Posts Tagged ‘fila brasileiro’

The Fila Brasileiro:


See my post on the ojeriza temperament for exactly what I’m talking about.

This temperament makes sense in parts of Brazil, where the crime rate is insane.

In America, it’s a lawsuit on four legs.

Very few people think it’s such a great idea to breed for super aggression, even breeders of protection dogs.

When this level of aggression becomes the defining characteristic of the breed, you have a problem.



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The Fila Brasileiro is a mastiff from Brazil. It descends from various sorts of European mastiffs crossed with bloodhounds. Interestingly, these dogs were part of a group of dogs known as bloodhounds in the New World. The most famous of these dogs was kept in Cuba, and one of these dogs guarded the infamous Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. In Brazil and Cuba, the dogs were used to track runaway slaves and “grip” them. They were definitely valued animals among the Southern plantation owners. These dogs were always called bloodhounds in the United States, which leads to a bit of confusion. The dog that we call the bloodhound today is not and never was an aggressive dog. The dogs that were in Uncle Tom’s Cabin were the bloodhound-mastiffs or tracking mastifs from Latin America.

The Brazilian tracking mastiff remained a sort of landrace among the  large estates in that country. They were used as watch dogs and trackers of big game after the Brazilian government abolished slavery, and they existed in a non-standardized form until the well into the twentieth century.

In the 1970’s, the Brazilian dog fancy wanted the studbooks closed, so they could better standardize this dog into a fancy show breed. The original registry for this breed complied but only after creating a schism in the breed that lasts to this day.  This led to two separate, warring registries in the breed.

The registry that got the breed accepted by the FCI called for dogs with distinctly molosser appearance with bloodhond facial features. They also wanted a nicer temperament in the dogs.

However, the other registry, the CAFIB (Club for the Improvement of the Fila Brasileiro), very strongly argues against making the dogs very heavy and coarse. And most controversially, its founders insist on breeding for what they say is a unique trait to the bred. This trait is called ojeriza.

Ojeriza roughly translates as xenophobia, a deep dislike of strangers. The standard for ojeriza states that the dog should not “allow the judge (a stranger) to touch it. And if it attacks the judge, such a reaction must not be considered a fault, but only a confirmation of its temperament.”   (Let that sink in for a second.)

Dogs from these lines bond very strongly with their familes, and by the time they are 18 months to a year in age, they show very high levels of aggression towards people who are not in their immediate families.

The FCI backed club argues that the dogs were never historically bred this aggressive. The dogs allowed visiting farmers to enter the property. It was only when Brazil developed a high crime rate that people began to breed for a much more protective dog.

The CAFIB won’t even register a dog unless it shows ojeriza as an adult. Puppies are not registered. They counter that the FCI dogs are mixed with Great Danes and other “softer” mastiffs. The see their dogs as very close to the working tracking mastiff of Brazil as it always was.

Now, these dogs make superb guard dogs. However,  in most dog breeds, even those bred for guarding behavior, we are trying to breed away from aggression (except, apparently, in golden retrievers). This is one breed that is typically subject to breed bans. It cannot be imported into the UK or Australia.

And it’s all because of the CAFIB’s insistence on breeding for ojeriza. Now, conditions in Brazil might warrant a super aggressive guard dog, but you really don’t need one in the US. In fact, such a dog is definite legal liability.

So is it ethical to breed for ojeriza? If the Brazilians are doing it, I can’t really judge them, but if Americans are also doing it, then I will judge them. Breeding for super aggressive dogs in this country is stupidity. If you want a protection dog, please select from one of those protection dogs that is easily trained. In fact, you’d probably be better off with a tough Komondor than a big mastiff dog that could kill someone. You don’t need a dog with that kind of liability issues.

Plus, if your big tracking mastiff does maul someone, everyone else who has a similar breed is going to suffer. There’s nothing to get the breed ban people all worked up than when a hyper-aggressive dog of some stigmatized breed bites or kills someone.

It is not ethical to breed for ojeriza in the United States or any other country that has issues with torts and poorly considered breed ban legislation. Now, in Brazil, there might be a reason for ojeriza.

I once had a very negative exchange with a breeder who was selecting for ojeriza in his dogs on youtube. He was Brazilian. He thought that his dogs were “more loyal” than mine, because they would kill someone who tried to trespass on his property. I don’t know what loyalty means in dogs. I think it’s a projection that we put on them, but I don’t think that loyalty means a dog that mauls the girl scouts when they come selling cookies.

This type of aggression is selected for in the bloodlines, like trainability is in other breeds. For him to say that his dogs were more loyal because of their aggression is no different than me saying that my dogs were more because they are more easily trained.

This will be a post in which I’m sure to get lots of hate comments, but I’m ready for it.

Update: Until these breeders can produce dogs that can exist in the 21st century, I think this is one breed that should be strictly controlled or banned outright. I will not say the same for the pit bull, because its breeders, by and large, get it.

You may defame me throughout the web. It’s not a big deal. “White” golden retriever people already have.

To be honest with you, no one in the US has a need for an attack dog that is nigh on impossible to control. There are many protection breeds that are safe, including GSD’s, provided they aren’t the inbred show variety, and the Malinois and other Low Countries shepherds. Those dogs are high trainability dogs, and they can be controlled.

We need fewer dogs that are biting people in this country. Every dog that bites means less freedom for responsible dog owners. And I think we’ve blamed the pit bull far too much for this. The truth is that the vast majorit of pit bulls are good dogs. I can’t say this about attack dogs from Third World countries, where democracy is really new and economic and social conditions are very different from here.

And don’t give me malarkey about courage. Courage is something people have. Dogs just have drives, which you can breed for or not breed for.  The chow chow, for example, has been mellowed within my lifetime. It used to be the biter of all biters. You never could find a nice chow anywhere. And although you can get a biting chow today, you can also get better adjusted dogs. Chows were nasty for a very simple reason: in China they are food. You don’t want food that you might get attached to, so you really don’t pay attention to making chows trainable or pleasant dogs.

Ojeriza might be useful in Brazil, but in the US, it’s just playing with a loaded gun. I’ll say it, and until the breeders grow up, I’m going to keep saying it.

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While everyone is looking at my evidence on the bigfoot hoax, I think I’ll look into another inconsistent story. This is the story of the bloodhound cross in the golden retriever. It has one source, and no documentation. Lord Ilchester was the main source for the pedigrees of the retrieverthat Elma Stonex used in her book. Ilchester wrote an article in Country Sports and Country Life that first exposed these pedigrees and kennel records to the wider public. It thoroughly debunked the Russian origins of the golden retriever. If the Caucasian Owtcharka had been more common in the West at this time, this theory would have been debunked immediately.

However, Lord Ilchester’s records include something that seems a little out of place. Most of the records of the Guisachan kennel go from 1868 to 1889, and in no place is there a mention of a bloodhound being added to the cross. Supposedly, this cross happened after 1889, and according to Lord Ilchester, were “rather savage.”   The actual records of this cross was written down a piece of paper and was lost.

Lord Ilchester was just a child when these crosses supposedly happened, so I can forgive him for not knowing what exactly went on. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth was Lord Ilchester’s uncle.

I’m a trained historian, and I am somewhat schooled in canine color and behavior genetics. Historians can only use evidence for which there is proof. Lost pieces of paper are not evidence. However, the golden retriever is the only breed of dog I know of that has these records of its origin. Most dog origin histories are full of lore and unsubstantiated rumor. However, bcause of the incomplete nature of the evidence behind the supposition of the bloodhound cross, I cannot accept this as true historical record.

Secondly, scent hound retriever crosses are usually more scent hound than retriever. Those that are majority retriever tend to lack biddability and retrieving instinct. I will refer you to Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote, a wonderful book about a Labrador/Redbone Hound cross. Merle looks more like a retriever than most hound/retriever crosses. He is a clever dog, but he’s not that biddable. He also refuses to retrieve or even mouth anything. Also, I saw a cross between a black Labrador and a bluetick coonhound a few years ago. Blueticks are descended from the Grand bleu de Gascogne, a French hound that closely resembles a bloodhound. This dog looked like a black bloodhound. It acted like one, too. Very stubborn. My guess is that the bloodhound would be the last thing you’d want crossed into your working retriever lines. You want retrieving behavior and biddability (trainability, smarts, and ability to take direction). None of these behaviors exist in most scent hounds.

Further, in domestic dogs, short hair is dominant to long hair. A cross between a bloodhound and golden retriever would have short hair. No pictures of short-haired goldens exist, except those that were early crosses with the Tweed water spaniel.  The dogs that are supposedly part bloodhound have longer coats than goldens appearing in later generations. I think that instead of a bloodhound, that a large Newfoundland or a large way-coat with close large Newf ancestry was crossed in.

Also, bloodhounds are not savage and never were. The breed known as a bloodhound is really the Chien de St. Hubert, developed as a tracking pack hound in Ardennes in Belgium. St. Hubert was the patron saint of hunters, who was originally the son of the Duke of Aquitaine. One day, he was hunting a stag, when a stag supposedly approached him and told him that unless he repented, he was going to hell. The stage then instructed him to meet the Bishop Lambert to receive instruction. Hubert became a bishop, and eventually an abbey was built in his honor in the Ardennes. The monks who inhabited this abbey bred large scent hounds as they hunted the forest in veneration of Hubert. These scent hounds were given to the King of France as tribute, and they eventually wound up in the hands of many European nobles. France and Belgium were already recognized as the birth place of scent hounds, which were developed there by the Ancient Celts before the Roman Conquest. White St. Hubert Hounds or Chien de Saint Hubert were called Talbot, and probably played a role in developed white and spotted hounds like the Billy, the Porcelaine, and the spotted foxhounds of England. All scent hounds were pack dogs and were not aggressive towards people. Today’s bloodhound/St. Hubert Hounds/Chien de Hubert are genial but stubborn dogs, as they were in the late nineteenth century.

They also do not come and never did come in the recessive red color that golden retrievers have. They come in a masked red. Sometimes, this mask is smaller or not noticeable. I am not sure of the genetics of it, but I do know that when a malinois was crossed accidentally with a golden, brindle and back pups resulted. It seems to me that this is what you’d get if you crossed a red bloodhound with a golden retriever. Goldens are a red to yellow recessive with black skin pigment. Many dogs that appear the same color have a different genotype than this, and when crossed with a golden, very often you get black or strangely colored offspring.

Thus, I am very skeptical about the bloodhound cross in the golden retriever. I have never seen a golden that looked anything like a bloodhound or acted anything like one either.

As for bloodhounds being savage, this comes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel is an attack on slavery in the United States, and the pivotal scene is when the bloodhounds belonging to the slave master chase after the escaped slaves who are escaping across the frozen Ohio River. These dogs are savage. This isn’t the same breed as St. Hubert’s Hound.  In the Slave South, as recounted by Mark Derr in A Dog’s History of America, Latin American “bloodhounds” from Cuba and Brazil were purchased to track and savage escaped slaves and Indians.

What are these bloodhounds? The Cuban bloodhound is actually a mastiff-bloodhound cross, derived from Spanish war mastiffs that were brought to Cuba to tear native Cubans apart and then tear into Cuban slaves once that practice became established on the island. It was also used by Captain Henry Wirz at the Andersonville Prison Camp to tear into escaped Union soldiers during the Civil War. This breed is now extinct.

However, the Brazilian bloodhound still exists. It is now called the Fila Brasileiro. It still has the old type mastiff aggression, and it does look a lot like a bloodhound.

Bloodhound/St. Hubert’s Hound is on the right. The Fila is on the left.

Confusion between these two types is why we once thought bloodhounds were aggressive.

And neither played a role in the development of the golden retriever as near as I can tell.

Bloodhounds were crossed into setters, however, and perhaps the Tweed water spaniel. Through these breeds there may be an indirect link with the bloodhound and the golden retriever. But it is indirect.

Hounds may have been crossed into early retrievers, before they split off into the various strains. Sir Francis Grant has a painting called “Shooting Party-Ranton Abbey”  of two retrievers working for the Earl of Lichfield. The one on the right looks like collie derived retriever with a long, black and tan coat.  The one on the left is golden colored, which is a bit of a shock– most retrievers in the 1840’s were black. It has long ears and a slightly domed head. It has been suggested that this dog is derived from a bloodhound. However, it could be a St. John’s water dog crossed with a setter that had bloodhound ancestry. This dog does have longer hair than the short-haired St. John’s water dog, suggesting some setter ancestry. Early Irish setters often had heavier heads than the current breed, so it may just be a setter and St. John’s water dog-derived retriever.

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