Brazilian Terrier

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Brazilian Terrier
Sini Merikallio / Wikipedia.org

The Brazilian Terrier, or Fox Paulistinha, is a relatively tall terrier that is tri-coloured with short fur and attractive half-erect ears that flop forwards. They are spirited and playful, very smart and always happy to go for a run. Affectionate with their family, once they have burned out their daily energy allowance, they are happy to sit with you in quiet companionship for the evening.

Developed in Brazil, they are a common household pet there today, and are particularly admired for their ability to catch and kill pesky rodents within homes and on farms. A mixture of many modern breeds, they are particularly hardy, and can live well into their teens.

About & History

The Brazilian Terrier is one of the only breeds ever developed in Brazil and bears great resemblance to the English Jack Russell Terrier. Originally developed in the 1800s, it is thought to have descended from a mixture of recently imported small breeds, such as the Jack Russell Terrier and the Fox Terrier, who were bred with other foreign breeds that were already in Brazil at the time, such as the Portuguese Podengo (which arrived via ship to Brazil several hundred years before, alongside Portuguese explorers).

The European terrier breeds it descended from were likely imported by Brazilians who had travelled abroad for work or studies in the 1800s, returning with pet dogs. As the breeding of the local dogs and these imports was not orchestrated, the Brazilian Terrier is called a ‘Landrace’ breed, or one that has come about naturally. Due to the large genetic pool, these breeds tend to be naturally hardier and healthier than many other modern purebreds. The dog created was most popular for its vermin catching abilities, good nature and ability to get on well with other dogs. Indeed, for a country as agriculturally reliant as is Brazil, a friendly dog capable of protecting their crops from rats and other small rodents was a huge asset.

Used for sport also, the Brazilian terrier is a vicious hunter, tracking down and killing small prey. They may hunt alone or in packs, and when hunting will generally wear the prey down by chasing and encircling it, until it is tired enough to be caught and killed.

The breed was only recently recognised by the Brazilian Kennel Club due to questions raised over its pedigree status, and while numerous fanciers campaigned for its inclusion in the club for many years, it wasn’t until 1985 that it was granted. Despite this, the breed remains largely unknown outside of its native Brazil, where it is commonly kept for both sporting purposes and as a family pet.

Appearance

Brazilian Terrier Large Photo
Томасина / Wikipedia.org

Similar looking to the Jack Russell and other terriers, the Brazilian terrier is distinct in its size, rarely measuring less than 35cm at the shoulder. The male can reach heights of 41cm, while the female typically stands a few centimeters smaller. Their height is mainly due to their relatively long and straight legs. With curved body lines and a trim, muscular physique, this dog was made to be a quick runner. A typical dog will weigh between 6.5kg to 9kg.

The muzzle should blend seamlessly into the head. Their eyes are round and often inquisitive, taking up a large proportion of their face. Their velvety ears are triangular in shape and should be ‘half-folded’. Their chest is relatively narrow, and their body compact and athletic. Their short, stubby tail may be docked, particularly in those that are used to work. Their coat is short and fine and comes in three varieties of the tri-colour standard, including:

  • Predominantly white with blue and tan markings
  • Predominantly white with black and tan markings
  • Predominantly white with brown and tan markings

Character & Temperament

A pleasure to be around, the Brazilian Terrier is vivacious and fun. Always alert, and immensely intelligent, this breed is sometimes said to not have an ‘off’ switch. As with many terriers, they feel at no disadvantage because of their size, and are courageous, rarely showing fear even if faced with a much larger adversary.

Not one to stand still, if they’re not playing, they’re digging, and if they’re not digging, they’re running about exploring. Not for the faint-hearted, these high-spirited dogs can be a full-time job.

Trainability

Highly intelligent, be careful to not let this dog walk all over you. The Brazilian Terrier can make a great family pet when in the right hands. A lack of sensible training and treating this breed like a lap-dog will likely result in disaster. If given the opportunity, the Brazilian Terrier may become dominant, and in the worst cases, can develop ‘small dog syndrome’. This is a behavioural issue in which the dog has designated himself ‘leader’ of the household and will do what he pleases, ignoring any cues. This condition can potentially lead to an aggressive dog and must be avoided at all costs with firm and consistent rules and training.

Brazilian Terriers will generally tolerate other dogs within the household but beware any prey-sized animals that they may instinctively wish to chase and hunt. Caution is advised with small children who should be introduced to the dog from a young age to increase the likelihood of acceptance.

Health

Generally living into their teenage years, this is a hardy, working breed that has not been highly inbred. While actual scientific data is lacking, there are several conditions suffered in similar breeds that should be screened for in breeding Brazilian Terriers.

  • Luxating Patella – When the knee cap pops out of place it is called a luxating patella. This can cause the affected dog a great deal of discomfort and may cause them to hop on one or both legs from time to time. A veterinarian can grade the severity of the condition (from one to four) and decide on the best management going forward.
  • Hip Dysplasia – While more classically described in larger dogs, this painful condition of the hip joint can occur in any breed of dog. One of the easier conditions to screen for, hip X-rays can determine if an animal is suitable for breeding from or not.
  • Epilepsy – A relatively rare neurological disorder that results in seizures suffered throughout a dog’s lifetime. While a cause for the seizuring is not always known, the condition can be managed with medication and avoidance of certain triggering stimulations (such as bright lights or loud noises).
  • Skin Allergies – One of the most common problems treated by veterinarians in practice today, skin allergies can be an incredibly frustrating condition to live with for a dog, causing intense itchiness. Determining the cause of the allergy can help in the management of the disease.
  • Ear infections – While not necessarily a genetic condition, any breed with ears that do not stand erect is more prone to developing ear infections throughout their lifetime. A responsible owner will regularly check the ears, cleaning them when necessary.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Though small in size, this is a high-energy dog that needs plenty of exercise and room to run around in. Not only do they require long walks and runs outside, their intellect means that they need a large amount of mental stimulation too; whether it be from puzzles, games, interaction with humans and other dogs or activities, such as obedience and agility.

Not unexpectedly, a Brazilian Terrier that is not provided with adequate stimulation will almost certainly turn to destructive behaviours to fill its time. Chewing household items, incessant barking and digging outside are all commonly described.

Grooming

With a short, low-maintenance coat, this breed will never need to be professionally groomed, and can be cared for easily at home with regular brushing to remove dead fur. They shed moderately, and indeed, it is the terriers who we veterinarians witness leaving the most fur behind them on the consult table, when stressed in the veterinary clinic.

Daily tooth brushing is an essential part of life for a small breed to prevent the onset of periodontal disease and the need for tooth extraction as they age.

Famous Brazilian Terriers

While very popular in their homeland of Brazil, there are no famous Brazilian Terriers known internationally. Of course if you are researching the breed and want to browse photos of Brazilian Terriers and their humans, Instagram is a great place to start.

Cross-Breeds

While they themselves are a result of the cross-breeding of several breeds, there are no popular cross-breeds of the Brazilian Terrier currently in existence.

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