Fila Brasileiro!


Jef from Philippines on January 05, 2013:

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

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 15, 2012:

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.

Mary Wickison from USA on October 15, 2012:

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.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2012:

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

wetnosedogs from Alabama on September 07, 2012:

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.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2012:

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.

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on September 07, 2012:

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?

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 06, 2012:

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

craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on September 06, 2012:

He looks like he's eager for some fun!