The history of dog breeds is replete with examples of different breeds that work together toward a common goal. In Tibet, the diminutive Lhasa Apso would sound the alarm at the sound of an interloper and leave the muscle action to the massive Tibetan Mastiff. In the UK, foxhounds pursued foxes, and when the prey went to ground, terriers served to bolt them from their hidey holes. In the case of the Pharaoh Hound, the breed even worked with a different species – a ferret – to unearth a rabbit.
Brazil has its own version of “strange bedfellows” working in concert toward a common goal.
The Fila Brasiliero (or Brazilian Mastiff) is, of course, a big molosser breed with powerful jaws, large bones, a muscular stature, and lot of loose skin. These colossal dogs were developed on farms in Brazil where they were utilized as guard dogs, cattle herders, and to track, chase, catch, and hold large animals like jaguars until the hunter arrived. They are calm and quiet dogs until aroused, but at that point, a Fila can jettison into action as a fierce protector dog with surprisingly agility and shocking speed.
That said, a Fila can sleep well. Really well. In his book, Dogs, author Desmond Morris writes that some Filas are heavy sleepers, but the bark of a little dog can wake them up in an instant. Enter Brazil’s only other native breed, the Brazilian Terrier.
This versatile little terrier is a superb ratter, keen hunter, and energetic worker. Like many small terriers, the Brazilian Terrier has an armor piercing bark. Some Brazilian estates kept both a Fila and a Brazilian Terrier on hand, so to speak, so that the bark of the terrier would alert the Fila who would then deal with any intruder with efficiency. This isn’t to say that the Terrier wouldn’t be game to do the same job. Back in the day, the terrier was used for both pack and single hunting, and when working in packs, these terriers surrounded their prey from all directions until the animal is exhausted. Still, there is nothing like a 140 to 180 pound dog coming up behind a smaller dog to make an interloper run the other way.
It should be noted that the Fila is naturally aloof with strangers, and has an extremely protective temperament when it comes to his people and property. Furthermore, some sources write that if a Fila is to coexist peacefully with another dog, he or she must be raised from puppyhood with that dog.
Image: Brazilian Terrier by LA Shepherd