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Recently, I wrote an article for the blog about dog breeds that had gone extinct, and doing that research made me a little bit morose for a while. It’s sad to think that there are some dog breeds we will never get to meet, even if we do have their modern-day descendants around to give us the equivalent relationship. So, to cheer myself up, I went looking through my books to find out about dog breeds that have been around since the beginning of canine history. I wanted to find out if there were any breeds that have stood the test of time.
Maybe I was looking for undeniable proof that my favorite breed, the beautiful Boxer, would still be alive and kicking hundreds of years from now. Maybe I was just being silly. But what I found was that I’ve actually already written about these in Pariah Dogs! These are the world’s oldest dog breeds that are still around today, like the Basenji. Many of those dogs are not domesticated, like the Australian Dingo, but some are, and some are even AKC recognized. One of the oldest dog breeds in the world that has that distinction is called the Xoloitzcuintli.
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Like many dogs from ancient civilizations, the Mexican Hairless Dog was originally thought to have magic powers. The dog was thought to be a helper to the Aztec god of the dead, helping guide souls to the underworld, and were also believed to have healing powers. Ancient people believed that having the dog around could heal toothaches, insomnia, asthma, arthritis, and that they also warded off evil spirits. Quite a lot of power for such a little dog! You can see depictions of this dog in pottery from ancient Aztec eras, and in written correspondence between Spanish conquistadors and royalty back in Spain during the Columbian era.
The dog went on to be very popular as a sort of “so ugly it’s cute” favorite among artists in the 1930s and 40s. Frido Kahlo and Deigo Rivera were known for putting Mexican Hairless Dogs in their paintings. For a few years after this time period, the breed dropped in number so low that it was actually taken out of the AKC registry. But just five years ago, the numbers had climbed back up, so the dog was reintroduced to the registry. Although this dog ranks at nearly the very bottom of the popularity list, it is definitely still an officially recognized breed, which makes it one of the oldest, if not the oldest, single breed in existence today.
The Mexican Hairless dog can be summed up by the word “adaptable” in pretty much all aspects of its looks and personality. They tend to be small, thin dogs, not unlike a Chihuahua in shape and stature, but they can range up towards mid-size stature as well. To give you an idea, the dog can be anywhere from 10 to 23 inches tall, and can range from nine pounds up to 31 pounds. They are always thin in appearance, somewhat like a Whippet, but have muscular bodies and necks, rather than dainty, sleek racing bodies. They have bat-like ears that stand up, and a very thin tail.
Despite being called the Mexican Hairless Dog, they actually come in two variations – one with hair, and one without. The coated variation has a flat, short coat that feels very smooth and silky. The hairless variety will look something like a Chinese Crested, with skin that has some wrinkles and a few patches of hair here or there. Their hair can be nearly any color at all, but their skin is typically black, dark grey, tan, brindle, or dark brown. They can be spotted as well. One interesting thing about the Mexican Hairless Dog is that they are known for having yellow eyes.
Once again, the word “adaptable” pretty much sums up this dog. Other words used to describe the Mexican Hairless Dog include calm, attentive, loyal, and alert. When not performing magical duties, they were bred to be watchdogs, and they still have a strong urge to watch over their family. They’ll tend to be very wary of strangers, and they’ll want to stick close to their person in order to guard them.
That being said, these dogs are very trainable, and while you can’t describe them as “laid back” exactly, they do maintain a very calm demeanor most of the time. Think of them as elite guardians, like James Bond – they are always watching and ready to spring into action, but they’ll never appear anything less than cool as a cucumber on the outside.
With their person, however, the Mexican Hairless Dog will be very affectionate. They like to snuggle and sleep in your lap. They tend to be a “one-person dog”, even in a family. They’ll be fond of all the members of the family, but they will choose one person in particular to bond with. Mexican Hairless Dogs are known for developing a bit of separation anxiety when not with this chosen person, but are otherwise smart and easy to teach. They aren’t hyper by any means, and only need a moderate amount of exercise. Simply because of their more calm natures, and because they like to be on guard when awake, Mexican Hairless Dogs are less likely to enjoy dog toys, and are more likely to enjoy being taken with you as often as you can. Invest in a quality leash that you enjoy carrying, and get used to the idea of your Mexican Hairless Dog accompanying you everywhere – that’s the best way to bond with this dog.
Here’s an interesting bit of canine science that explains why dog breeding is such a tricky business. Most dog breeds that we have today were selectively groomed, through decades of breeding, for the qualities that they have. For example, a modern Greyhound was created by breeding only the best racers with the sleekest bodies for decades, and weeding out any Greyhounds that weren’t the epitome of the breed. That selective breeding, however, is what often leads to certain breeds being susceptible to certain diseases. As one dog is a great example of a breed, he or she will be used over and over to produce puppies with identical qualities – but if that one dog also has a problem with deafness, for example, that trait also gets passed down. Breeders over the years have prioritized certain traits over weeding out certain diseases and illnesses.
But the Mexican Hairless Dog was never selectively bred in this fashion. The breed is recognized more because of its status as an ancient breed, rather than because breeders have tweaked evolution to create the breed. So, because this breed is just a product of simple evolution, they don’t tend to have any one particular disease or illness that they are more prone to than others.
Hairless dogs in general can have skin problems, such as acne, and there is a genetic link between hairlessness and dental issues in canines. For some reason, it’s common for hairless dogs like this one and the Chinese Crested to be missing teeth. But otherwise, this breed is generally very healthy, and will live between 12 and 14 years.
When it comes to caring for this breed, dog owners who don’t want a ton of responsibility, or who can’t provide for a high-maintenance dog, are in luck. This breed needs very little in the way of care besides affection. If your Mexican Hairless Dog has a coat, you’ll want to use a very soft brush to brush it once a week. If he is hairless, he’ll just need a quick wipe down with a damp cloth to get rid of dust or dirt occasionally. That also helps keep acne down. If you live in a very dry climate, you’ll want to use a lanolin-free moisturizer on him as needed, when you start to see ashy or dry spots.
Otherwise, the breed just needs a good brushing of the teeth once per week, like all breeds, and to have his nails trimmed as needed. When it comes to exercise, the dog needs only a bit of activity – just a half-hour walk every day would be enough to meet this breed’s needs.
Feed this dog a high quality dry kibble, and follow your vet’s advice on serving amounts. That’s truly all it takes to keep a Mexican Hairless Dog in good health.
Mexican Hairless Dogs tend to be very sensible when it comes to mixing with kids and other pets. They may not be the most patient breed ever with very small children who pull or poke, but they are more likely to just walk away than to lash out. Remember that they do tend to latch on to one person in the family, so while they’ll be friendly with your kids, they may not be best buds.
With cats, other dogs, and other small pets, Mexican Hairless Dogs tend to be amicable if not overly friendly. These dogs were never used for hunting or pest catching, so they don’t have a super high prey drive that would make them dangerous to small pets. They are more likely to simply tolerate the presence of other animals, though, rather than to become very friendly.
Because this breed is so rare, you will more than likely have to search out a reputable breeder online, and be willing to travel to wherever the nearest breeder is. That could be quite a way, even out of state, just because the breed isn’t very popular. If you do want to give the Mexican Hairless Dog a try, I would highly recommend looking for a breeder through the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America, which is the breed-specific organization for enthusiasts. This organization is single-handedly responsible for bringing the Xolo back into the AKC after aggressive breeding programs, so they are most likely to have solid, vetted breeders listed.
Be sure that you are able to meet the parents of the puppy, so that you can see for yourself that they don’t have any issues with their skin, teeth, or temperament. As always, be ready to do some research to ensure that the breeder is reputable. With a dog breed as rare as this one, it can be even harder to know who to trust, so take your time with questions and interviews. Don’t adopt from a breeder of a very rare breed without references!
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The Mexican Hairless Dog is an exotic dog that requires the most minimal care that I’ve seen in a long time. They are loyal, great watch dogs, calm, and affectionate – all things that make them very good dogs to have around. They may be a little bit strange in appearance, and they might be just a little bit clingy if you are their chosen person, but otherwise, this breed has everything going for it.
If you are the type of person who would love a dog that just wants to chill out with you all the time, you don’t mind taking your dog with you often, and you don’t want to deal with a lot of grooming or exercise needs, then the Mexican Hairless Dog would make a very interesting and clever dog to have. If you’re able to give a dog plenty of time with you, and you’re willing to do the work to find a reputable breeder for a rare breed, you’d make a great owner for this ancient dog.