The Cão de Fila da Terceira: Discovering the Dog Breed

The Cão de Fila da Terceira is a now-extinct dog breed from Portugal. Also known as the Terceira Mastiff, the dog has been a mainstay of Azorean culture for centuries.

In this comprehensive guide, we will take a close look at the history, appearance, temperament, health, and more of the remarkable Cão de Fila da Terceira breed.

History and Origin of the Fila da Terceira Dog Breed

Origins, Development, and Extinction 

The Cão de Fila da Terceira, or simply Terceria Mastiff, was developed and has only existed on the island of Terceira in the Azores. Its ancestor was the Rfeiro do Alentejo, and it was used as a house guardian and flock protector. 

The exact circumstances leading to the breed’s extinction are unknown. However, in the 1960s, the Portuguese government attempted to revive the breed but without success, and in the early 1970s, it was declared extinct. 

Despite being extinct, the Cão de Fila da Terceira impacted the dogdom and influenced the development of other breeds. This dog is considered the ancestor of the Fila Brasileiro and Cão Fila de São Miguel. 

The Azores: Birthplace of the Fila da Terceira

The Azores was an ideal environment for the Fila da Terceira to thrive. These islands are rugged and mountainous, with lots of livestock that needed to be protected.

The breed was trained to guard and herd the flocks. With its strong physical presence, the Fila da Terceira was more than a match for the wolves and other predators found on the island.

The Fila da Terceira was not the only breed of dog used for herding and guarding on the Azores. Other breeds, such as the Cao Fila de Sao Miguel and the Castro Laboreiro, were also used for similar purposes. 

The Breed’s Role in Azorean Culture

Over time, the Fila da Terceira became an integral part of the Azorean culture. It was not just a working dog but also a beloved companion and valued member of the family.

In many households, the breed was seen as a symbol of strength, loyalty, and courage. People would take pride in their Filas and would often compete to see whose was the best.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

The Fila da Terceira was a medium-sized to large and robust dog with a muscular build, a broad chest, and deep, strong jaws. Despite its intimidating appearance, it was loyal and affectionate.

Size and Build

The Fila da Terceira used to weigh between 65 and 90 pounds and stood around 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulders. Males were typically larger than females and had a more pronounced muscular build.

The breed’s powerful physique was a result of its history as a working dog. The strong legs and broad chest gave it the stamina and strength needed to tackle challenging terrain and difficult prey.

Coat and Colors

The Fila da Terceira had a short, smooth coat that came in various colors, but fawn or yellow were considered the ideal standard. Some dogs had light masks and white markings on their chest or paws.

Distinctive Features

The Fila da Terceira’s distinctive facial features were among its defining characteristics. The breed had a large, square head with a pronounced stop. Its muzzle was short and strong, with powerful jaws.

The breed’s eyes were small and dark, while its ears were small and drooping. Another hallmark of the Cão de Fila da Terceira was the particularly short and corkscrew-like tail. 

Temperament and Personality Traits

Loyalty and Protective Instincts

The Fila da Terceira was a highly loyal breed that protected its family at all costs. With its strong guarding instincts, it was an excellent watchdog that would alert owners to any potential threats. 

Intelligence and Trainability

The Cão de Fila da Terceira was an intelligent and trainable breed, but it required an experienced owner who was firm and consistent with training. With proper training and socialization, the breed was an easy-going and obedient companion.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

The Fila da Terceira had a strong prey drive and could not be trusted around small animals like cats or rabbits. However, when raised together, many members of the breed learned to co-exist with other pets. 

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

There are no exact records regarding the Cão de Fila da Terceira’s health issues. Considering their mastiff-like background, we can assume they suffered from the same diseases as all deep-chested and large mastiffs, which include bloating and hip dysplasia. 

Average Lifespan

The Fila da Terceira had an average lifespan of between 10 and 12 years, but with proper care and attention, many members of the breed lived up to 14 years. 


With its rich history, distinctive appearance, and strong guarding instincts, the Fila da Terceira is a dog breed that deserves better acknowledgment. The dog was truly a sight to behold. 

Today, the Cão de Fila da Terceira is extinct, and sadly, it was never present outside its native island of Terceira but has influenced the birth of newer and still existing dog breeds. 

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