Correction of a book error: the Xoloitzcuintli, a jawbreaker of a dog

An alert reader has called my attention to an error in WEIT. In the section on dog-breeding, I characterize the Chihuahua as having been bred as a food animal by the Aztecs. This appears to be wrong, but the real story is more interesting. The food-dog in question appears to be not the Chihuahua, but the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced, according to Wikipedia and other sources, as “show-low-itz-quint-lee”). This is the rare “Mexican hairless” dog, apparently an endangered breed not recognized by the American Kennel Club, although it used to be. Weighing from 10-50 pounds, it is completely hairless except for a crest atop its head. It is thus hypoallergenic (a good dog for the Obama’s daughters?). It also sweats through its skin rather than its tongue–the only dog to do so. Obviously, like hairless cats, it must be kept warm.

The “xolo” was apparently used as a source of heat for sick Aztecs, since its naked body could be placed next to the patient. And it was apparently eaten as well. It’s one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world. The hairlessness is obviously the result of a mutation (or mutations), but I couldn’t find the specific genetic lesion involved.

Anyway, let’s hear it for the xolo, a living “dog fossil” that is hanging on by its claws. You can read more about it here.




  1. Graham
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    It would be interesting to know whether the ‘skin sweating’ was a potentially a pleiotropic affect of selecting for lack of hair. Given that they must get cold quicker than other breeds it is hard to see why this trait would be selected for independently.


  2. Jillian
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I read somewhere that this dog was considered the worlds ugliest dog but in that case I am forced to disagree. This is one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen and it looks like a very loving animal. I would certainly get one if the pound had any!


  3. Tony Varney
    Posted May 23, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Taken from the Wiki:
    Contrary to popular myth, the breed does not have a higher than normal body temperature, does not sweat through its skin and contact with a Xolo cannot heal injuries or illness. These myths are based in the breed’s traditional ceremonial use.

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