The Xoloitzcuintli may sound like a made-up dog breed, but did you know that this Mexican hairless dog has been in existence for over 3,000 years?
If you’ve watched Pixar’s newest film ‘Coco’, you would’ve noticed Dante, the stray spirit guide pup that was adopted by the protagonist, Miguel. Dante is actually a Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short. Here are 10 interesting facts about the Xolo that you probably have never heard of.
1. Of Life & Death
The breed’s name is derived from the Nahuatl language. Xolotl is the Aztec god of life and death, and the term “itzcuintli” literally means “dog”.
2. Sacred Guides
Just like Dante in Pixar’s Coco, Xolos were considered sacred by ancient Aztecs and Mayans, and were believed to be guides for the dead to Mictlan, the underworld.
Also, these pooches were sacrificed and buried next to the body of their deceased owner so that they could set out on their spiritual journey together.
3. National Icon
Xolos originated in Mexico, and is the national icon and cultural symbol. Till today, they are still popular home and hunting companions.
4. Friends Of Art
When pre-Hispanic art had a major revival in Mexico, Xolos were frequently featured in artifacts and art pieces. Many Mexican artists, like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, kept Xolos.
5. No Fur!
Similar in appearance to a Pharaoh Hound, with a sleek body, almond-shaped eyes, large bat-like ears and a long neck, the breed’s most distinguishable feature is their lack of fur, which is said to be because of a hereditary genetic malformation of the skin.
Their hairlessness may have offered a survival advantage in tropical regions where they reside.
6. Ever-Loyal Companions
Xolos were the loyal companions of famous Italian voyager, Christopher Columbus. When Christopher arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, his journal entries noted the presence of strange hairless dogs, that were revealed to be Xolos.
Subsequently, these hairless canines were transported back to Europe.
7. Small, Medium Or Large?
Xolos come in three different sizes: Toy, miniature, and standard, and they weigh between four to 20kg. They are mostly black or blue-ish gray in colour.
8. Look Ma, No Teeth!
What caused the breed’s hairlessness also causes the dog's dentition: Hairless Xolos typically have an incomplete set of teeth, unlike most coated dogs that have complete dentition.
9. Spirit Guides
Because these pooches are known to be ‘spirit guides’, they can be widely seen in Mexico parading the streets on Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead.
10. Danger, Stranger!
They have a lifespan of 13 to 18 years, and are said to be loyal and mellow. They make excellent watchdogs, and are said to be extremely wary of strangers.