Where Do Chihuahuas Come From? How Did They Get Their Name?

Ayan Banerjee
Feb 29, 2024 By Ayan Banerjee
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Edited by Amy Lines
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Two chihuahua on the green field
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.1 Min

Chihuahuas are adorable but hot-tempered small dogs.

Chihuahua dogs are enlisted as one of the smallest dog breeds in the world. They are named after the native state Chihuahua, in Mexico. The history of the ancient breed of chihuahuas was unknown until the American Kennel Club recognized them in the year 1904.

There are two types of the chihuahua breed of dog: firstly, the smooth coat, having short hair, and secondly, the long coat or having long body hair. The main physical difference between the two breeds is the length of the fur. Both the smooth coat and long coat breeds of this species are adorable and attractive as they are easy to be taken care of with good health and kept clean because of their tiny size. Chihuahua dogs also vary depending on the head shapes. There are apple head dogs, which are round-headed like fruits, and deer head dogs, with narrow faces. They have big round eyeballs and long ears like wolves as they have origins from wolf breeds. They have a height of 6-10 in (15-25 cm) and weigh up to 4-6 lb (1.8-2.7 kg). Although the chihuahua is tiny and may look weak, it can live a long life as a pet if proper care is taken by the owner. They may have a lifespan of 15-20 years as they belong to healthy dog breeds. They can be of various body colors with vivid colors like black to solid white, or brown, fawn, reddish-brown, chocolate, mixed with a variety of spots and patterns. They are carnivores, and thus can have a food diet just like other canine dog breeds.

The personality of chihuahuas depends on factors like their environment, health, age, and experience. Some of them may really be trouble, with a hot temper and anger issues, running and barking at much larger dogs, and also showing aggressive nature in their behavioral traits. A chihuahua dog can be easily recognized as they have gained popularity over the television screen and celebrate culture. They set the trends for mostly female dog owners to adopt a small dog, mostly in America. They are also good pets, protecting the owner, and are the loyal companions of their master. When trained properly they can help as watchdogs but not guard dogs, as though they might not have the physical attributes to spot the intruder, they can create enough chaos to alert the owner. They are also swift and can easily take down squirrels, small rats, and lizards. They even have the boldness for bull-baiting if properly trained.

The first-ever record of the chihuahua's existence occurred in the year 1884, almost 137 years ago, when they were sold by Mexican traders to tourists in markets near the border. Chihuahuas are an ancient dog breed that was first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the year 1904. Some possible reports state that the chihuahua's ancestors had possibly been from Asia, Egypt, or Sudan. The breed then migrated or maybe was moved through the Mediterranean Sea to the American and European countries. Some theories state that Spanish travelers had brought the chihuahua breed of dogs to the European continent. Recently researchers have compared the DNA samples of chihuahuas with Asian, European, and African dogs, to find their breed origin. It was known then that the samples resemble Techichi dog, with unique DNA type in Mexican pre-Columbian samples origins. Although tiny, chihuahuas have habits of barking and chasing strangers and can even attack their owners.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about how often do dogs need shots and when do puppies calm down here on Kidadl?

How did chihuahuas come from wolves?

We all know that wolves are the ancestors of modern dog breeds, thus Chihuahuas also have their origin from wolves. Some reports state that like most modern dog breeds, the chihuahuas have their evolution root from the gray wolf (Canis lupus), although modern chihuahuas have originated in Mexico. Dogs like labradors, Pekinese, and Rottweilers are relatives to them.

There is an ancient history related to the evolution of dogs. Although, some scientists consider the fact that dogs have evolved from selected bred wolves, and domestication of them by humans occurred with the invention of agriculture, and humans began settling down. However, DNA evidence shows that dogs have evolved long before almost 100,000 years ago when human beings were still nomadic. This was reported by a science journal in 1997. There was clear evidence relating domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) as the direct descendants of gray wolves. Most of the breeds of dogs, almost 150 dogs species, have evolved due to human guidance as domestic pets for the past 150 years, but somehow chihuahuas pre-date this time period of relatively fast breed development.

Do chihuahuas come from the fennec fox?

The evolution of chihuahuas is a matter of great interest. Well, for some it may be hard to imagine that the breed of chihuahuas might have a relation with the grizzly bear, which includes the wolf, jackal, coyote, and fox subspecies.

Science says that foxes cannot interbreed with domestic dogs or wolves, but the chihuahua breed of dogs shows some amazing and shocking resemblances of historical and also zoological character traits with the fennec fox, which is a small-sized animal also known as the world's smallest canine. No one knows if there was a genetic relation between the chihuahua dogs and the fennec fox but they share many common identical features. The fennec fox has huge ears, almost like a bat with open wings, helping them to hear its prey. Some theories by naturalists state that long ears function as a shield, when the nocturnal fox comes out in the daylight, although that is not a common character behavior as they generally avoid sunlight. The second belief is that heavy dew is collected on the back of their ears, which helps them to stay away from a water source for a long time. The chihuahua also has long ears almost similar to the fennec fox. Chihuahua dogs also have long and narrow feet which are appropriate for digging underground or running on sand, which is a common feature to the foxes. Just like the fennec fox, chihuahuas have oversized ears which flare to the sides. Many breeds of dogs can naturally make their ears erect to aid them in hearing from long distances, but the chihuahua stands out amongst all because of its large ears and off-standing characteristics. The chihuahua dog breed, when found in the wild, has a similar diet to the fennec fox, and their food includes vegetation, little rats, lizards, and also insects. Some chihuahua owners have even stated that their dogs are fond of digging in the ground, chasing insects, or have an irresistible urge to eat bugs and flies.

Chihuahua sitting on a bench

How did they get their name?

Chihuahuas are named after the Chihuahua state in Mexico, although there is a debate about whether they originated in Mexico. The word 'chihuahua' is believed to mean the 'meeting place of two or more rivers'.

Chihuahuas have many appearances on the big screen and television culture because of their personality and are were featured as pets of some famous celebrities. 'Bruiser' was a uniquely dressed chihuahua that was the companion of Elle Woods in 'Legally Blonde' and 'Legally Blonde 2', playing a main role in the sequel. Paris Hilton owned a chihuahua named 'Tinkerbell' and carried her around in designer bags and featured her in photoshoots. It can be considered that the trend of having small dogs as pets was due to Paris and Tinkerbell. Even the animation world featured a chihuahua in the 'Ren And Stimpy Show,' a cartoon show on Nickelodeon, where the dog was presented with hotheaded character traits, hanging out with Stimpy, a cat.

A chihuahua can be named based on its color, size, personality, or just for fun. In many cases, chihuahuas adopted were returned to the pet shops as their parent humans were unable to take their responsibilities, which is not good. Before adopting a pet, one should be ready to love and take care of them for their long and healthy life. They need dental cleaning, vaccines, and also regular check-ups from a professional vet clinic.

For several hundred years, it was believed that the dog breed of chihuahuas was native in Mexico, but many modern researchers claim that the evolutionary roots of this breed are related to North Asia in China and that can be the origins of chihuahuas. There are many theories stated about their origin, some say this breed has migrated from pre-Columbian regions to America and Europe. The AKC stated that the chihuahua dog breed had genetic development from a dog called the Techichi (also known as toy dog), in the ninth century. Paleontologists have found the ancient fossil specimens of the oldest chihuahua-like dogs remains in the Yucatan Peninsula which was 1600 years ago.

Are they crossbred?

There is a possibility that many years ago, early dog breeders probably might have developed the genetics of chihuahua from a dog called the Techichi, as stated by the AKC. The Toltec people who lived in Mexico from the early 900s to the mid-1100s domesticated the dog, Techichi. However, the evolution from Techichi to chihuahuas is not yet clear.

Toy dogs, or Techichi, were known to be mute dogs as these dogs did not really bark at all whereas the chihuahua dogs are hot-tempered and are mostly barking and displaying a more aggressive nature. Archeologists have discovered ancient fossils of the oldest possible chihuahua-like dogs while working in the Yucatan Penninsula that can be dated to the 16th century. In the year 1980, the fennec fox successfully cross-bred with the chihuahua breed of dog, and the outcome turned out to be less nocturnal, but in fact, more like a fox. This crossbreed gained popularity among the exotic animals sellers in North America.

Well, if you are a lover of little dogs, but have no idea about their behavioral characteristics, then you should know about mixed breeds of chihuahuas. Some of them are the Chiweenie which is cross-bred between chihuahua and Dachshund, and this mixed bred mostly gives the best company to elderly couples. The Chi-Poo, cross-bred between chihuahua and poodle, has lots of energy and a goofy personality. The Jack-Chi, a mix between Jack Russell Terrier and chihuahua which are loyal, adorable energetic, and have goofy personalities. They can be easily trained and are perfect as house dogs. The Chug, a genetic cross between chihuahuas and pugs, can be adorable lapdogs as they have a friendly nature and are not hot-headed, unlike other cross-breeds of chihuahuas. Petting a chihuahua can be pleasing, as well as troublesome altogether.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for where do chihuahuas come from,then why not take a look at do dogs know when you are sad or Chihuahua fun facts?

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Written by Ayan Banerjee

Bachelor of Science specializing in Nautical Science

Ayan Banerjee picture

Ayan BanerjeeBachelor of Science specializing in Nautical Science

Thanks to his degree in nautical science from T.S. Chanakya, IMU Navi Mumbai Campus, Ayan excels at producing high-quality content across a range of genres, with a strong foundation in technical writing. Ayan's contributions as an esteemed member of the editorial board of The Indian Cadet magazine and a valued member of the Chanakya Literary Committee showcase his writing skills. In his free time, Ayan stays active through sports such as badminton, table tennis, trekking, and running marathons. His passion for travel and music also inspire his writing, providing valuable insights.

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