Leia looking very proud of herself in a tank cowboy hat with black trim.

Chihuahuas are very popular dogs, but did you ever wonder where they come from? The history of the chihuahua is a fascinating tale, and it started in the 9th Century CE. (that’s the years 801-900 on the Julian calendar if you didn’t know.)

Before there were chihuahuas, an ancient civilization called the Toltec, had a little dog that looked very much like the chihuahua. This one was known as the Techichi, and though it was similar, you would know instantly it wasn’t a chihuahua. It couldn’t bark.

The Techichi was used for many things, including food, religious ceremonies, and companionship. These beloved animals were seen as having supernatural powers, and were often sacrificed to help guide their deceased owners to the afterlife.

The Toltec’s believed that the spirit of the Techichi would carry its owner on their back across a river to the spirit world, and it was the only way it could be reached. Nobles kept packs of Techichis in the hundreds, and even used them as a kind of currency.

Eventually, the Toltec’s gave way to the Aztecs, who bred the Techichi to be smaller and lighter than dogs of the past.

When Spanish Conquistadors came to South America, they ate as many as 100,000 of these dogs, possibly helping to wipe them out.

The Chihuahua is Found

Although the Techichi was wiped out, it is thought that some of their ancestry, mixed with other breeds, remained in a little desert dog discovered in Chihuahua, Mexico. In 2013, this was confirmed through DNA testing.  Though the Chihuahua has since mixed with other dogs, it still possesses the DNA of the ancient Techichi.

The DNA testing also concluded that about 30% of the chihuahua comes from an outside ancestor, but it is not yet known what breed that 30% might be. A few contenders include the Xoloitzcuintli and the Chinese Crested.

The Chihuahua Is Recognized by the AKC

In the 18th Century, American dog fanciers became interested in the breed, and began importing them from Mexico. Their popularity would lead to the AKC eventually recognizing them as a breed in 1904. The first chihuahua registered was a dog named Midget.

In 1952, the final change to them would be made, with the AKC separating them into their long coat and short coat varieties. Here’s an interesting article from a show judge that discusses how to judge the chihuahua.

The Chihuahua Today

The Chihuahua is now one of the most popular breeds in the world. It’s a beloved dog that can be seen peeking out of the purses of the rich, starring in movies, and just hanging out at home. They are known for their spicy personalities, and for not knowing their own size.

Although chihuahuas are often compared to rats, fennec foxes, and even chipmunks, they’re all dog. Their story is as amazing as the dogs are themselves, and a story worth telling.

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By Andrea

Andrea is a dedicated dog mom of three chihuahuas. She has over a decade of experience as a dog groomer, chihuahua owner, and more recently as a dog trainer. She loves all things canine, particularly chihuahuas.

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