Rare Mexican hairless dog Xoloitzcuintli

The ancient Mexican hairless dog has been a human companion-hunter in Central and South America for some 3,000 years. These Mexican hairless dogs have also been known as Xoloitzcuintli, which means "God of Dogs".

Rare Mexican hairless dog Xoloitzcuintli
Rare Mexican hairless dog Xoloitzcuintli. Image by Anders Mejlvang on Pixabay

Ancient Mexican hairless dog has been a human companion - hunter in Central and South America for about 3,000 years. These Mexican hairless dogs have also been known as Xoloitzcuintli, meaning "God of Dogs," and these dogs were believed to have special, god-given healing abilities. They were also used as gifts to the gods, sacrificed, and eaten.

The Mexican Hairless Dog is a hairless dog with delicate skin that is slightly longer than its height. Skin is possible in black, gray, brown, liver color, bronze color, and blonde pigmentation. There are 3 sizes available for the variety. The height of a fully grown miniature Mexican hairless dog at the withers is 25-35 cm (9.8-13.7 inches), the average - from 36 to 45 cm (14.1-17.7 inches), and the standard - from 46 to 60 cm (18.1-23.6 inches).


In pre-Hispanic times, dogs occupied a prominent place in the lives of the ancient inhabitants; not only were they a companion animal present in everyday life and with which they formed close relationships and a coexistence similar to that which we maintain today with this species, but also said the animal was an important figure in the cosmogony of some Mesoamerican peoples.

There were different types of native dogs in the Nahua peoples, but among them, the presence of the Xoloitzcuintli, also called "bald dogs", which were characterized by their soft skin with little hair, their pointed muzzle, their big ears, and their high body temperature.

One of the most important faculties that was attributed to this type of dog was the ability to take the souls to the underworld; according to the researcher Patrick Johansson, it was a psychopomp dog, because they guide the dead towards their final destination, this was the reason why it was a substantial part of the mortuary rituals of the Nahua people.

After death, a complex and extensive ritual was set in motion which, among many other actions, included the sacrifice of a dog. Generally, the dog that had accompanied the deceased during his existence was sacrificed, as it was believed that the animal guided its master through the difficult paths of the underworld, particularly helping him to cross rivers; likewise, it was believed that dogs with red fur were the only ones that could do this task.

Contrary to the widespread belief that dogs were a common food among the inhabitants, these animals were a sacred food that was consumed in specific ceremonies in which dogs were generally sacrificed by means of the extraction of the heart.

According to the legend of Xolotl, if he is black, he cannot lead the souls to the other side of the river, since his color indicates that he has already sunk in the river and guided enough souls to their destination. In the same way, if the Xolo is white or very light, even it could not cross the river, since this means it is very young and still could not reach maturity to achieve it. Only when they are a marbled gray, (which is the usual color for them) will you be able to perform this important task.

The arrival of the conquistadors, the abolition of indigenous customs and traditions, the excessive consumption of these dogs, and perhaps a deliberate effort to wipe them out nearly drove them to extinction. However, the breed recovered centuries later thanks to important personalities who gave them their support and protection, among them Frida Kahlo (she had a female called "Güera Chabela"), Diego Rivera, Dolores Olmedo, Rufino Tamayo, Raúl Anguiano, and Guillermo González Camarena, all of whom took on the task of preserving and promoting the species and fostering its bond with the national culture, as it was established in the murals of Palacio Nacional and the Ministry of Public Education.

The disease

Canine ectodermal dysplasia is a disorder due to the semi-dominant autosomal mutation of chromosome 17, which alters the ectodermal development of hair and teeth through the FOX I3 protein (forkhead box) and causes death in utero of homozygous puppies.

Clinical manifestations of the disease include xerosis, allergies, ectoparasite infestation, insect bites, bacterial infections, itching, vulgar warts, lichenification, acne, burns, spots, and skin cancer, so special care with emollients and photoprotection must be provided.

Care and types of Xoloitzcuintli dog breeds

The Mexican Hairless Dog is a calm, contented dog that vigilantly monitors the surroundings. Against strangers - wary, but towards family members, it is a loving and friendly pet. The main health problems of Mexican hairless dogs are related to their skin. Because these dogs do not have hair, they are particularly susceptible to skin burns. Dental problems are also quite common.

Miniature Mexican hairless dogs require about half an hour of physical activity a day, while medium and standard-naked dogs need about an hour of physical activity a day. Before taking it outside, make sure that the dog is protected from the weather (both hot and cold).

The Miniature Mexican Hairless Dog is a small dog with a fast metabolism, which means that it also consumes energy quickly, while its small stomach means that it needs to be fed in smaller portions and more often. Feed for small dogs is specially designed to contain the right amount of essential nutrients and to make croquettes suitable for small mouths. It also promotes chewing and improves digestion.

All important groups of nutrients must be properly balanced in the diet of medium and standard dogs, and fresh water must be provided at all times. It is important to monitor physique indicators to ensure that the dog is in perfect condition at all times and to remember to feed it at least twice a day and in accordance with the dietary guidelines.

The Mexican Hairless Dog may have small tufts of hair, but it is basically hairless (naked), and therefore hair care is not relevant. However, because the dog does not have protective skin, the skin may become dry. The skin can be moisturized by lightly lubricating it with baby oil. To prevent sunburn, a suitable sunscreen can be used and should be protected from direct sunlight in warm weather. These dogs also need protection from the cold and must wear a coat when walking in the winter months.

Although it is traditionally believed that many dogs treat children well (such as hunting dogs), all dogs and children need to be taught to meet and respect each other to stay together safely. But even then, dogs and young children should never be left unattended, and adults should keep an eye on their interactions.

Is this the right dog breed for you?

A dog is suitable for experienced owners.

Intermediate-level training is required.

Enjoys peaceful walks.

Enjoys an hour-long walk a day.

Medium-sized dog.

Almost does not sag.

Care is required once a week.

Hypoallergenic variety.

Silent dog.

Watchdog. Barking and alert.

It may need the training to live with other pets.

Training may be needed to live with children.

Mexican hairless dog is experiencing a new renaissance

These dogs have appeared in publications such as the fashion pages of The New York Times, were declared Mexico City's Heritage and Icon in 2016, and are the favorite breed of celebrities such as Ruben Albarran, singer of the famous band Café Tacvba. "They have this part of Mexican culture that I love, so for all the pre-Hispanic significance I already like them a lot," Albarrán told AFP. A Mexican hairless dog had a leading role in the film "Coco" (2017), in which Disney pays homage to Mexican culture, and which won the Oscar for the best animation film.

"The Xolos are an alternative for people looking for Mexican elements. For the hectic pace of Mexico City, a bald dog is an excellent pet, capable of living in apartments and easy to care for," said Raul Valadez, of the Paleozoology Laboratory of the UNAM's Institute of Anthropological Research.

The Xoloitzcuintli has great cultural and biological importance for Mexico, so much so, that a team of the Mexican soccer league bears its name, and numerous breeders in Mexico and other countries sell copies of the breed at very high prices.

Xoloitzcuintli: the new official mascot of the Mexico City

As a result of a proposal in the Senate promoted by Moreno legislators Ciltlalli Hernández, Jesusa Rodríguez and Martí Batres, the Mexican hairless dog Xoloitzcuintli could become Mexico City's new mascot. In his column published in the newspaper El Universal, Martí Batres argued that as a symbol of resistance against the effects of the colonization of Mexico's native peoples, the Xoloitzcuintli deserves a prominent place in the Mexican capital that was once Tenochtitlán, the political and religious center of Mesoamerica before and after the Spanish conquest.

Codex Telleriano-Remensis
Codex Telleriano-Remensis. Image: Wikimedia Commons

After the conquest and colony process, the festivities and rituals of the Nahua world suffered some transformations as a result of the assimilation of some aspects of Spanish culture. This is how the historian of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Sergio Angel Velazquez, explained it to Infobae Mexico: "when the arrival of the Spanish burst in with their own cultural baggage and mixed with that of the indigenous people. Cultural tradition always implies transformation".

One of the actions taken by the Spanish ecclesiastical authorities to facilitate the evangelization of the indigenous peoples was to try to separate the Xoloitzcuintli from the spiritual burden it was assigned. As a consequence of this, the population of this animal began to decrease, which led it to take refuge in Oaxaca and Guerrero, territories more inaccessible to the colonizers and still under the control of its original inhabitants.

After the Mexican Revolution, the image of this ancient creature was taken up again by muralists like Diego Rivera, incorporating it into a pictorial movement that sought to exacerbate prehispanic symbols as part of a new idea of nationalism. Also, in a famous way, Frida Khalo became the owner of several specimens of the Mexican hairless dog. At the same time, Maria de los Dolores Olmedo, who was a friend and patron of the Mexican painter, adopted a couple of these millenary animals into her home, whose offspring can be visited today at the current Dolores Olmedo Museum, located in the town hall of Xochimilco.

Other hairless dog breeds

Peruvian hairless dog

The hairless dog of Peru was raised in its origins to be eaten. It was the same race as the Inca dog but with different skin colors. With time it went from being a food to be the favorite pet of the nobility.

American hairless terrier

The American hairless terrier is a small breed originally from the United States. It is relatively new, given that the first litters appear in the 70s. When descending from the Terrier buzzards, the American Terrier is a lively, dynamic, and playful dog that gets along very well with children. He is also very intelligent and familiar.

Chinese crested dog

The Chinese crested dog is also known as crested or puff. The hairless Chinese crested dog is not totally free of hair. We can see tufts on his head and legs. However, the skin of his body is soft and thin, similar to that of a human being.

Argentine Pila dog

The Argentine hairless dog, also called Pila dog, is very similar to the Mexican dog so it is suspected that it can be a direct descendant of it, bred for centuries in the American continent. The Argentine hairless dog is very sociable and intelligent, able to learn any trick with just a few training exercises.

Hairless Chihuahua

Its origins are quite recent, being the result of the crossing of a Chihuahua with hair with a breed of hair without a dog, crossing its offspring again and again until obtaining what we know today as the hairless Chihuahua.