Close X
Breed Profiles
Share this image

Get to Know the American Hairless Terrier: Dare to Go Bare — Or Not!

Created in the 1970s, the American Hairless Terrier has both bald and coated members of the breed.

Caroline Coile  |  Feb 29th 2016


One of the American Kennel Club’s newest additions to its family is the American Hairless Terrier, or AHT. Unlike many breeds with an ancient past, the AHT is a modern breed, or more accurately, a modern incarnation of a slightly less modern breed, the Rat Terrier.

(Photo by Kathy Clark Photography)

American Hairless Terrier courtesy Ryan Pingel/Kathy Clark Photography.

More interesting things about the American Hairless Terrier

  • In 1972, a hairless, pink-skinned puppy was born to two Rat Terriers. The same parents had previously whelped another hairless puppy, who did not live to adulthood. The breeders gave the new puppy to their friends, Edwin and Willie Scott of Louisiana. The Scotts named her Josephine, and she would go on to be known as the foundation of the American Hairless Terrier.
  • The Scotts became enamored with Josephine and hoped to breed more like her. Breedings to her sire and son produced several hairless puppies (amongst coated littermates). A decade later they had a houseful of hairless and coated dogs, and they named their kennel “Trout Creek.”
  • Most hairless breeds are the result of a lethal dominant gene in which one copy causes hairlessness and two copies cause the fetus to die in utero. The gene allows long hair on the head, tail, and lower legs, and causes crooked and missing teeth. This is not the gene that causes hairlessness in the American Hairless. In this breed, hairlessness is causes by two recessive genes, so each parent must be a carrier and a puppy must receive one such gene from both of them to be hairless. In addition, it does not have lethal effects in utero and does not affect dentition. The hair is totally missing, except for possible eyebrows and whiskers.
American Hairless Terrier courtesy Ryan Pingel/Kathy Clark Photography.

American Hairless Terrier courtesy Ryan Pingel/Kathy Clark Photography.

  • As the first few generations of Hairless Terriers were very inbred, outcrosses to Rat Terriers were incorporated to maintain genetic diversity and health. These always produced coated offspring, as the Rat Terrier does not carry the recessive gene.
  • The United Kennel Club (UKC) fully recognized the Rat Terrier in 1999 and included the hairless ones along with them as the same breed. The UKC recognized the AHT as its own breed in 2004.
  • The AKC recognized the American Hairless Terrier as a full member of the Terrier group in 2016.
  • Both hairless and coated AHTs compete against one another in the show ring.
  • The tail of the coated AHT may or may not be docked, according to both the UKC and AKC standards, but the tail of the hairless AHT is never docked.
American Hairless Terrier courtesy Ryan Pingel/Kathy Clark Photography.

American Hairless Terrier courtesy Ryan Pingel/Kathy Clark Photography.

  • Some AHTs are born with natural bob tails. If they are coated they may be shown, but if they are hairless they are disqualified from the show ring.
  • AHTs can come in any color or pattern except albino or merle.
  • People with allergies seem to be more likely to have no reactions to AHT compared to other breeds. It’s said that the dog’s oil traps its dander next to the skin instead of allowing it to float in the air.
  • AHTs are typically terrier in temperament, but the hairless ones don’t have the protection to be hunters. They are clever and active.
  • No celebrities are known to own AHTs — yet.

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

Read recent breed profiles:

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier