Perhaps the biggest challenge in raising a Xoloitzcuintli is learning how to pronounce its name. Just take a deep breath and say, “show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee.” There, you nailed it! Because of their laboriously long breed name, these dogs are commonly known as Xolos or Mexican Hairless Dogs.
The Xolo is an ancient and rare breed domesticated thousands of years ago and revered by the Mayans and Aztecs. They remain important symbols in Mexican culture and have been designated as the official national dog of Mexico. Even if you’ve never met a Xolo in person, you may have seen them in Frida Kahlo’s paintings, Diego Rivera’s murals, and the 2017 Pixar film Coco.
Prized for their unique look and high intelligence, Xolos are a breed like no other. You and your Xoloitzcuintli are sure to draw looks of curiosity and admiration whenever you hit the town together. Let’s take a deeper dive into this unique dog’s world.
As the name “Mexican Hairless Dog” implies, Xolos are well-known for their fur-free appearance. However, this is not the case for all members of the breed. While the hairless variety is more common and more widely celebrated, there is a coated variety of Xolo as well.
Coated Variety vs. Hairless Variety
Approximately one in five Xolos is born with a short, smooth coat of hair. The Xolo’s hairlessness is the result of natural selection, not human selective breeding efforts. Multiple theories exist to explain why Xolos became hairless. The most popular theory is that hairless Xolos were better suited to the hot Mexican climate.
Hairlessness is a dominant genetic trait for the breed, but hairless Xolos and coated Xolos can be born in the same litter. Some hairless Xolos, though mostly bare, will feature a tuft of coarse hair on the top of their head, like a little mohawk.
The Xoloitzcuintli’s skin is smooth and thick, almost like cattle hide. It is tough enough to stand up to many things you might think would cause damage. Running through bushes and roughhousing with other dogs can leave a Xolo with pale scratch marks, but these heal quickly on their own and are no cause for alarm.
Hairless Xolos are often missing their premolars, the teeth between the canines and the molars. As a result, you may notice a hairless Xolo’s tongue hanging out of the side of its mouth. This is perfectly normal because the traits of hairlessness and toothlessness are genetically linked. Coated Xolos, on the other hand, should have all teeth present.
The absence of premolars does not affect a Xolo’s health. Hairless Xolos with missing teeth can eat the same foods as other dogs.
The Xoloitzcuintli’s almond-shaped eyes range from yellow to dark brown in hue. The darkness of the eyes typically corresponds to the darkness of the dog’s skin. Another prominent trait of the Xolo is its wrinkled brow, which will furrow in concentration as the dog stands to attention.
One of the more unusual characteristics of the Xoloitzcuintli is its high body temperature, which is over 100°F. This trait led some indigenous people to believe that Xolos possessed healing powers. When they got sick, they would snuggle up to the dog’s warm body as if it were a hot water bottle.
Xoloitzcuintli Dog Breed Size
The Xoloitzcuintli comes in three different sizes:
- The Standard Xolo ranges from 18-23 inches in height and weighs 30-55 pounds.
- The Miniature Xolo ranges from 14-18 inches in height and weighs 15-30 pounds.
- The Toy Xolo ranges from 10-14 inches in height and weighs 10-15 pounds.
The Xoloitzcuintli is a highly intelligent and observant breed. An adult dog should be calm and rarely prone to barking. However, Xolos are excellent watchdogs and will not hesitate to alert you if they think something is amiss.
A good watchdog is not necessarily a good guard dog, and the Xolo’s non-confrontational nature proves this point. If a Xolo does raise a racket, it’s advisable to check for yourself and see what disturbed them.
Deeply devoted, Xolos form strong bonds with their owners. They tend to be protective of their family and territory, but they are not aggressive dogs. Xolos may take a cautious approach to strangers, preferring to observe them from a distance for a time before interacting directly. For this reason, strangers should not rush to touch a Xoloitzcuintli but rather hang back and let the dog take the lead.
Some would describe Xoloitzcuintlis as “needy” because they require a lot of socialization. Xolos do not like to be left alone, and they long to be included in whatever their owners are getting up to. They are best suited for families that spend a lot of time at home.
It is not uncommon for Xolos to form a particularly strong bond with one person, usually the member of the household who spends the most time with them.
Xoloitzcuintli Dog Breed Exercise
A Xoloitzcuintli dog needs daily exercise, but nothing too intensive. A 20-30 minute walk twice a day should be enough. Xolos are a primitive breed with a hunter’s mentality, so they love to chase other animals like squirrels. Unless you want to join in the hunt, it would be wise to keep your Xolo on a leash whenever you go out.
A fenced yard is a great asset for any Xolo owner, allowing the dog to run wild in a safe and controlled space. The same can be said for dog parks!
A Xoloitzcuintli puppy is a whirlwind of energy. Playful and curious, Xolo pups can be a bit of a handful in their first year of life. Prospective Xolo owners should prepare to commit a substantial amount of time to training their young dogs, so they might not be the best choice for a busy household.
Xolos need structure and consistency early in their lives, as well as plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Without this, a restless young Xolo can become destructive. Xolos typically do well in puppy training classes. They are quick learners but can be a bit strong-willed at times, so patience is key. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with Xolos. They’ll do just about anything for a treat!
Early socialization as a puppy with humans and other dogs is very important for Xolo puppies. Exposure to many sights, sounds, smells, and experiences early in life can help a Xolo become more adaptable and easygoing later on. Then they will grow into sensible adult dogs, exhibiting the tranquil, intelligent, and friendly demeanor that has been winning human hearts for centuries.
Xoloitzcuintli Dog Breed History
The Xoloitzcuintli is an ancient breed, one of the first to be domesticated by humans. Ceramic statues of Xolos have been found in Mayan and Aztec tombs dating back over 3,500 years. Xolos held special religious significance in these societies, as they were believed to protect the home from evil spirits. The Aztecs named the breed after their dog-headed god, Xolotl, who was said to guide the souls of the dead on their journey to the afterlife.
After the Spanish takeover of Aztec lands, the Xoloitzcuintli nearly went extinct, kept alive only by secluded tribes of indigenous Mexicans. For centuries, the dogs faded into obscurity. This is why, despite existing alongside humans for thousands of years, the Xoloitzcuintli remains one of the lesser-known dog breeds in the world.
Interest in the Xoloitzcuintli rose in the twentieth century, leading to the much-publicized “Xolo Expedition of 1954”. A team of canine experts scoured remote regions of Mexico to find if any purebred Xolos remained. This expedition turned up just ten healthy purebred Xolos, but this group became the foundation of a national program to revive the breed in Mexico that proved to be a great success. Since then, the Xolo has steadily risen in popularity, thanks in no small part to its prominent role in Mexican culture.
Xolos as Cultural Icons
As a living remnant of ancient Mexico, the Xoloitzcuintli holds a special position in Mexican culture. The hairless dog is a recurring motif in sacred artworks of the Aztec, and it gained even more popularity after the Xolo revival of the 1950s. Frida Kahlo included her favorite Mexican hairless dog, “Señor Xolotl,” depicted in some of her most famous paintings.
Today, the Xolo is widely recognized as the logo and mascot of the Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, the premier football club of Tijuana.
Common Health Problems Found in the Xoloitzcuintli
Because the Xoloitzcuintli evolved over centuries through natural selection, they are not as vulnerable to many of the genetic health problems affecting breeds that were modified by human selection. Nevertheless, Xolos have a few particular health concerns to keep an eye on:
Adolescence is an awkward time for all of us, and young Xolos are no exception. As their hide matures throughout the first year of their life, hairless Xolos may suffer breakouts of acne and blackheads. You can use a medicated cream or shampoo to treat the affected area until this phase passes.
Larger dogs, like the Standard Xolo, are more vulnerable to joint conditions throughout their lives. Elbow and hip dysplasia are conditions resulting in loose joints that can deteriorate over time. To prevent these and other joint conditions, it is important that your Xolo maintains a healthy weight and sees the vet on a regular basis.
Xolos typically boast a big appetite. If they see food, they’ll take it. Obesity poses a serious risk to a Xolo’s health. In addition to damaging their cardiovascular system, obesity places extra strain on a dog’s joints, which can lead them to develop hip dysplasia or other joint conditions. Exercise portion control so that your Xolo maintains an appropriate weight, and consult a veterinarian for dietary advice.
Hairless Xolos are vulnerable to sunburns, especially if they have light skin. If your Xolo is hairless, it’s a good idea to apply dog-formulated sunscreen before taking them out for an extended time in the sun.
How to Care for a Xoloitzcuintli
The Xoloitzcuintli is a highly social breed that requires constant companionship. They are ideal for family homes where they can rely on a steady human presence. If you will need to leave your dog unattended for long periods of work or travel, the Xolo is probably not the best fit for your home.
Because of the close attention and training they require during puppyhood, Xolos are not well-suited as a first dog. You should have prior experience with social and active dogs before welcoming a Xolo into your home. In capable hands, both the Xolo and its owner should thrive.
Routine and regularity are the most important keys to raising a healthy, well-behaved Xolo. Make sure they have a consistent schedule of eating, exercise, and social time. Most importantly, Xolo puppies do not do well when crated for long periods and should not be left alone indoors for extended lengths of time. They will find a way to entertain themselves, often at the expense of your furniture.
Nutrition and Feeding for a Xoloitzcuintli Dog
Treat your Xolo to a high-quality dog food, one that is high in protein and low in fats, either purchased commercially or prepared at home according to a veterinarian’s guidelines. Look for food that is grain-free and made from the fewest ingredients possible. As with any pet, you should consult a vet to determine if your Xolo has any food allergies.
Xolos have big appetites and will eat as much as you give them, so portion control is extremely important. Depending on the size of your Xolo, you should give them a half cup to one-and-three-quarters cups of food each day.
Rather than leaving food out all the time, divide their daily food into two meals, and be sure to feed them around the same time every day to reinforce a routine. You can easily monitor your dog’s weight gain on a home scale, but regular veterinary checkups are also an important measure.
Since Xolos have such big appetites, you’ll probably see them eyeing your plate with a hungry gaze or begging for a taste of your leftovers. Some human foods make great treats for dogs, but others should be strictly avoided.
Bad Foods for Dogs
Many foods that are safe and even healthy for humans can be dangerous for dogs. Keep these foods in a place that your Xolo cannot access:
- Chocolate: Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is notoriously dangerous for dogs. It contains toxic substances that disrupt a dog’s metabolism. Just a small amount of chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, and ingesting large amounts of chocolate can be fatal.
- Garlic and Onions: Garlic and onions are members of the Allium family, which also includes leeks and chives. These can cause anemia in dogs.
- Grapes: While most fruits are good for dogs, grapes are a serious exception. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can cause an elevated or irregular heart rate in dogs, so keep your Xolo away from coffee and caffeinated tea.
- Avocado: Avocados contain a toxin called persin that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory problems in dogs.
If you think your Xolo has eaten something toxic, you should take them to the vet right away or call the Pet Poison Helpline.
Good Foods for Dogs
Some human staples can be a great addition to your dog’s diet. Xolos, in particular, love fruits and vegetables. Human food is best kept as a treat for your dog, not as their principal diet.
- Fruits: Apples, berries, and melons can be great treats for a Xolo, or any other dog for that matter. They are high in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Many fruits also contain high levels of sugar, so give them to your dog in moderation.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, carrots, and green beans are just a few of the vegetables that can add vitamins and nutrients to your dog’s diet. Celery is even known to improve bad breath in dogs! Make sure you only give your dog fresh vegetables. Canned veggies often have a lot of added sodium in them.
- Cooked Eggs: Eggs are packed with protein, as well as nearly every essential vitamin and mineral. However, raw eggs can carry salmonella, which your dog can pass along to you.
These are just a few simple guidelines. If you are thinking about trying a new food with your dog, ask a vet first to ensure it is a safe choice.
Coat Color and Grooming
The Xoloitzcuintli comes in a range of colors:
- Gray (most common)
Though usually uniform in color, some Xolos are mottled with brown or pink spots. While this trait is frowned upon by some breeders, Xolo owners know that the color of their dog’s coat has nothing to do with its worth as a pet and only contributes further to its attention-grabbing appearance.
One of the greatest benefits of owning a hairless breed is that they require minimal grooming. After a long day of outdoor play, you can simply wipe down your Xolo’s skin with a damp cloth to remove any dead skin cells and pollen from weeds and grass.
Even Xolos with a fur coat only need light grooming. You should brush a coated Xolo’s short hair about once a week. As with all dog breeds, Xolos should have their nails trimmed and teeth cleaned on a regular basis.
Bathing your Xolo on a regular basis can help keep its skin healthy, smooth, and smelling good. Baths can be given as often as once a week or as infrequently as once a month. Be careful about over-bathing your pup, as too many baths can strip the Xolo’s skin of essential natural oils.
If you aren’t sure whether your Xolo needs a bath, feel and smell its hide. If the Xolo’s skin feels very oily or smells musty, that means it’s time for a bath.
Children and Other Pets
Because Xoloitzcuintlis have coexisted with humans for so many centuries, they make great family pets. Xolos form a very strong bond with their owners, being affectionate towards their family while aloof towards strangers. That being said, lots of socialization and exposure to other people and pets early in their life can help Xolos warm to new people and experiences with greater ease.
While their loyal and affectionate nature makes them ideal for family households, Xolos are sensitive dogs. They will not take kindly to aggressive physical touch, so they are not well-suited for life with young children who might pull on their ears and tails.
Xolos can adapt well to households with other pets. If you have a cat or another breed of dog, do your research ahead of time to determine if they will be able to adapt to having a Xolo in the mix. When raised and cared for responsibly, Xolos are very friendly dogs. Regular visits to a dog park in addition to daily walks outside the house can help a Xolo grow accustomed to the presence of other animals.
Xoloitzcuintli Dog Rescue Groups
Rescue groups take in dogs that have been abandoned or whose owners can no longer care for them. Because the Xoloitzcuintli is still a rare breed, they are almost exclusively available through breeders. However, a couple of resources exist for rescued Xolos:
- Xoloitzcuintli Primitive Breed Rescue – www.xolopbr.com
- Bald Is Beautiful Hairless and Small Breed Rescue – www.baldisbeautifuldogrescue.org
Xoloitzcuintli Dog Breed Organizations
A breed club is a perfect place to meet other Xolo enthusiasts and learn more about the breed. Xolo owners are a passionate bunch, bound by their love for this one-of-a-kind animal. The Xoloitzcuintli Club of America is the official Xolo organization in the United States, as recognized by the American Kennel Club.
The Xoloitzcuintli Club of America hosts dog shows around the country. They even have an honor roll for past and present champions. Believe it or not, the ancient Xolo was not officially recognized by the AKC until 2011, so they were not allowed to compete in multi-breed shows like Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show until the last decade. Now they’re coming for the crown!
The Xoloitzcuintli Club is also a great resource for buying a Xolo. They keep a list of reputable breeders around the nation.
- The Xoloitzcuintli Club of America – www.xoloitzcuintliclubofamerica.org
More About the Xoloitzcuintli
With a unique dog comes unique considerations. If you are considering getting a Xoloitzcuintli of your own, there are a few more things to think about before contacting an adoption center or breeder.
The Xolo is one of the rarest breeds in the world, with an estimated 30,000 in existence worldwide, predominantly in Mexico. Due to their scarcity, you should expect to pay $2,000-4,000 for a Xoloitzcuintli puppy. Fortunately, because Xolos are such a healthy breed, they do not cost much to maintain in the long term. You can expect to spend the most money on your Xolo during its first year of life.
A Good Dog for Allergy Sufferers
Hairless dogs are hypoallergenic, so if you or one of your family members are allergic to dog hair, the Xolo could be the ideal addition to your home.
Be aware that hair is not the only thing that triggers allergies to dogs. Canine saliva and skin cells can also provoke an allergic reaction in certain cases. Fortunately, Xolos tend to drool very little, and regularly wiping them off with a damp cloth should keep them from leaving dead skin cells around the house.
If you are allergic to dogs, you should spend some time around a Xoloitzcuintli before deciding to adopt, just to be sure that it will not provoke your allergies.
The Xoloitzcuintli’s unique appearance, storied past, and steadfast devotion make it a dog like no other. You are sure to draw attention wherever you go with your Xolo but prepare for many questions about their one-of-a-kind name. Just remember, “show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee,” and you’ll be good to go!