When people think of small dogs, one of the most common breeds that come up is the Chihuahua. The Chihuahua is a charming yet sassy dog, and although the breed only stands at 8 inches, it behaves as though it’s the biggest dog in the room.
The Chihuahua is more readily recognized as a companion dog or a “purse dog,” but the truth is that this breed has so much more to offer. The Chihuahua breed has a rich history and plenty of unique features that make it so fascinating.
If you want to learn more about this spunky little dog, we have gathered 15 facts about the Chihuahua that we think you will find interesting. Keep reading below and see if any of these fun facts take you by surprise!
The 15 Facts About Chihuahuas
1. Their Name Comes from Chihuahua, Mexico
The Chihuahua breed was named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. Chihuahua is the largest state in Mexico, which is ironic considering the dog that inherited its name is so tiny. The state of Chihuahua sprawls over 95,540 square miles (or 247,460 square kilometers) and has a population of 3,741,869. The capital of the state is the city of Chihuahua.
Chihuahuas likely got their name from Chihuahua (the state) because American travelers encountered the dogs in the state of Chihuahua. Merchants were selling the dogs, and some travelers purchased them and brought them back to America.
2. The First Chihuahua Was Registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904
In 1904, Hamilton Raynor registered his Chihuahua with the American Kennel Club (AKC). This Chihuahua was the first of its breed to be registered in the AKC, meaning it was the first one to be officially recognized by the organization.
The Chihuahua that Raynor registered was named Midget. He was a long-coated male who paved the way for other Chihuahuas to be recognized by the AKC. Raynor went on to register several other Chihuahuas with the AKC. Some of these dogs included Chiquita, Bonito, Nellie, and Tiny Tinkle Twinkle.
3. They Weren’t Always Named Chihuahuas
The Chihuahua was not always called the Chihuahua. Before this breed received its official name that we all know and love today, it used to be identified by the geographical location of where it was found. So, if someone found their Chihuahua in Arizona, they may have called it an “Arizona dog” rather than a Chihuahua. Other common names formerly used for Chihuahuas included “Texas dog” and “Chihuahua dog.”
Now, the Chihuahua is defined more uniformly all across the nation. Much of the uniformity can be credited to the Chihuahua Club of America (CCA), which was founded in 1923. Their goal upon establishment was to promote responsible Chihuahua breeding and provide and distribute educational resources regarding the breed.
4. They Are the World’s Smallest Dog Breed
Everyone knows that Chihuahuas are small, but did you know that they are the smallest dog breed in the world? On average, the Chihuahua stands at 5–8 inches and weighs in at no more than 6 pounds. Some records even report Chihuahuas as small as 2 pounds!
This makes the Chihuahua an attractive apartment breed. Apartments can be difficult living spaces for dogs, as their rambunctious energy may make a cramped apartment feel smothering. But for the Chihuahua, any space is a large space.
The record for the world’s smallest dog by length went to a Chihuahua named Heaven Sent Brandy. From the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail, Heaven Sent Brandy measured only 6 inches long. She won the Guinness World Record for the smallest dog in 2005.
5. They Don’t Handle the Cold Well
Since the Chihuahua is so tiny, it stands to reason that the breed does not endure the cold very well. They do not have much weight on their bones, so when the colder temperatures roll in, Chihuahuas start to shiver. Chihuahuas were bred to handle the climate of Mexico, not the climate of the colder northern regions.
If you have a Chihuahua and you live in a colder climate, you may notice that your dog is always sitting near heaters or other sources of warmth. To help their Chihuahuas stay toasty warm, many dog owners purchase canine sweaters, hats, and boots to keep the cold away.
6. Celebrities Love Chihuahuas
Chihuahuas are a well-known breed, and part of their popularity is due to the cultural impact of Chihuahua-loving celebrities such as Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, and Scarlett Johansson. Many famous people throughout the years have owned Chihuahuas.
One notable figure who owned a Chihuahua was an opera singer from the 19th century, Adelina Patti. She owned a Chihuahua named Benito. Benito was a gift given to Patti by the president of Mexico, Porfirio Díaz.
Another celebrity associated with Chihuahuas was Xavier Cugat, a Spanish-American bandleader. He owned several Chihuahuas throughout his life, one of them named Pepito. Pepito even had a children’s book written about him. The book’s title is “Pepito the Little Dancing Dog: The Story of Xavier Cugat’s Chihuahua.”
7. Chihuahuas Come in Lots of Colors
While most breeds have at most a handful of breed standard color patterns, the Chihuahua has several. Currently, the AKC recognizes 31 color combinations for the Chihuahua. Among these options are primary colors such as black, fawn, and white, but there are also more unique colors like blue, silver, and gold.
There are also unique pattern options, such as sable and brindle. 11 marking variations are AKC recognized, such as white markings, a black mask, or spotted on white.
8. It Is One of the Oldest Breeds Recognized by the American Kennel Club
The Chihuahua is one of the first dog breeds that the AKC officially recognized. As mentioned before, the breed was officially acknowledged in 1904, making it officially over 100 years old with the AKC. However, the full history of the Chihuahua is much more expansive, dating back to pre-Columbian times.
Today, the Chihuahua remains a very popular breed. It is frequently registered with the AKC and is currently the 37th most commonly registered dog breed.
9. This Dog Has a Strong Burrowing Instinct
Although the Chihuahua is commonly seen as a lap dog, that doesn’t mean it is content with lazing around all day. If you have owned or known a Chihuahua, you might have noticed a peculiar habit of theirs; Chihuahuas tend to burrow under anything and everything.
Whether it’s blankets, pillows, or a pile of laundry, Chihuahuas like to burrow beneath things. This is likely an instinctive behavior passed down to the Chihuahua from its ancient ancestors. The ancestors of the Chihuahua probably needed to dig into the sand to regulate their body temperature. Burrowing also provided them with the ability to hide from predators.
10. Chihuahuas Were Descended from a Dog Known as the Techichi
The Chihuahua has a fascinating ancestor: the Techichi. The Techichi was a small-breed dog that often served as a companion to the people of Mesoamerica. This dog existed during pre-Columbian times, and it is sadly extinct. However, while it was alive, it was believed to serve many purposes.
The Toltecs believed that the Techichi could guide their owners in the afterlife, and the Aztecs believed they could guard a person’s soul after death. Many pre-Columbian artifacts depicting the Techihi have been discovered, so it is evident that this dog was important to the people it lived with.
If you are curious how the Techichi was linked to the Chihuahua, an analysis of mitochondrial DNA has connected the two. Although the Techichi was larger than the Chihuahua, it shares many physical similarities with the Chihuahua, making the connection between them even more evident.
11. The Full Genetic History of the Chihuahua Isn’t Entirely Known
If the Techichi is a part of the Chihuahua’s ancestry, what other breeds exist in the Chihuahua’s lineage? The truth is that the Chihuahua’s origins are not 100% clear yet. Some believe that the Techichi was bred with small-breed dogs that exist today, resulting in the Chihuahua. Some have theorized that the Chinese Crested or the Maltese dog were crossed with the Techichi, creating what would one day be known as the Chihuahua.
The genetic history of the Chihuahua is not entirely clear due to the blind spots in mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed down from one’s mother, and the genetics of the father remains entirely unknown through the method of testing.
12. Chihuahuas Have Long Lifespans
On average, the Chihuahua lives around 14–16 years. However, there have been records of Chihuahuas living even longer, some exceeding 20 years. This makes the Chihuahua’s lifespan one of the longest among any other breed.
This is partially because most small-breed dogs tend to live longer on average, but it is also due to the limited health issues associated with the breed. Some issues that Chihuahuas may struggle with include eye disorders and patellar luxation, but these conditions tend to be relatively minor.
On occasion, more severe health conditions may occur. The Chihuahua is also known to deal with patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart defect. Mitral valve disease may also occur, which is a deficiency of one of the heart valves. This condition is more common in small-breed dogs. Idiopathic epilepsy is another possible condition your Chihuahua may be predisposed to.
13. Wild Chihuahuas Still Roam the United States
It may seem too odd to be true, but wild Chihuahuas roamed the southwestern part of the United States. Packs of wild Chihuahuas roamed the area during the latter half of the 1800s to the early part of the 1900s. Hamilton Raynor, the man who officially registered the first Chihuahua with the AKC, spent a lot of time capturing these wild Chihuahuas to start a kennel.
To this day, wild Chihuahuas can be found in the United States. For instance, in as late as 2014, thousands of wild Chihuahuas were spotted in Arizona. The pack wandered into the Phoenix, Arizona area, where locals called animal control to capture the Chihuahuas.
Wild Chihuahuas are not exactly a rare occurrence; in San Francisco, the locals deal with a similar problem.
14. Chihuahuas Don’t Require Much Exercise
Chihuahuas are high-energy dogs, but they don’t need extensive exercise. While several dogs require a daily walk or even a jog, the Chihuahua can get its exercise indoors. By zooming around the house or playing with toys, the Chihuahua can burn off enough energy to satisfy itself.
However, they do not have the highest endurance. If you notice your Chihuahuas panting and looking exhausted, it is time to take a break from the exercise.
15. This Breed Can Be Prone to Obesity
For such a small dog, it’s hard to believe that the Chihuahua is capable of overeating. However, that can often be the case. Chihuahuas are prone to becoming overweight, so Chihuahua owners need to carefully monitor their dog’s calorie intake and activity levels. While treats are important to training your Chihuahua, they can also contribute to obesity.
Finding low-calorie treats is essential to maintaining a healthy weight for your Chihuahua.
Food scraps should be given very sparingly or not at all. Many human foods pose dangers to your Chihuahua’s health, so consult your vet before offering your dog any food from the table.
Chihuahuas are unique, spunky dogs with a lot of depth to them. Were you surprised by any of the facts on this list? The Chihuahua is more than a big personality in a small body; it is a dog that has traveled the land, brushed elbows with celebrities, and descended from a beloved pre-Columbian companion. If this list has inspired you to bring a Chihuahua into your family, check your local animal shelters or find a responsible breeder.
Featured Image Credit: IAKIMCHUKIAROSLAV, Shutterstock