The Brazilian Mastiff, also known as Fila Brasileiro, is a large South American dog breed mostly recognized by its loyalty, determination, obedience, bravery, and intimidating appearance.
However, many people don’t know the Brazilian Mastiff is a lovely and very caring dog with its owners. So if you’re considering adopting a Brazilian fila, you might want to read this full profile to know what to expect and how to care for your pup.
And maybe adopting it might not be an option at all, since this dog breed is banned or restricted in a few countries which I will list below.
Still, I will talk about the characteristics, temperament, facts, and care of the Fila Brasileiro.
Let’s get to it!
Fila Brasileiro pronunciation: (FEE-la brahzi-LAIR-o)
Breed overview: Brazilian Mastiff, the Fila Brasileiro
- FCI recognized: Yes
- Group: 2 – Molossoid and cattle dog, Mastiff type
- Weight: Female: 130–160 lbs (57–73 kg), Male: 140–180 lbs (64–82 kg)
- Height: Female: 24–28 in (60–70 cm), Male: 26–30 in (65–75 cm)
- Coat: Short, smooth, dense, and close to the body.
- Color: Black, brindle, yellow
- Life expectancy: 9-11 years
The Brazilian Mastiff is known as Fila Brasileiro in Portuguese. The word ‘Fila’ comes from the Portuguese word ‘Filar,’ which means to hold or grab with the teeth.
Fila Brasileiro means catch dog, which refers to the Brazilian Mastiff’s ability to hunt, catch, and bite without loosening its grip.
Like the Brazilian Terrier, the Fila Brasileiro is a Brazilian dog that came into being after they had brought some European breeds to the country over 500 years ago. It was trained to be a ranch dog and to hunt, guard, and protect the plantations.
It is speculated that the Fila Brasileiro is a product of a crossbreeding Bulldogs, Bloodhounds, and English Mastiffs.
Having been in existence from the 1600s, the Fila was used by plantation owners to scare away predator animals in Brazil.
They were also used to track strayed cattle and runaway slaves. When caught, the dog would hold down the animal or slave by its neck until its owners got there.
Yes, I know, these were horrible happenings. Still, it’s a part of Brazilian culture that must not be forgotten.
Anyway, although aggressive and fierce towards strangers and prey, these Brazilian dogs are quite docile around their owners and are very playful with kids. They like to be around familiar humans and will seek you out when they do not see you.
In 1946, São Paulo residents were responsible for planning and executing breeding programs for the Brazilian Mastiff. They were also to ensure proper registration of the breed.
In recent times, the Brazilian Confederation Kennel Club has handled all necessary registry responsibilities for the Fila Brasileiro.
However, due to its aggressiveness to strangers, show clubs such as the American Kennel Club do not recognize the Brazilian Mastiff. Judges of these clubs have been unable to come close enough to inspect the breed.
Fila Brasileiro appearance
Featuring giant bones and loose, pendulous skin, the Brazilian Mastiff can weigh up to 180 lbs (82 kg) and has a big, square head. Its ears are large and floppy, and the snout is long and deep.
The males grow up to 30 in (75 cm) in height while an adult female stands at about 28 in (70 cm).
Their bodies are enormous and rectangular with a broad chest and strong legs. Its fur is short, thick, and pleasantly soft to touch, and the colors range from tan to back and even mousse gray.
Its gait is similar to that of a camel. It moves two legs of one side at a time, and its head tends to be lower than its backline when moving. This gives it a rather cat-like appearance, a reminder of its hunting instincts.
Temperament and behavior
The Fila Brasiliero is one of the most giant, most aggressive purebred dogs.
They are bred to be loyal to their masters alone, so anyone looking to raise this breed will need to start socializing very early and consistently in order to build trust.
It will take a serious amount of training to get this Brazilian dog to not be aggressive towards strangers and visitors.
The Brazilian Mastiff is exceptionally devoted to its human leader and is mostly found resting calmly near its people when it is not working.
They are super fast, and when aggravated, they can swing into action within seconds. The Fila Brasileiro is a great family guard dog.
Being a very energetic breed, they require big spaces to run around in. They do not thrive well in small apartments or condos. This dog breed is known to be sensible, fit, strong, energetic, and very intelligent.
Common health issues
Some genetically inherited health issues common to the Fila Brasileiro are entropion, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and gastric torsion, also known as bloating or gastric dilatation-volvulus.
This is a health condition where the eyelids roll into the eyes of the dog. This makes the hair on the eyelids rub against the eyeballs.
Entropion causes pain, discomfort, perforations, corneal ulcers, and pigments’ development on the cornea, which restricts vision.
When a dog has entropion, it tends to squint, tear up excessively, close its eyes for long periods, and sometimes develop mucoid discharge from the eyes. Entropion is usually diagnosed in puppies.
This is a genetic health disorder that affects the joints of the hips. It happens when the hip becomes unstable because the joints do not fit well together.
The unbalanced hips cause swelling, difficulty moving around, stiffness, pain, and arthritis in the dog.
Most dogs show hip dysplasia symptoms from 5 to 6 months of age, and it worsens in large breed dogs, overweight dogs, and over-exercised dogs.
This is another genetically inherited health issue in dogs. It is a deformation of the elbow joints that causes forelimb lameness in dogs.
Dogs with elbow dysplasia can be seen limping on one or both forelimbs. It is most common with large breed dogs and is easily diagnosed in puppies.
Also referred to as bloat or gastric dilation volvulus, this is a life-threatening disorder common to dog breeds with deep chests. It occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes filled up with gas, causing it to be twisted.
A dog with gastric torsion might be seen exhibiting signs of anxiety, retching, or trying to vomit without success. It can also have difficulty breathing due to the expansion of its stomach.
Another sign of distress is saliva dribbling and an obviously distended stomach.
How to care for your Brazilian Mastiff
The coat of this worker Brazilian dog is short and smooth. It sheds moderately but is otherwise low maintenance.
The Brazilian Mastiff only needs a bath when it is dirty and will require a quick brush a couple of times a week just to remove shedding hair.
Other specific areas that need special care are the ears and skin folds. These folds and hidden spots attract bacteria and parasites, so do well to check and clean them several times a week. Wipe them with soft, wet washcloths or cotton balls.
Being a strong-willed, relatively aggressive dog, the Fila requires a strong handler who can lead authoritatively and consistently.
Any breeder or trainer looking to take on a Fila would do well to note that this breed can be headstrong, making them very tricky to train. Thankfully, they are also very intelligent and are able to learn and complete complex tasks.
When training a Fila, make use of proper training, reward-based methods to keep your dog engaged. Filas need mental stimulation, so teach them simple tasks to do daily as this keeps them active and helps them thrive.
Filas also thrive in warm weather but should not be left alone in extreme weather conditions.
Diet and nutrition
The Fila Brasileiro is a giant dog, and it consumes a lot of food. Being an active breed, it requires a large amount of food.
However, it is essential to ensure that your dog is not being overfed, as that can lead to excess weight gain, diabetes, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.
The Brazilian Mastiff is prone to weight gain to consult your veterinarian for advice on the type and quantity of food to feed it. Ensure that your dog stays in good shape by measuring out its food and feeding it twice daily. Do not leave food out all the time.
Since this breed is prone to gastric torsion, it is crucial to adjust its feeding to reduce the chances of gassiness or bloat. This can be done by feeding your Fila highly nutritious and easily digestible foods.
Research dog food brands that are suitable for Filas and appropriate for your dog’s age.
Avoid feeding your Fila scraps from the table, and be sure to find out if your dog has any food allergies. If your Fila is a fast eater, you can try splitting its food portion into two and have it eat two small meals at a time.
As your dog grows from a puppy to an adult, it is crucial to switch its food quality and quantity to suit its dietary needs.
Children and other pets
When trained properly and consistently, the Brazilian Mastiff is a great companion for children and family members.
However, they will not be accommodating to playmates and other children, so if you live in a place where kids and playmates come and go, there will be a problem.
It is also important to teach your children to properly interact with your dog to prevent any attacks.
Filas tend to do well with other big dogs around them, but they will hunt down and eliminate any smaller animal because it sees them as prey, so even with proper training, your Fila will chase down any cat, puppy, or chicken that crosses its territory.
Fila Brasileiro bans and restrictions
Unfortunately, this Brazilian breed is now considered to be dangerous in a few countries, and some governments banned or imposed certain restrictions for keeping them.
These prohibitions/restrictions are regulated by special laws, which you should check on your local authorities’ official website.
Currently, the Fila Brasileiro is banned in:
- Bermuda Islands
- Great Britain
- Trinidad and Tobago
- USA (a few cities/states)
And restricted in:
- New Zealand
- USA (a few cities/states)
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