LEARN – History of the Chihuahua Breed

Popularly known as man’s best friend, dogs have been a constant companion of humans since the ancient days. A recent study has claimed that at least in Europe, the first dogs were tamed about 20,000-40,000 years ago.  It is most likely that the dogs and the humans enjoyed a special bond of friendship since, at […]
Chihuahua with a Mexican hat on
The Chihuahua is named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua

Popularly known as man’s best friend, dogs have been a constant companion of humans since the ancient days. A recent study has claimed that at least in Europe, the first dogs were tamed about 20,000-40,000 years ago. 

It is most likely that the dogs and the humans enjoyed a special bond of friendship since, at the very least, the neolithic period. While guarding the house, keeping us safe, hunting, and keeping tabs on our cattle were some of the reasons why the humans befriended dogs. However, some species are popular due to their overwhelming cuteness. With their loyalty and unconditional love towards the human companion, the dogs can put a smile on anyone’s face. 

Recognising Chihuahua Breed

Mexican Flag on a pole
Mexican Flag

The Chihuahua is named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua and is the smallest dog bred in the world. In the mid 19th century, the dog breed was first noted in the Chihuahua state of Mexico. Typically alert and playful dogs, the Chihuahua’s weigh about 1 to 6 pounds and stands about 5 inches (13 cm) tall. The dogs of this breed are sturdier than their built suggests, and they are considered as a spirited companion perfectly suited for apartment life. 

The large erect ears and big eyes are the most prominent features of a Chihuahua. They have rounded heads and a compact body. The coat colour of a Chihuahua can vary as well. It can be either glossy and smooth or soft and long. 

Some of the Variants are

Apple Head Chihuahua

Apple head Chihuahua dog
Apple head Chihuahua dog

The Apple Head Chihuahua has a small rounded forehead.

Deer Head Chihuahua

A deer head Chihuahua dog
Deer Head Chihuahua dog

The Deer Head Chihuahua has a sloping more oversized head.

History

Techichi dog
Techichi dog breed

Chihuahuas have a long and convoluted history. Both the archaeological and folklore finds show that the origin of the breed took place in Mexico. 

KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm released its findings on the ancestry of some dog breeds. They have conducted the DNA of the dog breeds to the archaeological findings to search out the origin of some of the modern dogs. 

As the history of Chihuahuas was always debated, the researchers took the DNA sample of the dog and matched it with the archaeological specimens. In their research, they proved that the modern-day Chihuahuas share a DNA type with the pre-Colombian era dog samples collected from Mexico. 

These findings have cemented the fact that the origin story of Chihuahuas is connected to the Techichi, a desert dog that dates back to the Mayan times. 

1800 B.C.-900 A.D.

Archaeologists have found the sculptures of the Techichi dog created by the Maya Indians of South America as early as 500 B.C. The statue of the Techichi dog remarkably matches the aesthetics of today’s Chihuahua.

900 A.D.-1150 A.D.

By 100 AD, the Toltec Civilisation had conquered the Maya civilisation, and they are thought to be the first people that fully domesticated the Techichi dogs. In a 1200-year-old Maya figurine found during the archaeological survey depicted a woman holding a child in one hand, and a Chihuahua like-dog in the other. 

These people might have been responsible for further development of the breed. They might have crossbred the Techichi dogs with another dog breed that discovered in the mountainous region of Mexico. Known as Perro Chihuahueno, this dog breed had erect, sharp ears and long nails. A more intriguing fact is that the carvings and drawings of that dog showed both the deer head and the apple head shape. 

1200

As Aztecs became the rulers of Mexico, the Techichi dogs made space for their culture as well. The carvings and drawings found in the Aztec pyramids and temples document the presence of the dog. It is believed that the Aztecs crossbred Techichi with yet another dog breed, which brought the modern-day Chihuahua on Earth. 

While the breed of this dog is still debated, there is hardly any doubt that the introduction of the other breeds ensured the many-coloured coats that we get to see on this breed today. 

1500-1800

It is the time when the Spanish inquisition had started in the Mexican villages. In a letter written in 1520, Hernan Cortes wrote that the Aztecs raise and sell little dogs as a source of food. While the history of Mexico was changing its course, the sturdy little Chihuahuas thrived in the remote villages of the country. 

Mid 1800-1900

It is during this time Americans started taking an interest in this breed. They found many specimens of the dog breed in the state of Chihuahua of Mexico. From there, the canine survivor of the two great civilisations has been named as a Chihuahua. 

James Watson, a writer and dog judge, first wrote down the details of Chihuahua. When travelling to San Francisco to attend a dog show in 1888, Watson visited El Paso and travelled to Mexico to check on a rumoured dog breed. Here, he bought a Chihuahua dog. Later he named the dog Manzanita. 

Soon after his first visit, Watson returned to Mexico to buy several more Chihuahuas. He wrote about this small dog breed in the Country Life in America and The American Kennel Register describing the dog breed is small enough to fit in his pockets. 

lady standing by window, old photo of Adelina Patti
Adelina Patti

In the 1890s, Adelina Patti, the Italian French Opera Singer was gifted a bouquet by the President of Mexico gifted, in which a small Chihuahua was kept hidden. By bringing it along with her across the country she toured, Patti changed the course of the dog breed. Patti presented the affectionate and fun-loving breed to the world like no one ever did. 

1904

In this year, the Texas Resident H. Reynor registered the first Chihuahua, Midget, with the American Kennel Club (AKC). In the same year, three other Chihuahua’s were registered to the AKC. 

1923

Chihuahua Club of America was found in 1923 for promoting the breed and providing educational resources to the owners. The club helped the owners of Chihuahuas with the grooming, health and general characteristics.

1928

In this year, the Canadian Kennel Club, the Canadian version of American Kennel Club, added the Chihuahua to its officially registered dog breeds. 

1948

The United Kennel Club, the U.K.’s version of American Kennel Club also added the Chihuahuas to their list of recognised dog breeds. 

1952

In this year, the Chihuahua Club of America separated this breed into two different forms. One is the smooth coat variety, and the other one is the long coat variety.

The 1960s

A pet Chihuahua being held
Chihuahua “Perfect Companion”

The perception of people about dogs started to change from the 1960s. Rather than just owning the dog for work purposes, people started getting them to form a relationship. The Chihuahua proved to be the perfect companion of people during that time. The word about this pint-sized dog spread like wildfire, and the Chihuahua dogs found a new surge of popularity. In 1964, the Chihuahua ranked 12 on the popularity list based on the number of AKC registrations. The AKC even declared Chihuahua as one of the top 10 breeds of the 1960s. 

The 1980s

AKC registered 25,000 Chihuahuas during this time.

The Mid-1990s

During this time, Taco Bell launched a new marketing campaign centred on a talking Chihuahua known as the Gidget Clipperton. With the increased revenue and the popularity of Taco Bell, this marketing campaign ensured the soaring popularity of Chihuahuas in the United States.

1999

Chihuahua was ranked 7th based on the number of registrations in AKC.

2012

The popularity of the dog breed started to decline, and in this year, the Chihuahua ranked 18th in the popularity list.

Most people think that the breed is no longer popular among people, this is not true. When the AKC first recognised Chihuahua, it did not recognise many other breeds. However, with passing time, the number of recognised breeds is enhanced. While the ranking of Chihuahua is lowered today, it does not mean that the popularity of this dog has declined. It merely means that the number of recognised breeds has increased significantly.

Future of the Chihuahua

Chihuahua puppies in a basket
Chihuahua Puppies

With passing time, the entire canine breeds change. As they emerge and start to become popular, these dog breeds eventually get accepted into the AKC. With new breeds arising, one might wonder whether the Chihuahua will remain as it is in the future. 

The truth is, no one can be sure about what will happen in the future. However, there are some facts that we should keep in mind while thinking about the future of this fantastic breed. 

As more people are getting their puppies only from a recognised AKC breeder, it can be hoped that the Chihuahua will stick to its current appearance, colouring and size. As most reputed breeders try to maintain the standard of the breed, it ensures that the dog will not change over time. Instead, it will only come closer and closer to the set standards.

While there are two different types of Chihuahuas right now, the popularity of one over the other may soar and fall with time. However, it is still doubtful if these two varieties would ever be separated to form distinct breeds. 

While Chihuahua dogs are mostly known for their tininess, they have other characteristics as well. The longer lifespan is one of the celebrated aspects of this breed. Chihuahuas are also very courageous dogs. No matter what the size of the other dog is, these dogs never back down. They are fun-loving, low maintenance happy and spirited animals that will no doubt make your life lively.

About the Author

Teresa loves animals and travelling around the UK! She currently has two dogs and two cats. She loves caring for and sharing her knowledge of pets. Qualified Dog Groomer and currently studying Canine Behaviour. She has been part of the Dog Friendly Team since 2016

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