Did you know Saturday (Feb. 20) is National Love Your Pet Day? Whether you’ve given your heart to a yappy chihuahua or a lazy iguana, having a pet in your life that you adore is reason enough to take an entire day to celebrate the special bond you share with your animal BFF.
For those pet owners who tend to be intrigued by species that are more unique than your everyday house cat or hamster, meet the Xoloitzcuintle. More familiar by its other name, the Mexican hairless dog, the Xoloitzcuintle, or Xolo, is one of several breeds of hairless dogs that can range in size, from standard to toy.
If you’ve never seen a Xoloitzcuintle in real life, but think it looks familiar, it might be because you recognize its distinct appearance from the 2017 Pixar animated film Coco. The Oscar-winning movie features the character Dante, a tongue-wagging street dog who tags along with main character Miguel across town and later acquires the powers of the alebrijes.
Or maybe you’re a fan of Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, a Mexican professional football club based in Tijuana, who adopted the Xoloitzcuintle as its mascot when it formed the team in 2007. Either way, with a name like Xoloitzcuintle, you know there’s a long history behind the Aztec-related pooch.
Before you go off to hang with your hedgehog this weekend or cuddle with your Cockapoo, check out these five facts about the Xoloitzcuintle that just might compel you to retire your dog clippers in the future.
The name Xoloitzcuintle comes from the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl, and itzcuīntli, which means “dog” in Nahuatl. Varieties of the Nahuatl language are spoken by approximately 1.7 million Nahua people, who live mostly in Central Mexico.
Ceramic sculptures of the Xoloitzcuintle have been found at burial sites for the Mayan and Toltec people in West Mexico. In ancient times, the breed would be sacrificed and buried with its owners to act as spirit guides during a journey to the underworld.
In 2020, the DNA sequencing of ancient dog genomes indicated that the Xoloitzcuintle retained 3% of its pre-colonial ancestry. In comparison, the chihuahua retained 4%.
The Xoloitzcuintle was one of the very first breeds recorded by the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 1887, a Xoloitzcuintle named “Mee Too” became the first of its kind to be registered by the AKC. In 1940, a Xoloitzcuintle named “Chinito Junior” was named as an AKC champion, the only one to earn the distinction to this day. The Xoloitzcuintle made its debut at the Westminster Dog Show in 2012.
In 2016, Miguel Ángel Mancera, the Mayor of Mexico City, designated the Xoloitzcuintle as a “cultural heritage and symbol” of the city.