Posts Tagged ‘Mexican hairless dog’


The dog world is always an interesting place to observe human behavior.  A few days ago, someone posted a coated Xoloitzcuintli (“Mexican hairless dog”) on an FB group, and I happened to mention the new evidence about the genetics of this dog breed.

This breed has a strong connection to the Mexica/Aztec identity in Mexico. The dog has a Nahuatl name, and when we discuss the Americas pre-Conquest, the civilization that existed in Mexico  was certainly the equivalent of anything in the Old World.

The mutation that causes hairlessness in these dogs has been traced to Mexico around 4,000 years ago. It is conferred by an incomplete dominant allele, and thus, it was able to spread from Mexico into South America, where hairless village dogs still exist in some areas.  Later, these hairless dogs were crossed with various toy breeds to found what has (laughably) been called “the Chinese crested dog.”

Further, we have really good evidence that shows that the indigenous dogs of the Americas were replaced with a genetic swarm of European dogs. This means that the xoloitzcuintli, though it has this mutation that originated in the Americas, is mostly European dog in its ancestry.

What is even more shocking is that a genome-wide analysis that traced the origins of many dog breeds found that the xolo fits in a clade that includes the German shepherd, the Berger Picard, and the Chinook. When a prick-eared regional Italian sheepdog called a Cane Paratore is added to the analysis, the xolo and the Peruvian hairless dog fit closer to that breed than the GSD and Picardy shepherd.

If one thinks about the history of Mexico, the Spanish became deeply involved in turning Mexico into a great place for herding cattle, sheep, and goats, and it would make sense that the typical dog that would have been brought over would have been an Iberian herding dog that is probably quite closely related to the Cane Paratore.

So more analysis was performed with an emphasis on Italian dog breeds. Some of the clades changed position, but xolos and Peruvian Inca orchid dogs remained in this clade closely related to the German shepherd, the various Italian herding dogs, the Berger Picard, and the Chinook.  The Catahoula leopard dog, a celebrated cur dog from Louisiana that is said to have derived from French and Spanish herding dogs brought over by colonists, were found to be closely related to the xolos.

This means that the dog called the xoloitzcuintli is mostly rough pastoral dog from the Iberian Peninsula, and it is not an ancient American breed.

I mentioned all this information on that Facebook group, and it was as if I blasphemed against the Almighty.

Sadly, we have almost lost an entire lineage of domestic dogs. The Conquest of the Americas and the resulting Columbian Exchange changed the genetic fortunes of humans and animals on these continents.

And though people would love for the xolo to be this untouched pure strain of dog. It simply is not.  In fact, it is very heavily admixed with southern European herding dog to the point that the dog is almost entirely that in ancestry. If that hairless trait were not dominant, it likely would have disappeared in the Mexican village dog population, and there would not have been any suggestion that these dogs were anything special.

So by a fluke of the allele, a mostly European herding dog-derived village dog from Mexico became the ancient dog of the Aztecs.

Yep. I ruined that one, too.

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Several photos of Xoloitzcuintli appear in a LIFE  article entitled “Hairless Dogs Revived.”

The first of these is of a “mongrel” xolo, which the article contends possesses a “squat, awkward figure” :

By contrast, the “purebred” xolo “has graceful lines”:

The “mongrel” dog does remind me of Stitch, but from my understanding, the Mexicans now allow so-called mongrel dogs to be part of the xolo breed. After all, these dogs represented a landrace breed that continued to exist after the conquest. It just bred into the typical village-type dog– which is all that a xolo is. It is a natural, very rustic village-type dog. It just doesn’t have much of a pelt.

By the 1950’s, these dogs were national symbols of the Mexican identity and were being improved as a standardized breed. This seven-month-old puppy belonged to the Countess Lascelles de Premio Real, who was a prominent breeder of xoloitzcuintli. The article states the ears will become erect after the dog is a year old. Maybe.

And then no article about a breed would be complete without a photo of a bitch with puppies, here is Lampi with her ten-day- old puppies. I think this litter would have had to have had some coated individuals, but they are not featured– either they were removed so the photo could be taken or they were culled.

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The dog’s name was “Me Too.”

This image comes from George O. Shields’s The American Book of the Dog (1891).

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