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What Breed Is the Dog From Coco? The Fascinating Mexican Breed

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 26, 2024 by Dogster Team

What Breed Is the Dog From Coco? The Fascinating Mexican Breed

If you have ever watched Disney’s and Pixar’s movie dubbed Coco, you are likely to have been intrigued by the charming, yet unique black dog that followed the main character as he went on his journey. His name is Dante, but is he a particular breed of dog?

Dante is based on the Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo dog breed in short. The breed is native to Mexico and is identifiable for its hairless appearance, regal frame, and large ears. The Xolo dog is considered a national treasure in Mexico and is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence. In fact, Xolo dogs share DNA with prehistoric dog breeds.

In this article, we will discuss the role of Dante in the movie Coco, and highlight a brief history of the Xolo dog, as well as its characteristics.

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Dante’s Role in Coco

Dante is the supporting character in the movie, whose main role is to accompany Miguel, the owner as they make a journey to the land of the dead. Throughout the movie, Dante serves as a spirit guide animal for their perilous journey.

The Xolo dog was included in the movie to help with the animation, as well as to help collect vocals. He is shown to understand English and Spanish, can sense danger, and finds Miguel whenever he is lost.

Dante from Coco siting with Miguel
Image By: Characters by  Pixar Animation Studios,  The Walt Disney Company.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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A Brief History of Xoloitzcuintli Dog Breeds

The Xolo has a rich and fascinating history that stretches back to 3,000 years ago. Back then, it was common for people to sacrifice the dog and bury it in its owner’s tomb.

Ancient Mexicans believed that Xolo dogs would help guide the soul of its owner on a journey headed to the underworld. After the Aztec civilization rose to power, this dog breed was associated with their god of death, Xolotl, whose appearance resembled that of a dog. The name of the dog was reached by combining the words Xolotl and itzcuintli, which means “dog” in the local Nahuatl dialect.

After the Spanish conquests, this dog breed went into a long period of decline because the conquerors associated it with the pagan culture that revered it. After almost becoming extinct, Xolo’s prospects dramatically improved in the 20th century due to the efforts of determined dog breeders who revived the interest of the dog in the country’s pre-Columbian culture.

Image Credit: TatyanaPanova, Shutterstock

Xolo dogs were even among the first dog breeds to be recorded in the American Kennel Club books in 1887. They finally gained recognition later in 2011.

However, by the time the Xolo dog gained recognition, its genetic structure had also transformed. According to genetic analysis, Xolo dogs had interbred with Eurasian breeds so much that the modern Xolo dog only features a little of the pre-Columbian lineage.

The Modern Xolo Dog Breed

The modern Xolo dog breed features a wedge-shaped head, a sleek body, an expressive face, big bat-like ears, which can be floppy or erect, and a wrinkled forehead. The dominant trait is still hairlessness, but some puppies can be born with a recessive trait for a flat and short coat.

The recessive hairlessness trait has persisted over the years because the dog inherits two copies of the hairless gene, which dies early as it develops. This simply means that the hairless Xolo dogs that survive to birth carry the hairless recessive trait with them.

Combining the two recessive genes produces a haired Xolo version, which usually spots gray, brown, black, red, brindle, bronze, and liver colors. In modern times, the Xolo dog is considered a house dog. The dog also makes for an excellent companion and watchdog around the home.

Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

Common Xolo Health Concerns

Since the Xoloitzcuintli was allowed to freely develop without any human interference, it has very few inheritable health issues that affect other dog breeds. This means it can live up to 13 to 18 years.

However, they do suffer from drug sensitivities, dry skin, joint issues, and even cancer. Xolo owners should also be on the lookout for Kennel cough, a very infectious disease that tends to produce a very dry coughing sound.

New puppies should also be examined for common developmental issues with the eyes, joints, and heart. Ideally, it’s best to get the puppies medically examined at the point of purchase. You also need to schedule regular appointments with a veterinary officer to check for early indicators of health issues.

Xoloitzquintle dog
Image Credit: Vladimirkarp, Shutterstock

The Xolo Breed’s Temperament

Generally, Xolo dogs have overly friendly personalities. They are very attentive, playful, intelligent, sensitive to nature, and very affectionate with the family. They also bond very well with a single person; however, they can accept other household members as friends, including other pets.

Due to their protective nature and the wariness of strangers, Xolos make good watchdogs. However, they need a lot of daily mental stimulation in the form of brain exercises, playtime, and other activities. Otherwise, they might try to keep themselves occupied by engaging in destructive or unwanted behavior.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Owning a Xoloitzcuintli

  • Affectionate, protective, and loyal
  • A suitable dog for allergy sufferers
  • Has very few inheritable health conditions and has a long lifespan
  • Suffers from separation anxiety
  • Skin is overly sensitive to bad weather, sunlight, and environmental irritants
  • Reserved with strangers and prefers familiar faces instead of new ones

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In Disney and Pixar’s movie, Coco, Dante is the canine sidekick of Miguel, the movie’s main character. Dante joins Miguel in his perilous journey to the Land of the Dead. Some people might consider Dante to be a made-up, but it is based on a real-life dog breed known as the Xoloitzcuintle.

Xolos can make good family companion dogs because they have a calm demeanor and are overly friendly as adults. Besides being good companions, they are good watchdogs as well because they are overly alert dogs.

Featured Image Credit: Characters by  Pixar Animation StudiosThe Walt Disney Company.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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