Endangered Species: Xoloitzcuintle
The Xoloitzcuintle or Xoloitzcuintli – pronounced, “show low eats queent lee,” – is also known as the Mexican Hairless. This breed was considered an earthly form of the god Xolotl, whose task was to accompany souls to their final resting place. For this reason, the Aztec people would sacrifice a Xolo in order to be buried with it. The Mexican hairless dog is one of the oldest breeds in the world, and in danger of becoming extinct. Rumor has it that these dogs are sometimes seen wandering along the waterfront in Hong Kong, and efforts are now being made to protect the breed in its native Mexico. Unlike the Chinese Crested, this breed is totally hairless except for a tuft of short, coarse, and not very dense hair on the skull. This breed was eaten due to the belief that it had curative powers over various physical problems such as arthritis. In addition, the Xoloitzcuintle was a convenient source of protein. The ancient people raised herds of this breed, fattened the young for the market, and sold as food. The Xolo is a rare breed, even in Mexico.
In 1956, members of the Federacion Canofila Mexicana began a registration and breeding program for the dogs to counteract its near extinction. As Europeans brought the dogs to the New World, the breed was diluted, however the hairless gene was strong enough to maintain the familiar look the Xolo. Prior to 1974, the Xoloitzcuintle was listed in the non-sporting group, but Mexicans believed that placing it in the working group would uphold its traditional image. More recently, the breed was moved to the spitz and primitive group. Xolos come in 3 sizes, the toy, miniature, and standard, with the miniature being the most common. They have a pointed muzzle, reminiscent of a bottle; the tail is set low, and kept tucked in. The eyes are black and shaped like almonds. The delicate ears are large and stand upright; most have to be bandaged at a young age to train them to stand correctly. These dogs are warm to the touch, leading many to believe their body temperature is higher than other dogs. In fact, the body temperature is exactly the same as any other dog. Some members of this breed have tufts of hair or “powderpuff” fur that falls in heavy folds on its neck and body. Both varieties can be reddish gray, black, elephant gray, dark bronze, gray-black, and sometimes coffee with pink spots with soft, smooth skin.
Despite the Xolo’s more than 3000 year history in Mexico, the breed did not receive any official notice there until the 1950s. The FCM, founded in 1940, was not prepared to declare the Xolo an official purebred at that time. According to breed historian, Norman Pelham Wright, author of The Enigma of the Xoloitzcuintli Xolos began to turn up at Mexican dog shows in the late 1940s. While it was recognized that these were indigenous specimens of a native breed, interest in them was minimal at that time. Information was scarce and no standard existed by which to judge them. Within a decade the FCM realized that the breed would be extinct if drastic action were not taken to save it. This led to the widely publicized Xolo Expedition of 1954. With the official sanction of FCM, Wright and a team of Mexican and British dog authorities set off to discover if any purebred Xolos still existed in remote areas of Mexico.
Eventually ten good Xolos were found and these dogs formed the foundation of Mexico’s program to revive the breed. A committee headed by Wright authored the first official standard for the breed; and, on May 1, 1956, the Xolo was finally recognized in its native land and, as Mexico is a member of the FCI, worldwide too.
In 1997, Mexican biozoologist Raúl Valadez Azúa invited Carles Vilà, to an event related to the study of Mexican hairless dogs. The two men saw in their areas of expertise the potential for collaboration. Valadez had spent more than 12 years building a collection of pre-Columbian dog remains. Vilà, a postdoctoral fellow in Robert Wayne’s Genetics Lab at UCLA, had just published a paper in Science on the origins of dogs.
Source: akc.org/breeds/xoloitzcuintli/- xcusa.net