Common Name: Xoloitzcuintli or Mexican Hairless Dog
Scientific Name: Canis lupus familiaris
The Mexican Hairless Dog is a small to medium sized dog that can weigh from 10 to 50 lbs. As its name suggests, this type of dog is often completely hairless, but some puppies can actually be born with a thin coat of hair. They are sleek, relatively skinny animals with large ears, a long neck, and are usually longer than they are tall. These dogs usually have a calm temperament but are very useful as guard dogs since they are intelligent and loyal to their owners. They are known to be great companions if raised properly and as most dogs they calm down significantly after the puppy stage.
Habitat & Range
The Mexican Hairless Dog resides primarily in Mexico and a few areas in Central and South America where it has existed for almost 3,000 years. They live throughout Mexico and Central America primarily in remote areas where indigenous groups maintain a respect and high regard for this animal. Of course today these dogs can be obtained by people from all over the world because of breeding and distribution, but they thrive in the tropical regions in Mexico and Central America. Due to this, if they are brought into colder climates they should be considered as indoor pets for their own safety.
The Mexican Hairless Dog has been an important part of the culture of Mexico and Central America for centuries. It's scientific name comes from the Nahuatl language from a combination of the words for dog and one of the Aztec gods. These dogs have been featured in many archaeological artifacts and artwork that has been found from the period of the Aztecs. Since they were and remain seen as a great companion, these dogs are often shown in murals, structural artwork and on pottery next to gods and famous leaders of the Aztec group. These dogs are still seen as an important part of Mexico due to their prevalence in the pre-colonial times and their relationship with the ruling classes of pre-hispanic civilisations.
The Aztecs and other indigenous groups in the region saw this animal as a companion not only in this world but through all of a soul's journey through life and the afterlife. While this has changed over time, the view that these dogs are healers has not. Currently Mexican Hairless Dogs are still seen as holding healing properties, mainly due to their warm skin, and are often kept nearby people with various ailments such as rheumatism and asthma. Also, since these dogs have gone through natural selection for so long they do not face some of the health problems that other dog breeds can develop through more recent human modification efforts.
Whether you are interested from a historical viewpoint or a current cultural one, the Mexican Hairless Dog is a unique example of a canine whose loyalty and importance has withstood the test of time and history to remain a symbol of the Mexican region.
Annelise van der Veen, BA Anthropology
Secretary and Co-Founder - Forager Foundation
Annelise's background is in Anthropology focusing specifically on the people and culture of Latin America. She currently volunteers with a health co-op that provides health services to migrant workers in the greater Vancouver area. Her recent focus has been on immigration and the Mexico/Central American region. She recently traveled to Mexico to study Spanish and immerse herself in the Mexican culture and hopes to continue to relate her work and previous anthropological experience with these various organizations to her interests in that region.