Developed from European mastiffs, most notably the English, Spanish and Portuguese dogs, as well as the Continental Bloodhound, the Scottish Sleuth-Hound and the original Bandogue Brasileiro, this superb Brazilian breed has traditionally been used as a large game hunter and a superb property guardian. Its ability to hold quarry at bay without killing it, coupled with good trainability and tracking instincts, made the old Cabecudo a popular slave-retriever in the early days. Also used as capable cattle herders, some Filas reportedly found their way into the sport of bull-baiting, as well as dog-fighting on occasion.
Due to the limited gene pool, the breed's health was compromised, forcing many breeders to introduce foreign blood into their Filas in the 20th century, employing the English Mastiff, the Great Dane, the Neapolitan Mastiff and other breeds as outcrosses, but in recent years, a number of bull-type fighting breeds, such as the Presa Canario, Tosa Inu and the Pit Bull have been introduced into many of its non-Brazilian bloodlines, diminishing some of the guarding qualities that made the Fila Brasileiro famous, while increasing its dog-aggression, temperament issues and health problems. Not all native fanciers of the breed agreed with the rampant crossing trends and some old Brazilian bloodlines have been preserved, with minimal influx of appropriate blood of breeds which were initially used in the make-up of the original incarnation of the Fila Brasileiro.
It could be argued that there are two Brazilian Mastiff breeds in existence today, one of which is more numerous and popular, this being the "new" type Fila Brasileiro, heavily "enriched" with the blood of European breeds, while the other breed variety is the rare pure working Fila, indigenous to Brazil and being a continuation of the original Cabecudo breed, whose temperament is seen by its opponents as being too harsh for the modern world and whose appearance is not attractive enough for the Show circles.
Even though the latter type is the correct one and is truly representative of the real Brazilian Mastiff, it simply isn't as widespread and well-liked as its softer and less reliable counterpart, which unfortunately counts in its population the overwhelming majority of Filas found in the United States and Europe. Not only do the types differ in terms of appearance, but there is a variety of personality traits encountered in the "new" Fila which have traditionally been seen as unnacceptable for the breed, like shyness, nervousness and viciousness. This outstanding Molosser is strictly a working breed, but the Fila Brasileiro can also make an amenable family companion and watchdog, when provided with proper training, excercise and responsible handling by experienced owners.
The Brazilian Fila posesses one of the most unique personality traits in the canine world, traditionally known as Ojeriza, most often described as "hatred of strangers". This is a serious guard dog, liking only its human family and nobody else. While many Filas are quite sweet and friendly as puppies, most of the pure ones grow up to be extremely intolerant of strangers. Famously loyal to its master and very protective of its family and territory, this breed requires experienced and responsible handling. Massive, well-boned and muscular, the Fila Brasileiro is a surprisingly agile and fast Moloss. The skin is fairly loose, but isn't hanging as much as that of its ancestor, the Bloodhound. A number of specimens are born with curled tails, showing strong influence of the legendary Terceira Mastiff heritage.
Short coat is smooth to the touch and comes in all solid colours, with small white markings being common.
Average height is around 28 inches.