The Mexican Xoloitzcuintle, an Ancient Hairless Dog

August 22, 2019
The Mexican Xoloitzcuintle is a hairless dog originally from the country that bears its name. This is an ancient animal with thousands of years of history.

Have you heard of hairless animals? Well, the Mexican Xoloitzcuintle is one of them and we’d like to tell you all about them today.

First of all, this breed of dog is as old as the ancient Inca empire.

The term Xoloitzcuintle originates from the Nahuatl (Aztec) Xólotl. This is the name of the god of lightning and death, also associated with the sunset. He guards the sun as it travels through the underworld every night. Ancient Aztecs believed that both this god and his dog would lead the souls on their final journey to the underworld. The second part of the name, itzcuintli means simply “dog.” So, the name translates to “Xolotl’s dog.”

In Aztec mythology, Xólotl is also the god of transformation, the unknown, and of everything monstrous. He’s the twin brother of the god Quetzalcóatl, who, in contrast, represents life, light, and knowledge.

Origin of the Mexican Xoloitzcuintle

A couple of Xolos.

So, given that the name of this breed is directly tied to ancient religion, you already have an idea of how old this breed of dog is. Indeed, the Mexican Xoloitzcuintle is one of the oldest dogs in the world. In fact, some believe it’s been around for over 7000 years. There are claims that their domestication began about 5500 years ago.

This dog was a highly sacred animal and the ancient settlers of Mexico trapped them for their meat. They were particularly sought-after as a special treat for wedding and funeral banquets.

The breed had nearly disappeared during the Spanish invasion. They tried to eliminate them in order to eradicate the local religious reverence towards an animal. The Catholics considered it pagan (polytheistic). They survived because several populations of the Xolo fled to other areas. That way, their population recovered and is still alive today.

Influential painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera used the image of this dog in their work. In fact, they kept some specimens around as pets thanks to the collection efforts of Dolores Olmedo. You can still appreciate some of her specimens at the museum that bears her name in Mexico City. As of 2016, the Mexican Xoloitzcuintle is officially a symbol of the cultural heritage of Mexico City.

A hairless dog?

A Mexican hairless dog in a park.

This breed is almost completely hairless. Actually, they have some loose strands on their heads, but their skin is quite soft. The little hair they do have comes in various colors such as black, gray, red, bronze, and yellow.

Also, there are three different sizes of the dog in this breed: miniature, medium, and standard. The standard one is a medium dog of about 18-24 inches. Their body is well-proportioned with a wide chest, long legs, and a tail.

The gene that produces the absence of hair is dominant. There may be a few dogs born with a little bit of hair in every litter of hairless dogs. This is due to a recessive gene. Breeding attempts do maintain the genetic variation of the breed.

Here’s an odd fact, the body temperature of this type of dog is of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Together with their absence of hair, this makes them wonderful natural heaters. They’re also on the list of hypoallergenic dogs, seeing as no hair means no allergy in people prone to them. In addition, that absence of hair means no fleas!

Xolo dogs are calm and cheerful. They make great guardians, as they’re always alert. They’re somewhat reserved with people they don’t know but highly affectionate with all of their family.

Caring for a Mexican Xoloitzcuintle

A person petting a hairless dog.

This dog’s main health problems have to do with their bare skin, as it’s vulnerable to solar radiation and, therefore, prone to sunburns. For this reason, you must be careful with their outing schedules to avoid exposure to direct sunlight. Also, you can apply sunscreen to their skin.

Similarly, they require protection against extreme cold and heat. It’s also imperative to keep their skin well-hydrated, as it tends to get dry. In addition to that, apply a moisturizer with vitamin E after every bath, it’ll keep them soft and smooth.

Being so ancient, this type of dog doesn’t have serious health problems associated with their breeding. Because of that, their life expectancy is about 12 to 14 years.

These dogs have a lot of energy and require daily exercise to stay in good physical and mental health. A lack of activity will make them destructive.

As you can see, the Xolo, a Mexican symbol, is a dog with ancient history. They’re definitely a rather unique and striking dog.

  • Xoloitzcuintle, compañero en vida y muerte. National Geographic.
  • Xoloitzcuintle, Purina.
  • Xoloitzcuintle, FCI