DOGS 101: What is a Chihuahua?

What is a Chihuahua?

I am often asked questions about the Chihuahua, the breed I know and love. Maybe I can answer the most common inquiries, so here goes with Chihuahua 101.

Like many dog breeds there are many theories as to where the Chihuahua originated. According to the “The Complete Dog Book” (The official publication of the American Kennel Club), most theories point to ancient Mexico where carvings and remains of small dogs have been discovered by archeologists. These artifacts greatly resemble the Chihuahua. The breed is thought to have been first associated with the Toltec people of ancient Mexico who existed as early as the 9th century. [source]

The dog of this ancient people was called the Techichi, small but not tiny and processing a long coat. The breed was later linked to the Aztecs and remains have been found along side of humans in Mexico and the southern U.S.

Today’s Chihuahua as we know it is thought to have been mixed with small round headed terriers producing it’s distinctive terrier like qualities and apple shaped head. Some believe it has also been mixed with the smaller Xolo breeds of South America and the Chinese Crested dog as well. [source]

One interesting theory is that the Chihuahua is somehow descended from the Fennec foxes which look very Chihuahua-like, however it is thought to be impossible for dogs and foxes to produce offspring. [source]

As for the name, Chihuahuas were rediscovered in Chihuahua, Mexico around the mid 1800’s and many were brought to the states and bred here. The small dog became very popular and was admitted to the AKC in 1904.

Chihuahuas come in two varieties; smooth and long coated. The smooth has always seemed to be more popular. Some people do not even know there is a long coated variety. In the show ring the two are shown separately even though they are exactly the same in every way expect for their coats. Both long and smooth puppies can be born into the same litter. Two smooth parents can produce a long if there is a long coat in the lineage but two longs will produce only long.

The AKC describes the Chihuahua as intelligent, alert, saucy, curious and “very clannish preferring his own kind, and as a rule not liking other dogs of other breeds… The smooth coats being the most clannish.”

Chihuahuas should, according to the AKC standards have a well rounded “apple” shaped head. Large ears, eyes should be large but not protruding and dark luminous eyes are desirable. The bite should be level or scissor, and an under bite is a serious fault. The back should be level and the dog should not be too long. The tail should curve slightly over the back but not be too curled under. A Chihuahua can be any color but merle and or blue in not favored in the show ring. Most importantly, the dog cannot be over six pounds in weight.

Connie Newcomb with her prize-winning Chihuahua, Rocky

Connie Newcomb with her prize-winning Chihuahua, Rocky

I have owned Chihuahuas for almost ten years. I began showing them seven years ago. It still amazes me when I am asked the same questions about the breed over and over. For instance, at a show there is usually one person that asks me if my show dog, Rocky is a “Tea cup” Chihuahua. Rocky weighs 5 ½ pounds. He is the correct size for his breed. Most people think that Chihuahuas are much larger, and they can be, even the purebred ones. My precious Jack weighed 10 pounds, he was not fat. And he came from excellent lines. Others will say; I have a Chihuahua but he doesn’t look like yours, he has a head like a deer. That’s ok, just not show quality. At the shelter where I volunteer, (sadly many Chi’s end up there) many Chihuahuas in every shape and size arrive. Fortunately they are adopted very quickly. Other volunteers will ask me how two dogs can look so different and still be the same breed. Well, they can!

The other fact about Chi’s is; they really like each other. I often say to people you can’t have just one. They love the company of another of their own kind. And like I always say, Chihuahuas are like potato chips, you can’t have just one. The smooths are indeed very clannish. They seem to gravitate to the other smooths. I often find my “smoothies” cuddled together leaving the long coats to fend for themselves.

Chihuahuas are a very sensitive breed and very intelligent. Some people think of the little dogs as dull of even not too smart, not true.

They are very bright and manipulative getting their owners to do exactly what they please.

So for all you Chihuahua lovers, “hooray” for us! We have a wonderful and interesting breed. I hope this answered some of your questions.

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