If Our Pets Could Talk – October 2023

I was watching a recent TV ad, promoting a DNA test for your family dog to identify its ‘breed’, that breed’s possible health conditions and ‘potential relatives’. I thought about our famous “Mexican Mutt”, AKA “Mexican Street Dog” thinking how busy that DNA testing would get. Many different breeds have been introduced into Mexican canine genetics by ‘foreigners’ coming to Mexico with their family dogs, most whose origin  are  from  outside Mexico, like Labradors, Cockers,  Poodles, Beagles, Boxers, Huskies , and etc…

However, there are “native’ Mexican dog breeds. The Chihuahua is the most recognized breed associated with Mexico. But, there are 4 other native Mexican breeds, they are: the Chamuco, the Chinese Crested, the Calupoh and the Xoloitzcuintli,  AKA the  Xolo, the national dog breed of Mexico. Below is a little history about of each these breeds.  

The Chamuco: is known as the Mexican Pit Bull. It’s genetics come from 1970 cross-breeding of the American and Mexican Bulldog, Staffordshire Terrier, and Pit Bull Terriers, and some say the “Mexican Street Dog” genes also. This dog resembles the American Pit Bull Terrier.

The Chinese Crest: Despite its name, it is of Mexican origin. The breed shares its genetic origin with the Mexican Hairless Dog, also known as the Xōlōitzcuintli. There is pictorial evidence that Chinese traders obtained them during the 16th Century in Mexico and sold them in port cities they visited throughout the world. Spanish explorers came across them in Mexico and South Africa. The breed made its way to Europe and England during the early 1800s, and imported to China, where their breeding continued.

The Calupoh:  It is also known as the Mexican Wolf Dog. It was developed in the 1990’s by the crossbreeding of wild wolves and various dog breeds. These dogs are used as sheep-dogs, cattle-dogs and occasionally as companion, but used mostly as guard dogs given their territorial instincts. Mexico has been crossbreeding dogs and gray wolves since the 16th century. They decided to restart the Calupoh genetic project more recently because of a “cultural rescue.” A male Calupoh can reach up to 30 inches tall [at the shoulder], about the same height of a Great Pyrenees.

The Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo: referred to as the Mexican Hairless Dog. [pronounced: “show-low-itz-QUEENT-ly”], but they generally have  some fur on their heads resembling a “Mohawk”.  It was named after the Aztec god of lightning and death. Xolo dogs come in three sizes: toy, miniature and standard and not all are hairless. The hairless variety is more popular and famous due to the unique look as a result of a genetic mutation, that is also responsible for the dog’s lack of premolars. They date back to around 7,000 years and  the Aztecs worshipped [and sacrificed]  them. It is said, they believed these dogs were to serve their masters even after death, guiding the soul of the deceased through the underworld to reach Mictlan – the place of the dead. The most frequent depictions take the form of small ceramic vessels known as Colima Dogs, seen in Colima and neighboring states of Nayarit and Jalisco. Archaeologists estimate that more than 75 percent of burials from the Preclassic period (ca. 300 B.C to A.D. 300) contain these vessels. Christopher Columbus made note of the “strange, hairless” dogs in his journals, and the Xolo was taken back to Europe.

The Chihuahua: has wide variety in their appearance – black, white, fawn, chocolate, gold, cream or a mix; some have long hair and other short hair. There are two opinions about their origin. One being is that the DNA indicated they have European origins, some historians believe the breed was brought to Mexico by Chinese merchants. The other opinion based on archaeological findings indicate the Chihuahua has Mexican origins and is a descendent of the Techichi, an ancient breed dating back to the Toltec civilization domesticated in the 9th century Mexico.

So with our Mexican street dog rescue family member, we might be sharing a part of history.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Jackie Kellum

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