The rugged Azores Cattle Dog temperament makes this breed an indispensable working dog in its native land.
The Azores Cattle Dog is a rare breed that hails from the Azores—an island chain in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal.
Cao Fila de Sao Miguel, the Fila de Sao Miguel, the Sao Miguel Cattle Dog, and/or the Azores Cow Dog are all other names that the Azores Cattle Dog is called at times.
These dogs are large, imposing, Mastiff-type guard dogs. They are perfectly suited to working long hours in punishing terrain. Their fearless temperaments make them ideal livestock protectors.
Azores Cattle Dogs are so scarce that there only about 3000 registered throughout the world, and most of them are in the Azores.
Even though they are rare throughout the rest of the world, there is actually an overabundance of Azores Cattle Dogs and Azores Cattle Dog mixes in animal shelters in the Azores, particularly on Sao Miguel Island.
There are some opportunities for outsiders to rescue some of these unwanted Azores Cattle Dogs from Sao Miguel Island, and we will discuss these options later in the article.
The Azores Cattle Dog temperament is definitely not for everyone. Before you commit to adopting one, learn as much as you can about common Azores Cattle Dog behaviors and traits.
This article will provide a good jumping off point for your research into the breed.
Understanding the Azores Cattle Dog Temperament: 5 Common Azores Cattle Dog Traits
In this section we will explore the ins and outs of the Azores Cattle Dog personality.
However, please keep in mind that all dogs are individuals, so there will be some variation between individual dogs within this breed.
Therefore, your Azores Cattle Dog may not display all of the traits listed below.
The courageous Azores Cattle Dog temperament makes this breed an outstanding guard dog for the home or farm.
A dog breed history book from the Azores describes the Cao Fila de Sao Miguel in the following words:
“I cannot speak highly enough of these dogs; they are a true working dog with an extremely fierce, primitive and hard temperament.”
Azores Cattle Dogs are naturally protective of their owners, families, and homestead.
They also make excellent guardians for livestock—particularly cattle.
You must be mindful of this personality trait if you own one as a pet. It is important not to let this behavior get out of hand and turn into aggression towards animals or visitors.
Make sure you monitor all interactions between your Azores Cattle Dog and strangers, especially children.
If you see any signs of aggression, seek assistance from a veterinarian and/or a canine behaviorist.
The driven Azores Cattle Dog temperament makes this dog a hard working helper on the farm.
The early inhabitants of the Azores islands created these dogs to herd and guard their cattle in all types of temperatures and weather conditions. These are extremely hardy dogs that are not easily deterred from their work.
The Azores Cattle Dog will move herds of cattle by nipping at their heels. However, these dogs are selectively bred and trained to never bite their charges on the udder.
The power and size of the Cao Fila de Sao Miguel makes it the perfect breed for cattle herding, but it is generally considered too rough for sheep or other smaller farm animals.
If you do not have cattle for your Cao Fila de Sao Miguel to herd, you will need to provide another creative outlet for its working drive.
This breed is not content to lounge around at home. You must be prepared to provide your Azores Cattle Dog with at least an hour of vigorous physical activity each day.
Azores Cattle Dog exercise can take the form of jogging, hiking, and/or canine sports such as herding, agility, nosework or weight pull.
Sufficient exercise is extremely important to this breed. If you work long hours, you might need to consider a dog walker or a doggie daycare to provide enough daily physical activity for your Cao Fila de Sao Miguel.
The devoted Azores Cattle Dog temperament makes this breed extremely loyal to its master.
The Azores Cattle Dog is faithful to its family, but can be wary of strangers.
Make sure you have the proper lifestyle for this type of dog.
For example, if you live in a remote area with few visitors, this would be an ideal dog for you.
However, if you live in a busy city and you have an active social life with plenty of guests and parties, the Azores Cattle Dog will not be a good fit your lifestyle.
The Azores Cattle Dog is definitely not suited for apartment living. This breed is much better suited for rural life where there is plenty of open space.
The Azores Cattle Dog temperament is highly intelligent.
One farmer from the Azores claims that these dogs can learn dozens of different herding commands and can even differentiate between individual cows by their names!
If you own one of these dogs as a pet, you will need to provide plenty of mental enrichment to keep his mind engaged.
Because of their intelligence, Azores Cattle Dogs can excel in obedience and rally obedience competitions.
5. Not for Novice Owners
The Azores Cattle Dog temperament can be a good match for an experienced handler, but it is not an appropriate choice for a novice owner.
These dogs are large and powerful, and they can be a liability in the wrong hands.
It is best if owners have prior experience with Mastiff-type breeds before trying an Azores Cattle Dog.
Azores Cattle Dog History
The Cao Fila de Sao Miguel is named for the Sao Miguel Island of the Azores.
This breed was first documented in the 19th century, but it has almost certainly been around longer.
It is believed that the Azores Cattle Dog developed from an ancient breed called the Terceira Dog, which is now extinct.
The word “Cao” translates to “dog” in Portuguese. The word “Fila” means to hold something by the teeth or mouth.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale published the official breed standard for the Azores Cattle Dog in 1995.
The American Kennel Club does not yet recognize the breed.
Azores Cattle Dog Size and Appearance
The Azores Cattle Dog is a large breed with an imposing physical appearance.
The average Azores Cattle Dog weight is about 77 lbs, with females being slightly smaller.
The typical Azores Cattle Dog height is about 23 inches at the withers.
Azores Cattle Dog colors can range from fawn to brown to grey to black, but the coat pattern is always brindled.
Their tails can be kept natural or docked.
Their ears were historically cropped with rounded tips. However, now that ear cropping is being banned in many countries, their ears are more commonly left natural.
A Guide to Azores Cattle Dog Training
If you own one of these dogs, it is very important that you invest substantial time into training.
Since these dogs are so large, it is vital that you have good control over your dog in public.
Try to start the training process as early as possible. Keep training sessions short, interesting and positive to keep your dog focused and engaged.
Never use harsh physical punishments or painful training tools such as shock collars or pinch collars with this breed.
Instead, find a trainer that uses positive, force-free methods.
Once you have mastered the basics, you can sign up for more advanced classes such as nosework, agility, or advanced obedience.
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
For help with training your Azores Cattle Dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.
Azores Cattle Dog Grooming
If you are looking for a dog that is low-maintenance when it comes to grooming, you are in luck!
The Azores Cattle Dog requires very little grooming.
Occasional brushing and bathing will be enough to keep their coats looking healthy and shiny.
As with all dogs, they need their nails trimmed and their teeth brushed at regular intervals.
Staying Healthy: Azores Cattle Dog Health Issues
Historically, the Azores Cattle Dog was a very hardy and healthy breed.
However, the backyard breeding industry has introduced some genetic health conditions into the bloodline.
If you purchase a dog from a breeder, talk with the breeder extensively about the health of the parents. Ask if they have done any genetic screening.
If you adopt from a rescue group, find out if the dog has started to exhibit any symptoms of health concerns.
Before you bring an Azores Cattle Dog home, talk with a trusted veterinarian about the following health conditions to make sure you are prepared to handle them if they arise:
Like all dogs, your Azores Cattle Dog should visit a licensed veterinarian at least once per year for an annual checkup and vaccinations.
Your Azores Cattle Dog should also stay up to date on flea, tick and heartworm preventative at all times. Talk with your veterinarian about the best options for your pet.
Spaying and neutering is highly encouraged to prevent accidental litters from adding to the pet overpopulation problem. Speak with your vet about the ideal time to schedule this routine procedure.
With excellent medical care and nutrition, the Azores Cattle Dog lifespan can reach 14 years of age.
Note: if you agree that your health and your dog's health should be a top priority then get a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. Your Spitz friend will love you for it. This guide will help save you money, time and most of all help you keep your dog healthy.
Azores Cattle Dog Rescue and Adoption
If you think the Azores Cattle Dog temperament is a good match for you, your next step is to find one to add to your household.
Although they are scarce outside of the Azores, they are actually fairly prevalent on the islands.
Therefore, your best bet might be to purchase or adopt one from their native country.
Adoption is a great way to add a pet to your family.
There are already so many homeless dogs in the world, so it is ideal to adopt one of these dogs rather than bring more puppies into the world.
Adoption also has some distinctive perks. For example, many dogs that are up for adoption already have some prior training, including potty training.
Another benefit to adoption is that many of the dogs available have already gone through the destructive puppy phase.
Additionally, adoption fees are substantially less expensive than purchasing from a breeder.
If you would like to find an Azores Cattle Dog for adoption, visit the Rescue Page for the Cao de Fila de Sao Miguel Club website.
This website has links to multiple rescue groups that are working to save Cao de Filas in shelters in the Azores.
You can also look for Azores Cattle Dog rescue groups on facebook, petfinder.com and adoptapet.com.
Finally, you can visit your local animal shelter or humane society. If you live in the United States, it is unlikely that you will find an Azores Cattle Dog in your local shelter, but the staff might be able to direct you to similar dogs with similar personality traits.
Finding an Azores Cattle Dog for Sale from a Reputable Breeder
If you prefer to purchase an Azores Cattle Dog puppy from a breeder, your best bet will probably be to work with an Azores Cattle Dog breeder in the Azores.
Azores Cattle Dog breeders are very hard to find outside of the Azores, although with hard work and patience you might be able to find one.
The Cao de Fila de Sao Miguel Club has a list of recommended breeders on their website.
However, they also have a disclaimer that says, “When looking for a purebred dog, you should ALWAYS do your own research.”
Always visit the breeder in person, ask questions, and ask to see medical records for the puppies as well as the parents.
Never purchase Azores Cattle Dog puppies, or any type of puppies, over the internet or from pet stores.
Make sure you find a responsible breeder that is committed to the health and temperament of the breed.
When you purchase a puppy from a high-quality breeder, the Azores Cattle Dog cost will likely be around $1000 not including travel expenses or accommodations.
Conclusion: Why the Azores Cattle Dog?
Although the Azores Cattle Dog temperament is not for everyone, the Azores Cattle Dog can make an excellent working dog or companion dog for the right type of home.
If you are a confident handler who has experience with Mastiff-type breeds, you might want to consider rescuing one of these fascinating and unusual working dogs from their native islands.
Allie has worked in the field of animal welfare for over ten years and as a freelance writer the space for many years. She has had many different kinds of dogs (and cats) throughout her life—all adopted. She currently shares her home with a lovable pit bull mix named Huckleberry.