The rich Xoloitzcuintle history tends to be overlooked in many ways: by much of the western world owing to the dog's origins, by the cryptozoological chupacabra myth that supersedes the public's perception of the breed, and by the stark hairlessness that visually defines the Xolo. The breed is more than 3,500 years old, according to prehistoric bones uncovered in Central American tombs. Despite this, there was nearly no recognition of Mexican Xolos by the rest of the Western world until recently.
During the Middle Ages, Spanish conquistadors invaded the region. They occasionally mentioned encounters with hairless dogs. It was also noted that while the dogs were domesticated and slept with the native peoples, they were also cooked for meals and that their meat was apparently a delicacy. Those accounts from centuries ago seemed to have been the last widely known reports. The Spanish conquest destroyed the Aztec, Mayan, and other cultures of what is now Central America, and along with them the majority of the dogs.
The breed was not wiped out, but it did take a few more centuries before a revival was started to save the Xolo. It may have been inadvertently started by the artist Diego Rivera, whose collected specimens were used to found a kennel in 1925. It appeared to be a local effort, at first, when Xolos started appearing at dog shows in Mexico during the 1940s. The dog was re-introduced shortly after the founding, in 1940, of the Federacion Canofila Mexicano (FCM), also known as the Mexican Kennel Club. The then-fledgling FCI (also founded in 1940) didn't take much more than cursory notes of the dog's re-appearance. In 1950, the FCM started petitioning for worldwide recognition of the breed, but with little initial success. By 1954, however, the alarm had been sounded and the imminent extinction of the Xolo became a mission to prevent.
The 1954 Xolo Expedition started the charge to save the Xolo. Remote areas of Mexico were traversed by teams of FCI-supported British and Mexican nationalists led by a breed historian named Norman Pelham Wright. He was the author of El Enigma del Xoloitzcuintli (The Enigma of the Xoloitzcuintli) and many other books. After finding a number of purebred specimens, Wright also wrote the official standard for the breed. By 1956, the dog was officially recognized in Mexico and by proxy, the world. (Mexico was and remains a member of the FCI.)