Chihuahua (Long and Smooth Coat)

Chihuahua (Smooth)Chihuahua (Smooth)

The Chihuahua is famous as the smallest dog in the world. Typified by not only his diminutive size, but also his rounded skull with the molera or hole in the skull like the fontanelle in human babies. His large round eye, curious bird-like feet with extra long curving nails, and flat tail all contribute to the unique look of the Chihuahua.

History of the Chihuahua

Techichi c 300BCTechichi c 300BC

The Chihuahua, the 'Royal Miniature of Dogdom' derives its name from the Northernmost State in Mexico, bordering on the USA. It is commonly believed his immediate ancestor was the Techichi which, for many centuries was the beloved pet and companion of the Toltecs of Mexico and an essential part of their religious rites. These Chihuahua-like Techichis were buried with people believing this little dog would carry its masters' souls across the nine dangerous rivers to the underworld[2a]. The Toltecs preceded the Aztecs who were in turn overthrown by the Spanish Conquistadors who conquered Mexico in 1521 and brought the first Chihuahuas to Europe[2].

Hilary Harmar and husband with their Chihuahuas in Mexico pre-1955Hilary Harmar and husband with their Chihuahuas in Mexico pre-1955

Englishwoman, Hilary Harmar spent several years in Mexico when her husband was working there as a Military Attaché for the two decades after World War Two. She personally researched the history of the Chihuahua. After visiting various Central American countries, she came to the conclusion that the most creditable theory is that Chihuahuas came from a small ancient Indian village in the State of Chihuahua, called Valle de Allende. In the absence of any concrete proof, apart from a few carvings and figurines, she relied on the oldest Indians remembering their ancestors keeping these small dogs in this village for hundreds of years[2c].

Colima Pottery DogColima Pottery Dog

This above information came to hand and was taken into account when considering the statues of the ancient famous 'Colima Pottery Dogs' dating back to the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica era of 250 BC - 450 A.D. But these are ancient hairless dogs and Mrs Harmer believed there was no connection between the Chihuahua and the Xoloitzcuintle, the hairless dog of Mexico. This theory was also supported by the Governor of Chihuahua's public statement made in 1950[2d].

The Chihuahua becomes a Pure Breed

Chihuahua USA 1927Chihuahua USA 1927

The first registered Chihuahuas were documented in the American Stud Book in 1890. By 1901 'El Capitan' was shown with 'Carita' shown the following year. By 1904 Chihuahuas were first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), their numbers growing to 30 by 1915. But the separation of Smooth and Long Coated varieties did not take place at shows until August 1st 1952. By 1958 there were a total of 45,843 Chihuahuas registered by the AKC, the second highest number of registrations of all pure breeds at that time[1]! In the USA, the Long and Smooth Coats were judged separately.

Chihuahua UK 1955Chihuahua UK 1955

But the Chihuahua did not enjoy such early popularity in England. Although a couple of Chihuahuas from the 1880's have been preserved by taxidermy and one was exhibited at the Ladies Kennel Association Show in 1897, the first to be registered by the Kennel Club was 'Topsey' in 1907 and the next in 1924. Only 59 were registered by 1940. But after World War Two, their popularity somewhat increased in the UK with 530 being registered by 1957. But the Long and Smooth Coats not only judged separately, they were not allowed to interbreed.

It was interesting to note that it was reported that the pure Mexican imported dogs had a natural immunity to distemper that plagued all other breeds of dogs in those early days[2e].

The History of the Chihuahua in Australia

Chihuahua (Smooth) pupChihuahua (Smooth) pup

Because Australia had allegiances to Britain rather than America when Chihuahuas were first imported into Australia, dogs from the sparse British stock were selected rather than from the hugely popular American lines. In 1954, 'Nelli star Mario (Imp UK)' belonging to Mrs Fairbairn was the first Chihuahua registered in Australia. Then in 1955, Mrs Eva McMahon imported 'Denger's Dona Barbara', a Smooth Coat who whelped 3 puppies during the 3 months she sailed to Australia from UK. She founded Chihuahua's here. That same ship then sailed on to Sydney carrying the first of several Chihuahuas Mrs Rena Gerardy imported into NSW. Mrs Gerardy then imported more from Lady Margaret Drummond-Hay's English line 'Seggieden'[3].

Chihuahua (Long Coat)Chihuahua (Long Coat)

The Cross-coat Debate

In 1963, the Chihuahua Club of Victoria became the first Specialist Club to be formed. By 1970 NSW, Qld, SA and WA all had Clubs and inter-variety matings were allowed across Australia. Additionally, before the ANKC took control, each State had its own Rules for Registration.

But in 1978 in line with Britain, cross-coat matings were banned with NSW, SA, WA and Qld following, together with New Zealand[5]. But there was no ban in Victoria, SA and Tasmania.This created not only an administrative registration nightmare across Australia, but it also limited our stud possibilities and available gene pool.

One example of this cross-coat disaster was when Thelma Gray won the 1980 Brisbane (Qld) Royal Show Toy Group with one of her famous English Chihuahuas, Ch Rozavel Tommy Ruff. But because he was the result of a Smooth/Long coat mating, he was unable to be registered or used for stud in Qld.

Chihuahuas - Smooth + 3 Long CoatsChihuahuas - Smooth + 3 Long Coats

Eventually Chihuahua breeders' protests were heard and each State won their cases with Queensland being the last to lift the ban in 1986[6]. Since the rules were changed, matings between Smooth and Long Coated varieties have been allowed across Australia[4]. But the two coat types are still judged separately with Challenges available for both Smooth and Long Coated varieties. But in New Zealand, in line with Britain, inter-variety matings are still banned[5].

The Chihuahua (Long and Smooth Coat) Today

Chihuahua (Long Coat)Chihuahua (Long Coat)

The Chihuahua is the smallest of all dog breeds, weighing just up to 2.7 kg (6 lbs), with 1.8-2.7 kgs (4-6 lbs) preferred. He is an alert little dog with saucy expression, compact and with brisk movement and terrier-like characteristics. He comes in two coat types A smooth coat with a soft, close and glossy texture, with undercoat and ruff permissible or long coat also with a soft texture but never never coarse or harsh to touch. The long coat may be either flat or slightly wavy but never curly. The long coat also has feathering on the ears, feet and legs, pants on hindquarters, with a large ruff on neck and a long fully plumed tail.

Chihuahua (Smooth)Chihuahua (Smooth)

The Chihuahua's head is unique among dog breeds. It has a well rounded 'Apple Dome' skull, which means it is shaped more like a cooking apple than tennis ball. There may be what is known as a 'molera' in the centre of its skull which means there is a membrane-covered opening in the skull because of the failure of the bones of the skull to completely close. There may be more than one which usually persists throughout the life of the dog. The jaws and cheeks are lean. The moderately short, slightly pointed muzzle comes out at an angle of about 110 degrees from the inclination of the definite stop.

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References and Further Reading

[1] Russell E Kauffman, 'The Chihuahua' Published by the Judy Publishing Company, Chicago USA 1959 Section A 'The Origin, History and Development of the Chihuahua Club of America, Chapter One "Probable History of the Chihuahua in America before 1900 Page 11.

[2] Hilary Harmar 'The Complete Chihuahua Encyclopedia' Published by John Bartholomew & Son Edinburgh 1972, Chapter 1 Ancient History of the Dogs in Mexico, TRACING THE CHIHUAHUA Pages 5 - 6

[2a] Ibid., Chapter 1 TO SUM UP Page 31

[2c] Ibid., Chapter 1 INCONTROVERTIBLE EVIDENCE AT LAST Page 20

[2d] Ibid., Chapter 3 Chihuahuas in Mexico, OFFICIAL RULING Page 46

[2e] Ibid., Chapter 5 Chihuahuas in Britain, Origins Page 60 - 61

[3] Sanrita Chihuahuas, https://www.chihuahuaclubvictoria.com/club-history.asp

[4] Evan Mathieson, National Dog Special Feature 'The Cross-coat Debate', Published by National Dog Newspaper,  Page 18

[5] Raewyn Pfahlert, The New Zealand Kennel Gazette Special Chihuahua Feature, Published by the New Zealand Kennel Club Private Bag Porirua NZ Vol 23 No 9 October 1983 Page 81

[6] Evan and Lyn Mathieson, 'The Australian Chihuahua' Self-Published by Evan and Lyn Mathieson, Bulimba Qld 4171, Volumes 3 Pages 2 and 3, Volume 4 page 2, Volume 6 pages 4-5 and Volume 7 Pages 8 and 9.


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