The Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced "show-low-eats-queen-tlee"), also known as the Tepeizeuintli, the Pelon, the Bald Dog, Perro sin Pelo Mexicano, the Mexican Hairless or simply the Xolo ("show-low"), is one of the oldest and rarest of all domestic dog breeds. It was first developed in ancient Aztec civilizations, where it was used as a watchdog, guard dog, companion and food source for tribal peoples. Most Xolos are hairless, with wrinkled skin that some people say resembles the skin of a tiny shrunken elephant. The breed also comes in a coated variety, which is referred to as the "powder-puff." Both powder-puff and hairless Xolos are recognized in three distinct sizes – Standard, Miniature and Toy – with Toy being the tiniest. In fact, today these are considered to be three separate breeds, although here we will address them as one as their standards are identical except for differences in height and weight. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club for full registration status in 2011. It is a member of the Non-Sporting Group. Today's Xolos make affectionate, low-maintenance indoor companions.
The Xoloitzcuintli – in its Standard and Miniature forms - was common in ancient Aztec settlements, where it was used as a companion, a watchdog and a source of warmth. Less pleasantly to most modern dog fanciers, but still important historically, Xolos also were a food source for people during ancient times. They have been described as "oven-ready, high protein food sources," which made them especially valuable to tribal people. The Xoloitzcuintli was prized for its supposedly mystical and curative healing powers. Pressing the hot skin of a Xolo to a sore or wounded area of the human body was believed to draw out pain and sickness. These dogs are claimed to have helped relieve asthma, toothaches, headaches, sore muscles, rheumatism, insomnia and even malaria, among other ailments. Although these claims have not been proven scientifically, the mythical powers of Xolos continue to be believed by some alternative human healers even today.
In the Nahuatl tongue, "Xoloitzcuintli" means "dog of the god Xolotl." Xolotl was the Aztec god of twins, of the Aztec court ball game and of things that were deformed. "Itzcuintli" is the Aztec word for "dog." Xolos were commonly killed as a ritual sacrificial offering and buried with their owners, as they were thought to be sacred animals that would protect and guide their owners' souls on their journey to the afterworld.
Many authorities have tried to establish some relationship between the Xoloitzcuintli and other hairless breeds in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, such as the Chinese Crested. However, there is no reliable evidence of any such connection. It is unlikely that hairless dogs accompanied early Asiatic settlers on the arduous, frigid trek to the Americas. It is much more likely that the hairless gene cropped up independently in distinct geographic areas at different points in time. The Xoloitzcuintli probably descends at least in part from the Colima Dog of western Mexico, which was present locally long before any European dogs arrived in the area. Archeological artifacts found in the tombs and other ruins of the Mayan, Aztec, Zapoteca and Colima civilizations are virtually identical in type to today's Xoloitzcuintli. This is most likely an indigenous Mexican breed whose unique nakedness was caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation that happened many hundreds of years ago.
As ancient civilizations became increasingly modernized over the centuries, the Xoloitzcuintli declined in popularity. It eventually reached the brink of extinction. Xolos reportedly were seen in the United States as far back as the early 1880s. However, they remained extremely rare for a very long time. The breed finally started to gain in popularity almost a century later. In the 1950s, several members of the Mexican all-breed Kennel Club started a selective, rigorous program to rescue, promote and protect the Standard and Miniature varieties. They also developed and standardized the smaller Toy form of the breed. Today, fanciers of this unusual breed prize it as a watch dog, guardian, companion, service dog, competitive show dog and avid participant in a variety of active dog sports, including agility. While its numbers are slowly increasing in Mexico, the United States and some parts of Europe, Xoloitzcuintlis still are very uncommon dogs.
The Xoloitzcuintli is a long-lived breed, with an average life span of 15 to 20 years. Because it lacks a normal haircoat, its exposed skin is quite susceptible to becoming sunburned. Xolos cannot tolerate extreme heat or cold. They should be protected from prolonged exposure to bright sunlight and should wear a sweater or coat when the temperature gets chilly. Newcomers to the breed sometimes think that Xolos should get frequent baths and be slathered with moisturizing lotion. However, this can cause acne and other infections in the pores and sensitive skin of this breed and should only be done occasionally. The Xoloitzcuintli has fewer teeth than most other dogs, especially in the molar (back) regions of its jaws. This abnormality in dentition is thought to be associated with the genetic mutation that causes hairlessness, although the specifics of this association are not understood.
The Xoloitzcuintli, or Mexican Hairless, is an elegant, active, people-loving breed. They are naturally protective and can be aloof around strangers, making them excellent watchdogs but terrible guard dogs. Xolos are often called "Velcro dogs" because of they are almost always "attached" to one member of the family. Seldom to Xolos run away from home. Xoloitzcuintlis are intelligent and emotionally tuned in to the people around them. They are adaptable dogs who can be just as happy in a large family as they are in a home with only one person.
The Xoloitzcuintli is an extremely active and intelligent breed and they require a lot of physical and mental stimulation in order to stave off boredom. A bored Xolo can get into a lot of mischief. Novice dog owners often make the mistake of not walking their Xolo, especially if the dog spends a great deal of time playing outdoors. Play is a good way to release energy, but the Xoloitzcuintli has a primal need to walk, and most owners who report a Xolo with behavior issues admit to skipping walks.
Xoloitzcuintlis are adaptable to homes and families of any size. They can thrive in a home with a large yard, or in a compact apartment – as long as there is a commitment to daily exercise. Xolos are adaptable and easy going and get the most enjoyment from life when they are outdoors with the people they love the most.
Xoloitzcuintlis are smart dogs, which means they catch on to training activities quickly, but they must be taught early and often. Xolos can quickly take over and control a training session, so training must be conducted with absolute consistency, and training should be made as interesting as possible to keep the dog engaged. Xolos respond the best to reward-based training whether that reward is praise or food, and they will shut down if treated with a heavy hand. All family members should take part in the training of a Xoloitzcuintli, that way the dog knows to respect all members of the household.
Some owners have experienced problems trying to housetrain a Xolo. Their hairless bodies are sensitive to extreme weather conditions, so housetraining in the winter can be a challenge. Crate training usually works the best, as Xolos like to have their own personal space and will be less inclined to mess in that space.
Owners can tend to be overprotective of their Xolo because of their attachment to their favorite people. But too much coddling and treating a Xolo like a baby rather than a dog can lead to behavioral problems, or in the smaller Xolos, little dog syndrome. Xolos are not "yappy" or "snappy" dogs, but they can be bossy and pushy if not trained properly.
People who work long hours may not be suited for a Xoloitzcuintli, who thrives on being around people. Xolos who are left alone all day have been known to try and climb or dig their way out of the house. Long walks and a companion pet can often reduce a Xolo's separation anxiety.
Xoloitzcuintlis requires structure and consistency in their lives and can become agitated or upset when their schedule changes abruptly. Owners who can keep a regular feeding, playing and walking schedule will get along wonderfully with a Xoloitzcuintli.
The Xolo is an ancient, natural breed, molded by evolution rather than selective breeding. A Xolo is moderate in all aspects of type and conformation, never extreme or overdone. Today the breed serves as a guard and companion. The Xolo possesses a clean, graceful outline, equally combining elegance and strength. There are two varieties, hairless and coated, identical except for coat and dentition. In the hairless variety, the principal characteristic is the total or almost total absence of hair. The coated variety is covered by a short, flat coat. In conformation, all three sizes are lean, sturdy, well muscled with a spacious ribcage, and moderate bone. The Xolo outline is rectangular, and the distance from the elbow to ground is equal to, or slightly greater than the distance from the withers to the elbow. Typical Xolo temperament is calm, tranquil, aloof and attentive.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Height is measured at the highest point of the withers.
Toy: Height at withers at least ten, and up to and including 14 inches.
Miniature: Height at withers over 14 inches, and up to and including 18 inches.
Standard: Height at withers over 18 inches, and up to and including 23 inches.
Dogs less than 10 inches, or over 24 inches are disqualified.
The body is slightly longer than height, in a 9/10 ratio measured from the point of the shoulder blade to the end of the rump. Medium, oval shaped bone is desirable. All three sizes exhibit moderately balanced proportions, and appear strong, sturdy, and well covered with smooth, flat muscle, but never coarse, heavy or over-muscled.
Expression: Thoughtful and intelligent, vivacious, conveying the noble and faithful character of the breed, will show distinctive brow wrinkles when at attention. Eyes are almond shaped, medium size, neither sunken nor protruding. The color varies from yellow to black, the darker being preferred, but lighter color is acceptable. Both eyes must be of the same color. The eye rims may be less pigmented on light colored dogs. Light or spotted eye rims are tolerated but not preferred. Ears Large, elegant and expressive, a thin delicate texture, tapering to a rounded tip. Ears are set high and carried strongly erect when alert. Ears not standing erect by one year of age are a fault. The Xolo should never exhibit ear fringe. Cropping is prohibited. Skull is wedge shaped, when seen from above, wide and strong, gradually tapering to the muzzle. Excessively wide or narrow heads are a fault. Skull and muzzle planes are parallel. Stop is not pronounced. Muzzle: is longer than skull, straight when viewed in profile. The lower jaw is strong and well developed, free from throatiness. Nose is dark on dark colored dogs, lighter on light colored dogs. Lips are thin and tight. Bite Scissors bite. In the hairless variety, the absence of premolars is acceptable. Complete set of incisors preferred but lack thereof is not to be penalized. In the coated variety, complete dentition is required.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck is long, elegant, slightly arched, blending smoothly into the shoulders. In dogs less than one year of age, wrinkled skin may be present. In adults, the skin on the neck is smooth and dry, without wrinkles. Topline is level with slight arch over loin. Body is well developed. The brisket should reach to point of elbow. The ribcage is deep and oval, of good length, with sufficient ribspring to produce a rounded shape, but never barrel shaped. The loin is muscular, with a smooth underline showing a slight tuck up. Back is level and firm. Croup is well muscled, slightly rounded, and broad. It should not be flat or steeply angled. Tail is set low, continuing smoothly off the angle of the croup, long and fine, reaching to the hock. When the dog is moving, the tail is carried in a graceful curve, but not over the back. It is held down in a relaxed position when the dog is at rest. A short or curled tail is a serious fault.
Shoulders are covered with smooth muscle, long and sloping. Shoulder blades are flat and well laid back. Upper Arm (humerus) is equal or slightly longer than scapula, angled to place the forelegs well under the body. Elbows are firm and tight, allowing for reach but not so loose to as to allow for elbowing out, nor so tight as to create toeing in or out. Legs are long, straight, and parallel, when viewed from all sides, set well under the body to allow a long stride. Pasterns are flexible, strong and straight, turning neither in nor out. Feet are harefeet, webbed, with well-arched toes. Thin soft pads, splayed feet or rounded feet are a serious fault. Toenails are to be dark on dark colored dogs, light on light colored dogs. Dewclaws may be removed.
The Xolo possesses moderate rear angulation, in balance with the forequarters. The bones of the first and second thigh are approximately equal in length, and the combined angle should place the front edge of the back paw directly under the rearmost point of the pelvis with the hock perpendicular. Legs are straight and well muscled. Stifle is moderately bent. Hocks are short, sturdy and straight, turning neither in nor out. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet are the same as the front feet.
The principal characteristic of the hairless variety is the absence of hair, however a small amount of short, coarse hair is permitted on the top of the head, the feet, and the last third of the tail to the tip. The absence of hair in those areas is not to be penalized. Hair on any other areas is a serious fault. Hair may be any color. The skin is tough, protective, smooth and close fitting. Moderate head wrinkles are permitted but loose or wrinkled skin on the body is a fault. The coated variety is completely covered with a short, smooth, close fitting coat. Long, soft or wavy hair is a serious fault in either variety.
A dark, uniform color is preferred, ranging from black, gray black, slate, to red, liver or bronze, although white spots and markings are permitted.
The movement is a free and effortless at a fast trot, with good reach and drive. Legs will converge towards a centerline of gravity as speed increases.
Xolos under ten or over 24 inches in height, measured at the highest point of the withers. Cropped ears.
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Sources: American Kennel Club