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Rescue Operation Fila Brasileiro

by C. Habig

[This article appeared in MM7 in 1983]

If one wants to get a real Fila in Brazil, you shouldn't ask too much from papers for the dog or for organizations but just for the living creature.

Whoever wants to get a real Fila, mustn't be influenced by corruption and intrigue nor by forged pedigrees, but just by the impression the dog makes on you, which will never leave you once you are taken in by it. And thirdly, whoever wants a real Fila must fight for it with know-how and to take the consequences. Only then will one receive the prize: the preservation of a great dog breed.

 If you didn't know it until now, then you can now see that I too have "licked-blood" - but indeed not onlt in Brazil but a long time before that. However it probably got hold of me five years ago when Luciano Cruz de Oliveira and Francisco Peltier de Queiroz showed me their version of how to develop a huge rescue operation for the preservation of the Fila: a rescue operation for the preservation of the Fila Brasileiro in type and temperament and therefore automatically a fight against the mafia-like organised plot of those who went through a purposeful cross-breeding in order toRes change the Fila Brasileiro into a "Mastin Brasileiro". This rescue operation has the name "CAFIB": "Club do Aprimoramento do Fila Brasileiro", which means something like "Club of Improvement or Advancement of the Fila Brasileiro".

Firstly I want to say that: not so much from being "all afire" but rather my practical experience over the years and my last impressions on the trip to Brazil are encouraging me to write these lines. That is to say, engagement without expert knowledge won't get you anywhere in the future. The people of CAFIB have both. Their cynological program for a systematical breeding of a real and pure Fila Brasileiro is unprecedented in dog breeding in South America: exclusive, consequent and strict.

That there are similar projects in Europe is not easy to say. And don't be astonished when this - namely strict selection during breeding - hasn't experienced much support and that it has many opponents in a country like Brazil which is still developing its cynology. These opponents aren't cynologists but business-men and bureaucrats. For them the dog doesn't count, but their own well-being. The dog is just a means to an end.

Since the foundation of CAFIB on the 18th of March 1978, it organised 51 analyses and 42 exhibitions for the Fila Brasileiro. At the CAFIB's Fila analysis a photograph of every dog is taken, the dog is weighed and measured and then are precisely judged from 27 positions. Finally a temperament-test will be done. All data and results, including the photograph of the analyzed dog will be centrally registered by the CAFIB.The dogs owner will get extensive documents about the results of the analysis. By mid August 1983 there were 2055 Filas analysed in the whole of Brazil. 976 of these have passed the analysis procedure. Only the dogs who have passed the Phenotype-Analysis and the character-test, are allowed to be shown at the CAFIB exhibitions. Up to now there are 357 registered puppies of tested parents. On top of that comes the Fila breeders, who only breed with dogs examined by the CAFIB, but register at the Brazilian CBKC - Kennel Club because the parents have CBKC pedigrees. This means the assurance of having a real Fila Brasileiro is not to possess a CAFIB pedigree, but first of all the fact whether the parents of the dog will have passed the Phenotype and character test of CAFIB.

Before every exhibition there is an analysis-procedure, where the non-tested dogs have the chance to get qualified for the exhibition. Therefore the number of dogs grows. Only 7 (!) of the 2000 anaylzed Filas have estimated as "excellent" by the CAFIB judges. Were this to be done by the usual standard - one has embarassingly to admit, that this would be a sign of bad quality in general.

But this isn't in any way so - rather the opposite: Of only about 60 Filas, which I saw at the CAFIB show in Campinas at August. I would have given at least 15 dogs the mark "excellent" - roughly going by German standards. The CAFIB judge for the male dogs estimated only one dog as "excellent" and for female dogs estimated also, only one. These have already been awarded the mark "excellent" several times, which means they didn't raise the number of "excellent" dogs from 5 to 7.

The unanimity in the type of the Filas was very impressive. But what was to be seen there (at the CAFIB show) was an already examined elite. On the contrary, what I saw at the show with actively supporting cross-breeding breeders was a catastrophe: a potpourri of heads and bodies, types and expressions which had nothing in common but a pedigree which certified through the official CBKC that they have to be dealt with as Filas. This was an embarassing situation for a visitor who knows the real Fila Brasileiro, especially to see the disagreeable type. Compared with this the problems we have in Germany, are just trivial. For the Fila experts of the CAFIB, who now have 8 sections and 12 official representatives as "call-in places" scattered all over the country, in Germany our Fila situation has to be much improved. This I have been told again and again but amicably and nobody would deny this. While the cross-breeding breeders in Brasil would like to do business with us so as to change our wholly distinct situation into chaotic dog types, the Fila promoter Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz, the founder of systematic Fila breeding during the end of the fourties in Brasil, advised us as soon as possible to urge on a stricter selection in type and temperament. The CAFIB can afford a strict selection since they happen to be outside the Brasilian dog association CBKC/FCI, who doesn't want to keep the guiding prinicipals so doesn't need to take part. The founding of a separate Fila Club outside the CBKC wasn't done just because CAFIB thought that CBKC and it's, subsidiaries hadn't done enough against fakes and manipulation, but also because one couldn't achieve the strict selection measures within the narrow bounds of a big club where one would be forced to compromise.

One of the great former propagators of the crossbreed types with whom I had a hard talk, has verified this to which I could only reply that it might be a little late. In his opinion, only 4000 of the 20,000 registered Filas at the CBKC are real or pure Filas. And in answer to my question why he made such a contribution to the remaining 16,000 he would only smile.

But the CBKC President, Henrique de Lucena, assured me in Rio that they would try to get more order concerning the Fila situation. Indeed one step has been done: on the 1st of January, 1984 the CBKC introduced a new standard for Fila Brasileiro which in all except one point concurs with the standard formulated by Dr. Paulo of he CAFIB. The new standard is practically the old one which we in the FCI have always followed. The lobby of cross-breeding breeders, who tried to get through another new standard meaning that the Fila should be anything didn't succeed.

The temperament-test of the CAFIB for Filas shows us the following: the at least one year, but preferably older dog, will be put on a long lead provided with a tether. The owner has to step aside a few metres. Then, a person will energetically approach and threaten the dog with a stick and protection pad. The ideal Fila will, while absolutely still, focus on the attacker until he exceeds the distance of about 1 or 2 metres, then the Fila will attack while he jumps straight up to the person directly and wholly. The fila doesn't step back, never looks back to his owner and is not influenced by the protection pad, but attacks the person from above. Usually the person and the dog don't have contact. Therefore there is no biting involved - except when the person involved has come too near and will hold out his sleeve for his own protection. The whole exercise called "attacking" is therefore for a very short time. Only the reaction of the dog is wanted. The reaction ought to be hard, ought not to show any hesitation and has to be focused on the attacker as such. A good sort of Fila has this behaviour inbred in him. This is his character and doesn't need to be trained.

It was a great experience for me to see this temperament-test and to watch the behaviour of the Filas. The combination of calmness and self consciousness with absolute hardness and promptness was very impressive. This is what makes a Fila. Chaos, rushing and showing off is not typical for this breed. Regrettably, one finds this by us too often. But there is not much behind it. We still have to work on it. You probably know it already: next May we are celebrating 30 years of German Brasilian Fila friendship. Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz will come to Kirchheim as a guest of honour! It is a great honor for us and a great pleasure for him as he wrote to me. I will inform you in time of the details. But I can tell you this already: the two days with Dr. Paulo and hopefully with more Filas than ever coming together outside Brasil, will be a milestone of German efforts, so come along whether from near or far! Be there with your Fila - as a member of a unique event! We will keep reporting about the Brasilien efforts for the Fila, in future MM.

FinalIy, it has to be stated that the CAFIB as an organization isn't interesting for us because they belong to our "world-wide dog association" (FCI). But the CAFIB, as a cynological program, can be no more than a good model for us.