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Getting to know the Xoloitzcuintle, Mexico's ancient (and hairless) dog breed

August 28, 2009 |  5:03 pm

"It's very important to lubricate the ears," dog breeder and exhibitor Gabriel Mestre says of the Xoloitzcuintle, his breed of choice.  (You might know the Xoloitzcuintle, pronounced sholo-squint-lay, by another name: the Mexican hairless.)  The Xoloitzcuintle, Mestre explains, doesn't need to be shampooed like most other dogs -- but they do need to be covered in lotion, since their skin is prone to dryness.  Small wonder!

Mestre has been involved in the Xoloitzcuintle breed for 15 years, and our colleague Deborah Bonello caught up with him recently as he prepared for and attended an all-breed dog show in Mexico City. 

At the show, Mestre exhibited Aztlan, an 8-month-old Xoloitzcuintle, who went on not only to win his breed competition (well, he was the only dog entered) but to place second in the more competitive group judging. 

Even in Mexico, Xolos, as they're sometimes called for short, are rare.  But the breed has a long, storied history in Mexico, and ceramics over 3,000 years old have been found bearing their likeness.  Interestingly, healing powers were sometimes attributed to Xolos, due, Mestre says, to the warmth their skin seems to exude.  (A hairless dog doesn't really have a higher body temperature than a furry one, but with no barrier between the dog's skin and a human hand, it certainly feels warmer to the touch when petting one.)

Here in the U.S., they were once an American Kennel Club-accepted breed (exhibited under the name Mexican hairless), but they were dropped from the AKC stud book in the late 1950s.  Recently, the AKC moved toward reinstating the breed, allowing Xolos to be exhibited in the Miscellaneous group.  (Breeds shown in the Miscellaneous group are ineligible for Best in Show competition.)

A common mistake is to confuse the Xolo with the Chinese crested, a more popular breed in the U.S., but the two are in fact distinct breeds.  "Hairless" Chinese cresteds actually do have furry faces, legs and tail tips.  Interestingly, both the Xolo and the Chinese crested, breeds known for their "hairlessness," also come in "coated" varieties that are covered in fur -- but where's the fun in having a hairy hairless dog?

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: Los Angeles Times

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