Header photo courtesy of Judith Smith, AKC Breeder of Merit
Have you heard of the Xolo? No worries if you haven't, you're not alone. The Xolo (pronounced "show-low") is a rare breed in the United States. It's much better known in Mexico, where it has an ancient history. It's also known as the "Mexican Hairless" dog.
Want to get to know the breed? Here are some interesting facts about the Xolo:
1. The Xolo Was One of the First Dog of the Americas
The Xolo is one of the world's oldest dog breeds. Archeological evidence suggests that when humans first trekked across the Bering Strait, Xolos were right by their side on the journey. There are depictions of Xolos in clay and ceramic artifacts that date back at least 3,000 years. These artifacts tell us that Xolos have not changed much over that time period.
2. They're Named After an Aztec God
The full name of the Xolo is Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced "show-low-eetz-queent-lee"). The name is a combination of the name of the Aztec God of lightning and death "Xolotl" and the Aztec word for dog, "itzcuintli." Artifacts depicting the Xoloitzcuintli have appeared in Aztec tombs and in the tombs of the Mayan, Toltec, Zapoteca, and Colima Indians.
3. They Had an Important Role in Religion
Xolos were often sacrificed when their owners died. It may sound cruel, but ancient peoples believed that a human needed his loyal dog to guide his spirit to the underworld. Xolos were buried with their masters, so their relationship would continue into the afterlife.
4. People Believe They Have Healing Powers
Many indigenous people in Mexico still maintain the beliefs of their ancestors—that Xolos can ward off evil spirits from the house and cure ailments like rheumatism, asthma, insomnia, and various aches and pains. One of the reasons for this belief is that a Xolo's skin is warm to the touch, so it can act as a hot water bottle and soothe pain.
5. They Have Been Painted by Famous Artists
Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo had Xolos as pets and included the dogs in many of their paintings. Kahlo, who was famous for her self-portraits, often painted one of her Xolos sitting in front of her.
6. There Are More Varieties of Xolos than You Would Think
Like Poodles, Xolos comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. The standard is up to 23 inches tall at the shoulder, while the toy is only 10-14 inches tall, with the miniature falling in the middle. Xolos also come in coated and hairless varieties, hence their other name, "Mexican Hairless Dog." When you consider the different size and coat type combinations, this means that there could be up to six different variations of the breed.
7. They're a Soccer Mascot
The city of Tijuana in Mexico has a professional soccer team called the Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, or the Xolos for short. Xolos are considered a national treasure in Mexico, so it's no surprise that they serve as a mascot for a soccer team.