Fila Brasileiro and the “purity” (or impurity) of canine breeds
(Américo Cardoso dos Santos Jr.)
The baffling statement that “there is no such thing as a pure Fila Brasileiro”, derived from a member of CBKF/FCI’s Staff of Judges caused surprise and deserves some comments, as well as the mistaken translation of the standard of Fila Brasileiro in Europe.
The concept of racial purity in the domestic animal species is controversial and, in the modern canine breeds, very debatable because all derive from long and varied processes of crosses and artificial selection directed by the breeders in the various regions of the world. And, of course, they did not exist as we know them today, in wild state, in Nature, because virtually none would be able to fight for survival, get food and reproduce without human interference.
This situation extends to every species of domestic animals because, in addition to the canine species, there is also the equine, cattle, birds etc. - in the form in which they are bred by Man (at this time hypocritically correct I think that one should add “and by Woman”) – they are not found in natural conditions because they result from a long process (anti-natural) of (artificial) selection to produce more meat, milk, wool, eggs, etc. It is not possible, for example, to imagine a Dutch cow, with an uncommon mammary gland between the legs - capable to produce 50 kg of milk per day (yes, the volume of lactation is found on the scale and, therefore, officially expressed in kg, and not in liters, as the urban layperson imagines buying the product in sachets or small boxes in the bakery) - running, in hurried escape, to flee their predators; but on the tracks of exhibition shows and the milk tournaments they will be awarded and the breeder (or owner) will show with pride his Certificate of Register of Origin (or Pedigree) so that the other cattle-raisers can analyze their family tree and, from then on, try to produce other specimens with the same qualities. This formal document – issued by ABCBRH (Brazilian Association of Cattle Breeders of the Dutch Breed), approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Cattle-Raising and Supply - attests, officially, that this cow, as well as its ancestors, is a P.O. animal (Pure in Origin).
Within this theme, it is important to remember the constitution of the so-called “synthetic breeds” of bovines, a quite well known technique of the cattle-breeders and, also, the practice of absorbing crossing (or retro-crossing), accepted by many associations of equine and bovine breeders, who register the specimens called P.C. (Pure by Cross). It would be worth reproducing an excerpt from an article I wrote a few years ago about breeds of domestic animals:
This group deserves an explanation. Since Indian bovine breeds are more rustic and adapted to tropical conditions, while the bull breeds are more precocious and productive (as a result of the technical criteria selection over the centuries), ranchers have conducted several pieces of work from crosses with the objective to bring together, in the same herd, the rusticity of the zebu and the productivity of the Europeans. The first successful experience in the Western Hemisphere was held in southern United States, in the famous Texas farm King Ranch, and resulted in the formation of the Santa Gertrudis cattle - with 5/8 Shorthorn and 3/8 Brahman. This process, which, in Brazil, also led to the emergence of so many breeds – as those already mentioned Simbrasil and Lavinia, Girolando, Guzolando and many others – is not limited, as so many breeders credulously think - to simply crossing the bulls of breed “A” with the cows of breed “B” to produce several pure calves of new breed “C”, bearers of perfect biotypological stability. The first generation of these crossed products (in any animal species) is technically called F1 and, when they start reproducing among themselves, they generate offsprings of great heterogeneity, as it was masterfully demonstrated by the Austrian scientist Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), with a doctorate in medicine and zoology, in addition to being a professor of psychology at the University of Königsberg. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1973 and considered the main breeder of modern ethology (science that studies animal behavior), Lorenz continued the experiments started by Dr. Erik Zimen to evaluate the products resulting from the hybridization between dogs and wolves. The Poodle Standard was chosen, from the various dog breeds, because if they used dogs of constitution markedly lupoid, such as the Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky, or German Sheppard, it would be much more difficult to assess, in the pups eventually born, the genetic inheritance from the father or the mother. The halfbreed products were called “Puwos”, a neologism formed by the words Pudel and Wölf (Poodle and Wolf) and their puppies proved phenotypical unpredictability and the resulting genotypical variability of the reproduction between hybrids.
For the production of the so-called bi-halfbred, that will constitute the beginning of the new breed, a programmed series of crosses is required, which should basically follow one of the two models specified below to obtain, for example, the Girolando, from animals of Gir and Dutch breeds (Dutch):
1) Gir Bull x Dutch Cow. = Cow ½ Gir ½ Dutch.
2) Gir. Bull x Cow ½ Gir ½ Dutch. = Cow ¾ Gir ¼ Dutch.
3) Bull Dutch. x.Cow ¾ Gir ¼Dutch. = Bull and Cow 5/8 Dutch. 3/8 Gir
4) Bull 5/8 Dutch. 3/8 Gir x Cow 5/8 Dutch. 3/8 Gir = Girolando (Bi-halfbred)
1) Bull Gir x Dutch Cow. = Cow ½ Gir ½ Dutch.
2) Dutch Bull. x.Cow ¾ Gir ¼Dutch. = Bull ¾ Dutch. ¼ Gir
3) Bull ¾ Dutch. ¼ Gir x Cow ½ Gir x ½ Dutch. = Bull and Cow 5/8 Dutch. 3/8 Gir
4) Bull 5/8 Dutch. 3/8 Gir x Cow 5/8 Dutch. 3/8 Gir = Girolando (Bi-halfbred)
The Guzolando is produced exactly the same way, only replacing the Gir by the Guzerá.
I take the opportunity to also explain the so-called absorbing crosses (or retro-crossing), a system through which, with the constant use of a pure breed reproducer in matrices without breed (or from another breed), over the generations, one arrives at the Pure by Cross (P.C.), as opposed to the P.O., that is the Pure in Origin. The acronym P.O.I. means Pure in Origin Imported. This practice is not used only in bovines and in the specimen we will use a stud Quarter Horse (QM) in ordinary mare, or without defined breed (SRD).
1) Stud QM x Mare SRD = Mare ½ QM
2) Stud QM x Mare ½ QM = Mare ¾ QM
3) Stud QM x Mare ¾ QM = Mare 7/8 QM
4) Stud QM x Mare 7/8 QM = Mare 15/16 QM
5) Stud QM x Mare 15/16 QM = Mare 31/32 QM (or P.C.)
A few breeders ' associations consider P.C. the product with 31/32 of the breed’s blood, while others require another generation (reaching 64/63), while there are also those that do not accept the absorbing cross and do not register Pure specimens by Cross.
Resuming the hypothesis of imagining specimens of the modern breeds of domestic animals in wild conditions, it is also clear that in Nature, there are no horses with jumbo size and the traction capacity of the horse of breed Shire and Clydesdale, rather selected due to dragging very heavy vehicles and carrying intense loads. This list of specimens could extend almost to infinite if there were interest in arguing the obvious and explain that it is not possible to train any wild dog to point at partridges or guide the blind. The curious of this situation is that the challenger of the idiot discussion is a judge of CBKC/FCI, a condition that requires him to accept the existence of hundreds of dog breeds with specific features described in their official standards, all of them evidently formed from artificial crosses and selection, since none can live, or lived, in wild state.
In 1994, the dog enthusiast Chico showed me a letter that had been sent to him by the then young Spanish breeder Jaime Pérez, asking me to clarify his questions about the breeding and the standard of Fila Brasileiro. My reply ended up turning into an article, published in European magazines, as the one edited by Club Español de los Molossos de Arena, an organization of which he was one of the directors. My text explained that there were many ways in which the different dog breeds established themselves with the current characteristics.
The Argentine Dogo was deliberately invented by Antonio Nores Martinez, from an imaginary ideal model that he had previously elaborated and that was finally reached from a program of judicious crossings between 10 breeds (Boxer, English Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Dog of the Pyrenees, German Sheppard, Dogue de Bordeaux, Irish Wolfhound, Mastiff, Perro de Pelea Cordobes and Pointer), reaching the preset objective, with animals of perfect biotypological stability and genetic force.
In a more intuitive way and obscurer form, Luis Dobermann - who intended to obtain a large-sized species of terrier (or pinscher) and that “feared not even the demon” – constituted by the famous German breed that takes its name (later improved by his compatriot Otto Goller).
The daydreams of W. H. Essig, inspired by the figure of a lion in the coat of his city, led him to address crosses between the St. Bernard, Newfoundland and the Dog of the Pyrenees to create the breed symbol of that place, the Leonberger.
The German shepherd is the fruit of the devoted work of the Cavalry Captain Max von Stephanitz, who devoted all his life to select, with iron grip, the ideal type among dogs, somewhat heterogeneous, that were used for grazing of sheep in his country.
The ancient and gigantic Irish Wolfhound, by then virtually extinct, was rebuilt by Captain Graham, but the synergetic attributes of this traditional wolf hunter , due to lack of functional selection, attenuated over generations.
Also huge in size and a very old story, the Great Dane begins its controversies in its own name. Called Deutsche Dogge in Germany, it was initially known here in Brazil as Dinamarquês (Danish) - title adopted in most countries where it is bred: Great Dane, in England and the United States; Grand Danois in France and in Belgium; Gran Danese, in Italy; Gran Danés, in the Spanish-speaking countries –, but also often called Alão or Alano. According to several authors, this breed ended up disappearing from the British Isles, where it was used to hunt large animals – not only as a result of the extinction of the wolves and wild boars, but mainly due to the extraordinary ferocity of those old specimens. This original and - nonexistent today – temperament characteristic also led to the temporary prohibition of its participation in New York’s dog shows.
The situation of virtual extinction through which the very large sized dog breeds went through is quite well known in the canine world in Europe, at the time of the Second World War. A few years later, they, to a greater or lesser degree, needed to be, in fact, reconstituted and, of course, in this recovery work, they did not resurface exactly the same - in structure, type and temperament – to the original model.
The millennial breed, known today as Mastino Napoletano, present as fighter-dog in the Roman arenas, after reported missing, returned to the scenario of dog breeding only in 1946, during the 1a Esposizione Canina di Napoli, arousing great curiosity among the participants. The presentation of that somewhat heterogeneous set inspired the dog-breeder and journalist Piero Scanziani to embrace the cause of the so called “Molosso” and start rebuilding what he considered a rather valuable Italian asset and that, only then, started to be called Mastino Napoletano. Throughout this process, the breed faced the disparity of selection criteria that opposed the breeders of Southern Italy - seeking a strong and effective watchdog – to those of the North - valuing more the specimens that combined typicality with correct structure. The modern selection of Mastino Napoletano and its international recognition have as a landmark the extraordinary work started in 1958 in the region of Florence by Mario Querci, who made his Ponzano affix famous.
Breed considered a symbol of England, the Old English Mastiff and the English bulldog, also had their common origins blurred by the mist of time. The ancestors of the English Mastiff were taken by the Romans to the British Isles before the birth of Christ. And the history of the English Bulldog starts, officially, in 1204, when Lord Stamford of Lincolnshire created bull-baiting - the fight of dogs against bulls -, a “sport” that soon became national fever in England, until officially being forbidden in 1835. After the war, in 1946, a meeting was organized of Mastiff’s fans in London, with the objective to rescue the remaining specimens, followed by an announcement in the Times summoning the breeders and owners to get together in a joint effort in favor of the recovery of the breed. The effort was so intense that, in 1948, breeder Mrs. Melish proposed sending two puppies, from Canada to England, with the condition that they be returned as adults, after used in reproduction. And of course this process to reconstitute the Mastiff also involved the crossing with other related breeds and that the final result did not reproduce exactly the original ancestor. On the other hand, the Bulldog, with the end of the function for which it had been bred, had its bravery changed into uselessness and disappeared over the years, becoming a real caricature of the warrior ancestor. Today, officially considered a luxury dog, it presents such a bizarre structure - head disproportionately enormous and ridiculously narrow hips – which makes regular birth impossible and forces the puppies come into the world through Cesarean sections.
It is also noteworthy that the Akita breed, which bears the name of its region of origin, in Japan, has been divided into two: Japanese Akita and American Akita. The dogs of the Dewa line, with Mastiff's and German Shepherds’ blood were brought to the United States, where they were improved and, in 1972, recognized by the AKC - American Kennel Club; later, the name of the breed became Great Japanese Dog and finally American Akita. At the same time, the Japanese sought to improve the breed by taking as a model the old dogs used to hunt bears in the 17th century. Today, the United States dogs – larger, more robust and with black mask - and those from Japan - more similar to the original type, are considered as belonging to two distinct breeds.
Another division of types that ended up resulting in two distinct breeds is the white-haired German Shepherd, which has been called White Shepherd and Canadian Shepherd, to be officially recognized today as a Swiss Shepherd.
The Dogue de Bordeaux, considered one of the most traditional breeds of France, where its earliest records date from the 14th century, originates from the same region consecrated to the production of red wines, whose tone also gave its name to the Burgundy color. Called Bordéus in Portuguese (and its inhabitants bordaleses), the location became known also due to the elaboration of an ancient natural fungicide, used at least since the 19th century in fruit trees: the bordalesa sauce (or Bordeaux sauce), resulting from a solution prepared with water, copper sulfate and lime. The history of the Dogue de Bordeaux breed is similar to that of other molossoid mentioned, because its breeding is lost in time and it was also originally used for property guard, the hunting of large animals and fight against bears, wolves and even dogs. And, similarly, they had their survival strongly threatened at the time of the Second World War. Raymond Triquet, considered the “Father of the Breed” for having led its recovery, tells that, in the turn of the 19th century to the 20th century, the Dogue de Bordeaux was divided into “Parisien” (from the region of Paris), “Toulousain” (from Toulouse) and “Bordelais” (from Bordeaux), in addition to the “Doguin” (small, today disappeared, originating from the crossing with the English Bulldog). During the evolution of the breed and the preparation of successive standards, the controversy between advocates is well known only of the brown mask and those that also admitted the black mask, and even the absence of mask. For the purpose of historical record, the first standard of the breed, dated 1896, is attributed to Pièrre Megnin and is included in his classic book “Le Dogue de Bordeaux”; the second, of 1910, was published by J. Kunstler in “Etude critique du Dogue de Bordeaux”; the third, written by Raymond Triquet, with the contribution of Veterinary Dr. Maurice Luquet, dated 1971; the fourth, also authored by R. Triquet, this time with the collaboration of Philippe Serouil, was released in 1993; and, in 2007, once again Triquet – now with the participation of, in addition to P. Serouil, also Sylviane Tompousky - adds new details to the previous standard. Today, the FCI - Fédération Cynologique Internationale - admits both specimens with brown or black mask, as those without mask.
Still on the historical origin of the breeds, one must remember that the breeding of Fila was not the work of only one man. About its origin and the possible main branches, which, eventually, would have resulted in the Brazilian breed, much has been written and several theories have already been presented. It is not for us to analyze them here. The important thing is to see that the Fila derives from the dogs brought by Europeans to Brazil at the time of its colonization, being the result of a gradual combination, driven by adaptation to the environment and valued by the functional characteristics as a hunter of large animals, extensive rural estates guardian, drover and pursuer of fugitive slaves. The nature and functional selection, drastically, were getting established, over time, on the more apt specimens, the characteristics that today we seek to preserve and develop. It was up to the “father of the breed”, Paulo Santos Cruz, the merit to bring to the dog breeding world and to popularize an almost unknown dog in the cities, because it was only found in certain agricultural regions. He drew up the standard of the breed and started a pioneering and judicious work in breeding and genetic improvement on the specimens he found and bought in distant farms, in Minas Gerais. The breed today owes its existence to him, but he did not make it; he found it ready and tried to keep all the natural attributes that it presented. In the Standard, he described the characteristics of the perfect specimen; he did not invent a new breed.
It is also important to point out that, currently for several reasons, very few breeds of hunting and working dogs keep their original temperament and their functional capabilities. Today, one no longer hunts to put food on the table and, in politically correct times, wild animals should not be killed by dilettantism. Today, it makes no more sense imagining herds of sheep, shepherded and protected from predator shepherd dogs, or cowboys on mule back blowing on their trumpet and driving cattle through dirt roads with the help of well trained dogs. And this modern dog world, both under the support of FCI, and of AKC privilege the exhibitions in which, during judgment, the specimens of all breeds, in addition to being presented as live bibelots, by professional handlers wearing suit and tie, are touched and fondled by also suit and tie judges, and where any manifestation of aggressiveness would be considered an unacceptable scandal. In view of this picture, it is no surprise that the reactions of strong temperament of the guard dogs are punished with the approval of the official standards of the breeds. In this scenario, it would not be feasible to apply the original Fila’s standard, which specifies “…As a result of its temperament, at the exhibition shows, it may not be touched by the judge (a stranger) and, if it attacks him, such a reaction should not be considered a fault, but only the confirmation of its temperament. In the temperament tests, mandatory at the exhibition shows, after the dog is 12 months old, the attack must be in ascending diagonal, in front of the presenter, disclosing no dependence on him.” Therefore, in agreement with the old Italian concept “Traduttore traditore (Translator, traitor) it should not cause surprise the regretful confirmation of serious and biased errors in the distorted translation of the Fila Brasileiro standard, made by Raymond Triquet for FCI, in which the traditional “disgust” to strangers was changed into “indifference” in the English-speaking countries and in “mistrust” in those of the Spanish language. The obvious reason is to adapt the breed to the moulds of the modern dog breeding, well behaved and decorative, of which few breeds are a part. Among them are the Kangal, from Turkey, the Owtscharka, from Caucasus, and the Fila Brasileiro, from CAFIB.