There are only a small number of native Brazilian dog breeds, and only one that is small. That breed is the “Little Fox Terrier of Sao Paulo,” a translation of the name, “Fox Paulistinha,” which is what Brazilians call the breed we know as the Brazilian Terrier.
The breed’s development is a bit complicated. Many sources suggest that the breed has its roots in Jack Russell Terriers brought to Brazil from Europe in the late 1700s, as well as Chihuahuas, Min Pins, and other small breeds that were bred to those Jack Russells.
Other accounts, however, point to the Podengo Portugueso Pequeno as an earlier ancestor, a dog brought to Brazil in the 1500s by Portuguese explorers. Once in Brazil, the Podengoes bred with spitz-type dogs kept by the country’s native population.
Fast forward to the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a time when wealthy Brazilians sent their children to study in European universities, particularly in England and France. There, the young adults were exposed to local interests, including fox hunting, and to the working terriers that accompanied these hunts.
After graduation, most Brazilian students went home. Some returned with the working terriers they bought for themselves. Some returned with new wives who brought along their companions dogs, mostly Miniature Pinschers, Chihuahuas, and Toy Fox Terriers. Once in Brazil, many of these dogs interbred, and they also crossed with the progeny of the Podengo Portugueso x native Brazilian dogs.
In the subsequent years, a breed evolved and developed that had its own distinctive phenotype, or appearance. These dogs were well adapted to working long hours in heat and humidity, and to resisting diseases, insects, and parasites found across much of Brazil. They worked and played well with other dogs, and were dependable hunters and vermin killers. Plantation owners loved these dogs! Their work helped reduce livestock losses by killing the critters whose ground holes broke legs. They destroyed vermin that destroyed crops. As a result, profits were greater – and oh, by the way, killing vermin that carried disease-carrying ticks and fleas helped prevent the spread of disease.
Understandably, the Brazilian Terrier was a dog found primarily in the countryside, but city people quickly embraced the breed for its adaptable size in small apartments, as well as its prowess in ridding homes of city rats. The breed’s affectionate nature, and a frisky, clownish personality has made this a popular breed in Brazil, and sometimes, larger homes pair the dog with a Fila Brasileiro, the terrier acting as the lookout and first alarm, with the Fila finishing the job.
The breed that’s been in existence for over 100 years has been registered only since 1973, and it wasn’t until 2007 that it was officially recognized by FCI. We suspect that it won’t be long before the breed makes strides in the US.
Image of Brazilian Terrier found on Pinterest and happily credited upon receipt of information