Xoloitzcuintle Dog Breed

Other names:
Mexican Hairless Dog

Pronunciation: [ Show-low eats-qweent-lee ]

Originally known as the Mexican Hairless Dog, the Xoloitzcuintle is a rare breed that is not always hairless. They are small, athletic companion dogs that are native to Mexico. The Xoloitzcuintli pronunciation is admittedly difficult, and many call the dog "Xolo" for short. This ancient breed remains in the midst of a small but dedicated revival. There are fewer than 1,000 of the dogs in the United States, and only about 30,000 worldwide.

Xoloitzcuintle Breed Details

The Xoloitzcuintle's name is a mouthful, but these basically small dogs are great for first-time dog owners, families with kids and homes with dogs. They have decent hunting and watchdog capabilities, but they are not suited for guard dog work. They can make great companion dogs as they love to be with people all the time, are great for snuggling and adapt to most any size home.

While they make wonderful pets, they do need a lot of socialization, training, and patience, and you should be aware of these Mexican hairless Dog facts:


  • Very clean
  • Easy to train
  • Highly athletic
  • Keen to learn new tricks
  • No shedding with hairless type
  • Coated variety sheds very little
  • Can get along great with other dogs
  • Hairless variety is wonderfully warm to the touch


  • May bark a lot
  • Extremely rare
  • Matures slowly
  • Prone to sunburn
  • Not hypoallergenic
  • Skin is very porous
  • Can be overly curious
  • Has a strong prey drive
  • Can climb most anything
  • Must be trained early on
  • Can be extremely dominant
  • Doesn't tolerate cold weather
  • May be highly sensitive to touch
  • Must be socialized while puppies
  • Loud noises may cause emotional distress
  • Can develop acne if skin is not properly cared for
  • Can have skin-related health concerns while maturing
  • Skin is very sensitive to chemicals, lotions, hard sleeping surfaces
12 - 15 yrs.
9 - 30 in.
5 - 40 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Xoloitzcuintle Breed Description

Compared to less than a century ago, there is now a lot of Xoloitzcuintli information available about this 3,500-year-old breed. These dogs are easy to train and highly devoted to their masters. They love to learn new tricks, perform in sports and engage in agility play. They prefer to be in packs.

The Xolo is a primitive dog that has been domesticated for a very long time, and they are very intelligent dogs. They seek to please their master and loved ones, and they are wonderful companion pets who also make good therapy dogs. You should be sure to have lots of puzzle-type toys for them.

These are athletic dogs that tend to be calm otherwise, but as puppies, they can be hyperactive. These dogs mature slowly over the course of about two years. They must be socialized carefully and constantly during this time or they may be somewhat aggressive and remain hyperactive as adults.

You can find an interesting episode of Dogs 101 on Xoloitzcuintli via Animal Planet's website.

Xoloitzcuintle Breed History

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.)

Xoloitzcuintle Appearance

The hairlessness of the Xolo is by far the most striking feature of this breed, although there are also coated varieties. (You can find info about the coated Xoloitzcuintli in the "Variations" section.) Otherwise, both hairless and coated types look alike: a slim body with long with long, thin features. The Xolo looks like a very sturdy, small- to medium-sized racing dog, and they are as athletic as they appear.

The Xolo resembles a cross between a Greyhound and a Chihuahua: a strong chest, narrow body, long legs, wispy tail, and small paws. These dogs are usually longer than they are tall, and females are typically longer in the torso than males. They have long snouts, almond eyes, and large ears that are carried pointed and erect. The tail is thin and long, and it curls up over the back. Their teeth have a scissor bite, but the hairless ones may not have all their teeth because of a genetic trait, dentition.

The hairless variety doesn't have skin so much as a hide. As a puppy, a hairless Xolo's skin can have its own problems: acne or odor, which should clear up in adulthood.

Xoloitzcuintle Colors

The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Xoloitzcuintles.


Xoloitzcuintle Variations

There are two types of Xolo variations: one is the size and the other regards hair. There are three size varieties recognized: Toy, Miniature, and Standard. There are also the hairless and the coated Xolos, and nearly all litters will have both just as these two coat types come in all three sizes.

The Toy Xoloitzcuintli is the smallest, and they stand from 10 to 14 tall. The Miniature Xoloitzcuintli (which is sometimes called the Intermediate) is next, from 14 to 18 inches in height. The largest is the Standard, and these dogs stand from 18 to 23.

The hairless is not truly hairless, as they tend to have a narrow strip of hair on top of their head as well as errant hairs here and there. This variety is unique in that they frequently have dentition, which is what is best described as missing molars. Their coat is basically a hide, and it exudes oil to keep it protected. The coated variety, while less spectacular visually, doesn't carry the gene that causes dentition, and they have all their teeth.

The two types of varieties intermingle. This means that, technically, there are six varieties of this breed, two examples being a Toy Mexican Hairless Dog that is hairless and a Miniature Mexican Hairless Dog that has hair.

Xoloitzcuintle Health

Xolos are one of the healthiest breeds on the planet, but there are a couple of health concerns that must be understood. The missing premolars — called dentition — of the hairless variety is a genetic condition that is normal. (The coated variety, however, should have all their teeth.) There is also acne and other skin problems that can develop if the dog's natural oils are negatively affected.

As puppies, the Xolo's various body functions may develop at different rates. This can cause dry, scaly hide (and acne) if there is not enough oil produced. If too much oil is produced, the dogs may have a strong, musky odor. There may also be a waxy build-up when they are very young. Both conditions should straighten out in time and on their own.

The typical life span of a Xolo is 12 to 15 years.

Xoloitzcuintle Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Xoloitzcuintles.

Dry skin
Skin irritation

Random Details

  • To the Aztecs, young hairless dogs were often served up during celebrations such as funerals and weddings. According to accounts by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, the meat of fattened, castrated puppies was said to be tender and delicious. The dogs were also pickled for later consumption. Along with the dog being bred and exported as a commodity by the conquering Spanish, the taste for them nearly led to the breed's demise.
  • The artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo found a source of national pride in the breed, and they are credited with having started the campaign that eventually saved the dog from becoming extinct. The appreciation for the Xolo has since grown to such a degree that there is even a Mexican football (i.e., soccer) team that is named after the breed: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente.
  • The Xolo encountered near-extinction both physically and historically, and to this day there are those that regard the breed as that "ugly Mexican Hairless Dog."

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:February 16, 2019