As with so many breeds, the Chihuahua’s origins are unclear, but there are two theories of how he came to be. The first is that he descended from a Central or South American dog known as the Techichi.
When we look at the evidence of the Chihuahua coming from Central and South America, we find ourselves looking back to the Toltec civilisation. There are Toltec carvings dating to the 9th century C.E. that depict a dog resembling the Chihuahua, with the same large ears and round head. These dogs were called Techichi, and their purpose in Toltec civilisation is unclear.
When the Aztecs conquered the Toltecs, they took the Techichi into their own society. Many of the dogs lived in temples and were used in Aztec rituals. The Aztecs believed that the Techichi had mystic powers, including the ability to see the future, heal the sick, and safely guide the souls of the dead to the underworld.
It was also a practice to kill a red Techichi and cremate him with the remains of the deceased. The Aztecs also used the Techichi as a source of food and pelts.
When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the late 1500s the Techichi faded into obscurity.
The second theory is that small hairless dogs from China were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders and then bred with small native dogs.
Regardless of which theory is accurate, the shorthaired Chihuahua we know today was discovered in the 1850s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, from which he took his name. American visitors to Mexico brought the little dogs home with them. They began to be shown in 1890, and a Chihuahua named Midget became the first of his breed to be registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904.
The longhaired variety was probably created through crosses with Papillons or Pomeranians. The breed’s popularity took off in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was associated with dance king and Latin music bandleader Xavier Cugat.
Since the 1960s, the Chihuahua has been one of the most popular breeds registered by the AKC. Today they rank 11th among the 155 breeds and varieties the AKC recognises.