Mexican Hairless Dog ( Xoloitzcuintli )

The Xoloitzcuintli, (pronounced show-low-eats-queen-tlee) one of the world’s oldest and rarest breeds, is considered the first dog of the Americas. Originating in Mexico over 3,000 years ago Xolos, as they are nicknamed, have remained largely unsullied by human intervention. Even today this natural, primitive breed looks virtually the same as depicted on primeval artifacts. Glover Allen, professor of Zoology at Harvard, created a record of New World dog breeds in 1920, based on skeletal and mummified remains, art and artifacts, and eyewitness accounts. The Xolo was one of the seventeen distinct breeds Allen cataloged as aboriginal American dogs. They are also known, less commonly, as Mexican Hairless Dogs because 75% of the breed possesses little or no hair.

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
Small 8-15 lb
Medium 15-35 lb
Large 35-55 lb
LifeSpan: 
15 to 18 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
High Energy
Grooming: 
Rarely
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
Yes
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
Generally Good With Other Pets
Litter Size: 
2-6 puppies, Average of 4
Names: 
Xoloitzcuintli (Nahuatl language), Xoloitzcuintle, Xoloitzquintle, Xolo

Height/Weight

Males: 
Toy- 5-15lbs, 10-14 inches
Females: 
Same
Males: 
Miniature- 15-30lbs, 14-18 inches
Females: 
Same
Males: 
Standard- 25-40lbs, 18-23 inches
Females: 
Same

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

Hairlessness occurs in almost every species of mammal and is considered one of the most common spontaneous gene mutations. Only one Xolo, out of any given litter of four to five puppies, is born with a full coat. Rarely do favorable or unfavorable mutations thrive on a wide scale, but the Xoloitzcuintli probably proliferated because of both natural selection and their status with the indigenous people. The hairless variety adapted more readily to hot climates and had greater resistance to fleas, ticks, and parasites. The mythology of the Xolos and their integral role in many Mesoamerican cultures’ religious practices, no doubt ensured the Xoloitzcuintli survived and bred in large numbers. But regardless of speculation as to why, the breed flourished in Mexico, Central America, and the northern coastal areas of South America. That is, until the European conquest in the early 1500s.

 

A widely held belief in Mesoamerica was that Xolos were spiritual guides for their deceased masters into the afterlife. Often this meant sacrificial killing and burial of the dog with its dead owner. This practice originated with the Tlatilcos in western Mexico about 3,700 years ago. Ritually buried dog skeletons have been unearthed in nine sites in this region. The name Xoloitzcuintli (alternate spelling is Xoloitzcuintle) comes from the combination of two Aztec words: Xolotl, the name of the Aztec Indian god, and Itzcuintli, which means dog or puppy. The Aztecs believed the breed was the incarnation of the god Xolotl, who guided the dead through the Underworld. Successful completion of this journey required a Xolo guide. Usually effigies of the dogs were buried with the corpse, but sometimes the dog itself was buried with its owner. Clay and ceramic effigies of Xolos have been found on the tombs of Toltec, Aztec, Mayan, Zapoteca, and Colima Indians; some of these tombs are over 3,000 years old. Archaeologists believe that the unusual hairless trait, which exists in 75% of Xoloitzcuintlis, also originated with the Tlatilcos, around the same time the ritual burial of dogs began there as well.

 

Ancient cultures also believed Xolocuintlis possessed supernatural healing abilities. They thought these dogs could cure rheumatism; if the sufferer slept with a Xolo lying over the affected joints, after four nights they believed the disease passed from the person into the dog. Hairless Xolos have naturally warm skin and are hardy stock, which probably reinforced the myth of their healing powers. Their reputation as healers lives on, particularly in remote Mexican and Central American villages where many are still convinced that Xolos ward off and cure rheumatism, asthma, toothache, and insomnia, as well as guard homes from evil spirits.

 

Even though the Mesoamericans held Xolos in high regard as spiritual guides, protectors, and healers, they also found them to be a delicious source of protein. Between 2,000 B.C. and 1,519 A.D. Mesoamericans (which included the Mayans, Aztecs, Teotihuacan, Toltec, and others) considered these hairless dogs a major food source. In fact the Aztecs created naked animals to serve as bed warmers or as dinner. According to accounts by Spanish conquistadors, the Aztecs used resin to remove hair from guinea pigs; they also rubbed some dogs with turpentine from an early age to make their hair fall out. But their main resource for bed warmers and meals was the genetically hairless Xolo. The Aztecs consumed Xolo meat as a delicacy and a ritual part of their worship. Fattened puppy meat was relished; young dogs were castrated and fattened for sale in the marketplace. They believed consuming this meat warded off anguish, bad dreams, and evil influences. The meat was also believed to increase male potency.

 

Hernan Cortes, a leader of the Spanish Invasion, described bartering for Xolos in the markets and praised the dogs’ tastiness. These Europeans, with their insatiable appetite for the dog meat and ability to pickle it for future consumption, almost obliterated the Xoloitzcuintli for all time by the close of the 1500s. In addition to feasting on these aboriginal American dogs, the Europeans also traded them in other parts of the world, slaughtered them along with their masters, and bred them with European dogs they had brought along. In spite of this decimation, a few Xoloitzcuintlis managed to survive in remote, mountainous villages of Mexico.

 

The Europeans colonialized Mesoamerica, imposing their own culture and beliefs and discouraging those of the indigenous peoples. They effectively set the tone toward the Xoloitzcuintli that persisted for several centuries. Xolos were considered an embarrassing reminder of the superstitious beliefs of the past. Colima dog pottery was discarded as worthless, crude, and provincial when it turned up in the hands of home builders, farmers, and even archaeologists. Today Colima dog pottery can fetch $10,000 or more. Fortunately Mexico now recognizes its native dog, the Xoloitzcuintli, for the national treasure it is, thanks in large part to a couple of Mexican artists. According to archeologist Marc Thompson at the El Paso Museum of Archeology, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo deserve the credit for bringing the Xolo back from the brink of extinction.

 

After the Mexican Revolution in the 1930s, a strong nationalistic pride swept the country and spawned new interest in their cultural history. The famous Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo bred Xolos, featured them in their art, and collected Colima art—all of which they promoted in their very public lives. Rivera’s extensive collection of Colima ceramics is on permanent display at Mexico’s Anahuacali Museum. Pedigrees of today’s Xolos can be traced back to dogs the artist owned and bred.

 

According to Norman Pelham Wright, naturalist, breed historian, and author of The Enigma of the Xolo, Xoloitzcuintlis turned up in Mexican dog shows in the 1940s, but even though they were recognized as an ancient breed, ignorance and prejudice still surrounded them. In the United States, however, Chinito Junior, bred and owned by Valetska Radtke of New York City made breed history on October 19, 1940, when he won the AKC championship, the only Xoloitzcuintli to accomplish that feat, so far. Listed under the name Mexican Hairless, Xolos were one of first breeds accepted in AKC in 1887. A Mexican dog named Mee Too was the first Xolo registered in the AKC. But no systematic and broad breeding program existed for them and Xolos grew increasingly rare, so much so that in April 1959 the breed was dropped from the AKC Stud book. Once again, the Xoloitzcuintlis appeared to be on the road to extinction.

 

Thanks to a small band of dog lovers, history took a different course. Spearheading the effort to save the breed were: Hilary Harmar, British Chihuahua expert and judge, Norman Pelham Wright, her husband and British diplomat living in Mexico City, Katherine Walch, Jane Delgado, Hugh Morgan, Jean Premio Real, and the Countess Lascelles (aka Lascie) de Premio Real. Lascie de Premio Real is quoted as having said that “Xolos are a work of art.” The group took several trips to remote Mexican villages in the Rio Balsas region, in the southern state of Guerrero, between 1954 and 1956 and found a number of Xoloitzcuintlis. Following their specimen-gathering trips, Norman Wright and others launched a serious breeding program with ten Xolos, which garnered enough interest to be profiled in popular magazines such as Life, Time, Dog World, The Kennel Review, and Tail-Wagger.

 

Wright’s wife Hilary Harmar brought a pair of Xolos to England in 1957, where they were first quarantined in the London Zoo, then exhibited at shows, including Crufts. Due to ongoing difficulties getting the dogs out of Mexico to Britain (the Mexican Kennel Club banned the exportation of Xolos in the 1950s because of their rarity) and the quarantine restrictions, the breed did not get established. Today, pet passports have allowed more Xolos to be imported to England and the breed is getting close to full recognition by the Kennel Club of the U.K. Britain now has over forty Xolos with several litters currently planned.

 

In May 1956 Xoloitzcuintlis received official recognition from the FCM, the Mexican Kennel Club. In May 2007 the World Dog Show was held in Mexico City where Xolos competed against 5,000 dogs and 300 different breeds.  A standard male Xolo named Tizoc finished third in Best in Show. Today the Xoloitzcuintli is the symbol of Club Tijuana, a Mexican professional football club and the National Dog of Mexico.

 

The Xoloitzcuintli Club of America (XCA), the official parent club for the breed, was formed October 26, 1986, to re-establish Xolos in the AKC and to foster large scale breeding programs designed to promote quality and offer direction to breeders.

 

Donna Cawley, whose mother originally imported several Xolos in the 1980s, is now striving to establish the breed in the UK. Donna imported her first intermediate Xolos from the U.S. in 2003, and in 2007 the breed became eligible for competition in UK shows for the first time in nearly half a decade. Tzapa, Donnas’ hairless male, was shown eight times during 2007 and won the title of Best Import at six of those eight shows. He earned the title of “Top Import Register-Mexican Hairless” for that year. Unfortunately only being eligible for Import Register classes is restricting, and such classes are not scheduled at many shows.

 

On January 1, 2007 the AKC allowed Xoloitzcuintli back to compete in Companion Events. In January 1, 2009, the Xolo was approved to compete in Miscellaneous Class, an interim group prior to a breed’s full admittance. The Xolo was fully reinstated into the AKC January 1, 2011, and became eligible for competition in the Non-Sporting Group. Only a few months later, on August 7th, 2011, a Xoloitzcuintli named Bayshore Georgio Armani made history when he won Best in Show. The proud people behind that victory are breeder/owner J. Frank Bayless and owners Lynda Hylton and Traci Johnson.

 

Even though there is a worldwide renewed interest in the Xoloitzcuintle, the future of this wonderful breed is not secure. The gene pool is small, with only an estimated 4000 Xolos in existence.

 

Appearance: 

 

Xolos can be one of three sizes: toy, miniature, or standard (in Mexico the sizing for Xolos is miniature, intermediate, and standard). Height is measured from the ground to the highest point of the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades). According to the AKC standard the height of toy Xolos must be at least 10 inches and may be up to and including 14 inches. The miniature Xolos can range from over 14 inches up to (and including) 18 inches. The standard Xolo measures over 18 inches tall and may stand as tall as 23 inches.  Although no weight standard is given as a general rule they will fall into the following ranges.

 

  • Standard Xoloitzcuintli, weight 25 to 40 pounds (11 to 18 kg).
  • Minature Xoloitzcuintli, weight 15 to 30 pounds (6.8 to 14 kg). Referred to as the ‘Intermediate’ in Mexico.
  • Toy Xoloitzcuintli, weight 5 to 15 pounds (2.3 to 6.8 kg). Referred to as the ‘Miniature’ in Mexico. 

 

Xoloitzcuintlis come in two varieties: hairless and coated. Hairless Xolos actually can have hair; they may have a small amount of short hair but only on the top of the head, feet, and tip (last third) of the tail. Or it may have none at all. In which case, the skin should be tough, protective, smooth, and close-fitting. Head wrinkles are acceptable but loose or wrinkled skin on the dog’s body is not. Neither the hairless or coated varieties should have long, wavy, or wiry hair. The coated Xolo should have a Doberman-like coat, one that is short, sleek, and clean. The Xoloitzcuenti changes color as it matures. Both varieties should have a dark, uniform color which may range from black, slate, red, liver, or bronze. White spots and markings are permitted. Hairless and coated Xolos differ in regard to dentition. The hairless variety may or may not have premolars; a complete set of incisors is preferable, but not required. However for the coated Xolos, complete dentition is a must.

 

The skull of both varieties of Xoloitzcuintlis is broad and the nose is black or skin colored; the muzzle is longer than the skull and the Xolo’s jaw is strong and defined. When alert, their ears are erect and their foreheads exhibit wrinkles, giving them a pensive appearance. The neck is long and slightly arched. Xolos have almond-shaped eyes that range from yellow to black; darker is preferred, but light colors are acceptable. They have large upright ears with a thin, delicate texture, tapering to a rounded tip. Their ears are set high on the head with no ear fringe. Cropping of the ears is prohibited. By one year of age a Xolo’s ears should be erect.

 

The body on all three sizes should be lean with sleek, flat muscles, and a spacious ribcage. The outline of the body is rectangular, longer from the point of shoulder blade to the end of the rump in a 9/10 ratio to the height. The tail should not be short or curled, rather long and fine and set low, reaching to the dog’s hock. Xolo feet are webbed with well-arched toes. Toenails should match dog’s coloring—dark on dark dogs, light on light ones.

 

Temperament: 

 

Xoloizcuintlis make great companions and have been used as such as far back as the breed can be traced. Xolos are also used as therapy and service dogs. They are known for being calm, tranquil, aloof, and attentive. In addition, Xolos are highly intelligent, loyal, clean, adaptable, and alert.

 

The myth that they protect their household from evil spirits and intruders isn’t all superstition. Xolos are great guard dogs, highly alert to possible intruders. Since Xolos are not given to yappy barking or excitable behavior--rather signaling the presence of a stranger more subtly, with erect ears, furrowed brow, and possibly a bark or two—it is wise to pay attention when your Xolo attempts to alert you.

 

Xolos are faithful and affectionate to their families and get along well with other animals and children, however they are naturally protective and aloof with strangers. The Xoloitzcuintli does require socialization with pets, children, and guests in your home. All family members need to participate in raising, training, rearing, and feeding so that the dog bonds with all members, otherwise they tend to bond only with the one who trains them and cares for them on a daily basis.

 

Their loyalty to their owners is strong. Even though they are capable of escaping anything and climbing everything, they would do so only to get to their owner. Not prone to run off, Xolos are content to stay close to and accompany their masters wherever, happy to adapt to your environment in order to be near you. The desire to be a part of every aspect of their owners life and to be near them has led to the Xolo being known as a 'Velcro Dog'. So when it is feasible and safe, bring your pet along when you leave home.

 

Plan to make your Xolo puppy an integral part of your household with lots of exercise, training, and affection. They are quick learners and easy to house train, but require strong leadership. Don’t treat your Xolo like a human or it will think it is in charge, causing behavior problems. Puppies especially need plenty of toys and activities to stay happy and well-behaved. During your dog’s first year of life, if you don’t have enough time to spend with your puppy, hire someone who does or have an older Xolo with your dog. They respond well to crate training, even preferring their own space to sleep in a few hours a day--or at night if they don’t sleep with you, as most do. Because they are primitive breeds they have great survival skills and won’t tolerate an unstable or abusive environment.

 

Xolos are active dogs and do best with an active family or individual. Even though they mature into easy going, calm, quiet dogs, they still need plenty of exercise and activity (but less than working or terrier breeds). Your Xoloitzcuintli needs a daily walk; dogs that do not get walked every day are likely to exhibit behavior problems. When the weather is good (not too hot or too cold), let your Xolo enjoy basking in the sunshine.

 

Xoloitzcuintlis don’t do well in kennels or as outdoor pets because of their need to be part of the family. Both varieties are hypoallergenic and considered great for allergy and asthma sufferers. They love vegetables but, contrary to a common misconception, they are not vegetarians. Xolos live an average of fifteen to twenty years.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

Both varieties of Xolos require little in the way of grooming. The coated Xolo, like most breeds, doesn’t need much more than regular bathing and brushing. Your Xolo will shed very little if you brush his or her coat once a week or more. Hairless and coated Xolos should have their teeth brushed and toenails clipped once a week.

 

Your hairless Xolo’s skin requires a certain amount of care, but most skin issues come from either poor breeding, neglect, or over-doing the baths and lotion (too much of either robs the skin of protective oils). Hairless Xoloitzcuentlis with white spots or marks are more susceptible to burning than the darker skinned, but regardless of color, they need sunscreen in sunny weather the same as humans. Bathe and apply lotion to your hairless Xolo once or twice a month, or as needed. Between regular baths you can spruce up your dog with a warm water rinse, using a wash cloth and warm water for the face and feet. For times when you want to take your dog out, looking his or her best, apply almond oil to the skin to make it shiny and fragrant.

 

Health Issues: 

 

Both varieties of Xolos require little in the way of grooming. The coated Xolo, like most breeds, doesn’t need much more than regular bathing and brushing. Your Xolo will shed very little if you brush his or her coat once a week or more. Hairless and coated Xolos should have their teeth brushed and toenails clipped once a week.

 

Your hairless Xolo’s skin requires a certain amount of care, but most skin issues come from either poor breeding, neglect, or over-doing the baths and lotion (too much of either robs the skin of protective oils). Hairless Xoloitzcuentlis with white spots or marks are more susceptible to burning than the darker skinned, but regardless of color, they need sunscreen in sunny weather the same as humans. Bathe and apply lotion to your hairless Xolo once or twice a month, or as needed. Between regular baths you can spruce up your dog with a warm water rinse, using a wash cloth and warm water for the face and feet. For times when you want to take your dog out, looking his or her best, apply almond oil to the skin to make it shiny and fragrant.

 

In this breed the gene that produces the absence of hair is dominant. Nevertheless, some puppies are; however, born with a coat. Since the breed is typically considered to be hairless and since hairless specimens are the only ones allowed to compete in conformation contests it is has been not at all uncommon to breed a hairless to a hairless in order to produce the fewest number of coated puppies. However there is a downside to this practice, as crossing a hairless to a hairless fosters the appearance of a fatal gene affecting 25% of homozygous puppies. Thus for the purpose of genetic diversity, well constructed coated Xoloitzcuintles should be an integral part of any breeding program. If you are seeking to own this rare and exotic breed, perform your due diligence and closely examine the breeding practices and stock of the breeder seller to ensure that they are encouraging  genetic diversity by introducing coated dogs in their lines.

 

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