Saint Miguel Cattle Dog (Cão Fila de São Miguel)

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fawn, pale fawn with black overlay, grey
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • forms strong bonds with its master 
  • excellent watch and guard dog
  • wonderful herder
  • intelligent
  • a one-person dog
  • needs a dominant owner
  • doesn't suit family with small children
  • not for an apartment living


The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog is a proficient and reliable herding breed, which was developed centuries ago in Portugal’s Azores. In its homeland it’s valued for its well-developed protective instinct, outstanding stamina and working enthusiasm. The breed can be hardly found elsewhere in the world and it rarely serves as a purely companion dog.

Actual evidences are insufficient to describe the early stages of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog’s development. Nevertheless it’s safe to assume that it was invented on the Portugal’s island of Sao Miguel sometime between the beginning of the XV century and the late XVII. It’s speculated that the breed descended from the now-extinct Cao de Terceira, which was brought to the island in this period to manage local livestock. It remains unclear though whether it was bred exclusively from this dog or some local canines were used in the process. Whoever the forebears of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog were, the breed was well-established in the early XIX century when its first careful descriptions appeared in historical records.

In times the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog earned wide appreciation throughout the Azores as a competent herding dog and dependable property guardian. At daylight it was made responsible for driving and herding cattle and at night it protected the farmers’ property and family from intruders. Breeders put emphasis solely on those features, which influenced the breed’s working talents such as quick-wittedness, sturdiness and well-developed protective drive. Until late in the XX century very few specimens of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog left its native Azores although some dogs were most likely exported to Brazil, mainland Portugal, Madeira, Cabo Verde, Angola, Mozambique, East Timor.

Due to its comparative rarity and working background the breed entered dog shows only in 70s of the XX century. Nevertheless it attained recognition of the Portuguese Kennel Club only in 1984. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognised it as a unique breed in 1995.

In the recent decades the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog enjoys much wider awareness in European countries then previously. It attracts attention of dog’s lovers by its strong protective drive and herding prowess. That’s why the most of its specimens are either active or retired working animals. There are also reports that this dog perfectly adapts for the role of a family companion.

The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog is a working breed to its core and therefore possesses disposition, which allows it to perform its duties flawlessly. Multiple articles about this dog underline its aggressive tendencies, although such kind of issues is usually the result of inadequate socialisation rather than an inborn trait. As a rule it grants the status of a master to only one family member and will establish unbelievingly tight bonds with him or her. Actually the breed develops unflinching devotion to its owner so it can be virtually impossible to rehome. It’s generally good with familiar children but this dog is probably too vigorous and authoritative to interact with a toddler without strict supervision.

The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog is endowed with innate suspiciousness towards all strange people. Without early and deep socialisation this distrustfulness can gradually transform into open aggressiveness. At the same time the breed member won’t snap unless it’s fully convinced that something is threatening its family or territory. This fierce and brave dog fits ideally for the work of a guard dog. It also highly territorial and vigilant it usually makes a wonderful watch dog.

The breed was developed to manage half-feral and therefore dangerous and unpredictable livestock. Animal aggression is an inescapable part of this kind of work. That’s why the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog doesn’t get along well with other species of animals. Moreover the dog tends to be fairly aggressive towards other canines. It does best as an only dog although it can co-exist with few problems with an individual canine of the opposite sex. The vast majority of its specimens will be polite with a household cat with which it has lived since its puppyhood. It’s worth to remember that some of them will never accept the presence of another pet in the household.
Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• gastric torsion;
• eye problems;
• brachycephalic syndrome;
• shortness of breath
• heat intolerance;
• skeletal growth abnormalities;
• arthritis;
• demodex mange.

The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog’s grooming will require minimal investment of your efforts. Its coat should be carefully brushed couple of times per week. It’s also important to pay sufficient attention to such standard care procedures as nail clipping and rare bathing. The dog’s master should introduce above-mentioned routines as early and as carefully as possible. The breed is prone to intensive shedding.

The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog is characterised with exceptional trainability. This clever and docile dog is commonly eager to please its master so it’s capable of grasping really difficult tricks, especially if they relate to herding and guarding.

Remember that this dog will ignore commands from timid or passive handler who doesn’t have permanent control over the situation. It is strongly recommended to train this dog only with reward-based methods, which focus on food incentives. The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog usually responses to unfairly harsh attitude with defiance and open disobedience.

The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog is renowned for its athletic build and ability to operate effectively for hours on end. The very minimum of physical activity, which will allow it to stay fit and happy, should include long and vigorous walk on a daily basis. This dog likes to be charged with some important assignment, especially if it involves herding and managing the stock.

Anyway this breed should receive a regular opportunity to exercise not only its physical body but also its inquisitive mind. The bored specimen of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog will find its own ways to direct its excessive energy and will eventually become a destructive, hyper active, aggressive and unmanageable creature.