FEATURE FAUNA


Mexican Hairless Dog

Xoloitzcuintli

WORDS ANNELISE VAN DER VEEN

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.

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. 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. They still live throughout Mexico and Central America primarily in remote areas where indigenous groups maintain a respect and high regard for this animal.

The Mexican Hairless Dog has been an important part of the culture of Mexico and Central America for centuries. Its scientific name comes from the Nahuatl language from a combination of the words for dog and one of the Aztec gods. This is the first sign that these dogs were and continue to be considered to hold great powers and influence for humans. These dogs have also 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 Aztec leaders. Archaeologists also often find the remains of what are assumed to be Mexican Hairless Dogs in Aztec and Mayan tombs. This suggests that these dogs would be sacrificed after the death of their owner in order to be sent along as a companion. This would occur through the funeral rites of the community for the deceased and the dog would be placed along with the human remains in order to ensure their travel into the next life. Evidently 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.

These dogs are still seen as important and influential animals in Mexican culture due to their prevalence in the pre-colonial times and their relationship with the ruling classes of pre-hispanic civilizations. The view still often remains that the Mexican Hairless Dogs hold the mythical powers and healing abilities that the Aztecs believed in. This is thought to be because of their warm skin and are still 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. These elements combined with the knowledge that Ancient groups held these animals in such high esteem maintain the belief in the powers and importance of the Xoloitzcuintlis today.

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