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14 August 2013 / leggypeggy

It’s a dog’s life in South America

Peruvian hairless

Always on the lookout for something to chase, play with or bark at

Sy, a friend from New York, has followed this blog for a long time. Three things stand out about Sy: he’s an adventurous and creative cook, an avid and seasoned traveller, and a true lover of dogs—especially his beloved Laddy, an Irish terrier.

When I was just starting this overland, Sy asked me to be on the lookout for various breeds of South American dogs. He sent a comprehensive list and I duly looked up each breed and memorised their appearances.

So far I’ve spotted two very distinctive local breeds—the gigantic Fila Brasileiro and the quirky-looking Peruvian Hairless Dog.

So Sy, this post is for you—and Laddy if he’s paying attention.

Fila Brasileiro

Zulu and his boxer companion, Spartan

Fila Brasileiro

We encountered the Fila Brasileiro first, in Salvador Brazil. Zulu was holding court in the Hostel Galeria 13 where we stayed in the Pelourinho district.

Centuries ago, ancestors of the filas were bred the bloodhounds, mastiffs and bulldogs that had been brought to the New World by the Conquistadors. The resulting filas are great sniffers with overwhelming power and tenacity.

They’ve almost always been working dogs—guarding livestock and ranches against thieves and jaguars, tracking down runaway slaves and helping hunters to claim their prey.

Filas are aggressive and supposed to dislike humans they have not been raised with. Their testiness is okay even in the show ring. A fila should not let a judge (a stranger) touch it. And if the dog attacks a judge, the reaction must not be considered a fault, but a confirmation of the dog’s temperament. Oh yippee—you get savaged by the dog that goes on to win! Remind me never to apply to be a fila judge.

Zulu is a ginormous and handsome dog, but seems a gentle giant. He was quite well-behaved until someone he didn’t know tried to come in the front gate. He didn’t go ‘postal’ but he made it perfectly clear that the intruder better have some valid credentials.

Peruvian hairless dog

Not really a headful of hair—just a few wisps

Peruvian hairless

So far we’ve met four Peruvian hairless dogs—two at the Anaconda Lodge in Puerto Maldonado, one at the Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary outside Cusco and one in an art exhibition at the Temple of the Sun in Cusco.

The Peruvian hairless is an ancient dog. Often thought to be Incan, the dog actually dates to pre-Incan times. The first artistic depictions of the hairless came in 750AD on Moche ceramic vessels.

Peruvian hairless, howler monkey

How’s this for having a monkey on your back!

Peruvian hairless dog

The fourth hairless—an artist’s impression of a Peruvian hairless

The dogs can be completely hairless or have tufts of hair on their heads, feet and tail. Their skin colour can be black, elephant grey, copper or mottled.

Spain’s conquest of Peru nearly caused the extinction of the breed. Luckily the dogs survived in rural areas, where the people believed they had mystical value.

The dogs at Anaconda have had a rough-and-tumble existence with howler monkeys, so they’re quite playful. They’re also very alert—keeping a close eye on any dog that comes near Anaconda.

The fourth hairless we met—well you’ll have to see for yourself.


And I have to sign off with Laddy wearing his expensive Scandinavian winter coat. Sy says he paid an arm and a leg for it, but I reckon Laddy looks doggone distinguished and, no doubt, worth every cent.

Irish terrier

Laddy showing off his coat in a New York snowstorm


Leave a Comment
  1. skippersy / Aug 14 2013 9:57 am

    Thanks Leggy Peggy, wow, a complete page and entry in your South American blog featuring me, Laddy me Boy and some of the South American dogs sighted in your travels. You are the greatest Australian-Nebraskan South American Blogger of all time.

    Below are few additional comments I found in my Book, “The Encyclopedia of the Dog” :
    BRAZILIAN MASTIFF (Other names, Fila Brasileiro, Cao de Fila) is a very big dog, weighing in at over 100 lbs. This breed is one of Brazil’s two native breeds (the other a rare Brazilian Tracker) and developed from Spanish and Portuguese mastiffs and bloodhounds. It is an aggressive dog, but its unusual ability is that it does not attack but holds quarry/slaves (for example in days of Brazilian slavery) and returns them unharmed to their slave masters.

    INCA HAIRLESS DOG (Other name, Peruvian Hairless) comes in three sizes and weighs from around 9 lbs to 55lbs. For the breed to survive, the Incas recognized that intermittent breeding with coated members of the breed was necessary. Primarily used as a companion dog since antiquity.

    Further, interesting reading and your write up about these two breeds….. Any dog that bites a judge in a show ring is disqualified and removed, but I did not know the exception about the Brazilian Mastiff. And for the Peruvian Hairless dog, well kind of ugly. Aside- I owned a Chihuahua mix in the past and a wonderful family dog… and the dog would not hesitate to go after any Brazilian Mastiff ten times her size.

    Thanks again for this post and hope you continue to add a few more South American dogs to your blog….

    Travel Safely,


    • leggypeggy / Aug 14 2013 1:11 pm

      Hi Sy, glad you like the page. I hoped you would—Laddy too.

      Thanks for the extra details. I had seen references to the additional names and behaviour, but I sometimes run out of steam (or more likely a decent internet connection) when writing an entry, so appreciate your contributions.

      I’m going to add a couple more photos of the Peruvian dogs we saw when the connection permits. There’s are two cute ones even if they are kind of ugly. 🙂


      • Ken Berry / Aug 15 2013 7:33 am

        Well, prepare yourself as you will meet two of the Peruvians’ hairless Chinese Crested cousins when you get here next week!! I think they are rather cute in a sort of Mexican cartoonish sort of way…


      • leggypeggy / Aug 15 2013 8:13 am

        I love your description—’Mexican cartoonish sort of way’. Look forward to meeting and photographing them.


  2. / Aug 16 2013 5:32 am




    • leggypeggy / Aug 17 2013 9:37 am

      So glad you liked them. It was a truly amazing experience.



  1. It's a dog's life in South America | Where to next?

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