In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we’ve rounded up some fascinating facts about Mexico’s native dog breeds: the Xoloitzcuintli and the Chihuahua. While only a minor holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become a big deal in the United States. This popular observance is thanks in part to Mexican-American activists in the 1960s, who saw it as a chance to celebrate the country’s heritage and culture. We think it’s only fitting to shine a spotlight on two unique breeds that hail from Mexico.
7 Facts About the Xoloitzcuintli
1. The Xoloitzcuintli’s name comes from Xoloti, an Aztec god, and “itzcuintli,” the Aztec word for dog. It’s pronounced “show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee.”
2. Even if you’re familiar with the breed, you may not know that there’s both a hairless and coated variety, as well as three different sizes.
3. Xolos are one of the world’s oldest dog breeds, with archaeological evidence of their existence dating back over 3,000 years.
4. Ancient peoples believed the breed could protect their homes from evil spirits. They also thought it had healing powers. These beliefs come from Xolos being warm to the touch, thus acting as a “hot water bottle.”
5. If you’ve ever petted a Xolo, you know that their skin is actually a hide. It’s thick and resistant to injury.
6. Because of that hide, which matures during the first year, Xolo puppies sometimes get adolescent acne or have the canine equivalent of cradle cap (scaly patches on infant scalps).
7. The Tijuana soccer team is named Xoloitzcuintle, with a Xolo as their mascot. In 2012, the team became champions of the top Mexican league and, according to the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America, this has done more to popularize the breed than the work of both the Mexican and American parent clubs combined.
7 Facts About the Chihuahua
1. Although the Chihuahua is a national symbol of Mexico, no one knows for sure how the breed first came to the country. Chihuahua-like images are found on artifacts of ancient civilizations around the world.
2. Around 1,000 years ago, the Chi’s ancestor was the larger Techichi, which was the breed of choice for the Toltecs. The Aztecs, who conquered the Toltecs in the 12th century, are responsible for refining the Techichi into a smaller, lighter dog. The breed we know today gets its name from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
3. Lovers of the breed know that within that tiny body — weighing no more than six pounds — is a giant personality. Smart and sassy, Chihuahuas know how cute they are and how to get what they want. This breed could easily rule the roost, so proper training is essential.
4. Despite their tiny size, Chihuahuas can be very successful in dog sports like agility. They’re fast learners, especially if training involves treats.
5. The Chihuahua is one of the smallest dog breeds, making it easy to take them anywhere.
6. The breed is a favorite among celebrities. Bandleader Xavier Cugat helped popularize Chihuahuas in the 1940s and ’50s, and stars such as Demi Moore, Madonna, Mickey Rourke, Jamie Lee Curtis, and George Lopez have all owned one. They are famous onscreen, too, having had starring roles in movies like “Sex and the City,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” and “Legally Blonde.”
7. In spite of their popularity, the Chihuahua has never won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.