Friday, November 5, 2010

¡AY, CHIHUAHUA!

If you would like to have a little bitty dog that you can just stuff into your purse and take everywhere with you, a chihuahua might be exactly the right breed for you.  Also a chihuahua would be good to have if you live in a small place like an apartment or a tool shed.  Chihuahuas are the smallest kind of dog, so if you have one, you should be very careful not to step on it by mistake and squash it flat.  Chihuahuas only weigh between 1 pound and 6 pounds, which makes them smaller than most cats, but bigger than most rats.

The name chihuahua comes from a state in Mexico that has the same name.  This state is located just underneath New Mexico on the map.  Nobody knows exactly where the state of Chihuahua got its name, but it might have come from a Nahuatl word that means something like "the place where the rivers come together."  The important thing about the word chihuahua is that it's fun to say.  In Spanish, chihuahua dogs are called chihuahueños, which is harder to say, but also fun, once you get the hang of it.

Anyway, when the Spanish first arrived in Mexico, they found that the native people had these little dogs that were thought to be holy and that were used in sacred rituals.  Also the upper class Indians kept the dogs as pets.  No one knows exactly where the little dogs came from in the first place, though.  Some historians think they came from the island of Malta because there are paintings in Europe that show little dogs that look just like chihuahuas, and these paintings were made before Christopher Columbus ever sailed over to America.

But what probably happened is that chihuahuas came from a breed of dog called Techichi, which was used by the Toltec people for hunting and also as companion dogs.  The Techichi were a little bigger than most chihuahuas, and scientists have found really old bones from these dogs, like from the 2nd century BC.  The Aztecs conquered the Toltecs, and the Aztecs liked the Techichi dogs, too, and thought they had mystical powers.

Gibson, the world's tallest dog,
with his chihuahua pal.
The way the chihuahuas got to be as small as they are today is maybe because the Spanish brought little Chinese dogs, like for instance the Chinese crested dog, to Mexico and South America, and all those dog breeds got mixed up together.  Then later, chihuahuas became popular in the U.S., starting in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.  The AKC recognized the chihuahua in 1904.

Chihuahuas can have a smooth coat or a long coat.  But these are not two different breeds of chihuahuas.  They both have the very same genes, and they can even be born in the same litter.  The classic color for chihuahuas is fawn, but actually they can be any color.  Except they are not supposed to be merle, at least in Europe, where the merle color is not allowed to be registered because of health problems that go with this color pattern.  But the national chihuahua club in America said it is okay to have a merle chihuahua, and so the AKC registers them.

Sometimes a veterinarian has to help a chihuahua have her puppies because of the puppies' round heads. Other health problems that chihuahuas might have are seizures, hydrocephalus, low blood sugar, and luxating patellas.  Also they are born with something called a molera, which is a soft spot in the skull.  Usually this fills in as the puppy gets older, but sometimes it doesn't.  Also chihuahuas can have eye problems because their eyes kind of bug out, and they are close to the ground, so they can get dirt and stuff in them.

Chihuahuas are sort of breakable because they have such little bones, so it's best if you don't play with them too hard.  And if you have kids, you need to make sure the kids are nice and gentle with your chihuahua and don't break it.  Also chihuahuas get cold pretty easily, which is a good excuse to put a cute little sweater or jacket on them.  And they also look good in fancy costumes.

The temperament of a chihuahua is perky and playful.  It's a good idea to socialize your chihuahua when it's a puppy so that it won't be aggressive with strangers.  Some chihuahuas bark a lot, but not all of them do.   They make good watch dogs because they pay attention to what is going on around them and then they bark about it.  Chihuahuas live to be between 10 and 17 years old.






"¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!"
A lot of people in Hollywood seem to like chihuahuas, like especially Paris Hilton.  But the first popular Hollywood chihuahua was in 1997, and that was the Taco Bell chihuahua.  Everybody knew this dog because he was in lots of commercials, and he also appeared on lots of products.










Mom used to think that chihuahuas were too small to be "real dogs," but now she has met some personally at the Humane Society, and she liked them quite a bit, so she thinks they are actually pretty cute dogs.  I think it would be fun if we had our very own chihuahua here at our house, but Mom says we now have MORE than our Legal Limit of Animals, so I can just forget about us adopting another one.  So I guess I will!

3 comments:

  1. Hi Piper, I now have a little sister who is a chihuahua, and she is cute and nice and doesn't bark. The first time I saw her I thought maybe she was a snack but my mom pointed out that she was, in fact, a real dog!A lot of people who meet Cali say "I didn't like Chihuahuas before, but this one is very cute and sweet!". When I yodel she howls along, so I think she would really like to be a basenji! Better yet, my human sister has someone to dress up instead of me. Too bad your mom is at the legal limit for dogs-some chihuahuas would make a nice addition to your pack.
    Viggo in MA

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  2. Dear Viggo,
    Your little sister chihuahua sounds really nice. Like I said in my blog, I wish I had a chihuahua at my house, but Mom won't let me. Maybe someday I can have one. Thanks for writing to me!
    Your friend, Piper

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