Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

Other names: São Miguel Cattle Dog, São Miguel Catch Dog, Cao fila de Sao Miguel, Azores Cattle Dog, Azores Cow Dog


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Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

The Cao Fila de Sao Miguel is a very old breed of dog that first originated on the island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores islands, just off Portugal. This breed was first used as a herding dog to round up the livestock that lived on the island, both feral and tame. They are extremely loyal to their families and will protect them no matter what. However, they are very wary of strangers and often aggressive towards other animals. The dog’s name arises from “Cao” which means dog in Portuguese and “Fila” which translates to holding something by the mouth or teeth. 

Key facts about the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

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Origins and history

This very old breed of dog was developed long before any records began. Although their ancestry is uncertain, it’s believed that the guarding and herding Saint Miguel Cattle Dog breed came from crossing various types of Molosser dogs. These Molosser canines were common around Europe during the 14th century to herd cattle, especially aggressive or stubborn ones. The Cao fila de Sao Miguel breed was first registered with the Portuguese Kennel Club in 1984, yet even to this day, they are not very popular outside of Portugal. 

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs


Section 2 : Molossian type

Physical characteristics of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

Adult size

Female : Between 19 and 23 in

Male : Between 20 and 24 in


Female : Between 44 and 66 lb

Male : Between 55 and 77 lb

Coat colour

Type of coat

Eye colour



This breed is medium to large sized. A heavy build, with the male dog being slightly heavier and taller than the female. The dog’s head is square-shaped and heavy and has a powerful, well-muscled jaw. The Cao Fila de Sao Miguel has a tail that is high set, slightly curved and of medium length. The dog’s ears are triangle-shaped, medium sized, and hang almost to the dog’s cheeks. 

Good to know

As a dominant, strong breed, the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog needs to become part of the pack, and as such, needs to have a leader. When living with humans, this line of leadership needs to be clearly defined with set rules. It’s important that this dog realises that the human is his leader, otherwise he may show his displeasure by biting and growling. This is the most important factor to make a relationship with the Cao fila de Sao Miguel dog a success. 


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    Although the Cao fila de Sao Miguel will bond with one specific person, this dog is not really affectionate. 

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    If they are brought up alongside children in the same home, they can be quite playful. However, as very muscular, strong dogs, care needs to be taken around smaller children during playtime.

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    This breed makes an amazing family pet. They are very docile although they do need a firm hand.

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    A very intelligent dog, the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog needs adequate training to match his intelligence.

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    A herding dog, not a hunter, although he may chase after and kill small animals.

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    Fearful / wary of strangers

    As a natural guarding dog, the Cao fila de Sao Miguel needs a firm hand if he is to be a family dog. He can be quite aloof and defensive around strangers.

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    As a herding dog, he is used to working alone and independently.

    Behaviour of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

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      Tolerates solitude

      Cao filas do best when given a job to do. They develop a deep bond with their master, so prefer not to spend time alone. 

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      Easy to train / obedience

      The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog breed is very easy to train, especially to take part in herding tasks. Likewise with tracking and dog agility trials. 

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      As a herding dog, he will bark as he works, rounding up the flocks or cattle.

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