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Can You Say Xoloitzcuintli?

By Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz

It takes some time to learn to pronounce the name of one of the Non-Sporting breeds that will enter Westminster Kennel Club dog show rings for the first time this year. But break Xoloitzcuintli down a few times to “show-low-eats-queen-tlee,” or “show-low” for short, and it’s a snap.

This hairless dog of Mexico is considered a national treasure and one of the rarest and most ancient breeds, existing at least 3,000 years ago. Its name combines that of the Aztec Indian god Xolotl and “itzcuintli,” the Aztec word for dog. In primitive cultures, the dog was viewed as a sacred guide, leading the dead across treacherous waters into heaven. Others say the dog’s warm skin possesses healing powers and use the Xolo as a hot water bottle to help ease body aches and pains. Painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera incorporated images of the Xolo into their works.

A typical Xolo head and expression. Photo by Dan Sayers.

A moderate dog, the Xolo is grace, strength and elegance personified. Its dark color ranges from black, gray-black and slate to red, liver or bronze often with white spots and markings.

The breed comes in three sizes: toy, miniature and standard, and two varieties: hairless and coated. At AKC shows, all are exhibited together with no class distinction. Ten Xolos are scheduled to enter the Westminster ring on Feb. 13, 2012.

The toy is at least 10, and up to 14 inches in height at the withers, while the miniature is more than 14 inches, and up to 18. The standard’s withers must be more than 18 and up to  23 inches. Dogs less than 10 inches or over 24 inches are disqualified.

For hairless Xolos, the signature trait is the complete absence of hair, although a small tuft may be present on the top of the head, giving the dog something of a punk rocker look. Short coarse hair is also permitted on the feet, and the last third of the tail to the tip. Hair on any other area is a fault.

The Xoloitzcuintli. Photo courtesy Westminster Kennel Club.


Like the Powderpuff Chinese Crested, the coated Xolo has a full coat of short, smooth, close-fitting hair. In either variety, long, soft or wavy hair is a serious fault. Coated and hairless varieties are often present in the same litter.

The bites also differ in each variety. Missing premolars are acceptable in the hairless, but coated Xolos need full dentition.

As companions, Xolos are more like cats, in that they are intelligent, independent, calm and aloof. Nevertheless, they still require attention and quickly adapt to pampering.

For more details about this unique breed, visit the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America at www.xoloitzcuintliclubofamerica.org.


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  • Seth February 3, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    I’m not so sure about this one. It’s probably just my personal preference for a dog with hair. I’d be interested in seeing pictures of the coated variety of Xolos.

  • Ilene February 4, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    I’m the same way in preferring dogs with coat, but they are pretty unique looking in their hairless variety too. Look up “coated Xolo” and you’ll see many photos of the coated variety. I think they look so nice in coat, but it shocked me at first seeing them that way as I was so used to just seeing the hairless variety and not even knowing they came in a coated variety!

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