by: Anne Kirrin
The Chihuahua is the world's smallest dog and it has been an extremely popular dog breed in the United States and around the world. This long-lived breed has a life expectancy well into the mid-teens. Chihuahuas or Chis have grown in popularity over the past several decades from an American Kennel Club (AKC) registration ranking of 16th in the early 90's to 10th in 2004 and 11th in 2005. The Taco Bell Chihuahua promotion introduced in 1997 fueled some of the popularity growth. The tiny Chihuahua can weigh from 2 to 6 pounds and can have a smooth coat or a long coat with feathered ears, neck, feet, legs and tail. Chis are adorable dogs with big eyes and ears but aren't a dog for everyone. If you have young children or other pets then the Chihuahua isn't a good fit for your situation. Chis are much too small to be safe around young children or toddlers and while they enjoy being around other Chihuahuas, they dislike all other breeds. Chihuahuas are the ultimate apartment dog and do really well with a single individual or elderly couple that likes to pamper these small toy dogs. Chis are completely devoted to their owners and love to be with them all the time. The tiny Chihuahua is graceful, lively, curious, intelligent, loyal and affectionate but has some terrier-like qualities. Chis are fearless, saucy, mischievous and bold and make good watchdogs. Additional information can be found in the Chihuahua dog breed article.
The Chihuahua is considered to be one of the few dog breeds indigenous or native to North America. Much of the Chis history is somewhat speculative but most experts think the breed descended from the Techichi. The Techichi was a small canine that existed in Mayan times around the 5th century AD. They think the Olmecs of Central America developed the Techichi breed. The Toltecs who succeeded the Olmecs in the 9th century AD carved small dogs with erect ears resembling plump Chihuahuas. These Techichis may have been raised as pets but they were definitely used as a food source for the nobility on special occasions. After the Aztecs conquered the Toltecs, they used the Techichi in religious ceremonies as food sources and sacrifices. The Aztecs also regularly burned these dogs along with the deceased in the belief that the sins of the humans would be transferred to the dogs and the dog would help guide the soul between this world and the next. Techichi remains have been found buried with human remains all across Mexico. When the Spanish conquered and destroyed the Aztec civilization from 1519 to 1521, they may have introduced a small terrier breed that was crossed with the Techichi. Some breed historians think that the Chihuahua is actually of European descent and originated in Malta. They offer as proof a 1482 painting by Botticelli which depicts a Chihuahua-like dog. They theorize that the Spanish conquerors brought these small dogs with them to the Americas. A third theory is that the Chinese, who were adept at developing miniature dogs, developed a Chihuahua-like breed which Spanish traders introduced into Mexico.
Whatever theory is correct, the resulting breeds were left to survive in the mountains of Mexico - maybe with help from the local population. Nothing much was heard from these small dogs for about 300 years until 1850 when several small dogs - some long haired, some short haired and some larger hairless were discovered in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua. The smooth coat and long coat varieties were eventually called Chihuahuas after the state in which they were found and the larger hairless variety was called the Mexican Hairless. The Chihuahua breed was first registered by the AKC in 1904 and it was relatively rare. The national Chihuahua breed club was formed in 1923 and the breed received wide exposure when Xavier Cugat, the rumba king, appeared with his Chihuahuas in performances and movies during the 1930's and 40's. The Chis' popularity peaked in 1964 when it was the 3rd most popular dog breed in the US. The breed's popularity resulted in unscrupulous breeders and dealers introducing a number of health and temperament problems into the bloodlines. Genetic problems ranged from patellar luxation (slipped kneecap), heart disease (pulmonic stenosis), hypoglycemia, and tracheal collapse to poor temperament. Recent breeding practices are resulting in much healthier and more amiable amigos. However any prospective buyer should check to make sure that the puppy's breeding parents have been certified free of orthopedic and other genetic diseases.