The Rastreador Brasileiro was a breed of hunting dog native to Brazil. It was developed in the 1950’s by Oswaldo Aranha Filho to hunt peccaries (medium-sized wild pigs found throughout Central and South America), jaguars, and other game found in that country. Filho combined a number of American and European hunting breeds along with a few native Brazilian dogs to create his dog. The Rastreador Brasileiro became the first Brazilian breed to earn recognition with international kennel clubs, but an outbreak of disease and pesticide poisoning in the 1970’s entirely wiped out the breed. There are currently efforts being made to restore the breed using those breeds used in its development combined with mixed breed descendants found throughout Brazil. The Rastreador Brasileiro is also known as the Urrador, Urrador Americano, Americano, Brazilian Tracker, and Brazilian Coonhound.
Although the Rastreador Brasileiro was developed as a unique breed, it can trace its ancestry back to the earliest European settlement of Brazil. Discovered and claimed for his kingdom by the Portuguese explorer Antonio Alvares Cabral in 1500, the Portuguese ruled Brazil as a colony until the 1800’s. The Portuguese settlers that arrived in Brazil brought a number of their European breeds with them. The Kingdom of Portugal is unique among Western European nations in that it was not home to any native scent hounds. Instead Portuguese hunters used the very primitive Podengo Portuguesos, three closely related breeds separated only by size. The Podengo Portuguesos are very generalized hunters which rely equally on their sense of sight and smell. This meant that Brazil never received the wide array of scent hounds that would be found elsewhere in the Americas, although they did possess a number of hunting dogs.
Prior to the late 19th Century, the vast majority of Brazil’s population lived within a few hundred miles of the coast. Expansion into the interior was limited by agricultural technology, lack of economic necessity, and the vast Amazon Rainforest. Large prey species such as the jaguar and peccary had long been absent from these coastal areas, pushed out by the expanding human population. However, continuing technological advancements meant that rubber was an extremely valuable commodity, and Brazilians started moving into the country’s interior, transforming vast tracts of jungle into rubber plantations. The rubber plantations were followed by farmers and cattle ranchers, who transformed even more of Brazil’s interior. These new settlers often owned immense estates, many of which were heavily populated by large game.
As Brazil did not have the scent hounds found in other countries, it was difficult to track this large game through the jungle. Foreign breeds needed to be imported to serve this purpose, but most found life very hard in Brazil. Dogs from temperate climates such as Europe were ill-suited to life in the tropics. Even in the shade of the forest floor, the temperature in Brazil very often exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs not bred for such extremes often collapse in the heat, and frequently perish of heatstroke if pushed too hard. The disease load is also extreme, with dozens of virulent illnesses and parasites present. Many of these conditions are very quickly fatal to dogs that do not have immunity to them. The game of Brazil is also quite different from that found in other regions. Species such as the jaguar and peccary are not only extremely large, but they are also very ferocious when cornered and more than capable of killing several dogs before being brought down. These factors combined to mean that most imported scent hounds quickly perished in the harsh conditions found in Brazil’s interior.
In the 1950’s, a Brazilian man by the name of Oswaldo Aranha Filho decided to develop a unique scent hound breed designed to survive in his country. He began to import European and American scent hound breeds in an attempt to develop his dog. From France, he imported the Petit Bleu de Gascogne, an ancient breed native to Gascony which is primarily used to hunt small game such as rabbits. However, Filho discovered that American dogs were much better suited to life in Brazil. While nowhere nearly as hot as Brazil, much of the American South is closer climate-wise to that country than it is to Europe. The temperature regularly exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the disease load is very high as a result. The American environment is also considerably less developed than that of Europe, and populated by hardier dogs. Perhaps most importantly, the game in the United States is very comparable to that of Europe, with cougars, hogs, deer, and a variety of small tree-dwelling mammals.
Due to his success with the American scent hounds, Filho imported a number of different breeds. Included among them were the American Foxhound, Black and Tan Coonhound, American English Coonhound, and the Bluetick Coonhound. Filho crossed these breeds with the Petit Bleu de Gascogne to get a new dog. Filho also used at least a few examples of Brazilian hunting breeds in the development of his new breed. Filho came to call his new breed the Rastreador Brasileiro, which translates loosely to “Brazilian Tracker.” The Rastreador Brasileiro ended up being virtually identical in appearance to other Coonhounds, although an amalgamation of several different varieties. It was Filho’s great desire to popularize his breed, and he transferred breeding stock to at least 30 other hunters. These hunters began to breed their own dogs, although they came to refer to them as the Urrador after the Brazilian word for howl, or Urrador Americano due to its American ancestry. By the early 1960’s, Filho’s efforts were successful and the Rastreador Brasileiro was breeding true.
The Rastreador Brasileiro quickly became valued by Brazilian hunters as it was one of the only breeds capable of working in that country. The dog was known for it’s baying, a noise that Brazilian hunters began to refer to as Americano. Other breeders spread the dog across the entire nation of Brazil, from the remotest jungles to the most densely inhabited cities. However, these breeders were solely interested in the dog’s working ability and did not keep pedigrees. They also heavily crossed them with other foreign breeds and native dogs.
Oswaldo Aranha Filho was good friends with a number of Brazilian dog fanciers, including a number of the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) judges living in the country. Filho worked with the FCI and the Brazilian national kennel club to earn his breed full recognition with those organizations. In 1967, both canine organizations granted full recognition to the Rastreador Brasileiro. In doing so, the breed became the first Brazilian dog to earn international recognition.
Although he had spread his dogs throughout Brazil, Filho remained the primary breeder of the Rastreador Brasileiro. Unfortunately tragedy struck in 1973. A massive outbreak of ticks began plaguing Filho’s kennel, draining the blood of his dogs and weakening their immune systems. These ticks also spread babesiosis, a malaria-like disease which is frequently fatal. Most of Filho’s dogs succumbed to this disease. In an attempt to save his breeding stock, Filho began spraying pesticides to kill off the ticks. Unfortunately, this proved even more disastrous as his few surviving dogs were poisoned. The tick outbreak and subsequent babesiosis and pesticide poisoning killed every one of Filho’s 39 dogs. Filho was unable to find the dogs that he had transferred, and both the Brazilian kennel club and the FCI declared the breed extinct.
Although extinct as a purebred, pedigreed dog, the Rastreador Brasileiro was in fact not extinct. A number of hunters throughout Brazil continued to breed these dogs. Additionally, the breed heavily interbred with the stray dog population of Brazil and had a profound impact on it in certain areas. Most breeders of the dog remained concerned exclusively with working ability and cared little for keeping it pure bred. By the 2000’s, interest in the Rastreador Brasileiro was beginning to grow again. The Gropo de Apoio ao Resgate do Rastreador Brasileiro (GDAARDRB) was founded to restore the breed as a pure bred animal. The group’s goals are to find the best examples of the breed from across the Brazil, trade as many dogs as possible among fanciers to widen the gene pool, begin to standardize the dog once again, and to regain recognition with the Brazilian kennel club and the FCI.
To this point, the efforts of the GDAARDRB have met with mixed success. The group has succeeded in bringing together a number of fanciers. However, most breeders of the Rastreador Brasileiro remain relatively uninterested in the breed for anything other than hunting, and are not especially eager to see it standardized and recognized. The group has also found that many of the remaining Rastreador Brasileiros have been heavily crossed and are not ideal to the standard. The last two decades have also seen the first breed members exported outside of Brazil. A very small number of Rastreador Brasileiros have found their way into the United States, and the breed has earned recognition with a few rare breed registries in that country including the Continental Kennel Club. For now it appears that the efforts of the GDAARDRB will continue to move ahead, and it is quite possible that the Rastreador will once again be a fully recognized breed.
The purebred Rastreador Brasileiro was very similar to the Coonhounds from which it was bred, although an amalgamation of several different types. Breed members stood approximately 25 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and usually weighed between 50 and 60 pounds. The breed possessed long legs and a straight back. The dog was quite muscular and very fit. Many of these dogs appeared very thin, but that may be the result of a poor diet. The head of the Rastreador Brasileiro was proportional to the dog’s body and relatively flattened. The muzzle was quite long and ended in a large nose, giving the dog the maximum possible area for scent receptors. The dog had the excessive facial skin and drooping jowls common to most Coonhounds along with the pleading eyes. The ears of this breed are quite long and pendulous. It is said that such long ears push and funnel scent particles towards the dog’s nose, but it is unclear whether or not that is true. The Rastreador Brasileiro was a very short-coated dog, ideal for life in the tropics. The dog came in any color found in its ancestors, including tri-color, black and tan, blue-ticked, red-ticked, white with black markings, white with red markings, and white with blue markings.
The Rastreador Brasileiro possessed a temperament that was very similar to that of most working scent hounds. The dog exhibited low levels of dog aggression, and was willing to work in very large packs. The breed showed very high levels of aggression towards all other non-human species. These dogs were willing to attack and potentially kill virtually any other creature from a lizard to a jaguar. The Rastreador Brasileiro was a very dedicated tracker, willing to pursue any scent to its conclusion. Based on what is known about its ancestors, the Rastreador Brasileiro was probably extremely affectionate with humans and relatively submissive towards them. However, this breed was also probably quite difficult to train, due to its stubbornness and willfulness.