Often referred to as the Mexican Hairless Dog, though there are both coated and hairless varieties, the Xoloitzcuintle, (sometimes spelt Xoloitzcuintli), is an ancient breed. The name, pronounced, show-low-eats-queen-tlee, is derived from the ancient Aztec deity, Xolotl and the Aztec word, itzcuintli, meaning dog. This fascinating breed, indigenous to North and Central America, was kept by the Mayan, Aztec, Toltec, Zapoteca and Colima people. In more recent times the infamous artist, Frida Kahlo owned this breed, several of which are represented in her colourful and evocative paintings.

In ancient time, the Xolo was highly prized due to its usefulness for a variety of purposes. Reputed to have proficient curative powers, according to ancient legend, sleeping with one of these dogs was alleged to alleviate pain resulting from a plethora of ailments and it is no doubt possible that due to the warmth generated by the dog's body heat, certain benefits may have been felt. Whilst it is true that by virtue of its hairlessness the Xolo does feel warm to the touch, the core temperature of this breed is in fact no higher than that of any other dog.

Aside from their reputation as healers, Xolos were also ritually sacrificed in religious ceremonies as it was believed that this would alter fate as well as offering protection from evil. Dogs were also sacrificed during funerals in order to serve as guides into the underworld. Colour was significant in this context and Xolos with reddish coloured skin were allegedly most prized as spiritual guides. Despite all of the aforementioned uses and virtues, it is highly likely that the most common usage of the Xolo was as a food source and these dogs were specifically bred and fattened for that purpose.

Throughout history hairless breeds have been recorded around the world, but the Xolo is thought to be the oldest of such breeds by far. The hairless condition seen in this breed is due to the presence of a dominant gene and therefore every dog who exhibits hairlessness may also reproduce it if bred from. It is equally important to remember that hairless Xolos, when mated together, may produce a percentage of coated offspring. It is imperative that anyone who is considering breeding from their Xolo be aware that coated puppies may be far more difficult to home than their hairless siblings. Hopefully as the breed gains popularity its suitability for sports such as flyball and agility may offer an option for both coated and hairless Xolos alike.

As a breed, the Xolo is incredibly versatile and comes in three sizes, Miniature, Intermediate and Standard, ranging in size from about 10” to 23”. Due to over 3000 years of natural selection, the breed appears to be free of the majority of genetic based conditions experienced by many of the more ‘manufactured’ breeds. One exception would seem to be that the hairless gene also carries with it the risk of incomplete dentition, which is less common in coated Xolos. Some breeders are now seeking to address this issue, though dogs exhibiting this trait appear not to be unduly affected by the lack of a complete set of teeth. In terms of proportion, the Xolo is slightly longer than high, with a desired ratio of 10:9, though bitches tend to be slightly longer than males. This body length is ideal as it allows the dog to move smoothly and efficiently with maximum reach and propulsion.

The Xolo is an all purpose, athletic breed and its profile should suggest strength and endurance. The dog must be well angulated but not overdone in any way. All sizes should exhibit good bone, substance and muscle development. One of the most distinctive of the Xolos features are its hare feet which are also webbed, this type of foot allowing extra leverage, speed and agility. The ears could also be described as hare like in the sense that they are large and ideally should be carried erect. It is probable that they are effective in regulating the body temperature of the dog in the hot climates where the breed originated. Xolo pups display an abundance of loose, wrinkly skin but this is gradually taken up as the dog grows into adulthood by which time it will be close fitting. The majority of hairless Xolos possess a tuft of sparse hair on their head and sometimes on their tail and feet, this hair tends to be coarse and should not extend to other areas of the body. The skin should ideally be free of blemishes and rough, dirty looking skin is undesirable. Adolescent Xolos sometimes get outbreaks of acne like eruptions but these tend to lessen as the dog matures. Whilst the Xolo breed standard allows for a variety of colours in both coated and hairless varieties, dark colours are preferred as they offer more protection from the sun due to the presence of a higher proportion of melanin. Coated Xolos should be identical to their hairless brethren aside from the fact that they have a smooth coat.

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by Ashley