I had a friend in Portugal who had many Brazilian Filas. He went away for two months, arrived back home, and went to see one of the dogs. The dog attacked him, and he lost his ear before the dog recognized him. Portugal colonized Brazil 500 years ago, and we imported these dogs to control the slaves. They protect the sheep also, and they are very agile. It is a heavy dog, but he can jump like a Greyhound.
People need to understand the dog in front of them. The Fila’s conformation, front and rear, requires him to roll. The rear angulation is nearly straight, and if the topline is straight, it is a disqualifying fault. The Fila has to be judged at the walk; if you see a judge requiring a Fila to trot, you know he does not know how to judge the breed.
In my part of Europe – in the South of Europe, we are Latin people – we never touch a Brazilian Fila. But if you go to Scandinavia, you can touch a Fila, because they control the temperament. The breeding, the temperament – they control everything, the Scandinavians. Interestingly, they are not strong in Molossers.
A Molosser expert is not intimidated at the idea of putting up one of these majestic dogs all the way to Best in Show. Here, a Bullmastiff takes the big ribbon in Bogota, Colombia.
What countries are?
The United Kingdom, I think, is the future for the Dogue de Bordeaux. They have imported some good dogs since the quarantine was lifted seven or eight years ago. The Dogue is the third or fourth most popular dog in the U.K., with nearly 3,000 registered each year. I don’t know why they don’t have the CC yet.
In Argentina and Mexico, the Dogue de Bordeaux is fantastic. In Serbia, they have good dogs – Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs. The Mastiffs in Russia and the Ukraine are the best. Hungary, Poland, Russia, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria – all these countries are producing very good dogs.
The show scene in Russia is exploding, isn’t it?
The Russians go everywhere in big buses. They have superb dogs. They can have 30,000 dogs easily at a Russian show.
There are two different kinds of people there who show dogs: There are the regular people, and there are the millionaires, who have power and want to show it with their dogs. They hire handlers from the U.S. and Brazil who live now in Russia. Sometimes they go to a dog show.
At the World Show in Argentina in 2005, there was a Russian man who was expecting an imported Bulldog. He had never seen the dog. He went to Buenos Aires, and the dog came from Madrid. People said he paid 100,000 Euros for the dog. They went to airport, and they opened the cargo, and there was the Bulldog, dead inside a block of ice. Eastern European countries also have the ability to crop their dogs’ ears, which is steadily being lost in much of the rest of Europe.
In the south of Europe, we are used to the conformation of the head shown by a cropped ear. That changes with long ears. We cannot crop, but we still do: If you got to our shows, 50 percent of our Boxers and Cane Corsos have cropped ears. It is the same in Italy. These Molossers with long ears … it changes the expression. It changes the conformation of the head. Cropped ears help to see the head and the planes of skull and the muzzle. But we get used to them not being cropped.
What do you think about the debate over size and bone in Tibetan Mastiffs, with the FCI standard arguably envisioning a more moderate dog?
The Tibetan Mastiff is the father of Mastiff dogs, arriving in Europe from Turkey. It’s a strong dog: If you go to Tibet, they are monster dogs. In Europe have some light dogs, without bone, but there are some are really nice ones. As mastiffs, I think they have to have a big, strong head and bone, not light.
This TIbetan breed’s name contains the word “Mastiff” for a reason. Photo: Sanna Sander
You travel all over the world, and sometimes, I gather, things can get a little heated ringside.
The Dogo Argentino is a very impressive breed, and I judged them at the World Dog Show in Buenos Aires in 2005. When the dog who they expected to win didn’t, they threw firecrackers in the ring.
There was total panic – some people fell down on the floor. Someone told CNN, and then CNN broadcasted that there was a terrorist attack at the dog show in Argentina.
Is there a Molosser breed we haven’t touched on that you enjoy judging?
The Dogo Canario is a very impressive breed. At the World shows you can have more than 100. Eastern European countries love this type of dog. It’s a very impressive dog, but you have to look at it with an open mind. It’s a very special breed because the front is so wide. That’s typical – they are allowed to elbow out. The heads are fantastic, but if you think about the conformation, you can be a little bit shocked. And they have improved in the last 10 years.
The Dogo Canario has an enthusiastic following in Eastern Europe; in the United States it is known as the Presa Canario, and has evolved from some divergent bloodlines.
What is it about the Molossers that appeals to you?
I love history, especially Roman history, and I think at that time they had the most fantastic Molossers, the mothers and fathers of our breeds.
Molossers are about power – and not in the bad sense of the word.
It’s a feeling. Sometimes we have things in ourselves that we cannot explain.