Posts Tagged ‘Chinese crested dog’

This little black and tan dog is a Chinese crested dog.

Of the powderpuff variety.

It is of a very atypical coat.

It appears in the AKC educational video that demonstrates the breed standard. It is not a good example of a powderpuff.


Pai thinks this dog is a throwback to the toy Manchester terrier that was crossed into the Crested dog strains.

I also think it is a good example of the close relationship between Chihuahuas, especially the deer-headed types, and the hairless dogs from Latin America– which is where the hairless dogs originated.

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This is Matilda, and she’s available for adoption.  She is 3/4 Chinese crested dog and 1/4 “red heeler” (red Australian cattle dog).

The only part of her that says she’s part Australian cattle dog is that she is rather robustly built, and her head shape and expression is somewhat like one.

The mutation for hairlessness in crested dogs, xoloitzcuintli, and those hairless dogs of the Andean region is inherited via a semi-dominant allele.

It’s very easy to get this trait established in different dog stocks with very little outcrossing.

I’d like to see what her F1 parent looked like. I wonder if it had been powderpuff bred to an ACD.


There is some nasty anti-breeder rhetoric in that ad.

Just warning you.


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Tool use is much more common in dogs than one might think.

Here’s a Chinese crested dog using a rolling desk chair as a platform to access the counter top:



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A taxidermy of a so-called African hairless dog at the Walter Rothschild Museum in Tring, England.

Breed origin myths have been able to gain a life of their own.

Dog breed historians are often historically illiterate, are prone to nonfalsifiable speculation, and are quite prone to confirmation bias.

Many are also quite prone to flights of fancy, as we have seen with the science fiction writers who think that chihuahuas are derived from fennec foxes.

It’s not just chihuahuas who have a bizarre and probably incorrect origin myth.

The so-called “Chinese crested dog” is said to have originated in China, where they were kept on junks for rodent control and as emergency ration.

This is a very strange story, for there is virtually no record of hairless dogs existing in China. Just this past week, a wandering Chinese crested in China was mistaken for a pig.  Probably the best reason why it was mistaken for a pig is that Chinese crested dogs aren’t actually Chinese.

Over time, this origin myth has faded in certain quarters– only for an even worse one to be contrived.

Pai, my eyes and ears in the hairless dog community, brought it to my attention that certain members of that community were now promoting the theory that Chinese cresteds and other hairless breeds originated in Ancient Egypt.

That’s actually not particularly original, for there are dozens of very poorly reasoned dog origin stories that take place in Ancient Egypt. I’ve heard that dachshunds originated there, even though they are actually a very recent development, and we all hear the nonsense about pharaoh hounds and Ibizan hounds being derived from Egypt’s ancient tesem dogs. There is no evidence to support the origins of any of those dogs in Ancient Egypt, but it’s a fantastic tale that everyone wants to repeat.

But this time, they decided to get a DNA study that supposedly proves the theory.

They have to dig a bit to get a study that fits their preconceived notions, and the one they find is an mtDNA study by Robert Wayne in 1999.

This study was thrown at me– as if I hadn’t read it– to debunk what is the more likely origin for the Chinese crested. The most likely origin is that the Chinese crested was developed in the West by breeding small xolos to fuzzy little lap dogs from Europe. Much of this development happened in the United States at Debra Wood’s Crest Haven kennel, which was in operation in the 1950’s.

Now, this explanation fits another important piece of evidence that was revealed in 2008. Peruvian hairless dogs, the xoloitzcuintli, and the Chinese crested dog all have the same mutation that causes their hairlessness. The mutation first appeared in Mexican dogs  4,000 and then was transmitted to the others via crossbreeding.  Because this trait is semidominant, it is easily transmitted to new dog  populations with minimal crossbreeding.

Which brings us to the Wayne mtDNA study from 1999.

This is one of those studies that suggests a very ancient origin for the domestic dog– 100,000 or more year ago.  I think this might be a bit of an overestimation. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studies have made some notable errors. They’ve underestimated when savanna and forest elephants in Africa split. They’ve also have suggested that dog originated in southern China, when the nuclear DNA evidence points to Middle Eastern wolves as the primary source for the domestic dog.

So we need to be careful reading too much into mtDNA studies.

However, the point of Wayne’s research into the xolo wasn’t to prove the origin of xolos.  It was to find out if domestic dogs were derived from North American wolves.   In terms of their mtDNA, they are not. They have diverse mtDNA haplotypes, all of which are found in Old World dog breeds. They don’t share mtDNA with Chinese cresteds, which has led some “internet experts” to declare that it means Chinese crested couldn’t be related to xolos.

This shows ignorance about what mtDNA is. Mitochondrial DNA is DNA extracted from the mitochondria of cells.  This DNA has its own genome, but it also only a tiny part of the whole genome. It can be a very biased sample, for a very simple reaon:  it is inherited only via the matriline.  It tells you nothing about paternal inheritance.

So if the hairless trait in Chinese cresteds was introduced via a few male xolos, one could not figure this out using mtDNA.

What’s more, if just a few male xolos were used to develop these strains many generations ago, then the Chinese crested dogs would not have a very close genetic relationship with xolos, even if the hairless mutation had been introduce via a limited number of xolo males.

Also, one needs to be a little bit more skeptical of another aspect of Wayne’s study. Wayne examined only living xolos. Xolos are Latin American dogs, but they aren’t likely entirely of that ancestry. Indeed, it is much more likely is that living xolos are mostly European dog in ancestry, but because the mutation that causes them to be hairless is semidominant, it was able to last within Latin American dog populations, even as the main indigenous dog population became extinct. This trait was able to exist in the same way that black wolves in North America got that mutation from domestic dogs. North American wolves have very little dog ancestry, but at least one black dog did contribute the dominant black gene to their populations. The wolves are almost entirely wolf by now, but the melanism from dogs still exists.

The mtDNA study on living xolos revealed them to be a very diverse breed in terms of their mtDNA sequences– which makes sense. This dog existed as a landrace in Mexico for centuries after the conquest. People bred them to whatever they could find, and the dogs themselves bred with other street and farm dogs. Until recently, the Mexican Kennel Club, allowed hairless dogs from diverse backgrounds to registered as xolos, and over time, different sizes of xolo have been developed. The chances of someone using an African dog– including a basenji– as an outross would have been very high, and the likely use of these outcrosses to produce the xolo means that we need to be skeptical of studies that use living xolos to make generalizations about Native American dogs from the past.

Now, trying to figure this sort of information out from the available evidence is a bit of a challenge. It requires critical thinking and an understanding of how breed formation might happen.

But if you’re using it as evidence that all these hairless dogs came from Africa, you’re in big trouble.

To postulate an African origin for these dogs, you’ve got to figure out a way for these animals to be in Mexico at least 4,000 years ago.

And you can’t do that.

To get that to work, you have create some pseudohistory– maybe the Egyptians came to Mexico!

Never mind that there is no evidence for that at all– and no, please don’t try to claim that the Olmecs were African. There is no evidence for that, except speculation about supposed African features depicted in Olmec artifacts.

Of course, you could get an “ancient astronaut theorist” to come up with some way that allows one to create an African origin for the hairless dogs.

And that would probably be your best bet.

Now, there is some evidence that there were hairless dogs in South Africa, but there is no evidence that they originated there. The Portuguese and Dutch sailors had a connection to Spain’s colonies in the New World, and they would have been able to bring hairless dogs from there to South Africa. Dogs that were imported from South Africa could have been called African hairless dogs or African hairless terrier, which may be a hint that they crossed their hairless dogs with terriers.

All the other theories about the origins of Chinese crested dogs and other hairless dogs appear to be nothing more than flights of fancy or marketing stories that were initially pumped up by dog dealers.

Of course, this origin is far less exotic and fantastic as proposed the Chinese or African origins postulates.

This one is much more parsimonious. The others require assumptions about the historical record that are either impossible to prove or are simply false.


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Eugène van Gelder was a Belgian painter who worked in later part of the nineteenth century.

I cannot find the title of the original painting in French or Flemish.

The dog may not have been referred to as a Chinese crested dog in the original title.

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The bulldog is all bark and no bite.

I had no idea dog could shriek like that, which is probably because I’ve never had a dog with such extreme brachycephaly.

I’ve never heard any kind of dog make this sort of noise. The closest I can get to describing it is that it very closely sounds like the noises that gray foxes make. (Warning: Clicking the previous link will open an audio file, which will produce a noise that will get the attention of any dogs in the room. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

I bet this household has the neighbors a bit confused.

Not only do they have a shrieking French bulldog, they have a hairless crested dog.

Perhaps the neighbors think some bizarre genetic engineering experiments are going on in there.

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From The Dogs of the British Islands (1878 edition):

The Chinese edible dog has been long well known in this country as a curiosity, but the variety furnished with a crest and tufted tail is by no means common. Like the ordinary breed, it is quite hairless on the body and limbs, save only a few scattered and isolated hairs (about a dozen or eighteen on the whole surface); hence the thick tufts on the two extremities are the more remarkable. The skin is spotted, as shown in the engraving.

The individual from which our illustration was taken is the only one remaining of a litter of six, born from parents imported direct from China, both of which are now dead. She is (1866) two years old, but has never bred in consequence of the difficulty experienced in finding a mate of the same strain. As would be expected from her greyhound shape, she is fast and active, and is very affectionate in disposition, so that if the breed could be naturalised it would be acceptable to many as a novelty in the pet department (pg. 249-250).

There are some problems with Stonehenge’s assessment.

1. There is almost no evidence that Chinese crested dogs come from China.  The only evidence one will likely encounter is some Westerner claiming that these dogs are Chinese, which is dubious evidence at best.

2. There is almost no evidence that anyone ate these dogs, although their most likely ancestor, the xoloitzcuintli and other Latin American hairless dogs, were eaten.




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