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What is a Xoloitzcuintli?The Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, is the Mexican Hairless Dog. The Xolo comes in toy, miniature, and standard sizes. The Xolo also comes coated (with hair) and all three sizes, coated and hairless, can be born in a single litter. A genetic study was done to determine the origin of the Xoloitzcuintli. The study didn’t find a close genetic relation between the Xoloitzcuintli and the Chinese Crested, another hairless breed that is cited by the American Kennel Club as an ancestor to the Xolo. The study did show that the Xolo did show that the Xoloitzcuintli appears to have been a result of a mixture of several Old World dog breeds, that then had a spontaneous genetic mutation for hairlessness.
Archaeological evidence has been found in the tombs of the Colima, Mayan, Toltec, Zapotec, and Aztec Indians dating the breed to over 3500 years ago. Long regarded as guardians and protectors, the indigenous peoples believed that the Xolo would safeguard the home from evil spirits as well as intruders. In ancient times the Xolos were often sacrificed and then buried with their owners to act as guide to the soul on its journey to the underworld. These dogs were considered a great delicacy, and were consumed for sacrificial ceremonies–including marriages and funerals. Most likely, early forerunners of the Xolo originated as spontaneous hairless mutations of indigenous American dogs. Hairlessness may have offered a survival advantage in tropical regions. Indigenous peoples of Mexico had Xolo dogs as home and hunting companions, and today they are still very popular companion dogs. They are also the national dog of Mexico. Their value in ancient native cultures is evidenced by their frequent appearance in art and artifacts.
Xoloitzcuintlis were considered sacred by the Aztecs, Toltecs, and Maya. According to Aztec mythology, the god Xolotl made the Xoloitzcuintli from a piece of the Bone of Life, from which all mankind was made. Xolotl gave the dog to Mankind, with the instruction to guard this companion with his life, and in exchange the Xolo would guide Man through the dangers the world of Death, known as Mictlan. They also believed the Xoloitzcuintli had sepcial, healing qualities. The Aztecs also raised the dogs for meat; sixteenth-century Spanish accounts tell of large numbers of dogs being served at banquets. The feasts of Aztec Merchant could serve as many as have 80–100 turkeys, and 20–40 dogs.
Despite the Xoloitzcuintli’s long history in Mexico, the breed did not receive any official recognition in it’s homeland until the 1950s. According to breed historian Norman Pelham Wright, author of The Enigma of the Xoloitzcuintli, Xolos began to turn up at Mexican dog shows in the late 1940s. Although they were recognized as an indigenous breed, interest in them was minimal, because there was no standards by which to judge them. But there was a realization that the Xolo would become extinct if immediate action were not taken to save the breed. This led to the widely publicized Xolo Expedition of 1954. Wright, and a team of Mexican and British dog authorities, set off to discover if any purebred Xoloitzcuintlis still remained in the remote regions of Mexico. Ten structurally strong Xolos were found, and these dogs formed the foundation of Mexico’s breeding program. A committee, headed by Wright, created the first official standard for the breed, and on May 1, 1956, the Xoloitzcuintli was recognized as an official breed in Mexico. The Xoloitzcuintli Club of America (XCA) was founded in 1986, to regain AKC recognition for the breed. On May 13, 2008, the AKC admitted the breed to its Miscellaneous Class.
The Xolo ranges in size from 10 to 50 lbs. With a sleek body, long neck, almond-shaped eyes, and large bat-like ears, the Xolo is most recongnizable for it’s trait of hairlessness. The dominant hairless trait originated in this breed as a spontaneous mutation thousands of years ago. The recessive expression of the trait will produce a coated dog, which is genetically inseparable from the hairless, as the homozygous appearance of the hairless mutation is fatal to the unborn pup. Most litters have both hairless and coated puppies. The coated variety is covered with a short, dense, flat coat, and represents the original dog, prior to the spontaneous hairless mutation. The hairless variety is hairless on the body, with many dogs having hairs on the top of the head, the toes, and the tip of the tail. Most hairless dogs are a blackish, bluish-gray color, although white markings are common, and there are dogs with a rosy brown colored skin. The genes responsible for the Xolo’s hairlessness also affects the dog’s teeth; hairless Xolos typically have an incomplete set of teeth, while the coated dogs have complete dentition. The Xolo’s appearance conveys an impression of agility, strength and elegance. The Xolo’s body proportions are rectangular, slightly longer in total body length than the height, measured at the highest point of the shoulders.
The Xoloitzcuintli has a “primitive” temperament; very intelligent, sensitive, inquisitive, and high energy, with strong hunting and social instincts. The breed’s temperament was not historically artificially manipulated by selective breeding. This lack of selective breeding has also ensured a hardy physical nature, and vigorous health, in both coated and uncoated Xolos. The Xolo, having been developed by natural selection for thousands of years, and is generally not as prone to health problems like other breeds, which were more modified by human breeding. Xolos come from tropical climates, and are not suited for outdoor life in colder northern climates; they should be considered an indoor dog breed. They need simple bathing and skin care, or acne can result. Most skin problems come from poor breeding, neglect, or too bathing and lotion, which strips the natural protection, and clogs the pores.
Though physically grown at one year, many dog breeds, including Xoloitzcuintlis, are not ’emotionally mature’ until around two years. Adult Xolos are often noted for their calm demeanor, but puppies can be extremely energetic, noisy, and very mouthy, until they reach maturity, after which they tend to settle down and become more calm. Xolos need calm, consistent, and loving obedience training and regular socialization during their growing years. A well raised Xolo bonds strongly with their humans, and are highly devoted to their families, while frequently choosing one specific family member as favorite.
Anyone who wants a Xolo should expect to spend time educating themselves in positive dog training techniques, and, should have prior experience with highly active and intelligent dog breeds. A spacious, well fenced, and safe physical yard is desirable for the Xolo. Inadequately supervised Xolos can become escape artists, easily climbing and jumping fences, to chase cats, rabbits and other perceived prey. Xolos also possess strong guard dog traits, and will not back down from a fight. Daily walks are ideal for most small sized Xolos, but more stimulating physical and mental exercise is advised for larger and more active Xolos. If you are a runner or hiker, this may be the dog for you. Behavioral issues in Xolos are usually the result of the dog receiving inadequate or inconsistent supervision, as well as inadequate exercise and mental stimulation. The Xolo is a social dog that should not, in most cases, be an “only dog”, and it doesn’t do well when kept as an outside only dog. This dog need to be part of the family, receiving regular socialization and interaction with its humans, and other dogs, whether at home or as regular dog park playmates.