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Two female Fila Brasileiros playing

A Modest Proposal

Francisco Peltier suggests ending the controversy about "impure" Fila Brasileiros wars by creating an altogether new breed: the Brazilian Mastiff.

Big dogs often come with equally outsized opinions. And you need only look as far as the Fila Brasileiro for a spirited debate that has endured for four decades, with no signs of abating any time soon.

Our guest columnist is Francisco “Chico” Peltier, a long-time and very vocal advocate for what he and his club, the Clube de Aprimoramento do Fila Brasileiro (the Fila Brasileiro Improvement Club), or CAFIB, term the “pure Fila.” The CAFIB was founded some 40 years ago as a reaction against cross-breeding to other breeds – specifically, English Mastiffs, Neapolitan Mastiffs and black Great Danes – that has changed the landscape of the breed – in his opinion, most decidedly not for the better.   This debate is an important one not just for those who seek to understand the schism that exists in this native Brazilian breed, but also to draw lessons that may benefit other breeds facing similar crises. The state of the Boerboel in the face of the popularity of black dogs in that South African breed comes immediately to mind.   “Uncle Chico,” as he refers to himself in his impassioned emails, has a well-trafficked blog (www.filabrasileirochicopeltierblog.wordpress.com) as well as a website (www.filabrasileirochicopeltier.com.br) that between them have hundreds of articles, photographs and documents about the breed that he loves – and, at times, mourns.   In this essay, after providing a history of the breed and describing the forces that have divided it, he provides a solution for a “happily ever after.”   What do you think?  


By Francisco Peltier

Brazilians worry a lot about the state of their indigenous species – the golden lion tamarin in Amazonia, the broad-snouted caiman in Pantanal, the turtles of northeastern Brazil. Further afield, they fret over the seals, whales and polar bears in the Arctic, even panda bears in China.  

But, unfortunately, most don’t value the only native Brazilian dog breed – our Cão de Fila Brasileiro, or Fila Brasileiro, which became internationally recognized in 1950.  

The Fila Emerges

The following historical overview is very much based on the knowledge and articles of Paulo Godinho, a journalist and all-rounder judge at the well-known Confederação Brasileira de Cinofilia-FCI, or CBKC. He wrote hundreds of columns that were published in the old Jornal do Brazil and in Revista Animais & Veterinária, both based in Rio de Janeiro, as well as his excellent book “Fila Brasileiro: um Presente das Estrelas” (“Fila Brasileiro: A Gift From the Stars”).  

The Cão de Fila developed some centuries ago, in the interior of our country, particularly in the south of the state of Minas Gerais. It was the result of random crossings between breeds brought by our colonists and possibly native dogs, without much human intervention. Nobody knows for sure. What we do know is that it was a breeding blessed by Mother Nature.  

In the beginning, this dog was known in central Brazil only by its names, which were connected to its function: Onceiro and Boiadeiro, i.e. “a dog that is used for hunting jaguars and handling bulls.” He lived without a care in the fazendas, or rural houses, and many of the dogs fed themselves simply by hunting. They were frequently used for handling livestock, hunting jaguars and other large animals, and protecting properties and the animals that belonged to them.  


Zenon do Itanhandu, the most recent Fila to receive a gold medal from the CAFIB, the Brazilian group that was formed to protect and advance authentic-type Fila Brasileiros.Zenon do Itanhandu, the most recent Fila to receive a gold medal from the CAFIB, the Brazilian group that was formed to protect and advance authentic-type Fila Brasileiros.


The breeder Benedito Faria de Camargo was the first to want to exhibit a Fila at an official dog show, the Kennel Clube Paulista (KCP). But he soon discovered that only dogs with pedigrees issued by this club were allowed to take part in the exhibitions. As his dogs were not registered, he sought out the KCP president, Adolpho Lourenço Rheingantz, who allowed Camargo to exhibit his Fila in the exhibition-only class, or “Hors Concours.” And so, on May 13, 1939, a Fila named Jumbo was shown to São Paulo’s dog fancy in the Parque das Águas Brancas in Brazil.  

An enthused Mr. Rheingantz immediately realized that the Fila might have a chance to become a proper dog breed – a genuine Brazilian breed, recognized by the former Brasil Kennel Club (that original CBKC was replaced in 1979 by today’s BKC) and internationally by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). As a first step, he created a registry book for the new breed, which became known by the name Fila Nacional.


A snapshot from the CAFIB expedition to southern Minas Gerais in the late 1970s of breed pioneer and legendary breeder Zé Gomes de Oliveira. The head of his pure Fila Brasileiro, named Lord, has a very typical Fila headpiece.

A snapshot from the CAFIB expedition to southern Minas Gerais in the late 1970s of breed pioneer and legendary breeder Zé Gomes de Oliveira. The head of his pure Fila Brasileiro, named Lord, has a very typical Fila headpiece.


The first article written about the Fila Brasileiro, in 1942.


In February 1942, Mr. Camargo, together with João Laraya, wrote an article entitled “O Fila” (“The Fila”) in the journal “Caça e Pesca” in São Paulo. This was the first document ever to focus on the dog that the people in São Paulo merely called “Fila.”   There were more Fila Nacional dogs at the 1943 annual KCP exhibition, but there was no breed standard yet, nor any capable judges. As a solution, Mr. Rheingantz asked Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz to formulate the first Fila Nacional standard in 1951.  

Dr. Paulo had begun breeding Filas in 1948 and frequently traveled to central Minas Gerais looking for the dogs, which he raised and gave to friends in order to spread the breed. Breeding became his great passion, and his kennel, Parnapuan, became the most famous, as he was the first to export a Fila to Germany. Everything Dr. Paulo did – breeding, creating the first breed standard, and popularizing, organizing and defending the Fila breed – brought him worldwide fame as “Pai da Raça Fila,” or the “Father of the Fila Breed.”  

With this breed standard, the Fila Nacional came to be called the Fila Brasileiro. Once he had the standard in hand, Mr. Rheingantz sent it to the Brasil Kennel Club (which became the Confederação Brasil Kennel Clube, or CBKC, in 1979). Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture validated it in 1954.  


Map of Brazil. Minas Gerais, the cradle of the Fila, is denoted by the "MG" at far right.Map of Brazil. Minas Gerais, the cradle of the Fila, is denoted by the "MG" at far right.


A coffee plantation in the south of the Braziian state of Minas Gerais. The Fila Brasileiro was used here to protect property and livestock.A coffee plantation in the south of of Minas Gerais. Historically, the Fila Brasileiro was used in this Brazilian state to protect property and livestock.


Crossbreeding rears its head


Result of an early crossing between a Fila and a Saint Bernard. This cross was not well utilized, and, unlike the later Mastiff, Neo and Dane crosses, did not impact the gene pool.Result of an early crossing between a Fila and a Saint Bernard. This cross was not well utilized, and, unlike the later Mastiff, Neo and Dane crosses, did not impact the gene pool.


For the better part of two decades, breeding proceeded apace and the Fila Brasileiro progressed normally. However, at the beginning of the 1970s, some breeders in the state of São Paulo (“Paulistas”) without knowledge of the Brasil Kennel Clube began to cross Filas with English Mastiffs. Unfortunately, the BKC registered the resulting puppies as purebred Filas. Other Paulistas heard about these uncontrolled “experiments” and began to cross Fila with black Neapolitan Mastiffs. Later, a breeder born in the state of Minas Gerais who heard about it began to cross Filas with black Great Danes. This is where the so-called “fila-preto,” or “black Fila,” suddenly originated. It was and continues to be very successful commercially, but has caused much damage and harm to the Fila breed. In the last two cases, the puppies were also registered at BKC and then CBKC as if they were purebred Filas.  

In other words, some of the pedigrees issued by the BKC-FCI at that time did not have genealogical value, given that the cross-breeders “paternized” them with the names of actual Fila stud dogs. This lead to the absurd situation where a dog that had a BKC pedigree stating it was pure Fila Brasileiro could actually have blood of an English Mastiff, a Neapolitan Mastiff or a black Great Dane – a dog that was said to be purebred was nothing more than a mix of these breeds.  

In 1976, the former BKC, led by Eugênio Pereira de Lucena, was already alerted to and aware of the Fila mixing. It gave its blessing to the well-known “Simpósio de Brasília,” the aim of which it was to modify the existing Fila breed standard to adapt it to the mixed Fila, or “fila-mestizos,” thereby accepting features that are untypical of the true Fila Brasileiro.  


Black Fila Brasileiro: Depending on what your stance is on this schism in the breed, those three words are written with and without quote marks: Those who write them with quote marks are alluding to the crosses with Neapolitan Mastiffs and later Great Danes that introduced this popular but historically incorrect color.


The goal of the former BKC was to increase revenue by issuing more and more pedigrees, and unfortunately, it was successful: In 1975, the BKC registered about 1,000 Filas. One year later, that number grew to 1,500 new registrations, then to more than 3,000 in 1977 and more than 8,000 in 1982. Starting in 1977, the Fila Brasileiro was the breed with most puppies registered by the BKC-CBKC, dropping down to second place in 1982 and continuing on for a few more years. In 1985, the number of Fila registrations decreased, but the breed remained among the 10 most registered breeds until 1996.  

In the second half of the 1970s and into the ’80s, the Fila, whether pure or mixed, was highly sought after in Brazil. But everybody thought they owned purebred Filas Brasileiros, and not “mestizos-fila,” or Fila crossbreeds.  


A typey Fila female, Garota do Embaré.


I was disgusted by this pointless, uncontrolled and arbitrary crossbreeding, making the pedigrees useless for any attempts to (allegedly) improve the breed. So from 1976 onward, I went to the former BKC in Rio several times to personally complain to its president, Eugênio Pereira Lucena, about the crossbreeding that was going on. After that, I wrote in several editions of the journal Animais & Veterinária and even weekly in the journal Diário de Notícias in Rio, always denouncing the crossbreeding.  


Dr. Paulo Santos CruzDr. Paulo Santos Cruz


That same year, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz, who by that point had withdrawn completely from the dog fancy and club politics. When I alerted him about the crossbreeding, he began to write brilliant articles against it. The Jornal do Brasil, one of the most important publications in our country at that time, embraced our concern, as did the Jornal Estado de São Paulo. An anti-crossbreeding conscience soon began to develop, and a group of Paulistas who were also against unsanctioned crossbreeding without control and purpose took courses about the Fila conducted by Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz.  

During that time, countless denouncements of crossbreeding and awarding mixed dogs on Fila expositions were officially forwarded to the BKC and even to the FCI. Since no action was taken, in 1978 this group of Paulistas – Airton Campbell, Américo Cardoso, Luiz Antônio Maciel, Roberto and Marilia Maruyama, together with Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz – formed the Clube de Aprimoramento do Fila Brasileiro, or CAFIB. We remain active to this day, after 38 years of continuous work in favor of the Fila breed.  

The first actions of the CAFIB were to update the old breed standard, removing significant errors that had been added. Among those changes were making the scissors bite the only acceptable dentition; accepting the traditional yellow colors, from bay to dark brown and all ranges of mottles and brindles; and disqualifying white, black, gray and spotted dogs.  

O Fila magazine, published by the Clube de Aprimoramento do Fila Brasileiro.O Fila magazine, published by the Clube de Aprimoramento do Fila Brasileiro.


The newly minted CAFIB also created its own registry book of pedigrees, began training judges, started publishing its journal O Fila, and in particular began visiting the interior of Brazil several times. From that area, which was the cradle of the breed, we took true and typical Filas with us, selecting and approving them using our Analyses of Phenotype and Temperament (or AFT for short), and rejecting the “fila-mestizos” – even those with Fila pedigrees – in order to start the formation of the CAFIB Fila Brasileiro breeding pool from scratch.  

As the years went by, the CAFIB grew and became the only club that survived in Brazil outside the influence of the BKC (today the Confederação Brasil Kennel Club) and the FCI. We built a club whose philosophy of breeding is to preserve the pure Fila Brasileiro, even though we never received any help from any governmental or non-governmental institution – we survived with nothing more than our own resources. We are extremely organized, we keep our registry book up to date, our pedigrees are accepted and recognized almost everywhere in the world, and we demand a verification statement of offspring before issuing our pedigree. Over the past 38 years, we have held more than 100 national exhibitions and more than 300 regional exhibitions in Brazil, all preceded by our ATF (Analyses of Phenotype and Temperament).  


These dogs were identified as Fila Brasileiros by a stock-photo agency that sold their photos. The author suggests applying this question to them: “What dog breed is that?”


In 1981, Américo Cardoso wrote an in-depth article explaining the ATF process:  

“In order to register a truly good dog for [breeding], now each animal undergoes a thorough analysis, where all somatic characteristics are recorded in detail, all dogs are photographed, numbered, weighed and measured. If they are one year or older, they undergo tests of temperament (character) and nervous system,” he wrote. “The objective is to get a registration with individual records of each animal having a detailed description of his phenotype, giving considerable importance to positive reaction to gun shot and attack tests, but, above all, evaluating the dog’s type.”  

He noted that quite frequently, high-quality dogs with outstanding conformation and even temperament came before the testers, but they lacked true Fila type. These animals were not approved “because they have a series of characteristics that expose mix-breeding; for example, high insertion of ears, accentuated ‘stop,’ no dewlap, tight and thick skin, unusual color, badly characterized movement without the typical camel pace when walking and no waddle,” he continued. “However, they may have great proportions, muscle mass, bones, angulations, vertical standing position, dentition, bite, temperament and nervous system. In short: There are certain specimens that are great dogs, but not purebred Filas.”  

In that article, Mr. Cardoso acknowledged that some mixed-breed Filas might not physically show the “drag” of their non-Fila ancestors, and so might pass the ATF test. As a safeguard against this, he explained, “CAFIB approval is provisional and depends on confirmation by means of a progeny test. Those who prove they transmit to their descendants the type and quality that got them will then get a Definitive Registration. On the other hand, those who show a lack of breed integrity in reproduction (despite not showing it in their phenotype), by generating offspring who show atypical signs, will have their provisional approval canceled and their descendants will not be registered.”  

At these evaluations over the years, we have analyzed and photographed almost 6,500 dogs and issued almost 4,500 origin certificates. Our goal never was quantity, but quality in terms of breed type and purity. In the CAFIB’s first decades of existence, on average half of the dogs examined using our ATFs were rejected. This percentage has by now fallen down to 10 percent, not only because of a general improvement of the dogs’ phenotype and character, but also because the breeders of “mixed Filas” do not attend our events.  

The CAFIB has held more than 40 exhibitions abroad, and we have 25 representations in Brazil and abroad.  


Fila Brasileiro bitch being exhibited at the 2011 World Dog Show in Paris. The FCI is the only worldwide registry that recognizes the breed.Fila Brasileiro bitch being exhibited at the 2011 World Dog Show in Paris. The FCI is the only worldwide registry that recognizes the breed. Photo by Dan Sayers  


Alphabet Soup: CAFIB vs. BKC, CBKC and FCI

Starting in the late 1970s, CAFIB sent formal denouncements to the BKC, CBKC and FCI. Among them was my well-known “Open Letter from London,” sent to the BKC and FCI on August 3, 1978. It acknowledged the role that emotions play in sorting out these aberrations of Fila type, but also argued that they needed to be overcome for the breed’s greater good.  

“I very well know how difficult it is to deny a CAC to a dog we have bought in a kennel which seemed respectable enough, which we reared since a puppy and which we saw grow, very often, as a member of the family,” I wrote. “Meanwhile, I also know that the greatest expedient of the cross-breeder is the cross-breeding dog itself, which many of us have at home. I myself was obliged to return two dogs bought by my kennel from the breeder. It is necessary that all those who have crossbred dogs accept this fact and forget about the dogs around the house. It is necessary to think about the Fila as a breed, as a whole. And what is worse: as a breed that is on its way to extinction.”  

fila-letter-1At left: Some of the author's correspondence to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.


Despite all these letters and emails from the CAFIB to the kennel clubs involved, no investigation ever resulted, no cross-breeder was ever rebuked or punished, and no Fila mixes had their championships or awards revoked.  

Regardless, this crossbreeding was already pointed out by numerous leaders, judges and breeders, including Henrique Pereira de Lucena, last president of the former BKC and first superintendent of the CBKC; and Christopher Habig, ex-vice president of FCI and publisher of Molosser Magazin.  

In a 1986 issue of his celebrated magazine, Habig pointed out that the slight variances in type seen among purebred Filas resulted from it being a working dog that was bred for function as much as form. “Apart from this, there has only been a standard for this breed laying down the phenotype and the temperament since 1946,” he wrote. “Despite these difficulties, all the old documents show that there was already a definite Fila type at the beginning of the century that was almost identical to the pure Fila type today. The structure of the head and body of the old dogs and the better ones of today is the same. In particular you may care to think about the substantial, long and noble head with the one-to-one relation of skull and muzzle.”  

By contrast, Filas that result from crosses to other breeds are much more atypical, even to the point of being mistaken for another breed. My series of articles, entitled “Que raça canina é esta?” (“What dog breed is that?”), shows the differences between Fila Brasileiros bred and registered in CAFIB and the Filas registered by the CBKC.  


The Mastim Brasileiro

Over the decades, these mixed Filas with Fila pedigrees were registered with the BKC-CBKC-FCI and crossed among each other, despite being so phenotypically and temperamentally atypical. This has resulted in what I call a “genetic salad Fila” and has even evolved into what can arguably be called its own breed, the Mastim Brasileiro, or Brazilian Mastiff.  

My suggestion concerning the breeding of the Brazilian Mastiff – which already exists in practice, though it is not officially recognized – would be to “transfer” all the “mixed Filas” with Fila pedigrees to the category of “Brazilian Mastiff.” This was exactly the solution adopted by the FCI when it divided the Akita breed into two – Japanese Akitas and American Akitas – owing to the enormous crossbreeding within this breed during World War II.  


The original Japanese Akita (above) and the American Akita (below), which resulted from crosses to German Shepherd Dogs in the World War II period. Conflict between the two very different types was resolved when the breed was split and now competes separately in the Fédération Cynologique Internationale. The American Kennel Club, however, has not followed suit. The author uses this as a model for a similar solution in the Fila Brasileiro.The original Japanese Akita (above) and the American Akita (below), which resulted from crosses to German Shepherd Dogs in the World War II period. Conflict between the two very different types was resolved when the breed was split and now competes separately in the Fédération Cynologique Internationale. The American Kennel Club, however, has not followed suit. The author uses this as a model for a similar solution in the Fila Brasileiro.
American Akita


In 2012, I received a letter from Fernando Lopez, whose family bred American Akitas under the Alcimar Kennels prefix, and who continued on his own under the Nakayama banner. He now breeds Fila Brasileiros as well, and he underscored the logic of this move.   “I can say that this separation that occurred in the Akita breed was the best solution for all breeders and clubs,” he wrote. “Both for those American Akita breeders and Japanese Akita breeders. All are very satisfied. In the case of the Fila Brasileiro, it would be even easier, since the only world kennel club that recognizes the Fila is the FCI.”  

In my view, the Mastim Brasileiro breed should be divided into four varieties, since after nearly 40 years, a few distinct types have started to be observed and defined more frequently: Giant, Standard, Small and Black. I have even written a proposal for the organization of the Mastim Brasileiro breed: www.filabrasileirochicopeltier.com.br/novos/pergunte_chico_3/materia_eng.html.  


Your Choice: “Mixed Fila,” Brazilian Mastiff or Pure Fila?

Should you decide to become a Fila breeder, I leave it up to you to decide whether you want to breed pure Fila Brasileiros or whether you want to continue playing around, breeding “mixed Filas,” “untypical Filas” or “un”-pure dogs any other name that what I call the “NAMs” (Neo Apologists of Miscegenation) come up with – stocky-fila, toy-fila, pet-fila, mastiff-fila, neapolitan-fila, black-fila, giant-fila, roitt-fila, bloodhound-fila, docile-fila, hairy-fila, heavy loaded-fila , filamarquês, genetic salad fila and even the freak-fila.  

The Fila Brasileiro, the only internationally recognized dog breed of Brazil, is still in danger of extinction due to the enormous amount of crossbreeding within Fila pedigrees. And I continue to declare this in articles, blog posts and web sites, because it is vital for the preservation of our pure Fila Brasileiro with its original and genuine features, phenotype and character, as we inherited it from Mother Nature.  


Pacara do Itanhandu, another Fila that the author considers a fine example of breed type.Pacara do Itanhandu, another Fila that the author considers a fine example of breed type.  



In 1978, Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz, together with the CAFIB breeders, described some of the characteristics seen in “black Filas” that correspond to the incursion of Great Dane blood in the breed. These include:

  • elongated type
  • square outline
  • long leg
  • narrow chest
  • shoulders placed too far forward
  • lack of forechest
  • visible tuck-up
  • long neck
  • narrow and long head, but, seen in profile, showing good depth
  • ears small, thin, high set
  • tight skin
  • weak temperament

  Dr. Cruz also noted that “black Filas” resulting from crosses with black Mastini Napolitani (Neapolitan Mastiffs) can also carry evidence of that breed, including:

  • heavy, stocky type
  • elongated rectangular outline
  • short legs
  • broad chest, shaped like hammock
  • belly tuck
  • excessive dewlap or wattle
  • skull too broad
  • high ear set
  • abrupt “stop” formed by the heavy brow
  • inflated parotid
  • short muzzle that is deeper than it is long
  • edges of the lips (commissure) form an acute angle
  • level or undershot  bite  present
  • tired, dull look, often panting


Francisco “Chico” Peltier


Francisco Peltier de Queiroz, better known as Chico Peltier or, even more fondly, as Tio Chico (“Uncle Chico”), came to know the Fila Brasileiro in early 1974, when he bought a purebred Fila.   Soon after, he acquired two dogs with FCI-issued Fila pedigrees from what back then was the Brasil Kennel Club (BKC), without being aware at all about the crossbreeding that was beginning to be practiced. As his dogs grew up, Chico noticed how their heads, which is the breed’s most distinctive feature, developed very differently. At the same time, he began to hear about crossbreeding of the Fila Brasileiro with English Mastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff.  

Chico could have stayed in his comfort zone, winning prizes like the one in the photo. But instead, while still in his early 20s, he began to investigate this crossbreeding of the Fila, and has never stopped.  
In 2008, Chico was distinguished by the board of directors of the CAFIB with the title “Pai do CAFIB” (Father of the CAFIB), a title which he immediately shared with his friends at CAFIB, since in practice it was they who went out and saved the Fila Brasileiro from extinction. Without the CAFIB’s work, his dream would never have come true.   Around that time, he also decided to realize another dream that he had been nurturing for quite a while: making his enormous archives about the Fila Brasileiro available for anyone who is interested. In 2009, he launched www.filabrasileirochicopeltier.com.br/, which today contains more than 1,000 documents, 600 photos and 100 articles written by him. That was followed in 2012 with the launch of his blog https://filabrasileirochicopeltierblog.wordpress.com/ ,which today has more than 400 articles and about 700 photos.


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