Xoloitzcuintli: The Ultimate Guide


Devoted to their familias, the Xoloitzcuintli (we know, it’s a mouthful that’s hard to wrap your tongue around, but it’s actually pronounced show-low-eats-queent-lee), or Xolo (which in English, is pronounced show-low) is one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world. The Aztecs used to have their Xolo’s buried with them to serve as their spirit guides to, and guardians in, the underworld and the realm of the dead. 

They may not be the prettiest hounds in the world, but Xolo’s (sometimes called Anubis dogs because of the standard sized member of the Mexican pack’s resemblance to the Egyptian deity who protected the tombs of the deceased) steadfast and unrelenting devotion to their families and human companions more than compensates for their unusual appearance.

Xoloitzcuintli

Thought to be virtually extinct in their purebred form by the AKC (American Kennel Club) at the end of the nineteen fifties, the Xolo has staged a remarkable comeback thanks in no small part to their champion Norman Pelham Wright, who we’ll talk about in more detail a little bit later on. 

One of only four breeds of hairless dog in the world, the Xolo (the shortened version is a lot easier to write, say and read than the breed full name), is widely thought to have been the first dog to have ever stood on American soil, and as its past is shrouded in mystery, we thought that maybe it was about time that we put together a guide to the dog who at one time, was the faithful guide to his masters in both this world and the next.

It’s time to meet the Xolo, the dog that is almost as old as recorded history… 

Key Facts Of The Xoloitzcuintli

Xolo’s aren’t a middle ground breed, people either love them or they can live without them, but the one thing that nobody will ever do after seeing one of these incredible dogs is forget them.

For the people who do fall in love with them, it’s an instant arrow through the heart moment that’s almost impossible to describe if you’ve never felt it. If you fall in love with a Xolo, it’s a lifelong thing that you’ll never get over, and the desire and need to own one is an itch that’ll never go away until you finally scratch it. 

Before we embark on our Xolo heavy journey that’ll tell you everything that you need to know about this strange and wonderful Mexican hound, we thought that we should cover some of the basic information that everyone would-be Xolo owner should arm themselves with before they decide whether or not they’re the right owner for the dog and the dog is the right one for them.

Here’s our list of fundamental things that you should think about before deciding to look for your perfect little hairless pal

Average Lifespan

Xolo’s are, by canine standards, incredibly long-lived dogs and on average live anywhere between fourteen and twenty years. Caring for one is a big commitment and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

Minimum Exercise (per day)

They don’t need a lot of exercise and depending on the size of your Xolo, anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour of walking on a leash should be enough to satisfy them.  

They can be playful, so will need a yard or garden to burn off any excess energy. But be warned, as they have a well-earned reputation for being particularly adept escape artists, and can jump and dig, you’ll need to build the fence around your yard high, and make sure it’s buried at least a foot underground.

The last thing you want to spend your weekends doing is chasing your Xolo all over your barrio. 

Coat Length

Contrary to the widely held belief that all Xolo’s are hairless, the breed has both a hairless and a coated variety. The coated Xolo has a thin, single layer of fur that is usually black. Hairless Xolo’s sometimes have fur on their heads (which looks like a mohawk), their tails, and their feet. 

Minimum Cost Per Month

Taking care of, and looking after a Xolo, by the time you’ve accounted for both the dog food that they’ll need and the pet insurance that you’ll need to ensure that you’re prepared for the worst if they ever need emergency medical treatment, should cost you a minimum of anywhere between eighty and one hundred and twenty dollars a month, depending on the size of your dog.  

Appearance

Xolo’s are smooth, well-built dogs with long necks and muzzles, large eyes, and ears that look more like those of a bat than a typical canine. The majority of the breed is hairless thanks to a dominant recessive gene and are usually either brown or black in color. 

Size

The Xolo comes in three sizes, Miniatura (Toy), Intermedio (Miniature), and Estandar (Standard), all of which are recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club). 

Average Height

The Xolo, due to the size difference between the three different varieties of the breed stands between ten and twenty-three inches (twenty-five to sixty-two centimeters) tall at the shoulder

Average Weight

And the massive discrepancies in height, also apply to how heavy the dog can be, as the Xolo can weigh anywhere from twelve to fifty-five pounds or five to twenty-three kilograms. 

Temperament Of A Xoloitzcuintli

Xolo’s, unlike a lot of pedigree dogs, haven’t been subject to behavioral modification by breeders, which means that their temperament has remained largely unchanged throughout their long history.

They are intelligent, sensitive, inquisitive dogs who are, for the most part, calm around their human companions to whom they are fiercely loyal and devoted. 

Apartment Living

They are, surprisingly suited to life in an apartment as adult dogs are calm and providing they receive sufficient exercise, are content to spend as much time with their owners as they can, regardless of where they are.  

Good For Novice Owners

Due to their history as watch and guard dogs and their primitive temperament, Xolo’s aren’t the right dog for someone who isn’t used to dealing with dogs who can react to anything that they perceive to be a threat to them or their families.

Xolo’s require an experienced owner who is used to being around breeds that need a firm, confident hand and understanding of their behavioral traits.  

Sensitivity Level

Xolo’s are incredibly sensitive dogs who don’t respond well to being punished or ill-treated and need to be taught how to interact with the world in a calm, and confident manner that is built around and incorporates reward-based training.

Tolerates Being Alone

As they form tight, incredibly close bonds with their families (and tend to favor one member of each family in particular) Xolo’s don’t handle being left alone for long periods of time very well. They are reactive dogs and will bark and become destructive if they’re not taught from a young age that their chosen family member will always come back. 

Tolerates Cold Weather

Because they’re hairless dogs, Xolo’s aren’t suited to cold climates and if they do have to go outside in colder than average temperatures, they should always wear a coat. Even the Xolo’s who do have fur don’t do well in the cold as their natural coats are too thin to offer them a lot of protection from below-freezing temperatures. 

Tolerates Hot Weather

They do however fare far better in warmer climates, but if you are going to head out with a Xolo while the sun is high in the sky, as they don’t have any fur or natural protection from UV rays, you’ll need to make sure that your dog is wearing sunscreen. It sounds crazy, but it’s part of everyday life with a hairless dog.  

Affectionate With Family

Xolo’s are incredibly affectionate, gentle, and kind with their families with whom they form an incredibly strong bond. They are devoted and loyal and would happily, and without hesitation fight to their very last breath to protect their cherished “pack”

Is A Xoloitzcuintli Kid-Friendly?

As long as they’re raised with children, Xolo’s are playful with and tolerant of the younger members of their families. They can be reactive with children who don’t know how to behave around, or how to interact with dogs and are better suited to families with older offspring. 

Dog Friendly

As they have a strong pack instinct, Xolo’s adore the company of other dogs and are generally not aggressive with other canines, and any potential aggression can be curbed by ensuring that they are socialized with other animals from an early age. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

Xolos are incredibly protective of their families and can be reactive with strangers, and need to be socialized with people from an early age and always introduced to anyone they don’t know who comes to their home.

While they won’t be affectionate toward anyone they don’t know, as long as they’re properly introduced to them they’ll treat strangers with indifference instead of aggression. 

Health & Grooming

Xoloitzcuintli

The breed is regarded as being one of the hardiest and healthiest in the world and tends to live far longer than almost any other dog does.

But before we go into the specific details of why Xolo’s don’t succumb to common canine ailments, we’ll tackle the day-to-day details of grooming and shedding, and why they might be more prone to drooling than a lot of other dogs are.

Shedding

Because they’re hairless the Xolo doesn’t shed, so you won’t need to brush up any excess hair from the floors of your home, as he won’t leave any.

Grooming

Even though they don’t need to be “groomed”, Xolos do need to be bathed and washed at least a couple of times a week to ensure that the pores of their skin don’t get blocked, which can lead to them developing acne and other skin related problems. 

Drooling

The breed is prone to dental abnormalities, which can manifest themselves as oddly shaped and angled teeth which can make a Xolo more prone to drooling than other dogs are. 

General Health

Apart from the dental abnormalities which can easily be corrected by a veterinarian if they trouble the dog, Xolo’s are incredibly healthy, hardy dogs. 

Common Health Problems

As they haven’t been bred for a specific purpose and their genetic line remains largely the same as it has since the dog first appeared, Xolos don’t suffer from any breed-specific ailments, which largely explains their unusually long, for a dog at least,  lifespan. 

Potential For Weight Gain

The breed doesn’t have a propensity toward obesity, but if your dog does become unduly attached to food or begins to put on weight, you’ll need to carefully monitor and control its diet before the extra pounds he’s holding on to do become a potential health risk.  

Trainability

Like all dogs, Xolo’s benefit greatly from being socialized and trained from an early age, as both can help them to deal with any potential aggression issues toward strangers and people that they don’t know and are unfamiliar with.  

Easy To Train

As they’re intelligent, responsive dogs, Xolo’s are relatively easy to train and respond incredibly well to positive, reward-based programs. They’re also easy to potty train, but can suffer from obedience issues, so you’ll need to focus on this if you want your dog to understand what you expect, and need from him. 

Intelligence

Xolo’s are bright, clever dogs who learn quickly and can and do adapt to new situations if given enough time. They thrive if given a regular routine, and if you intend to change or break it you’ll need to slowly, calmly and confidently teach them the new routine that has been designed to replace the one that they have become accustomed and acclimatized to. 

Potential To Bite

Xolos can be reactive when meeting and confronting strangers, and if this behavior isn’t dealt with properly from an early age, it can become problematic as the dog reaches maturity. As Xolo puppies can be much more “mouthy” than other canines it’s important to teach them not to use their teeth, and to socialize them from an early age. A well-socialized Xolo shouldn’t, and won’t have any inclination to bite. 

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

They are reactive dogs and will bark when faced with unfamiliar situations when they meet strangers and if they’re left alone for too long. Adult Xolo’s tend to be far calmer and relaxed than young dogs are, and by the time they reach their second birthday (the age at which a Xolo reaches full maturity), they should become much quieter and far less excitable. 

History

Named after the god of fire and lightning, Xoloti who the Aztecs believed created them, and the Nahuatl word for dog, itzcuintli, the Xoloitzcuintli is widely believed to be the oldest native American canine.

It wasn’t until nineteen fifty when noted Xolo historian Norman Pelham Wright led the Xolo Expedition of 1954 to find the last purebred Xolo dogs in Mexico that the breed received any significant interest in its native country.

After finding what is believed to be the last ten purebred dogs in existence, the Mexican government began a program to revive the breed before it became extinct. 

First registered and recognized with the American Kennel Club in 1886, when the AKC learned that the breed faced possible extinction in 1959, they removed it from their books and only reinstated it in January 2009.

The Xolo is a dog that has outlived the Aztecs and seen the ages of man come and go, and thanks to the efforts of Norman Pelham Wright now has a bright and glorious future. 

Costs

Xolos are still a relatively rare dog in the United States and the number of registered breeders is few and far between, which means that they are incredibly expensive to purchase.

A Xolo puppy from a dependable and established breeder and authentic bloodline will cost anywhere between two and four thousand dollars and the waiting list for dogs is long, so you’ll need to be incredibly patient. 

However, even though Xolo’s don’t turn up at shelters, there is a dedicated rescue for Xolos that is always trying to find homes for the dogs in their care,  so before you give a breeder a call, you could always call them and find out about the dogs in their care looking for new owners.

And as we always say, it isn’t just the dog that you adopt that will be eternally grateful to you, your bank balance will be too, as it’s always far more affordable to adopt a dog than it is to shop for one. 

Fun Facts Of The Xoloitzcuintli

The oldest dog in all of the Americas finally made its big-screen debut when a Xolo named Dante became one of the stars of the smash-hit Disney Pixar film Coco in two thousand and seventeen. 

After facing extinction in the late nineteen fifties, thanks to the efforts of Norman Pelham Wright and the Mexican Government there are now thirty thousand registered Xolos all over the world, one thousand of which reside in the United States. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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