Other names: Chihuahueño
Nicknames: "New Yorker" (Mexico only)
Country of origin: Mexico
Male: Under 6 pounds (Under 3 kilograms)
Female: Under 6 pounds (Under 3 kilograms)
Male: 6–10 inches (15–23 centimeters)
Female: 6–10 inches (15–23 centimeters)
Coat: Smooth or long-haired
Color: White, black, tan, and many other colors
Litter size: Normally 4
Life span: 14–18 years
The Chihuahua's history is puzzling, and many theories surround the breed's origin. Both folklore and archeological finds show that the breed originated in Mexico. The most common theory and most likely is that Chihuahuas are descended from the Techichi, a companion dog favored by the Toltec civilization in Mexico; However, no records of the Techichi are available before the 9th century. Earlier ancestors were probably present before the Mayans as dogs approximating the Chihuahua are found in materials from the Pyramids of Cholula, predating 1530, and in the ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán Peninsula.
Some historians believe that the Chihuahua came from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. More evidence for this theory lies in European paintings of small dogs that resemble the Chihuahua. One of the most famous paintings is a fresco in the Sistine Chapel by Sandro Botticelli, dated 1480–1482. The fresco, depicting the Trials of Moses, shows a boy holding a tiny dog with a round head, large eyes, big ears, and other characteristics similar to those of the Chihuahua. The painting was finished ten years before Columbus returned from the New World. Botticelli would have been impossible to see a Mexican dog, yet he depicted an animal strikingly similar to a Chihuahua.
A long-haired tan chihuahua
A progenitor of the breed was reputedly found in 1850 in old ruins near Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua from which the breed gets its name, although most artifacts relating to its existence are found around Mexico City. The state borders Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico in the United States, where Chihuahuas first rose to prominence. Since then, the Chihuahua had remained consistently popular as a breed, particularly in America, when the breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904. In terms of size, the present-day Chihuahua is much smaller than its ancestors, and a change is thought to be due to the introduction of miniaturized Chinese dogs, such as the Chinese crested dog, into South America by the Spanish.
Description and Standards
A Chihuahua puppy
Breed standards for this dog do not generally specify a height, only a weight and a description of their overall proportions. As a result, height varies more than within many other breeds. Generally, the height ranges between six and ten inches; however, some dogs grow as tall as 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 cm). British and American breed standards state that a Chihuahua must not weigh more than six pounds for confirmation. However, the British standard also states that a weight of two to four pounds is preferred and that if two dogs are equally good in type, the more diminutive one is preferred. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard calls for dogs ideally between 1.5 and 3.0 kg (3.3 to 6.6 lbs.), although smaller ones are acceptable in the show ring. Pet-quality Chihuahuas (those bred or purchased as companions rather than show dogs) often range above these weights, even above ten pounds, if they have large bone structures or are allowed to become overweight. This does not mean that they are not purebred Chihuahuas; they do not meet the requirements to enter a confirmation show. Oversized Chihuahuas are seen in some of the best and worst bloodlines. Typically the breed standard for both the long and short-coat chihuahua will be identical except for the description of the coat.
Chihuahua breeders often use terms like Teacup, Pocket Size, Tiny Toy, Miniature, or Standard to describe puppies.
These terms are not recognized by breed standards and are considered marketing gimmicks to inflate the value of puppies. Chihuahuas are commonly referred to as either Apple heads or Deer heads, the former having short noses and rounded heads similar to an apple, the latter having longer noses and more elongated heads.
A green-eyed beige female Chihuahua.
The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom and the American Kennel Club in the United States only recognize two varieties of Chihuahua: the long-coat, and the smooth-coat, also referred to as short-haired. They are genetically the same breed. The term smooth-coat does not mean that the hair is necessarily smooth, as the hair can range from having a velvet touch to a whiskery feeling. Long-haired Chihuahuas are smoother to the touch, having soft, fine guard hairs and a downy undercoat, giving them their fluffy appearance. Unlike many long-haired breeds, long-haired Chihuahuas require no trimming and minimal grooming. Contrary to popular belief, the long-haired breed also sheds less than their short-haired counterparts. It may take up to two or more years before a full long-haired coat develops.
Chihuahuas come in virtually any color combination, from solid to marked or splashed, allowing for colors from solid black to solid white, spotted, disabled, or various other colors and patterns. Colors and patterns can combine and affect each other, resulting in a very high degree of variation. Common colors are fawn, red, cream, chocolate, blue, and black. No color or pattern is considered more valuable than another.
The merle coat pattern, which appears mottled, is not traditionally considered part of the breed standard. In May 2007, The Kennel Club decided not to register puppies with this coloration due to the responsible gene's health risks. In December of that year, the Breed Standard was formally amended to disqualify merle dogs. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, which represents the major kennel club of 84 countries, also disqualified merle. Other countries' kennel clubs, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, have also disqualified merle. However, in May 2008, the Chihuahua Club of America voted that merles would not be disqualified in the United States and would be fully registrable and able to compete in American Kennel Club (AKC) events. Opponents of merle recognition suspect that the coloration came about by modern cross-breeding with other dogs, not via natural genetic drift.
A Chihuahua must be chosen with care, as the temperament of its owner(s) can make a difference in the pup's temperament. Ill-tempered Chihuahuas can be easily provoked to attack and are generally unsuitable for homes with small children. The breed tends to be fiercely loyal to one particular owner and, in some cases, may become overprotective of the person, especially around other people or animals. They do not always get along with other breeds and tend to have a "clannish" nature, often preferring the companionship of other Chihuahuas over other dogs. These traits generally make them unsuitable for households with children that are not patient and calm. Chihuahuas love their dens and often burrow themselves in pillows, clothes, hampers, and blankets. You'll often find them under the covers or at the bottom of the bed, deep in the dark and safety of what they believe is their den.
Chihuahuas, and other toy breeds, are prone to the sometimes painful disease hydrocephalus. It is often diagnosed by the puppy having an abnormally large head, or hydrocephalus, during the first several months of life. Still, other symptoms are more noticeable since "a large head" is a broad description. Chihuahua puppies exhibiting hydrocephalus usually have patchy skull plates rather than solid bone, are lethargic, and do not grow at the same pace as their siblings. A true case of hydrocephalus can be diagnosed by a veterinarian, though the prognosis is grim.
Chihuahuas have moleras or soft spots in their skulls, and they are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull. The molera fills in with age, but great care needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. Some moles do not close completely and require extra care to prevent injury. Many veterinarians are unfamiliar with Chihuahuas as a breed and mistakenly confuse a molera with hydrocephalus.
Chihuahuas can also be at risk for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which is especially dangerous for puppies. Left unattended, hypoglycemia can lead to coma and death but can be avoided with frequent feedings, such as every three hours for very small or young puppies. Chihuahua owners should have a simple sugar supplement for emergencies, such as Nutri-Cal, Karo syrup, or honey. These supplements can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth to raise the blood sugar level rapidly. Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, sleepiness, low energy, uncoordinated walking, unfocused eyes, and spasms of the neck muscles or head pulling back or to the side.
Chihuahuas are prone to eye infections or injury due to their large, round, protruding eyes and relatively low ground clearance. Care should be taken to prevent visitors or children from poking the eyes. The eyes also water frequently to remove dust or allergens that may get into the eye. Daily wiping will keep the eyes clean and prevent tear staining.
Chihuahuas tend to tremble, but it is not a health issue. Instead, it occurs mainly when the dog is stressed, excited, or cold. Cold can also present a problem for these small animals. They often enjoy wearing coats or sweaters outside, digging, and snuggling in blankets when sleeping.
Although figures often vary, as with any breed, the average lifespan range for a healthy Chihuahua is between 10 and 17 years.
Chihuahuas are sometimes picky eaters, and care must be taken to provide them with adequate nutrition. Sometimes wet or fresh food can have the most appealing smell to these constant eaters. Chihuahuas are prone to hypoglycemia and could be in a critical state if allowed to go too long without a meal. At the same time, care must be exercised not to overfeed them.
Chihuahuas have a notorious problem with dental issues. Dental care is a must for these little creatures. Human food should be avoided. Due to their small size, even tiny high, fat or sugary treats can result in an overweight Chihuahua. Overweight Chihuahuas are susceptible to having an increased rate of joint injuries, tracheal collapse (reverse sneezing), chronic bronchitis, and shortened life span.
Chihuahuas are also known for a genetic condition called "luxating Patella," a genetic condition that can occur in all dogs. In some dogs, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not shaped correctly, creating a shallow groove. In a dog with shallow grooves, the patella will luxate or slip out of place sideways. It causes the leg to "lock up" and will force the chihuahua to hold its foot off the ground. When the patella luxates from the femur groove, it usually cannot return to its normal position until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and increases in length, explaining why the affected dog may be forced to hold his leg up for a few minutes or so after the initial displacement. While the muscles are contracted, and the patella is luxated from its correct position, the joint is held in the flexed or bent position. The knee cap sliding across the femur can cause some pain due to the bony ridges of the femur. Once out of position, the animal feels no discomfort and continues with the activity.
Chihuahuas are also prone to heart-related disorders such as heart murmurs and Pulmonic Stenosis, a condition in which the blood outflow from the heart's right ventricle is obstructed at the pulmonic valve.
Chihuahuas, along with other miniature dogs such as Chinese Cresteds, are prone to physical deformities, especially in old age; several chihuahuas and cross-bred chihuahua/Chinese crested mixes, have rated highly in the World's Ugliest Dog Contest, including a purebred chihuahua named Princess Abby that won the 2010 contest and a crossbreed named Yoda that won the 2011 contest.