Saturday, 27 October 2012

Brazilian Dogs

Everybody likes dogs, and most parts of the world have dogs developed for the local conditions, from Labrador to Chihuahua. It`s surprising therefore that a country as large as Brazil has only two,  the Brazilian terrier, and the Fila Brasileiro. It`s not that there aren`t dogs around, there are thousands of miniature poodles and Yorkshire terriers keeping people company in the apartments of Rio and Sao Paulo, even Gisele Bunchen had until recently a Yorkie called Vida. And there are innumerable "Vira latas" (mongrels) in the favellas and fazendas. But of specifically Brazilian purebred breeds, there are only two.

The Brazilian Terrier, or Fox Paulistano

 The exact ancestry of the Brazilian terrier is unknown, but they are basically descended from Fox Terriers, with some Jack Russell, Miniature Pinschers and Chihuahuas thrown in. They resemble a large Jack Russel, and are said to have a similar temperament, friendly, intelligent and energetic. They were bred for farm work, active all day and they make excellent ratters. A group will even combine to attack larger prey, attacking from each side until it`s worn down.

 Although fairly small they are NOT apartment dogs, they need lots of exercise and stimulation, otherwise they get bored and a bit destructive. They also have a very strong hunting instinct, strongest of all the terriers, and so leaving one with a cat all day is probably not a good idea.

The Fila Brasileiro or Brazilian Mastiff

The Fila Brasileiro is another animal entirely, large (about 50 Kg) and very powerful. They were bred as working dogs on plantations or cattle ranches, probably from a combination of Mastiffs, Bulldogs and Bloodhounds, but unlike some large breeds they are normally alert and active.

 Life as a working dog on a Brazilian farm meant driving off predators such as jaguars, and running down stray cattle, and slaves. The bloodhound ancestry made them good trackers, and they were trained not to kill their prey, but to grab the animal or slave by the neck until the farmer arrived. Puppies still show this instinct in play today.

Although affectionate to their owners and families, it goes without saying that Filas are utterly and completely unsuited to be apartment dogs! Infact, in many countries such as the UK, Denmark and New Zealand you cannot own one at all. In the past Filas were often trained to be "Ojeriza" or distrustful of strangers, and with their very strong protective instinct this made them sometimes dangerous to anyone outside of their "pack". But this was the fault of stupid owners rather than the dogs themselves, and with proper training and socialisation from an early age they are calm and safe with strangers, even if not especially friendly.

Filas still make good farm dogs, and they might be branching out. They are reportedly used by the Israeli army and some American police forces, where they have the advantage as tracker dogs that, if necessary, they are fiercely defensive of their handlers once the quarry is found.

A five year study by the Brazilian army compared Filas, Dobermans and Alsatians in jungle conditions, looking at intelligence, aggressiveness, sensibility, temperament, energy, resistance, and strength. The Alsatians were smarter, the Dobermans more aggressive, but Filas won every other category.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Local conditions in a country with SPACE, make these NOT apartment dogs at all!