Origin of the Fila Brasileiro Breed - By Prof Procopio do Valle

Several theories try to account for the presence of the Fila in Brazil. However, none of them has a zoo technical basis. After extensive research done in excellent historical documents from libraries in the Northeast and Southeast of Brazil, we can affirm that the current fila brasileiro  arrived in Brazil through the state of Pernambuco, picked up in England by the Flemish (Dutch), who colonized the Northeastern region from 1630 to 1654, when the country’s natural inhabitants finally expelled them.

The “cão de fila” is defined in old Portuguese as a robust, big, and brave guard dog. Incidentally, all of the above-mentioned traits are characteristic of the molosser dogs. The denomination “cão de fila” comes from the old Portuguese verb ” filar “, which means “to hold” – that is, a dog that holds and does not let go. It is, thus, a guard dog and a mixed-blood dog.
The English word “mastiff”, as the French word “mastin”, means mixed-blood.

In our research, we found no evidence that the Fila had been brought to the country by the Portuguese, English, and French or by the African, who took part in the colonization process of our country. There is no mention whatsoever of the presence of this breed during the seventeenth century in the central part of Brazil. However, we did find two significant historical records:

1) The journey of English captain Richard F. Barton, a naturalist and polyglot. For instance: “in the Sabará River towards Santa Luzia ( Minas Gerais) , in the São Francisco river “NEGA”, the Mastiff, resembled a jaguar, becoming very aggressive when restrained and barking as if it is in jail. Nega frightened all of those who saw it for the first time, and proved to be very useful, once in that area every man had to travel around with brave dogs.”

2) Maximiliam, Prince Wied – Neuwied, one of the most famous naturalists who traveled through Brazil in the beginning of the nineteenth century, soon after our portuguese king D. Joao VI opened the country’s harbors, allowing the entry of foreigners. Two pictures are shown:

The first one represents “cães de Fila”, the so-called cabeçudos, onceiros or boiadeiros (cattle herders), besieging an ox, and herdsman on horses, wearing leather clothes, just like they used to do in the Northeast


In the second picture, one can see a jaguar on a tree, being attacked by “cães de Fila”.


All the dogs that were pictured had their ears cut. The site portrayed by Maximiliam was the South of the state of Bahia, in the border with the state of Minas Gerais. Our research points to the following: The Fila arrived in Brazil through the Northeast (Pernambuco), traveled through the Sao Francisco river and arrived at the state of Minas Gerais, thanks to colonizers of European descent, who loved the breed and saw its use as cattle herders. In fact, a cycle was formed:

1) the forest
2) the jaguars
3) man
4) cattle
5) Fila.

See the following pictures:

 origemfilaeng3jp originfilaeng4jp

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