The Brazilian Terrier is one of a small handful of native Brazilian breeds, and the only one of small size. The Brazilian Terrier is primarily used for companionship, small game hunting, and vermin eradication. Although quite popular and well-known in Brazil, the breed is almost unknown elsewhere in the world. The Brazilian Terrier is known for being both and affectionate and playful companion and a dedicated and tireless worker. The Brazilian Terrier is also known as the Fox Paulistinha and the Terrier Brasileiro.
Although the Brazilian Terrier was entirely developed within Brazil, most of its ancestors came from Europe. The breed’s first ancestors may have arrived with the earliest Portuguese explorers in the 1500’s. At the time, it was very common for Portuguese vessels to sail with several Podengo Portugueso Pequenos on board. These small, primitive sighthounds were much prized by seamen because they ferociously hunted the rats and mice that stowed away on sailing vessels. If left unchecked, these rodents would consume all of a ship’s supplies and spread disease, making their eradication a priority. Podengo Portugueso Pequenos spread across the world, including to Brazil as a result of voyages of exploration, trade, and settlement. These Portuguese dogs interbred with the Spitz-type dogs kept by Brazil’s large and diverse Native American population, resulting in a number of localized landrace varieties across Brazil.
During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Brazil forged close economic and social ties with a number of Western European countries. It became very popular for wealthy Brazilians to send their children to study in European universities, especially those of England and France. Due to prevailing social attitudes of the time, most of those who studied in Europe at the time were sons rather than daughters.
While in England, these Brazilian youths formed friendships with those of the British upper classes. At the time, fox hunting was the most popular pastime among the British upper classes, a pastime which was introduced to the Brazilian students. To hunt foxes in the traditional manner, Terriers are a necessity. A true British native, Terriers have been bred in the British Isles for countless centuries, and possibly millennia. These tenacious dogs were bred to pursue small mammals into their burrows and either kill them in the earth or drag them to the surface so that the hunter can dispatch them. Although Terriers were initially developed to eradicate vermin on farms, fox hunters adopted them for their own purposes. During the time period in question, three types of Terrier were predominantly used for fox hunting, the Fox Terrier, the Jack Russell Terrier, and the Black and Tan Terrier. Many Brazilian students acquired these dogs for use in fox hunting, or simply for companionship. As is the case anytime that young people interact, many of these Brazilian students fell in love and married European women that they met while studying abroad. Then as now, wealthy women kept a large number of small dogs for companionship. Among the most popular were the Miniature Pinscher, Chihuahua, and Toy Fox Terrier. Although popular for companionship, most of these breeds had originally been developed as barnyard ratters and still possessed a substantial amount of working ability. These women continued to keep their dogs after they were married.
After their studies ended, these Brazilian students returned to their native country. They brought along the fox hunting Terriers that they acquired, and their wives brought their small companion breeds. Once in Brazil, these two different groups of dogs heavily interbred because so few individual dogs of any one breed arrived. They were also crossed with existing small Brazilian dogs that were probably of the Podengo Portugueso/Native American Dog cross type. The resulting dogs were generally similar to other working fox hunting Terriers, but were definitely a distinctive variety. In particular, they tended to be substantially larger than most European Terriers. They were also different from other Terriers in terms of temperament. Most noticeable was their reduced dog aggression. Whereas many European Terriers are immediately combatative towards other dogs, the Brazilian Terrier is very capable of living and working in packs. The Brazilian Terrier also became one of the few dogs well-adapted to life in Brazil. This dog can work long hours in temperatures that would kill most breeds. It is also very resistant to the diseases and parasites which are found in epidemic levels across much of Brazil. The breed was initially known by the name Fox Paulistinha, which loosely translates to “Fox Terrier of Sao Paulo.”
Plantation owners across Brazil quickly discovered that the Brazilian Terrier was a very valuable and dependable vermin eradicator and hunting dog. There are hundreds of small mammal species in Brazil, both native and introduced. Many of these creatures are serious agricultural pests, consuming crops, killing livestock and poultry, and digging burrows that kill crops and injure large livestock. The Brazilian Terrier had inherited a tenacious and often ferocious drive to kill such small creatures. Just as they had in the United Kingdom for centuries, Terriers in Brazil helped to increase crop yields, reduce livestock losses, raise profits, and prevent the spread of communicable disease.
Sport hunting is also quite popular in many parts of rural Brazil, and the Brazilian Terrier also proved to be very well-suited to this role. At the time that the Brazilian Terrier was developed, there were almost no pack hunting dogs present in its homeland, and essentially no small-sized ones. Although their scenting abilities are not nearly as keen as those of most scenthounds, Brazilian Terriers are quite capable trailing dogs, especially when in a pack. Hunters across Brazil began to employ this breed, either singly or in groups. This adaptable breed developed two different hunting strategies depending on how many dogs are working on one hunt. When a Brazilian Terrier hunts alone or in pairs, it usually goes in for the kill as quickly as possible. The dog bites its prey, preferably by the neck, and shakes violently until it dies. When the Brazilian Terrier hunts in a pack, the dogs encircle their prey. Each dog takes turns jumping in and biting to prevent it from being able to escape. If one or two dogs are used, only small game such as rabbits or weasel-like creatures can be hunted. If larger packs are on a hunt, much larger prey can be tackled. Brazilian Terriers are so capable and tenacious that they can be used to hunt prey as large as the Maned Wolf.
Although the Brazilian Terrier was initially primarily a dog of the countryside, it was quickly adopted by Brazilian urbanites as well. The breed became very popular in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo for a number of reasons. Its small size made it a good fit in cramped downtown apartments. The same drive and determination to kill rodents which made it popular with rural farmers also made it desirable to those who wanted to keep their homes free of the large rat populations present in many Brazilian cities. Perhaps most importantly, its affectionate nature and devotion to its family made it ideally suited to life as a companion dog.
The Brazilian Terrier became widespread throughout Brazil and eventually came to be found in most parts of the country, both urban and rural. Although the dog was primarily kept pure bred, pedigrees were mostly not kept for most of the 20th Century. As a result, the breed did not gain official recognition by major kennel clubs, even in its native country. This situation began to change in the early 1960’s. A number of breed fanciers got together and published the first written standard in 1964. At that time, official recognition with the Confederacio Brasilera de Cinofilia (CBKC), or Brazilian Kennel Club was sought for the first time. However, the CBKC initially had an issue with the pedigree status of the Brazilian Terrier, leading to registration begin formally postponed in 1973. This situation left many Brazilian Terrier breeders greatly dissatisfied, and they decided to take matters into their own hands. In 1981, the Clube do Fox Paulistinha (CFP) was founded, and a stud book was created. Most of the founding club members had met through newspapers. In 1985, the CBKC was satisfied that any pedigree problems had been resolved and began formally registering the breed. In 1991, the CBKC and the CFP were reconciled and began to work together to promote the breed. Since that time, breed numbers have risen dramatically across Brazil, and the breed is now a very regular competitor in Brazilian dog shows and canine sporting events.
In 1994, the breed was given temporary recognition with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). In 2007, the breed was granted full recognition with the FCI, becoming just the third breed from Brazil and only the fifth from South America to earn FCI recognition (The Rastreador Brasileiro has subsequently been declared extinct by the FCI). Because of this status it is often claimed that the Brazilian Terrier and the Fila Brasileiro are the only two breeds native to Brazil. This is in fact not true. While these are the only two Brazilian breeds that are recognized by major international canine organizations, at least 5 other native Brazilian breeds are officially recognized by either the CBKC or rare breed registries.
FCI recognition has greatly increased the worldwide visibility of the Brazilian Terrier. As a result, a few of these dogs are now being exported to other countries. The largest Brazilian Terrier populations outside of Brazil are probably now found in Germany and the United States. As of 2012, only a few individual Brazilian Terriers had been imported to the United States, and an even smaller number of breeders were operating in that country. Although it remains rare in the world at large, the Brazilian Terrier is increasing in popularity in its homeland. Unlike most modern breeds, a large percentage of the Brazilian Terrier population are still working dogs, and roughly equal numbers of these dogs are working hunters/ratters and primarily companion animals.
The Brazilian Terrier is generally similar in appearance to a number of smooth-coated Terriers, in particular the Jack Russell Terrier, Fox Terrier, and Rat Terrier. However, this breed is quite distinct from any other Terrier breed. The Brazilian Terrier perhaps differs most from those breeds in terms of size, and the Brazilian Terrier is considered rather large for a Terrier. The average breed member stands between 14 and 16 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 14 and 20 pounds. Females are generally slightly smaller than males, although Brazilian Terrier genders to not differ in size to the extent common among many breeds. This breed has relatively long and tall legs for a Terrier. In general, the Brazilian Terrier is quite slender, but looks lithe, muscular, and athletic rather than delicate. The Brazilian Terrier has smooth, curved body lines, unlike the Fox Terrier which has square lines. The Brazilian Terrier is first and foremost a working dog, and should always appear as such. This breed should exhibit no exaggerated feature which would impede its ability to work. The tail of the Brazilian Terrier is almost always docked in Brazil. However, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tail of this breed is rather short, thick, and carried gaily, never curled over the back.
The head of the Brazilian Terrier is triangular in shape and relatively small for the size of the body. The head and muzzle connect very smoothly and are relatively indistinct from each other in a manner more like that of a sighthound than most Terriers. The muzzle itself is slightly shorter than the length of the skull, triangular in shape, either straight or slightly convex, and ends in a dark colored nose with wide nostrils. The muzzle is also considerably less broad than is the case with many Terriers. The lips of this breed are dry and close fitting. The eyes of this breed look forward and are round in shape, moderately prominent, and bluish grey, brown, green, or blue in color. The ears of this breed are moderate in size and triangular in shape, with pointed tips. These ears should be carried half-pricked with the tip folded down and pointing towards the external corner of the eye. This breed should never have its ears cropped or pricked. The overall expression of most breed members is intense and curious.
The Brazilian Terrier has a short, smooth coat. The hair should be fine but not soft, and lay close to the skin. This dog’s coat is sometimes compared to that of a rat. The hair is shorter and finer on the head, ears, inner and lower parts of the forequarters, backsides of the thighs, and underneath the neck. The hair on the dog’s entire body should be so thick that no skin is visible. The Brazilian Terrier is exclusively a tri-color dog, although it comes in three different forms of tri-color: White with black and tan markings, white with blue and tan markings, white with brown and tan markings. All breed members should be predominantly (greater than 50% white). All breed members should also have tan markings above the eyes, on both sides of the muzzle, and inside and on the edge of the ears. Tan markings may also be found anywhere between white and colored markings. The head must always have colored markings in the frontal region and on the ears. Colored markings may be found anywhere else on the body as well, often in a saddle shape on the back. A blaze on the head is strongly preferred but not necessary. Brazilian Terriers are often born with coloration that does not precisely conform to breed standards. Such dogs are either disqualified or penalized in the show ring and should not be bred, but otherwise make just as excellent companions and working dogs as other Brazilian Terriers.
The Brazilian Terrier has a very similar temperament to most other working Terriers, although it is generally less dog aggressive than most. This breed often forms very close attachments to its family, to whom it is often very devoted. Breed members are quite variable in their affection levels. Some are fawningly affectionate, while others are more restrained and independent. The Brazilian Terrier will usually get along very well with older children (those roughly 8 years old or above) when properly socialized with them. Many breed members would not be ideal housemates for very young children because of their Terrier temperament. While the breed is by no means an aggressive or vicious breed, it is one that will stand its ground as well as being one that is not usually a fan of rough play or having its personal space invaded.
The Brazilian Terrier has been bred to work in packs with other dogs. As a result, most breed members will get along quite well with other dogs when properly trained and socialized with them. However, it would probably be fair to describe most breed members as being tolerant of other dogs but not fond of them. While this dog generally suffers from considerably fewer dog aggression issues than most Terriers, some individuals may develop severe dog aggression issues.
This breed was developed primarily to hunt and kill small animals. As a result, most of these dogs are extremely aggressive towards non-canine animals, and are absolutely driven to hunt them. If left alone for any length of time outside, this breed will almost surely bring its owner back presents of dead animals. When raised with them from a young age, most Brazilian Terriers will not bother those individual animals (at least those their own size or larger). However, breed members will almost certainly pursue individual animals with which they are not family, and essentially none of these dogs are ever trustworthy with pets significantly smaller than themselves.
The Brazilian Terrier is regarded as being an intelligent and trainable breed. This dog has performed very well at the highest levels of a number of different canine sports such as competitive obedience and agility. However, the Brazilian Terrier is also a dog that will give inexperienced handlers a great deal of training difficulty. This breed is rarely eager to please, and most of these dogs would much rather make their own decisions than follow the orders of others. Many breed members are very stubborn and obstinate. Rewards-based techniques are far more likely to succeed with this breed than correction-based methods, but are far from a guarantee. That being said, the Brazilian Terrier does tend to be somewhat less obstinate than most working Terriers.
This dog was bred to work tirelessly for long hours, often all day. This breed is incredibly energetic and needs a great deal of vigorous activity. These dogs should get a minimum of an hour of exercise a day, although they will gladly take as much as they are provided. This breed could easily run even the most athletic family ragged trying to keep up with it. Brazilian Terriers make excellent jogging companions but really crave the opportunity to explore a safely enclosed area off-leash. Breed members that are not provided enough of an outlet for their energy are almost certain to develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyper activity, over excitability, excessive barking, and aggression. This breed can adapt to apartment life but is really much better suited to life in a home with at least a large yard.
The Brazilian Terrier has very low grooming requirements. This breed should never require professional grooming; only a regular brushing is necessary. Other than this, this breed should only require those routine maintenance procedures that are common to all breeds such as nail clipping and occasional baths. Brazilian Terriers do shed but the amount varies considerably between breed members. Some of these dogs are light or occasional shedders while others are very heavy, near-constant shedders.
It does not appear that any health surveys have been conducted for the Brazilian Terrier which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements about the breed’s health. Most sources seem to believe that this breed is in good health. This breed has been bred primarily as a working dog in a difficult and dangerous environment. Any dogs with health defects would likely have been killed by natural selection or eliminated from the breeding pool. This breed has also been spared the worst of commercial breeding practices. None of this means that the Brazilian Terrier is immune from genetically inherited diseases, but it does mean the breed is less likely to suffer from many other modern breeds. Most sources seem to believe that the breed’s life expectancy is between 12 and 14 years, although it is unclear what this estimate is based on.
Although the breed’s health status is unclear, it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although no health studies have been conducted for the Brazilian Terrier, they have been for several closely related and similar breeds. The problems that have been discovered to be of the greatest concern include: