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Choosing a Fila Brasileiro

The Fila Brasileiro, also known as the Brazilian mastiff, is a massive breed that has a natural protective instinct. Without proper socialization and training some members of the breed may attack first and ask questions later.

History and Origin

The Fila Brasileiro is one of two breeds native to the country of Brazil. The other Brazilian dog is the Brazilian tracker. The Fila Brasileiro is thought to be an early descendent of the Spanish and Portuguese mastiffs and many believe the English mastiff, bloodhound and bulldog were used in the breed’s development. In the 17th century, the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors brought these impressive dogs to Brazil. Here the dogs were improved and used for tracking escaped slaves and protecting the owner’s property. The breed was also used to hunt Jaguars and was even nicknamed the “Onceiro”, the Jaguar hunter. The word Fila means ‘to grab or hold’ and refers to the dog’s tendency to attack and not let go for any reason. Eventually, the Fila Brasileiro was imported to the United States but is considered a rare breed. The breed’s natural aggressive tendencies have resulted in bans of this breed in several countries. The Fila Brasileiro is not recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Appearance and Size

The Fila Brasileiro has a powerful head, dark nose and dark almond eyes. The body is well muscled and the tail is long and curved at the end. The hair coat of the Fila Brasileiro is short and smooth and comes in solid colors and brindle. The adult Fila Brasileiro stands 24 to 30 inches at the shoulder and weighs 90 to 110 pounds.


The Fila Brasileiro has a dominant personality and can be aggressive toward strangers. Early socialization is strongly encouraged. This breed should be handled by experienced dog owners and is not for the person who cannot control a large strong dog. The breed has an acute sense of smell that makes them good guard dogs that attack and defend their territory without any training. The Fila Brasileiro is very intelligent and loyal to their family.

Home and Family Relations

A well-trained and socialized Fila Brasileiro makes a wonderful companion. They are excellent housedogs, despite their size. The Fila Brasileiro makes a great watchdog and is loyal and obedient with his family but aggressive with strangers and unfamiliar pets. The Fila Brasileiro gets along with children he or she knows and can become gentle and protective around them. This breed requires an experienced handler.


The Fila Brasileiro is an independent and trainable breed. The dog needs firm and sensible handling and early socialization. Properly raised and trained the Fila Brasileiro is a loving, gentle giant. Without training, the Fila Brasileiro has the potential to be an aggressive and threatening dog, which is a characteristic of most mastiffs.


The short, dense coat of the Fila Brasileiro does not require a great deal of grooming to keep it clean and shiny. Periodic brushing is sufficient.

Special Care

The Fila Brasileiro has been banned in many countries due to their aggressive tendencies. An untrained, unsocialized Fila Brasileiro can be difficult to handle. Regardless of his training, the Fila Brasileiro should not be allowed to roam freely and should be leashed when in public.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Gastric torsion (bloat) is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.

The average life span of the Fila Brasileiro is 9 to 11 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.