Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo)

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: February 13, 2012

Xolo, 'Mexican Hairless Dog'

Popularly known as the "Mexican hairless dog," the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced shoh-loyts-kweent-lee) belongs to one of the oldest of the dog breeds, and is in fact believed to have been brought to the Americas during the monumental migration of humans across the Bering Strait an estimated 12,000 years ago.

Physical Characteristics

As mentioned above, the Xoloitzcuintli (or Xolo) is often referred to by its nickname, the Mexican hairless dog. This is generally a spot on reference to the Xolo’s normal lack of hair, though many Xolos are in fact born with a light coating of hair. This also serves to make the Xolo one of the hypoallergenic breeds. Even those that are born with and keep their hair have a close, flat coat. The preferred colors for the Xolo are darker shades of gray, red, bronze, brown, and varying shades of black.

Thus far, the Xolo is a product of evolution rather than selective breeding. The Xolo may be one of three sizes: toy, miniature and standard. The toy size stands at a height of 10-14 inches at the withers; the miniature at a height of 14-18 inches at the withers; and the standard at a height of 18-23 inches at the withers.

The body type is rectangular, with a slightly longer body length than height, waist tucked up. The neck is gracefully long with a wedge shaped head, tapered muzzle, and naturally (uncropped) pointed ears.

For Xolos that belong to the hairless variety, there may still be some small amount of short hair on the top of the head, feet and at the end part of the tail. For coated Xolos, the hair covers all of the body, but does not grow long.

Personality and Temperament

Prized as both a companion and guard dog, the Xoloitzcuintli maintains a calm demeanor even as it remains attentive to its surroundings.  It is an intelligent breed, and generally takes to training easily, as long as the training is gentle and consistent. The Xolo will not respond well to harsh training methods.

While the adult Xolo is known for being composed and relaxed, the Xolo puppy, like many young animals, is more high energy and will require more daily exercise and attention – and lots of chew toys. If this is given appropriately and as needed and training is consistent and enforced with affection, the Xolo puppy will grow into an admirable and reliable representative for its breed.

The Xolo does retain some of its more primitive characteristics, chiefly as a hunter of small game, so its environment should be one in which it will not be able to easily escape (e.g., high fences, closed gates).

Humans have long believed that the Xolo’s warm, soft skin radiates healing energy, so as part of its natural evolution has been in alignment with its human companions, the Xolo has developed  a strong sense of tranquility and patience with humans.  The Xolo is believed to relieve the pains associated with rheumatism and head pains, as well as to help relieve insomnia.


The Xoloitzcuintli needs very little grooming. Generally, a soft, warm cloth to cleanse the skin is sufficient.  Exercise needs are moderate. Daily walks or jogs and outdoor play during warm weather will benefit the Xolo’s health.  Skin care should be undertaken carefully, with regular checks to make sure the skin has not become too dry. Skin care products, lotions, shampoos or anything that has the potential to irritate the skin should be avoided.

With these precautions in mind, keeping your Xolo safe from harsh sunlight, as well as protecting it from cold temperatures will be main concerns. Because they are sensitive to climate, Xolos are considered indoor dogs. They should never be left outdoors for long periods of time. During cold seasons, your Xolo may be more comfortable wearing a sweater, and of course, spending as little time outdoors in the cold as possible.


As a result of its natural evolution, the Xoloitzcuintli is a vigorous and healthy breed, with very few health concerns. As previously mentioned, the skin should be protected from chemicals, sun, and temperate changes. When products are needed, stick to skin care products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin (like baby sun block, baby lotion, etc.). It is always a good idea to check with your veterinarian before using anything new on your Xolo’s skin.

History and Background

This little dog with the complicated name dates back some 3,500 years ago, to the time of the Aztecs. Thought to have gone extinct at one point because of its rarity, the Xoloitzcuintli made a come-back in the dog breed world in the 1950s after a campaign was waged to save the breed from obscurity. 

It is believed by some archeologists that the Xolo was brought to the Americas by people who migrated from the Asian continents to [what is now] the North American and South American continents, hypothetically settling as the first residents of the continents and holding their spot as the "natives" until later Europeans arrived.

The name Xoloitzcuintli is a portmanteau of Xolotl, the name of an Aztek Indian god, and Itzcuintli, the Aztec word for dog. Perhaps because of the Xolo’s easygoing and comforting personality, the people who chose this breed as a companion bestowed upon it the favor of the gods, giving it a creation history that rivaled man’s own narrative.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?