Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Fila Brasileiro dog portrait, summer forest scene
olgagorovenko / Getty Images

The Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff) is a rare, giant guard dog breed from Brazil with a muscular stature, distinctive thick and loose skin, powerful jaws, and an unusual topline profile along its back. 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.

Most dog breeds have flat, level toplines. Some breeds like Afghan Hounds and Whippets have arched toplines. In contrast, the Fila Brasileiro’s croup, also called the rump or buttocks, is higher than its withers at the top of the shoulders.

These skilled protectors are not the breed for everyone. The best situation for a Fila is rural living on a substantial property. A Fila will not be happy with city life or even in the suburbs. If you enjoy an active social life and like to invite people over to your home frequently, the Fila is not the breed for you. But with the right owner, the Fila Brasileiro is nearly unmatched for its loyalty and devotion to its human family. In fact, the breed even sparked a saying in Brazil: “Faithful as a Fila.” 

Breed Overview

Group: Molossoid breeds, Mastiff type (FCI)

Height: 26 to 30 inches (males); 24 to 28 inches (females)

Weight: 140 to 180 pounds (males); 130 to 160 pounds (females)

Coat: Short, smooth, dense fur

Coat Color: Brindle, fawn, and black; with or without black markings on the face

Life Span: 9 to 11 years

Temperament: Reserved, protective, fearless, active, alert

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Brazil

Characteristics of the Fila Brasileiro

Courageous, determined, and self-assured, the Fila Brasileiro is docile and devoted when it comes to their human family, including children. It's important for owners to teach their kids how to respectfully interact with this breed. A Fila wants to be right where you are, and the dog will seek you out if it loses track of you.

Naturally aloof with strangers, this dog has an extremely protective temperament when it comes to its people and property. Filas have a high prey drive and cannot be trusted with cats and small dogs. They may be able to coexist peacefully with other family dogs if brought up together, but bringing a new dog into the mix once a Fila has been established in the family is not advised.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Low
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Fila Brasileiro

The origin of the Fila Brasileiro is not entirely clear. One theory suggests that breeds in the Fila’s background may include the Mastiff, the Bloodhound, and a type of bulldog that existed in the 1400s. This bulldog breed was much larger and more aggressive than today’s short, docile version.

We do know that the Fila Brasileiro was developed centuries ago in Brazil. The breed's discerning protectiveness made it a prized protector and property guardian. Its strength and bravery allowed it to herd, track, and capture large prey like jaguars. In Portuguese, the word “filar” means “to seize,” and that's exactly what these dogs would do—grip the animal by the neck and pin it down, holding it until the hunter could catch up. 

The Fila Brasileiro is not recognized by any major kennel clubs in North America (the American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and the United Kennel Club). It is recognized in Brazil by the Confederação Brasileira de Cinofilia (CBKC), in Puerto Rico by the Federacion Canofila de Puerto Rico (FCPR), and internationally by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). 

Fila Brasileiro
The Fila Brasileiro is a determined hunter of unsurpassed strength and bravery. Getty Images 
Fila Brasileiro
According to the Fila breed standard, "one of the most important breed characteristics is the thick, loose skin over the whole body." Getty Images 

Fila Brasileiro Care

Along with its massive size, the Fila Brasileiro comes with some hefty care requirements to stay happy and well-behaved. These dogs need plenty of physical activity and training, but in the grooming department, their short coats are relatively low-maintenance.


The Fila Brasileiro is a giant dog with considerable exercise needs. These athletic, strong canines do best when given at least an hour of activity each day. Filas are energetic, needing both physical exercise and mental stimulation to be content. They are excellent working and farm dogs, and they thrive when they have a job to do. Since they shouldn't be allowed near animals they aren't familiar with, it's best to take this breed for long runs and walks in rural areas. Filas also enjoy chasing toys, using puzzle toys that reward them with treats, and playing games with their owners that challenge their minds.


The Fila Brasileiro has a short, smooth, and low-maintenance coat. This breed sheds moderately year-round, but owners can manage shedding by keeping up with regular brushings a few times each week to remove loose fur. Bathe Filas as needed when their coats become dirty from spending time outside.

Like other breeds, owners should also regularly brush this breed's teeth, trim its nails, and check its ears for any buildup of debris. Clean the ears with ear cleaner specifically made for dogs to prevent infections.


The Fila is powerful and strong-willed, and it needs a handler who can lead with authority and consistency. Although Fila Brasileiros are extremely intelligent and capable of learning complex tasks, they can be headstrong and tricky to train. Basic obedience lessons should begin early when puppies are about eight weeks old.

Proper training methods must be used. There is no forcing a Fila to do anything. Positive, reward-based training can work well, but keep sessions short and avoid too much repetition to prevent losing your Fila’s interest.

Due to the breed's pronounced wariness of strangers, early and intensive socialization is paramount to avoid raising a dog that won’t accept strangers. Even with consistent socialization starting in puppyhood, the Fila will rarely be content to sit back and relax with strangers coming and going. This breed requires an owner with experience handling guardian breeds who can be a firm but fair leader. In the right hands, however, the Fila is exceptionally devoted and a brave protector. 

Fila Brasileiro
Small Fila Brasileiro puppies quickly grow into large, powerful adults. Getty Images 
Fila Brasileiro headshot
This fawn Fila Brasileiro shows how the loose skin forms jowls beneath the throat. Getty Images 
Bridle Fila Brasileiro standing in some scrub
Filas come in three colors: fawn, brindle (tiger striped) and black. Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Like most purebred dogs, the Fila Brasileiro is prone to some genetically inherited health issues. Reputable breeders will test their adult dogs prior to breeding to prevent passing problems down to puppies. Ask your breeder to provide the litter's medical history along with any available test results for genetic conditions.

Common conditions associated with this breed include:

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: Dysplasia is caused by a malformation in your dog's joints as they age. Common in large breeds, this condition may require surgery in severe cases to help your dog live comfortably.
  • Entropion: This condition is characterized by eyelids that roll inward, rubbing against the eye. Treatment is necessary to prevent damage to the eye's surface.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat): Like other large, deep-chested dogs, the Fila is prone to experiencing Bloat. This serious condition can be fatal, and it's caused by a buildup of gases in the stomach that results in it twisting. Your veterinarian may recommend preventative surgery to tack the stomach down.

Diet and Nutrition

Filas can weigh more than 100 pounds, so they eat a large volume of food. The more active your Fila is, the more it will need to eat. However, it’s important to avoid overfeeding. Excess weight puts a strain on the body and joints, contributing to health problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as other issues like diabetes.

Feed measured meals to avoid weight gain. Since this breed is prone to Bloat, it's important to feed smaller portions several times per day (at least twice) to prevent your dog from eating too much too quickly. Ask your veterinarian to help you determine a healthy diet plan based on your specific dog's age, weight, and activity level.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Fila Brasileiro

Finding a Fila Brasileiro in the United States may prove difficult, as it is an extremely rare dog breed that's not recognized by any major North American kennel clubs. To adopt a similar dog in need of a forever home, reach out to your local shelter and meet breeds like the Fila that can join your family.

Those who are driven to pursue ownership of a Fila might look to breeders in countries other than the United States and Canada. Puppies typically cost between $1,000 and $2,000 from breeders. Regardless, keep in mind that the Fila Brasileiro is not a good breed choice for the vast majority of dog owners. Breed-specific rescues for other giant guardian breeds like Mastiffs may be able to provide you with information on adopting dogs like the Fila in your region:

Fila Brasileiro Overview

  • Extremely loyal

  • Protective of its home and family

  • Determined working dog

  • Requires a very experienced owner

  • Needs extensive socialization 

  • Should live in rural homes away from neighbors

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Fila Brasileiro, you might also like these breeds: 

There are plenty of different dog breeds out there, along with similar dogs to the Fila Brasileiro that are better suited for life with most families. With a little research, you can find your perfect match!

  • Is the Fila Brasileiro a Good Family Dog?

    The Fila Brasileiro is very protective of its family, but this dog is not recommended for most owners. It is prone to becoming aggressive with people and other animals without extensive, consistent, and ongoing training and socialization throughout its life.

  • Where Are Fila Brasileiro Banned?

    Outside its home country of Brazil, many countries consider the Fila Brasileiro dangerous, and owning or breeding these dogs is banned. Some of these countries include the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Turkey, Norway, Malta, and parts of Australia.

  • Do Fila Brasileiro Dogs Shed?

    Thanks to their short, smooth coats, Fila Brasileiro dogs only shed moderately and do not require much grooming other than routine baths and standard care for the nails, teeth, and ears.