The Xoloitzcuintli: an extraordinary breed with ancient roots | TeamDogs

The Xoloitzcuintli: an extraordinary breed with ancient roots

The Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, is an otherworldly Mexican hairless dog with a long and fascinating history. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of getting one...

Catrin Pascoe

Posted 28d ago

Main image: Getty Images

By Jenny White

The Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced "sho-low-itz-QUEENT-lee") or Xolo for short is a Mexican hairless dog breed, famously owned by the artist Frida Kahlo.

An extraordinary dog breed with a long and fascinating history, they’re pretty rare in the UK, and at one point they had almost vanished from their native Mexico, having been a popular food source for the conquistadors. 

Frida Kahlo with her pet Xolo. Getty Images

Now they’re back from the brink and their numbers are growing, partly because their hairlessness makes them a good pet for people with allergies to dog hair. 

That’s not the only reason they’re so special. Xolos play an important role in South American mythology: they’re said to have been created by the god Xolotl to guide the dead through the underworld – a role that suits their austere, otherworldly looks.

MORE FROM TEAMDOGS: This dapper dog has floor-length beard

The Xolo is an ancient breed that has not been manipulated over the years. If you meet one you’ll probably be struck by its graceful movements, beautiful eyes, which range from dark brown to amber, and its resemblance to Anubis – the god of Egyptian mythology who was also linked to the underworld. 

Image: Getty Images

Xolos can be standoffish, but they bond strongly with their owners.

In the park they love to explore, while also checking regularly that their owner is within sight. They’re good watchdogs and will bark whenever someone comes to the house, but they can be highly strung, so it’s important to get them used to other dogs and people in order to avoid any behavioural issues.

The Xolo’s body is typically hairless, although coated versions do exist. In Mexico there’s a tradition of taking them to bed for warmth – their skin makes them a perfect hot water bottle, and they’re said to be good with the sick, snuggling up to the area of the body where pain is felt. 

MORE FROM TEAMDOGS: A day in the life of an assistance dog

The Xolo’s hairless skin is prone to dryness and irritation, so it’s important to keep it moisturised and protect it from sunlight. On colder days, your dog will need a coat to keep it warm. Interestingly, the genetic mutation that makes Xolos hairless also means they never have a full set of teeth.

The Xolo’s independent nature can make it challenging to train, so consistency and repetition are important. It’s also important to make sure your garden is secure, because they’re good climbers and diggers. As a primitive breed, the Xolo can be difficult to housetrain, so again, vigilance and consistency are important. Train your pet with plenty of praise and rewards; they respond better to these than to harsh discipline.

Image: Getty Images

Xolos come in various sizes: toy (10 to 14 inches high); miniature (14 to 18 inches high) and standard (18 to 23 inches high). 

While you can buy Xolo from breeders, rescue dogs do sometimes become available, and this is the best place to start your search. Because they’re an unusual breed that needs special care, you’re more likely to find them via breed-specific Facebook rescue groups rather than directly from kennels. Their eerie beauty makes them very eye catching; if you have one, be prepared to be stopped often in the park by people wanting to know more about your unusual dog.

Keep up to date with TeamDogs news by following our social pages. As well as videos, tips and advice, we’ll also be sharing your fabulous photos of your very best pals so follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.