Dog Breed Group: Hunting Dog
Life Span: 13-14 years
Weight: Male: 26-28, Female: 25-26
Height: Male: 21-22, Female: 20-21
Origin of Name: The Cao Fila de Sao Miguel is a breed of cattle-working dog native to the Azores, an island chain belonging to the nation of Portugal.
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Much of the history of Cao Fila de São Miguel is unknown. This is because the breed developed long before the written record was kept for breeding dogs and it was kept exclusively by farmers working in remote areas. To say anything about its origin is little more than speculation and conjecture. It is known for certain that the breed was developed on the islands of São Miguel in the Azores, and that it has been present in its homeland since the early 19th century. Despite the lack of evidence, some breed histories can be linked together.
European sailors seem to have had some knowledge of the Azores for centuries, though they were probably more mythological. In 1420, Portuguese sailors officially discovered the islands and claimed them for Portugal. At the time of their discovery, the Azores were completely uninhabitable by humans, and in fact there were no native terrestrial mammals of any kind. To provide food for future sailors and colonists, the first explorers of the Azores released cattle, pigs, sheep, and other livestock on the islands. Because the islands were home to rich vegetation and completely devoid of predators, the released livestock multiplied rapidly, creating large herds in a few decades.
Portuguese settled in mainland Europe and the island of Madira in the 1440s. The technology at the time was much less than it is today, and was the only way to settle and capture wild herds of cattle through the use of dogs. Wild cattle are very large, extremely powerful and highly dangerous, and very few breeds are able to work with them. Since at least Roman times, Western Europeans have chosen to use Molosar-type dogs for this purpose. Molosers, also known as mastiffs, matins, allants, and dogs, are the most ancient of all dog groups. Although each breed is different, mollosers are typified by a large size, strong protective tendency, and a brachycephalic (pushed) face. The reason is that mollosers were used to working with wild cattle, they were strong enough to hold the largest bull, aggressive enough to attack an animal, smart at times their size, quite gore. Or enough to keep from trampling, and to keep small, wide jaws. This provides a larger cutting area. Molosers of the Iberian Peninsula, especially those from Portugal, are smaller and less brachycephalic than those found in the rest of Europe. However, many Iberian mollosers have been employed as animal laborers for centuries, and have earned worldwide fame and name for doing so.
Because the Azores were inhabited mainly by the Portuguese, most of the dogs that were brought to the islands were likely Portuguese. This means that the Cao de Fila Sao Miguel is probably most closely related to breeds such as Ruffero de Alentozo, Cao de Castro Laborio and Cao da Serra de Aires. Some settlers came from elsewhere in Europe, including Spain, England, France, and Scandinavia, and these colonists could also bring their dogs with them. When the Azores were first inhabited, traveling across the sea was both very expensive and very dangerous. This meant that very few individual dogs would have come to the islands. As there were very few animals available for breeding, those that were available all crossed with each other. These crossbred dogs came to have a unique appearance and temperament, different from their ancestors. Several generations later, these crossbred dogs began to breed right.