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Get to Know the Xoloitzcuintli: The Mexican Hairless

He's the only breed to get kicked out of the AKC -- but you can't keep a good dog down!

dogedit  |  Mar 28th 2016

He’s the largest hairless dog around, but if you want something smaller, a type is also among the smallest. He can have hair — or not. He can be called by his old English name, the Mexican Hairless, or his ancient and also modern name, Xoloitzcuintli.


More interesting things about the Xoloitzcuintli

  • The name Xoloitzcuintli is pronounced “show-low-eet-SQUINT-lee.” It combines “Xolotl” (after the Aztec god) with “itzcuintle” (Aztec for “dog). You can call them Xolos (show-lows) for short!
  • Xolotl, the Aztec god of lightning and death, was said to have made these dogs from the “bone of life,” giving them healing powers. They safeguarded against spirits and intruders, healed people, and were sacrificed and even eaten on special occasions.
  • Clay statues of dogs resembling today’s Xoloitzcuintli were interred in Mayan, Colima, and Aztec burial sites dating back 3,000 years. The dogs were believed to guide their master’s souls through the underworld.
  • The dogs were found throughout Mexico and parts of Central and South America.
  • Hairless dogs were first described by Columbus in his 1492 journal.
  • After the Spanish Conquest, Xolos were almost lost, surviving mostly in remote areas.
  • In 1887, the AKC registered them as the Mexican Hairless, but numbers and interest remained low so they were dropped from AKC ranks in 1959.

Xoloitzcuintli by Shutterstock.

  • Meanwhile, in 1953, several British and Mexican dog authorities, realizing the breed’s tenuous existence, searched remote Mexico and returned with 10 Xolos.
  • In 1956, the breed was recognized by the kennel association in Mexico and was also named the official dog of Mexico.
  • In 2007, the AKC recognized the Xoloitzcuintli as member of the Non-Sporting group.
  • The breed comes in three size divisions: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. Toys are 10 to 14 inches at the withers, Miniatures are 14 to 18 inches, and Standards are 18 to 23 inches. The Standard is the most commonly seen at dog shows today.

Toy Xoloitzcuintli by Shutterstock.

  • The gene that causes hairlessness in the Xolo is the same as that in Chinese Cresteds, and the Xolo may descend from ancient Asian hairless dogs. It is a single dominant gene (dogs with two copies die as embryos), so all hairless Xolos have one hairless gene and one coated gene. The same gene causes some dental anomalies, such a crooked teeth and missing premolars and incisors.
  • The hairless dogs often have short coarse hair on top of their head, feet, and on the end of the tail.
  • About a third of the breed are coated. Coated Xolos have fairly short, flat hair.
  • A dark uniform color is preferred, from black, gray-black, and slate to red, liver, or bronze. White markings are permitted.
  • Other hairless relatives probably include the Peruvian Inca Orchid, but the PIO generally has multicolored skin and is slimmer. The Chinese Crested is about the size of the Toy Xolo, but the Crested has much longer silky hair on his head, ears, ankles, and tail, and all over in the Powderpuff (coated) Crested. The American Hairless Terrier’s hairless condition is caused by a different gene; the breed has normal teeth and no hair, even on the head.
  • The Xolo has competed at the Westminster Dog Show since 2012; one dog has placed in the Non-Sporting group there, earning a second place in 2015.

Xoloitzcuintli by Shutterstock.

  • The Xolo is the 135th most popular AKC breed, up slightly from 139th five years ago.
  • A Mexican football team, Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, is named after the breed.
  • It’s believed some Xolos may have been mistaken for the mythical chupacabras in Mexico.
  • We don’t know of any celebrities with a Xolo — yet.

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