The Fila Brasileiro was developed by Brazilian ranchers who needed a fearless, all-around working dog of enormous strength and stamina that could hunt large game, guard livestock and protect property and possessions. Filas also were used to work semi-feral cattle and hunt wild game, where they would track, attack and hold their prey until the hunters arrived to make the kill. The breed was named after the Portuguese word “filar,” which means “to hold or secure.” Filas reportedly were at one time used to track down and capture runaway slaves, without seriously hurting them. They are well-known and well-employed as fearless guardians of person and property.
Breeds thought to have contributed to the modern Fila Brasileiro include the Bloodhound, Bullenbeisser (an ancient bulldog), Mastiff and Rafeiro do Alentejo, forming the basis for his exceptional tracking skills, courage, tenacity, herding and guarding instincts and loose skin. Developed strictly as a working dog, the Fila was not bred to a fixed “type” until the 1950s. The official Brazilian breed standard was developed in the 1960s. Their deep distrust of strangers can make them dangerous if a strong and dedicated owner does not train, socialize and supervise them. In show competition, judges are told never to touch the Fila if they value their fingers. The breed developed a following in the United States in the 1970s. The Fila Brasileiro Club of America was formed in 1984, followed by the Fila Brasileiro Association (located in Texas) in 1992.
The average life span of the Fila Brasileiro is between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include bloat, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.