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The Fila Brasileiro, a breed that Teixeira enjoys judging -- and discussing.

Talking With ...

Molosser expert Luis Pinto Teixeira

There are only a handful of all-round judges worldwide whose opinions Molosser fanciers apprise with as much interest and respect as they do their own breed specialists. And on that very short list is Luis Pinto Teixeira of Lisbon, Portugal. A civil engineer who began in dogs with breeding German Shepherds, Teixeira has been judging for 38 years, traveling to some 80 countries to officiate at hundreds of shows, including specialty shows in many of the Molosser breeds. He has judged at the World Dog Show multiple times, and was invited to judge at the prestigious Dogue de Bordeaux nationale d’élevage in the breed’s homeland. Modern Molosser caught up with Teixeira this spring in York, Pennsylvania, where he was judging the Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America national specialty – for the second time. In a delightfully wide-ranging conversation – Teixeira is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese – he discussed his love of these distinctive dogs, and the challenges in breeding and judging them. 


You’re an all-rounder judge, but in Molosser circles you are considered a specialist in many of those breeds. It must be the best of both worlds.

I prefer a judge who is not a specialist, for two reasons: If you are a specialist, either you choose the kind of dog you have at home, or you go to one exaggerated point: “This breed is about the head, so I am going to ignore the conformation …”  

I was a ring steward when I was at 16 or 17 years old, and I learned a lot. I remember a German judge, a typical German judge, judging Boxers in the north of Portugal. He came with a nice box. He opened the box, and it contained a chart with eight or 10 different eye colors. This was a great specialist from Germany. We don’t need these things to judge a breed. I was really shocked. This is the specialist.  

I am not against a specialist. But I prefer a breeder who can judge a lot of breeds.  


Teixeira awarding the Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America’s 2013 National Specialty Best in Show to GCh. Evergreen’s Rub My Belly at Rising Star.


Sometimes I hate to be an all-rounder because I have to judge breeds I don’t know well. In FCI, we have 350 breeds. Even a Group judge has to have an idea about what is a dog is, and what type of dog it is. I was taught there are four types: lupoids, from the wolf; the greyhounds; the molossoids, and the brachoids. And if you put the breed you have in front of you in one of those groups, you know in general what the dog is, and then you get to the specifics.  


When you are judging Molossers, what do you prioritize?

With Molossers, I think the conformation of the body and especially the head is very important. You have Cane Corsos, Bullmastiffs and Mastiffs. And then you have, in my opinion, Dogues de Bordeaux and Mastinos – the real Molossers. Soundness in those breeds is more difficult, so when we judge them we have to be a little more understanding in terms of movement and some other things, such as topline. For example, in the Dogue de Bordeaux, they want the topline to be straight, but it is not level – impossible. Why? Because the conformation, the angulation behind, cannot let you have that.  


A Dogue de Bordeaux who is considered the archetype of the breed by many: Multi-Ch. Belmondo the Red Power Pack.


Do you have some standout Dogues and Mastini in your mind’s eye?

I was judging in St. Petersburg, Russia, after the fall of Communism, in 1996. For me at that time the breed had changed a little, perhaps the dogs were a little big, but they had fantastic type. I gave Best in Show to Belmondo. He was fantastic and sound.  

When we had the World Dog Show in 1992 in Spain, Best in Show was the Neapolitan Mastiff Caligola di Ponzano. That dog was fantastic – I was so impressed with him. Then I spoke with some Italian judges, who said, “Oh, no, he’s not a typical dog.” Today, more than 20 years later, that dog would be a good example of a dog with health and soundness, who lost maybe a little bit of type. We don’t see dogs like that today. I always have that dog in my mind.


The great Neapolitan Mastiff Caligola di Ponzano, Best in Show at the World Dog Show in 1992.


What do you think about the Cane Corso? The breed seems to be at a crossroads in much of the world.

I judged Cane Corsos at the World Show in Poznan, Poland, in 2006. There were 250 Cane Corsos, and three judges, including Paolo Dondina, who judged males. I judged juniors. Sofia dell’Appio was Best of Breed, out of the 9-18 month Youth class.  


Teixeira’s Junior World Winner at the 2006 World Show, Sofia dell’Appio, went on to take the breed.


Today the Cane Corso is a big problem, because the type is all over the place: a dog can have a big, huge head like a Mastino, or a small one.  

I don’t know the future of the breed. I have a lot of doubts. We have a standard, and we have to judge by the standard. There are points that are the same for every judge. People get mad with me when I say, “You have a beautiful dog, but you have a level bite.” I have judged hundreds and hundreds of Cane Corsos, and the problem is level bites and some scissors. They have to decide about that. If they go more toward a Mastino type, or more to a Boxer type, they have to decide what they want.  

The Eastern European countries like dogs a little heavier. If you go to Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, you’ll find dogs that are little bit heavy. Some have more dewlap than normal, some very huge heads. But the Cane Corso has to be a little bit away from the Mastino. If you look at the heads of the Cane Corso and Dogo Argentino, other than color they are very similar.  


Teixeira judging Cane Corsos at the Euro Dog Show in Budapest, Hungary, in 2008.


Another main problem for me is easty-westy fronts; when you start forgiving it, forget it. You see some very long loins and very bad fronts.  

I also think the fawn Cane Corsos are more difficult in terms of type. For some reason, it’s difficult to breed a really good one. In some breeds, color is a question of genetics. It's more difficult to have a real beautiful fawn Cane Corso than a black or brindle.  


Mastiff quality is very strong in Russia, says Teixeira, shown here awarding a Group 1st to the Russian-bred Mastiff Multi-Ch. Mastif Hill Wall Arnold at the International Dog Show in Helsinki in 2009.


How do you see Mastiff type evolving over the years?

Many years ago I went to England to learn. Thirty or 40 years ago, England was number one for the Mastiff. But that old English Mastiff, that heavy type, without so much leg, has disappeared. Today we have leggy dogs with heavy bodies. That has improved the movement. But they don’t have strong heads, and not as much bone.  

I imported an English Mastiff many, many years ago, when we didn’t have Mastiffs in Portugal. We imported from a very famous breeder, Betty Baxter – a brindle from her Farnaby kennel. She was a really beautiful bitch, but she was the only one. We didn’t succeed because we didn’t have breeders.  


Today, Mastiifs are leggier and taller than the old-style examples that Teixeira was introduced to at British kennels.



Ch. Blackslate’s Boston Blackie, an American-bred brindle who won multiple Bests in Show in Spain and Portugal. Teixeira awarded him his first.


What about Bullmastiffs?

On balance, nowadays there are a lot of Bullmastiffs with huge heads, too much loose skins and bad fronts. When I was judging in Europe many years, I gave the American-bred brindle, Ch. Blackslate’s Boston Blackie, his first Best in Show. He was a fantastic Bullmastiff.  


Tell us a bit about judging Fila Brasilieros, which is a breed we don’t see much of in the U.S.

There are two types: one more Bloodhound, and one more Mastiff. The first time I went to Brazil was many years ago. I learned a lot and judged some specialty shows. They changed the first standard a little bit; it used to say the dogs are allowed to bite the judge.  


The Fila Brasiliero is a breed not commonly seen in the U.S., and one that earns the description “serious.” Photo: Sanna Sander


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.   



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