Today as people of Mexican heritage commemorate the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 1862, dog lovers are called to lift a taco to the world’s tiniest breed, the Chihuahua.
Around the country, between the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo, Chihuahua races were held to raise money for animal rescue and have fun with these special dogs.
There is almost as much myth surrounding Chihuahuas as there is for Cinco de Mayo (no, Virginia, May 5 is NOT Mexican independence day).
The most common theory is that they are descendants of the Techichi, a small mute dog companion of the Toltecs. The famous red clay dog pots of Colima, Mexico, that were buried in tombs as early as 300 BCE are thought to represent Techichis. Dogs like the Chihuahua were found in materials from the Mayan Great Pyramid of Cholula, Mexico, the largest pyramid in the New World, and in the ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. Some of these dog pots, dating back to about 1325 CE have been found in Georgia and Tennessee.
Wheeled toys shaped like Chihuahuas or Techichis have been found from Mexico to El Salvador and date to 100 CE. In 1520, Hernan Cortes de Monroy y Pizzarro, the Spanish Conquistador, wrote in a letter that the Aztecs raised and sold the little dogs for food. When Cortes and his successors wiped out the Aztecs, they nearly wiped out the breed.
In 1850, three small dogs were discovered in the state of Chihuahua. By 1904, the American Kennel Club (AKC) had recognized them as a breed. When Rhumba King Xavier Cugat showed up in films of the late 1920s and 1930s carrying a Chihuahua under his arm, the breed took off.
What Chihuahuas are known for
With domed heads and prominent eyes, Chihuahuas come in almost any color combination from solid to marked or splashed. Typical colors for a Chihuahua’s coat include fawn, red, cream, chocolate, white, black and mixed.
The AKC recognizes two types of Chihuahuas:
- Smooth (or short) coated ones, and
- Long coated ones.
Within each type, a Chihuahua can have a round, apple-shaped head or a more enlongated deer-shaped head. (The AKC only recognizes the apple-shaped head.)
They tend to be loyal to one person and prefer the company of other Chihuahuas. They share qualities with terriers in many aspects. They can be easily provoked to attack, and tremble or shiver when stressed, excited or cold. They love to to den and burrow in pillows, blankets and clothes hampers.Unlike other small dog breeds, they don’t need a lot of grooming or trimming.
They have relatively long lives — ranging from 10 to 18 years. They can be picky eaters. At the same time, they are prone to low blood sugar and need to be fed often to avoid this. As a result, they can be easy to overfeed. This can shorten their lives, lead to joint injuries, the collapse of their tracheas and chronic bronchitis.
In the right environment, where the surrounding people understand their natures, Chihuahuas can be magnificently fun and enjoyable pets.
If you’re raising a margarita this Cinco de Mayo, give a poquito tribute to the Chihuahuas of Mexico!