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Mexican Hairless Dog

Nicole Cosgrove

Xoloitzcuintle standing on a natural landscape

The Xoloitzcuintli is an ancient dog from the area of Mexico that can come in three sizes, toy, small and medium. It is also commonly known as the Mexican Hairless Dod and then also the Pelon, the Tepeizeuintli, Bald Dog and Perro sin Pelo Mexicano. The name Xoloitzcuintli is pronounced “show-low-eats-queen-tlee” but it is called Xolo or Xolito for short. It was bred by one of the ancient Aztec civilizations and was kept as a companion, guard dog and watchdog. As well as coming in three sizes it also comes in two coat types, the hairless and the powder puff. Its name comes from the Nahuatl word for the god Xolotl and the word itzcuintli meaning dog. It is one of the oldest dogs around but is also one of the rarest though it is no longer in danger of extinction.

The Xoloitzcuintli at A Glance
Name Xoloitzcuintli
Other names Mexican Hairless, Xoloitzcuintle, Xoloitzquintle, Xoloescuincle
Nicknames Xolo and Xolito
Origin Mexico
Average size Toy, small or medium
Average weight Toy – 5 to 15 pounds, miniature – 15 to 30 pounds, standard – 25 to 40 pounds
Average height Toy – 9 to 14 inches, miniature – 15 to 20 inches, standard – 20 to 30 inches
Life span 14 to 20 years
Coat type Hairless with or without a tuft on its tail and head or powder-puffs
Hypoallergenic Yes (skinless variety is)
Color Soft and smooth skin or range of colors for the coated types
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 139th by the AKC
Intelligence Excellent – understands things very quickly
Tolerance to heat Moderate – sun screen for hairless variety is need when in the sun
Tolerance to cold Moderate – sweater is needed when it gets too cold
Shedding Low – little to no hair will be left around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – make sure food is measured and it gets daily exercise
Grooming/brushing Low maintenance – some regular maintenance but nothing excessive
Barking Occasional to frequent – may need training to control it
Exercise needs Fairly active – need daily outings and play time
Trainability Moderate – can be stubborn
Friendliness Good with socialization but need help!
Good first dog Low – best with owners who have had experience
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good but need socialization and best with older children
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization essential as is supervision as its small size does not prevent it from challenging other dogs
Good with other pets Good but socialization is needed
Good with strangers Low – socialization is essential as is supervision and training
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size but barking may be an issue of not trained to stop on command
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Known to be a fairly hardy breed, a few issues can include dental problems, skin problems and extra care needed in the heat or cold
Medical expenses $435 to $460 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance depending on size
Food expenses $75 to $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats depending on size
Miscellaneous expenses $195 to $215 a year for basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items depending on size
Average annual expenses $705 to $820 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Xolo Rescue League
Biting Statistics None reported

The Xoloitzcuintli’s Beginnings

The Xoloitzcuintli dates back to over three thousand years ago and is from Mexico. Artifacts from tombs of Aztec Indians, Mayans and in Colima have been found and dated back that far, with images of the Xolo’s ancestors on them. It is thought that a hairless dog called Biche was brought to Mexico from Asia and then bred with local dogs. The resulting hairless dogs were very popular as pets and kept beds warm and was also believed to help with certain health issues such as asthma, tooth pain, insomnia, joint pain and stomach pain. They were seen as sacred animals but they were actually also used as sacrificial offerings and even eaten by the Aztecs specifically. If an owner died the dogs would be buried with him to help guide their owners soul to the afterworld. They were also seen as guardians, the indigenous people believed the Xolo protected them and their home from evil spirits as well as the more physical intruder.

Over the centuries though their popularity declined and its numbers decreased as a result. By the seventeen and eighteen hundreds it was a rare breed. However in 1887 it went through a small period of popularity as it was recognized by the AKC and called the Mexican Hairless. It appeared in some shows but after that brief time of notice interest waned again. In fact the AKC actually de-registered them in 1959 deeming it to be extinct.

New Lease on Life

The belief that it was extinct was not correct thankfully, but it was very rare and close to that point. The FCI saw the danger though and in 1954 had started a Xolo Expedition where breeders from Mexico and Britain went off to find the few purebreds that were left and to save the breed. Thanks largely to this program of revival the breed was saved. There were 2 sizes originally, the Standard and the Miniature, but at the same time the breeders also developed a Toy size. In 1956 the dog was recognized in Mexico.

In 1986 the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America was started and worked to ear the dog its AKC recognition back. It was admitted to the Miscellaneous Class in 2008 but then given full recognition by 2011 in all three sizes. In 2010 in Mexico it was named dog of the year. Its numbers are up there and it is valued not just as a companion but also as a therapy dog, service dog and in shows including obedience and agility. Elsewhere its numbers are still low and it remains rare. It ranks at 139th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Xolo looks somewhat like a more robust Manchester Terrier. It comes in three sizes today, Toy, Miniature and Standard. The toy dog is just 9 to 14 inches tall and weighs 5 to 15 pounds. The miniature stands 15 to 20 inches tall and weighs 15 to 30 pounds. The standard stands 20 to 30 inches tall and weighs 25 to 40 pounds. A little confusingly the sizes are called something different in their native land. In Mexico the toy is called a miniature and the miniature is called intermediate. It has a body that is a little longer than it is tall, making it rectangular looking. Its neck is long a a little arched and it is sleek, sturdy and lean. Its legs are slim and straight and when born they have wrinkly bodies but it smooths out as it grows. The tail is fine, long and rat like and its feet are webbed.

There are actually two varieties, coated and hairless, though the hairless is more popular and looked for. In a regular litter of five kittens, four of them will be hairless types and one coated. The four hairless are actually born with a thin coating of thin coating of hair that then disappears as it grows. The hairless types sometimes have a little hair on their tails and heads, or can be completely hairless. Its skin once grown is mottled and can be smooth and soft though it can be wrinkled. Those that have hair have a coat that lies close and is flat. Common colors for both are red, grey, black, brown and bronze. The powder-puff type is not actually allowed to compete in shows by the AKC yet. It is worth mentioning that hairless Xolos often have teeth missing while the coated do not.

The Xoloitzcuintli has a broad skull with a head that is wedge shaped and a slender muzzle that tapers to its nose, that is flesh colored or black. Its brow is wrinkled and its eyes are squinted, almond shaped and can be yellow to dark in color. The big obvious feature of this dogs face are its unique ears. They are bat like, upright, large and pointed. They are set wide apart and are thin and delicate.

The Inner Xoloitzcuintli


Xoloitzcuintlis are best suited to experience dog owners as they need experienced and firm handling. In the right care it is affectionate, happy, loyal and playful. It is also alert and protective so it makes a good watchdog, it will bark to let you know of any intruders. However that barking can be frequent and often sounded too quickly so training it to stop on command is a good idea, especially if you have close neighbors. It is a very sensitive dog too so is best in a home not fully of stress and raised voices. It is loving to its family but unless all members have a hand in its raising it can bond more closely to one member over another. It is sometimes called a Velcro dog as it will stick close to you all of the time. It does suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods and needs more companionship than a lot of other breeds from you.

The Xolo is friendly and social but can be aloof with strangers and because of its protective nature its socialization is important to make sure that stays as just natural wariness rather becoming over protective. It is also an intelligent dog but can develop small dog syndrome if overly spoiled and its owners are not strong pack leaders. In the past they were used as bed warmers because they radiate a lot of heat, a lot of people today who have arthritic like conditions still sleep with their Xolos too as it helps with their pain. In the home it tends to calm but it does need a lot of interaction with its owner and so needs owners who are more likely to be home than out. They like consistency and do not like it when their regular schedule is changed suddenly. It is physically fully grown around 1 year but it takes longer for it mature emotionally, sometimes up to 2 years old.

Living with an Xoloitzcuintli

What will training look like?

It is moderately easy training the Xoloitzcuintli if you have some experience already and approach it suitably. Results will be gradual and keep it mind it has an independent and sensitive nature so training should be done in a positive manner. Offer it encouragement, praise, reward its successes and use things like treats to motivate it. Avoid being harsh, scolding it or physical correction. Even being gentle you still can and have to be firm, consistent and in control. Make it clear you are the pack leader at all times, no rules should be bent. Some owners find they have difficulty housebreaking the Xolo so make sure you set a very regular schedule that you stick by and consider using crate training to help. It may pee in the house too to mark its territory, especially unfixed males. Remember that this is a clever dog and it will use that to try and get its own way, plus it can be quite stubborn sometimes. Keep the sessions short, fun and engaging. Make sure that your Xolo is well socialized. It should get a lot of exposure to different people, places, sounds, situations, animals and so on. This will help with its wariness around strangers and stop that natural caution from turning into suspicion and or being too timid.

How active is the Xoloitzcuintli?

Xolos tend to be fairly active dogs but how much that might equate to in terms of length of walks can depend on what size Xolo you have. All need at least a couple of walks a day, the smaller can take short walks the larger ones might need something more in the moderate length range. Regular trips to a dog park are a good idea as it is a safe place it can go off leash, it is also somewhere it can play games with you and possible socialize. Some areas have dog parks that have a separate area for small and toy sized dogs. It should have a lot of toys it can rotate through that it can play with, some of which should also be good for mental stimulation. Younger Xolos need more exercise than older ones, you may find that as it matures it needs shorter walks. It is an agile breed and does well at agility types of exercise. That does mean though that it is good at escaping so make sure yards are well fenced in. When out in the sun hairless need some protection in the form of suncream. It will also likely need a sweater in the colder days.

Caring for the Xoloitzcuintli

Grooming needs

The hairless Xoloitzcuintli need little grooming in terms of coat since it does not have one! Its skin needs care though bathing as needed, just not too frequently, some owners use lotion, use sunscreen when out in the sun. Being hairless makes it more susceptible to skin problems so care needs to be taken, exfoliate, protect, moisturize but choose your products carefully. However some owners take that too far and over lotion their dogs which in itself can lead to skin problems. Avoid causing irritation with too many products. The coated variety will need brushing once or twice a week and they do shed though a light to average amount.

Both types will need their nails clipped if they get too long. Use a proper dog nail tool for this and take care not to cut too far up the nail. There are blood vessels and nerves in the quick of the nail that if cut would hurt the dog and cause bleeding. Its teeth should be brushed two to three times a week at least using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Then its special ears need to be looked after. Wipe them clean using a damp cloth or ear cleanser with cotton balls, do not insert anything into them. Also once a week look for infection signs like redness, sensitivity and such.

Feeding Time

Depending on the type of Xolo you have it could eat need to eat anywhere from ½ cup to 2 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food. How much can vary not just according to size but also things like metabolism, level of activity, age and health can be a factor too. There is a myth about the Xolos that they are vegetarian or can live only on a vegetarian diet. This is not true, like all canines it is a mostly meat eater. However like many dogs they do like vegetables and they should be included in its diet in a small percentage. Make sure it always has access to water and that you change the water regularly.

How is the Xoloitzcuintli with children and other animals?

With socialization and when raised with them the Xoloitzcuintli is a good dog with children in that it likes to play, will be energetic and lively with them and can also be affectionate and protective of them. However it does not like its tail or ears being pulled at, and for young children those ears are mighty tempting. Supervise it with young children or just have it around older children who know better. Make sure all children are taught how to approach, stroke and play with it in a kind and safe way. That socialization also means it can get along with other pets fine, even cats but they are territorial so strange animals coming in or onto their yard will likely be a problem. If it grows up with other dogs it is fine with them but is less friendly to strange dogs. Xolos that are not socialized well can be aggressive to other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The thing about Xolos is that they have a very long life span compared to most other dog breeds. You can expect it to live between 14 to 20 years! It is a healthy breed too with not too many issues apart from those linked to protecting its skin. Dark colored Xolos are hardier and less likely to get sunburn than the lighter pigmented ones. Hairless Xolos can have missing teeth. There can be skin problems other than exposure outside, things like acne.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people that caused bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 35 years or so, there is no mention of the Xoloitzcuintli. However it is protective and if it is not well socialized it can be overly so which can include being aggressive not just towards other dogs but also to strange people. There are no dogs that are 100% safe at all times, all dogs have the potential to have an off day. Some can do more damage though, and some are more aggressive than others. As a responsible owner you should be making sure it gets the attention it needs, the stimulation and exercise it needs and also the basic training and socialization it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Xoloitzcuintli puppy from a decent trustworthy breeder is likely going to cost around $1000. For one from a top show breeder you will see that price go up by double or even more and you can also expect to be put onto a waiting list. It is important though to use respectable options when looking for a dog especially a purebred if you want to show it. Avoid using backyard breeders who are often ignorant and sometimes cruel, or puppy mills and pet stores. No animal lover would want to fund such methods of breeding. Another option if it does not need to be a show standard dog is to look to local shelters and rescues. There are lots of great dogs who have a lot of love and loyalty to offer waiting for someone to give them a chance. That someone could be you. Adoption fees are just $50 to $400 and most have at least some initial medical concerns already dealt with for you.

There are initial costs to factor in when you have found a breeder or shelter and the dog is coming home. Initial health needs such as shots, deworming, spaying or neutering, a physical, blood tests and micro chipping will cost about $260 to $280 depending on its size. Items needed like a crate, carrier, leash and collar, bowls and such will cost $120 to $200 again depending on size.

There are also ongoing costs when you are a pet owner. Feeding a Xolo can range in costs from $75 to $145 for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. Pet insurance and basic medical care like check ups, shots and flea and tick prevention will cost probably somewhere between $435 to $460 a year. Other costs like basic training, miscellaneous items, license and toys will cost between $195 to $215 a year. This gives an annual estimated figure of $705 to $820.


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The Xoloitzcuintli is a small to medium sized dog that should be with owners who are experienced and have time to commit to its care. It needs not just particular maintenance care it also is a needy dog, will not thrive unless people are home with it more often than not, or can take it with them when they go out (in a safe manner – never leave a dog in a car in a hot day because you have shopping to do). It is a sensitive dog so needs calm and relaxed homes, it can be emotional and demanding and early socialization is very important. Because of its close bond forming though it is not an easy dog to rehome so make sure it is your forever friend. In the right home with the right owners it can be a sweet, loving, warming companion!

Featured Image Credit: art nick, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.