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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

Saint Miguel Cattle Dog
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

  • Life expectancy : Between 11 and 13 years
  • Temperament : Playful
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Short

FCI Group

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 dog Between 19 and 23 in
Male dog Between 20 and 24 in


Female dog Between 44 and 66 lb
Male dog Between 55 and 77 lb

Coat colour

Many shades of fawn colour, with grey brindle or black markings.

Type of coat

The Cao fila de Sao Miguel has a short, smooth coat hair that is also quite dense. These dogs have fringing on the back of their thighs and tail.

Eye colour

Dark brown.


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. 



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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.

Fearful / wary of strangers

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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

Tolerates solitude

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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. 

Easy to train / obedience

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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.

Tendency to run away

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As a dog with amazing herding skills, he will chase off into the distance if he sees a flock of animals that need herding.


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This breed is very intelligent and needs to be kept occupied and busy. Otherwise, he will become bored and show destructive behaviours.

Greedy / Gluttony

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The Cao fila de Sao Miguel is a medium to large sized dog who can be a rather greedy at times.

Guard dog

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This breed is very territorial and extremely alert, which makes him the ideal choice for a watchdog.

First dog

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 As an energetic, quite large dog, who needs to be kept busy for most of the day, he may not be the ideal choice for a first time owner. He doesn’t like being left alone for long periods of time. 


Saint Miguel Cattle Dog in a flat

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The Cao fila de Sao Miguel isn’t the best choice of dog to live in a small flat. He prefers lots of outside space to run around.

Need for exercise / Sporty

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As a very athletic and powerful dog, the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog needs a large amount of daily exercise to maintain his fitness levels. 

Travelling / easy to transport

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Certainly not a dog to take onto public transport, due to his large size. 


Saint Miguel Cattle Dog and cats

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This breed is designed to herd animals, and he can often be quite aggressive, especially towards smaller ones.

Saint Miguel Cattle Dog and dogs

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Even though early socialisation and training may help to deter some of its aggressive behaviours, the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog cannot be trusted with other dogs.

Saint Miguel Cattle Dog and children

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For most of the time, when in the home, this energetic dog is quite docile and will get along fine with older children that he is brought up with. However, as he is quite boisterous, playtimes with younger children must be supervised.

Saint Miguel Cattle Dog and the elderly

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This powerful and energetic dog breed is not advised for an elderly owner.


There are no documented costs for this uncommon dog breed in the UK. However, his monthly costs will be similar to other large working dogs, at around £80 to £100 each month. 


As this dog has a short, dense coat, brushing just once weekly is all that’s required to keep the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog looking groomed. 


Moderate shedder.

Nutrition of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

As a working dog, this breed is very energetic and needs to be fed a high quality, nutrient rich diet suitable for his size. 

Health of the Saint Miguel Cattle Dog

Life expectancy

The Saint Miguel Cattle Dog has no documented health issues, however working dogs of this size are quite prone to bloat and other ailments that affect oversized, deep-chested dogs. Their average life expectancy is 12 years.

Strong / robust

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This canine often lives and works outdoors in Portuguese weather, as he guards the herds and is a dominant and rustic dog.

Withstand heat

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The Cao fila de Sao Miguel will work outside in all temperatures, even warmer weather, without any problems. 

Withstand cold

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This hardy dog breed is capable of living and working outdoors without any issues.

Tendency to put on weight

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When he is working, the Cao fila de Sao Miguel is an energetic dog, and doesn’t usually gain any weight. However, once his working life is over and he is more sedentary, he will tend to gain weight more easily. 

Common illnesses

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. 

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. 


Anxo, Bento, Lucy, Cattie

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