The Xoloitzcuintli is a Mexican dog breed. It is famous for being one of the few hairless dog breeds that can be found out there. However, it is interesting to note that there is a haired version of the Xoloitzcuintli as well. In any case, while these animals have ancient roots, they have managed to spread to a wide range of other countries with an excellent example being the United States.
1. Has a Nahuatl Name
A lot of dog breeds have very straightforward names. The Xoloitzcuintle is an excellent example. However, this might not seem so on initial consideration because its name comes from the Nahuatl language. For those who are unfamiliar, this refers to the language of the Nahuas, most of whom live in Central Mexico but can be found in the rest of Central America as well. There is some disagreement about whether it should be considered one language or a number of related languages. This is because the Nahuatl language tends to be spoken by people living in scattered communities in rural regions, meaning that there can be enormous differences between the kind spoken in one place and the kind spoken in another place.
2. Named for an Ominous God
Speaking of which, the Aztec Empire was founded by Nahuas. In fact, Xoloitzcuintli means “Xolotl dog,” referring to the Aztec god of the same name. Said figure was the twin of Quetzalcoatl, a very noble and very cultured figure. In contrast, Xolotl was lowly and monstrous, associated with illnesses, deformities, and bad luck. Aztec religion put a strong emphasis on dualism, meaning that Quetzalcoatl lucked out while Xolotl lost out.
3. Named for a Human-Friendly God
Having said that, it should be mentioned that Xolotl was a friend to humans. Both he and his twin went to the underworld to retrieve the bones of humanity, which were needed to repopulate the world of the Fifth Sun. However, Xolotl became stuck in the underworld while Quetzalcoatl made his escape. There, he started working as a guide for human souls, thus enabling them to reach their rightful destinations. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that the ancestors of the Xoloitzcuintli accompanied the Aztecs in both life and the afterlife.
4. Their Ancestors Served as Soul-Guides for Other Native Peoples
Speaking of which, the ancestors of the Xoloitzcuintli seemed to have served as soul-guides for other native peoples in the region as well. After all, the Aztec Empire didn’t exist on its own. In fact, the very name implies that there were other native peoples in the region because empires aren’t empires unless there are multiple peoples being ruled by a single center. Unsurprisingly, these native peoples shared a lot of similarities with the Aztec Empire, which included the burial of dogs with dog owners.
5. Their Ancestors Were Sometimes Eaten
Like their counterparts elsewhere, the ancestors of the Xoloitzcuintli performed a wide range of functions for their human masters. To name a somewhat unusual example, the pre-Columbian Mesoamericans are known to have eaten dog on a regular basis. Something that is presumed to be connected to the fact that they didn’t have a lot of domestic animals. In the case of the Aztecs, they had just four domesticated animals, which were dogs, ducks, turkeys, and honey bees.
6. Not the Peruvian Hairless Dog
The Xoloitzcuintli is sometimes called the Mexican Hairless Dog. Unfortunately, this means that the dog breed is sometimes mistaken for the Peruvian Hairless Dog and vice versa, which is related to how the Aztecs, the Maya, and the Incas are sometimes mistaken for one another. Something that is particularly ridiculous when it comes to the last because of the sheer distance between Mexico and Peru. Mexico isn’t even considered to be a part of Central America. Meanwhile, Central America extends to the borders of Colombia, which one of Peru’s two northern neighbors.
7. Is Indeed Related to Pre-Colonial Dogs
Speaking of which, it should be mentioned that the Xoloitzcuintli is indeed related to pre-colonial dogs. This is notable because while there were dogs in the Americas long before colonial times, the dogs in the modern Americas are overwhelmingly descended from Eurasian ancestors. DNA testing has confirmed that both the Chihuahua and the Xoloitzcuintli have pre-colonial ancestry. Even so, the Chihuahua has just 4 percent pre-colonial ancestry while the Xoloitzcuintli has just 3 percent pre-colonial ancestry.
8. Started Turning Up in Dog Shows in the Late 1940s
Apparently, the Xoloitzcuintli started turning up in Mexican dog shows in the late 1940s. However, while they were recognized as indigenous dogs, there wasn’t a lot of initial interest in them. Partly, this was because they weren’t well-known, and partly, this was because there was no standard by which to judge those contestants.
9. Official Interest Saved Them in the 1950s
Still, the relevant institutions soon realized that the Xoloitzcuintli was at-risk of going extinct. As a result, an official effort was made to save the dog breed. One of the best-known initiatives was a 1954 expedition that scoured Mexico’s rural regions for remaining examples of the Xoloitzcuintli, which would go on to become the basis of a dog breeding program. By 1956, the Xoloitzcuintli was recognized by Mexico’s kennel club and thus the rest of the FCI. It was fortunate that the relevant institutions intervened when they did. Otherwise, well, suffice to say that such interventions aren’t always successful even when there is considerable interest.
10. One of the First Dog Breeds Recognized By the American Kennel Club
Curiously, the Xoloitzcuintli was one of the first dog breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Club. As such, the first Xoloitzcuintli to be recognized in the United States was registered in 1887. This is notable because the American Kennel Club itself was founded in 1884, though to be fair, it was created through the cooperation of existing breed clubs in both the United States and Canada. Those Canadian breed clubs remained until 1886, which was when a disagreement with their American counterparts caused them to pull out before proceeding to found the Canadian Kennel Club in 1888.
11. Lost Recognition from the American Kennel Club in the 1950s
Having said that, the Xoloitzcuintli didn’t exactly thrive in the United States while it became rarer and rarer in its native Mexico. This can be seen in how the dog breed actually lost recognition from the American Kennel Club at one point in the 1950s. Something that was caused by its scarcity, which had become so bad that it was perceived as being on its way to extinction.
12. Regained Recognition from the American Kennel Club in the 2000s
Nowadays, the Xoloitzcuintli is once again recognized by the American Kennel Club. This is thanks to the efforts of the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America, which was founded in October of 1986 for that precise purpose. As such, said organization is the official parent club for the dog breed, having succeeded in regaining recognition in 2009.
13. There Are Both Haired and Hairless Versions
As mentioned earlier, while the Xoloitzcuintli is best-known for its hairlessness, there is both a haired version and a hairless version. The hairlessness is caused by a spontaneous mutation that happened thousands of years ago. However, it is possible for the Xoloitzcuintli to have hair when the relevant trait is recessive. In fact, it is normal for a litter of puppies to have both haired and hairless members of the dog breed.
14. There Are Differences in Their Teeth as Well
Hair is the single most noticeable difference between these two versions. However, it is interesting to note that the relevant trait affects these animals’ teeth as well. Thanks to that, the hairless ones tend to have an incomplete set of teeth. In contrasted, the haired ones tend to have every single one of their teeth that they are supposed to have.
15. Less Prone to Inherited Health Issues
Purebred dogs have been subjected to generation after generation of breeding for a consistent set of characteristics. Thanks to that, it is common for these dog breeds to be more prone to certain health issues. The Xoloitzcuintli is relatively well-off in this regard. They came into existence through gradual adaptation to both their natural environment and their cultural environment, meaning that they are less inbred and thus less prone to inherited health issues. Having said that, it is important to note that this doesn’t mean that the Xoloitzcuintli is guaranteed to have good health. Interested individuals should definitely make sure that their dog gets all of the necessary vaccinations as well as other precautions before remembering to bring them in to the veterinarian for regular check-ups.
16. Can Have Sun-Related Issues
Hairlessness changes a lot about dogs. As such, interested individuals need to change how they treat their hairless dogs as well. To name an example, the Xoloitzcuintli is more vulnerable to the sun because they don’t have a coat to provide them with a measure of protection. Due to this, interested individuals might want to apply sunscreen to their dog, particularly if their dog happens to be lighter-colored rather than darker-colored. On top of that, they might want to avoid leaving their dog outdoors for too long unless they have a shaded place where their dog can retreat when the sun is strong.
17. Can Have Cold-Related Issues
On a related note, the Xoloitzcuintli is said to be more vulnerable to the cold as well because they don’t have a coat to provide them with warmth. Due to this, it is a good idea to make them wear a coat when they are heading outside into cold temperatures. Naturally, this clothing should be removed once they are indoors because there have been reports of members of the dog breed suffering from skin issues when their skin has been covered up for too long.
18. Said to Undergo a Temperament Change When Maturing
The Xoloitzcuintli is sometimes said to undergo a temperament change when they mature. Essentially, adult members of the dog breed are said to be calm and controlled. Meanwhile, Xoloitzcuintli puppies can be very noisy and very energetic. Having said that, these descriptions are far from being guaranteed for these dogs, particularly since good training and good socialization can do a great deal to influence a dog’s behavior for the better. Something that interested individuals should definitely get started on from an early age.
19. Need Plenty of Stimulation
Generally speaking, the Xoloitzcuintli is said to need plenty of stimulation. The smallest examples might be fine with daily walks. However, bigger examples are going to need even more physical and mental stimulation than that. If the Xoloitzcuintli becomes bored, it can act out in a wide range of ways. To name an example, members of the dog breed are said to be quite good at escaping, not least because they are both energetic and intelligent creatures. Due to this, a lot of people choose to give their Xoloitzcuintli a canine companion to satisfy their dogs’ social needs.
20. Has Been Used as Watch Dogs
Speaking of which, the Xoloitzcuintli sometimes sees use as a watch dog. The adult members of the dog breed aren’t known for nuisance barking. As such, if one starts sounding off, interested individuals might want to take a look to see what is going on. Personality-wise, the Xoloitzcuintli tends to be on the suspicious side when it comes to strange humans and strange animals. They are capable of making friends with people outside of their families, but it isn’t the kind of thing that will happen all of a sudden. Besides this, it is interesting to note that some of these dogs are said to exhibit steadfastness in the face of danger, with the result that some of them are said to see use as guard dogs as well.