Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Xoloitzcuitle, the Dog of Gods

Miniature and Intermediate sized Xolos (photo courtesy of Ricklene)
Miniature Xolo
Coated Miniature Xolo
The Xoloitzcuintle, or Xoloitzcuintli (show-lo-eets-qweent-lee), commonly referred to as the Mexican Hairless or Xolo, is an ancient breed whose ancestors ranged from Mexico to South America. Proof that they shared their lives with many early civilizations of the pre-Columbian era can be found in pottery shards and relics. Aztecs raised hairless dogs for food and for their medicinal purposes. It was thought that the dogs could heal arthritis, asthma, and other ailments. The meat was thought to have curative properties. We may think of this as barbaric, but to these people it was no different than raising say, a herd of sheep or goats. They depended on these dogs for their survival.

The Mayans and Toltecs worshipped them as gods. Legends tell us that the god Xolotl sent a messenger, Itzcuintle, made of a sliver of his bone to guide mankind in his life journey through the afterlife to be reborn. It is said that the xolo was born flesh from deep within a volcano that left the hair singed from his body so all would know the pain he endured to help mankind. The dog was the only domestic animal to be buried with their master when they passed on. It was thought that to be without a dog when you die would forever block your passage to the underworld. The stories say that the dog would stand before the gods at his masters side and judge the man on how he treated his dog. This same theme can be found in Egypt as Anubis, the dog-headed god of the dead. 

Xolos share the genetic makeup of many of the hairless breeds and therefore the personality traits among the groups are the same. Differences in appearance abound due to inbreeding and the lack of recognition between hairless breeds until very recently.  The xolo can also be a cobby type, or pottery style; that is short and squat and very muscular as seen in relics. They can also be deer type which is fine boned, tall and thin. Deer type have more of the sight hound ancestry and closely resemble whippets or greyhounds.

Body hair can also vary greatly in the xolo, some may have little to no body hair, while others may have a sparse amount on the head, tail, and feet. There is a coated variety that people commonly mistake as a pitbull/lab mix due to their muscular bodies and broad heads. Both hairless and coated can be born in the same litter. The ears may be pricked (upright), tipped (folded at tips), or rose (folded back against the head).

Xolos, like all primitive breeds are pack animals used to living in groups, and distrust outsiders. Outsiders may mean a stranger, solicitor, or perhaps a neighbor or family member they have not met before. They are devoted and loving to those they know, reserved and shy with strangers. They can be wonderful companions and bond strongly with their human families. It is said that the xolo is a very stubborn dog. I believe they are merely extremely intelligent.

Xolos can be very dominant, remember they are pack animals and will take on the role as alpha if allowed. Any dog that feels they must show dominance will attempt to "mount" a person or other pets (I’ve even heard of one humping a potted plant! Poor plant never had a chance). Just correct this by showing him or her who's boss. At my former job as an animal caretaker we did this by putting the dog in a  "down position". Basically you force the dog to lie down and then show its belly. This puts it in a submissive posture. Soon the dog will do this automatically. You see this all the time when a dog rolls over to get its belly rubbed, or tries to lick your face.  Dominance must be established by you early in the relationship.

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