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In English-speaking countries this rare animal is known as the Mexican Hairless although its Mexican name is the almost unpronounceable Xoloitzcuintli. The breed is accepted in toy, miniature and standard sizes and originated in the Nahuatl region of Mexico, where its name means 'God dog' in the native tongue.
The Mexican name is occasionally shortened to Xolo, and the breed is thought to have been resident in South America for over 3,000 years. It's likely that the forefathers of the Xolo were genetic mutations - hairless versions of native American breeds, which were then repeated to create the modern Xolo.
It is suspected that the hairless gene was encouraged as the less-hairy versions of the breed fared better in tropical climes and allowed them to hunt more effectively in hot weather. They were kept as companion and hunting animals by indigenous peoples and their popularity means they are now the national dog of Mexico. In fact, the Xolo makes several appearances in works of art from the Aztec, Colima and Toltec civilisations.
The Aztec, Maya and Toltecs considered the Xolo a sacred animal as they were thought to have the ability to guide their master's soul through to the next world. They believed the God Xolotl created the Xolo from a piece of the Bone of Life, from which all mankind was made. The God ordered that man protect the dog with his life and in return the dog would protect him and guide him into the next life. Indeed, some Mexicans maintain that the Xolo has healing abilities.
The breed was also used as food by the Aztecs and Spanish accounts of Aztec feasts tell of some banquets where 20 - 40 dogs would be served to guests. The dogs were taken to Europe by Columbus after he encountered them in the Caribbean. The breed is not popular in the US.
Average height to withers: 9" - 30"
Average weight: 4kg - 20kg
The Xolo is very similar in appearance to the Pharaoh Hound of Egypt. They are a lithe dog, with almond eyes and large, bat-like ears. Obviously the most striking trait of the Xolo is its hairlessness, although the recessive nature of this genetic mutation means that coated dogs do appear and they are genetically indistinguishable from their hairless relatives.
Most Xolo litters contain both hairless and coated animals, with the hairy dogs thought to resemble their ancestors more closely than the hairless animals that are the result of an ancient, spontaneous genetic mutation.
The hairless varieties of the Xolo are generally bluish-grey in colour although spotted, marked, red or black animals are seen, and the hairless Xolos usually have some hairs on the top of the head, on the toes and at the end of the tail. Interestingly, the allele responsible for a lack of coat, also affects the dog's teeth - with most hairless varieties lacking a complete set of teeth.
They are rather elegant animals which are also strong and athletic and which come in three sizes - toy, miniature and standard.
A generally calm animal as an adult, Xolo puppies can be noisy, energetic and display a great propensity for chewing. Once they have reached maturity at around two years old they tend to settle.
The Xolo exhibits what are often referred to as 'primitive' character traits such as high intelligence, boundless energy and inquisitiveness, a strong prey drive and powerful need to socialise. The Xolo is fearless and will not back down in a fight - a characteristic that makes them excellent guard animals, however they are also great escape artists so all open spaces they have access to must be secured.
Adult dogs that have received consistent training and are well-socialised are known to be calm and good-natured. Selective breeding has not affected the temperament of the Xolo and his steady nature is something that ancient peoples will have enjoyed too. This lack of meddling with the breeding also means the Xolo is sturdy and robust and more healthy than you would expect for a dog with no fur.
Well-raised Xolos will form a strong bond with their owners and they respond best to calm, consistent and affectionate handlers. The Xolo has an endless capacity for exercise and any prospective owner should bear this in mind when considering giving a home to a Xolo as the breed is known to go a little 'stir-crazy' if not provided with adequate mental or physical stimulation. The Xolo does not fare well as an only dog as they crave the company of their own kind.
As selective breeding has taken place over many thousands of years the Xolo is largely free from the genetic conditions that can affect other pedigree animals. As they lack natural protection and have their origins in countries with tropical climates, they do not enjoy living outdoors and will not do well in very cold weather - they are an indoor breed.
Interestingly, the dog should be bathed and kept as clean as possible or a type of acne can develop, although over-zealous grooming or poor breeding can also allow skin problems to occur anyway. If you are in doubt consult your breeder on the best way to care for your Xolo's fragile skin.
Puppies need a lot of exercise, training and attention as well as plenty of discipline (not too harsh!) and toys to keep them out of trouble, and if you feel you might not have enough time to dedicate to them in the vital puppy stages it may be worth considering a dog sitter - or a different breed.
The older Xolo is calm and laid back and will be quite content to stay at home while his owners are at work, although they would prefer to be with their master than at home alone. That said, they are also great companions for joggers or hikers.
They must be exercised daily or they may develop destructive or boisterous habits, and although they are quite robust they must be protected from severe cold and should live indoors. They crate train well and will appreciate a quiet place to retire to for a few hours - particularly if it's furnished with plenty of cushions and blankets. The crate will also make the perfect bed for night time too - unless of course they've found their way onto their owner's bed, which many do!
Many handlers litter train their Xolos so they don't have to go out when the weather is bad, however when the weather is good the Xolo will find the best sunbathing spot before anyone else.