Say Hola to the Xolo

Walking home after lunch in Mérida, we encountered a funny old dog nervously guarding the doorway to an antiques store. It was skinny, small and completely bald, save a few whiskers sprouting from its head, and I wondered aloud how old it must be. “A year and a half”, came an answer from inside the store. Wait, this thing was a puppy? Indeed, as I took a knee, it bounded over to me full of playful energy. I reached out tentatively and touched my first Xoloituzcuintle: the Mexican Hairless Dog.

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Indigenous to Mexico, the Xoloitzcuintle (pronounced show-low-eats-QUEENT-lay) is the country’s national dog. Though certain varieties have a coat of short hair, most Xolos are completely hairless, and they were considered sacred by the native people of Mexico. Aztecs would eat them for their supposed healing powers, but most often they were valued as pets.

Intelligent and friendly, Xolos are highly active puppies, but mature into calm and sociable companions. And with a history of over 3000 years, they’ve evolved into robust and healthy dogs. After encountering our first Xolo at the antiques store in Mérida, we met a rambunctious family during our excursion to Granja Buenavista, all of whom accompanied us on our horse ride through the jungle. We had as much fun watching them as we did riding the horses.

Despite their prominence in Mexico, Xolos don’t have a high international profile, and had to wait until 2012 before appearing at the Westminster Dog Show. The leathery, bluish-black creatures are strange to behold, and even stranger to touch, but after a few minutes the weirdness evaporates. These are wonderful little dogs and, once you get used to the lack of hair, they can even be kind of cute.

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