Brachycephalic Dogs - English
Américo Cardoso dos Santos Júnior
It is very common, in any field of activity, to hear the statement that absolute perfection is utopian and, in practice, does not exist. In the opinion of domestic animals, this perfection is meticulously described in each Breed Standard, which, in addition to specifying the characteristics of the ideal specimen, also describes the most common flaws, and the accuracy with which they must be punished by the judges. But, in the case of Fila Brasileiro, the biggest problem that the breed faces is not addressed by the Standard because it is their characteristic of irresistibly attracting, as breeders (and would-be authorities) many people of the worst kind. Over more than these four decades of uninterrupted struggle for the genetic improvement of the breed, CAFIB has been the target of fierce attacks triggered by troublemakers who, over periods of varying duration, try to inoculate their poison, but end up failing in their aggression and finally disappear, leaving a miasma of putrefaction that, over time, fades away. However, unfortunately, they keep coming, because they proliferate like rats or cockroaches.
A traditional Fila Brasileiro enthusiast, based in Rio de Janeiro, writes to CAFIB reporting a visit he made to some young breeders from Vale do Paraíba Paulista, among whom was one of these supposed leaders who, vainly, exhibited his also supposed knowledge to his overjoyed audience. Among the topics addressed and discussed, doubts and controversies arose about cephalic rate and brachycephaly.
The dog jargon, like all jargons, has its specific characteristics and ends up leading to the popularization of certain words with meaning sometimes different from the conventional one. Several standards of dog breeds when referring to the presence of a single testicle, or the absence of both, point to monorchidism and cryptorchidism as disqualifying faults. In medical terms, the terms unilateral or bilateral cryptorchidism are used for cases in which one or both testicles remain trapped in the abdominal cavity or interrupt their plunge into the scrotum due to the existence of hernias or anatomical anomalies and are stopped at some point in the inguinal canal. Etymologically, the word has a Greek origin, a language in which "crypto" means hidden and "orkhis" means testis. In fact, monorchidism, which is the existence of a single testicle (and not the retention of the other in the abdominal cavity), as well as anorchidism, which is the complete absence of testicles, are extremely uncommon.
As a curiosity, still in the field of etymology and testicles, the name of the flower called orchid also derives from “órkhis”, plus “eidos” (which conveys the idea of aspect, shape), that is, it means “it has the shape of the testicles”. It so happens that the scholar who officially described the first specimens of this gigantic botanical family (with about 25 thousand species) found that the shape of their two small tubers was very similar to this part of the male intimate anatomy.
Another word often used in the wrong way is crossing ("I took my dog to cross". “The dog crossed several times”.) In zootechnics, when the male and the female belong to the same breed, the correct technical term is mating. Only when mix-breeding, one promotes cross-breeding (“I crossed my Fila dog with a Mastiff”). And when the couple belongs to different species (like dogs with wolves, or donkeys with mares) the appropriate word is hybridization.
As for cephalic rates, traditionally, the classifications in dolichocephalism, mesocephalic and brachycephalic refer to the relationship between width and length of the skull because they were created to be applied to human beings (who, evidently, do not have snouts). Dolichocephalic is the person whose skull's width is less than the length, or transverse diameter less than the longitudinal one; on the other hand, brachycephalic has a broad skull in relation to its length; and the mesocephalus presents the intermediate cephalic rate between the previous two. When being passed on to dogs, whose head is very different from that of humans - as can be seen in the special effects of horror films in which the villain turns into a werewolf - these rates, naturally, should only consider the skull, and not the snout. Hence the error of some cynophiles in saying that this proportion refers to the entire head of the dog, on the longitudinal axis (skull and snout), from the occiput to the nostrils. This would be as absurd as measuring people's head rate by a line starting at the base of the skull (occiput) and ending at the tip of the nose. By this parameter, only very few dog breeds, such as the Bulldogs (English and French), the Pug, the Pekingese and a few others, could be considered brachycephalous (in cats, the typical example is the Persian cat); and Fila Brasileiro, of course, could not be part of that list. In fact, this type of comparison between the anatomy of people and that of dogs is stupidity. In human medicine, brachycephaly is conceptualized as a hereditary congenital anomaly, which causes malformation of the skull, that is, a pathological deformation and a disease, associated with numerous syndromes. And veterinary medicine points out that this condition, in which the upper jaw is very set back (while the mandible remains normal), usually causes protrusion of the eyeball (protruding eyes), breathing difficulties, hyperthermia and dental problems. It stems from a long genetic selection guided by debatable aesthetic concepts. In several technical articles, it can be read that brachycephalic animals have a "flattened" snout and that this "syndrome" causes abnormalities in the bone structure of the skull and face of pets.
For this reason, we emphasize once again that, in cynephile jargon, some words have a different meaning from the conventional one and this can even raise doubts and bring about confusion. It is worth remembering some items clearly specified in the Fila Brasileiro Standard, but which could be considered conflicting because many brachycephalic dogs usually have a short snout and are prognaths:
HEAD: Large, heavy brachycephalic ....
SNOUT: In profile, length practically equal to that of the skull ...
TEETH AND BITE:... Scissors bite, that is, lower incisors fitting the inner surface of the upper teeth.
A few decades ago, Chico Peltier, who was our representative in Europe, relayed me a letter with some technical questions about the Fila Brasileiro judgment, which had been sent to him by the Spanish breeder Jaime Pérez Marhuenda. Jaime - who later came to Brazil several times, became a judge for CAFIB and our representative in Spain - also asked for clarification on the molossoid or bracoid constitution of Fila and on the shape of its cranio-nasal axis. Here is an excerpt from my reply to him:
From the sniffer dogs it inherited the developed sense of smell - which requires a long nasal cane -, the spout of equal length to that of the skull, the orthognathism of the jaws (the standard stipulates a scissors bite), the straight profile, the large and drooping ears, thick eyelids and, sometimes, with a sad expression, the pronounced occiput, the long bark, characteristics which are common in dolichocephalics, especially in certain bracoids. But the inheritance received from dogs of prey defined it as a short and compact figure (although the body is rectangular and more brachymorphic than mesomorphic) and the head is proportionally large and heavy, with a broad, brachycephalic skull.
The fact that it has some bracoid features and does not completely fulfill all the characteristics of what could perhaps be called the “absolute molossoid”, it should not lead to the exclusion of Fila from this last morphological group. It turns out that most of the molossoid breeds were developed in a somewhat artificial way, for specific purposes, not always very natural and in more urban regions, such as combat sports in the arenas and the guarding of houses in cities. In these cases, there was no need for certain attributes indispensable for survival in nature's living conditions. When "bullbaiting" was banned in England, and the Bulldog started to lose the function for which it had been developed, breeders emphasized, guided by fads, the most striking phenotypic characteristics of this dog. The result was a true caricature, of unviable proportions, with breathing difficulties and almost total impossibility of natural childbirth. The Fila, in turn, was largely shaped by nature and the need to have physical, morphological and temperament conditions to survive in situations very similar to those of the wild canid. This picture is not compatible with an unnatural conformation, exaggerated or dictated by fashion. Its balance of shapes, harmony of lines, large size without being overweight, powerful physique gathering remarkable brute strength with surprising agility and elasticity of movements, its nobility of features in the shape of the head, the dignity of its expression at the same time sad and challenging, combined with an unparalleled temperament as a watchdog, make Fila Brasileiro the most perfect of the molossoids.
To close, still within this same theme, I wonder if these young breeders from Vale do Paraíba, who questioned the characteristics of Fila's head, specified in the CAFIB Standard, did not fit themselves into the famous description made by the Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), considered the “Father of Criminal Anthropology”. In his well-known book “L'uomo delinquente”, he lists in detail the physical attributes of the “born criminal”, recommending that the bearers of these phenotypic characteristics (which, later, some jurists started calling “Lombrosian type”, or “thief with a thief face ”) should be preventively segregated from society, even before they had committed any crime, because their tendency towards crime was unalterable.