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What Were Chihuahuas Originally Bred For? – The Truth About The Chihuahua’s Origins

Chihuahuas are little bundles of charm and sass. Though these Mexican dogs are tiny, they have big and wonderful personalities. As a result, they’re some of the most popular family lap dogs today. But with their petite size, owners may wonder what they were bred to do.

So, what were Chihuahuas bred for? Chihuahuas are descendants of an ancient dog, called the Techichi dog. The ancestors of the Chihuahua were originally bred for various purposes, such as companionship, religious ceremonies & rituals and food. However, modern Chihuahuas are bred solely for companionship today.

There’s much more to the Chihuahua’s history than most people know. And unlike some dogs, it’s not as obvious as being black and white. That said, let’s look into the Chihuahua’s complex origins and discover the true reasons why these dogs were bred.

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The Chihuahua Origins

Chihuahuas were bred from the Techichi dog from ancient Mexican civilizations.

For hundreds of years, we believed Chihuahuas originated from an ancient civilization of Mexico. Though this is all true, past researchers have claimed that the ancestors of the Chihuahua actually originated from Asia. And to be specific, roots from China.

It’s certainly a controversial claim, considering how iconic and significant the Chihuahua is to Mexican culture. They may not be the national dog of Mexico (the Xoloitzcuintli is), but they might as well be.

But despite these recent claims, we can safely say that the modern iteration of the Chihuahua was developed in Mexico. That’s because they were bred from the ancient Mexican dog, called the Techichi

Bred From the Ancient Techichi

It’s been long believed that Chihuahuas were developed from the ancient dog of Mexico’s Toltec indigenous tribe, called the Techichi dog. These dogs can be traced back as far back as 9th century AD

What’s interesting about the Techichi is that they’re mute dogs. In other words, they didn’t bark. And it’s uncertain if they actually knew how to bark. But considering how Chihuahuas are notorious barkers, it’s a bit hard to imagine they were derived from these mute dogs. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information on these ancient Mexican dogs. We know very little about the ancestor breeds of the Chihuahua. The Techichi dogs are extinct today and everything scientists have learned about them have come from old artifacts.

What Chihuahuas Were Originally Bred For

Nearly every single dog breed we know today have been purposely bred for a job or role in society. For example, the Australian Shepherds were bred to herd livestock. Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve game. Even Pit Bulls were bred for bull-baiting – an outlawed blood sport.

However, not all dogs were bred for a specific “working” job, including the Chihuahua. Still, these dogs served many jobs and purposes early on. In fact, the ancient Chihuahua arguably had the most unusual roles in their society. The Chihuahua was truly a multi-purpose dog.

To cover all the original roles of the Chihuahua, we must first look at the Techichi in ancient Mexico. Though they’re not exactly the same dogs, they are their true ancestral breed.

Chihuahuas as Sacrificial Dogs

As descendants of the Techichi dog, Chihuahuas were popular among religious ceremonies and rites. Sadly, this means that Chihuahuas were sacrificed during sacred Toltec practices.

In addition, evidence suggests that the ancient Aztecs and Toltecs believed that these small dogs guided the soul to the underworld after death. For this reason, the Techichi dogs were often buried with their deceased family members and owner. 

Though it may seem like these ancient civilizations treated these dogs poorly, this is not the case. When these dogs aren’t being sacrificed or buried, they were taken cared of very well. The Toltec people loved these animals!

The people treated these dogs as sacred animals because of their connections to the religious ceremonies. And as you may have guessed, they were some of the most popular companion pets back then too – at least in ancient Mexico.

Chihuahuas For Food

Most of the western world have banned the consumption of dogs today. Even in other parts of the world where consuming dogs is legal, it’s still considered taboo (such as Korea). 

However, this perception was not always the case around the world. Most of the western world did not ban the consumption of eating dog meat until the early 1900’s

With that said, Chihuahuas (Techichi dogs) were also bred to be food. In fact, about 10% of meat consumption of the ancient Mayans came from their beloved dogs. 

It’s hard to comprehend why these people decided to eat such a “sacred” pet. But some researchers believe that the civilization faced major food shortages and had to resort to such consumption. Still, we have no conclusive evidence that can back this theory. 

Bred as Companions

Aside from being sacrificed and eaten, Chihuahuas were also popular companions for the families of the Toltec. Even after all these years, they have remained some of the best dog companions all around the world.

These dogs were (and still are) charming and affectionate, making them perfect family dogs no matter what time period. The people of the Toltec civilization lived in small homes around the crowded ancient city. Because of this, keeping a small mute dog such as the Techichi was a perfect fit.

Similarly to how Chihuahuas are now some of the best apartment dogs, the Techichi dogs were ideal for those living in that time period. 

What Chihuahuas are Bred For Today

The Chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog breed (full list of small dogs) so they’re really limited on what jobs they can actually do. That being the case, we can rule out herding, guarding, hunting, tracking and retrieving.

So what are Chihuahuas really bred for today? Chihuahuas are solely bred as loving companion dogs today. And according to Purina, Chihuahuas are one of the top 11 best companion dogs in the canine kingdom. However, in rural areas, there are still Chihuahuas that serve as skilled ratting dogs.

Highly Skilled Ratters

So what exactly is a “ratter?” They’re dogs developed specifically for helping humans in the capture and killing of rats. And although they’re great companions for families, some will argue Chihuahuas are even better at hunting small vermin (such as rats!).

As a matter of fact, these dogs are fearless ratters that take down squirrels, rats and other rodents in their native country of Mexico. This innate skillset is their instinctive intelligence. It’s partly what makes the Chihuahua smarter than people think. 

Even after domestication, these instincts to hunt still live within the Chihuahua. If you have a rat problem in your home, then a Chihuahua may be your best weapon! Keep in mind, these dogs are only used as ratters in more rural areas of Mexico.

The Ultimate Lapdog

Part of the Chihuahua’s charm is that they make such excellent and affectionate lapdogs. With a strong bond and loving relationship, there’s nothing they enjoy more than cuddling up with their owner. And Chihuahuas love to do this with their family members.

Joe, a Chihuahua owner, tells us:

My Chihuahua sits on my mom’s lap pretty much endlessly. If she lies down she sleeps on her chest.

Other Reddit users chimed in, saying “that’s pretty typical” for a Chihuahua. 

Other says they’re not quite lap dogs, but rather great “velcro dogs.” And by velcro dogs, we mean they stick to you (the owner) or other family members.

Another Chihuahua owner on Reddit said,

If either of us are sitting down, Brinkley (Chihuahua) is in one of our laps. When we have one of his dog park friends over, there is always competition for for the available lap.

One owner said, “mine follows me everywhere, hangs out in the bathroom when I’m getting dressed, wants to sit at least beside me when I’m sitting, and sleeps next to me anytime I’m sleeping.

If you check out the Chihuahua Subreddit forum, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of owners telling you the same thing. They all say that these dogs were meant to be lap dogs. And sure enough, they’re one of the best in the world at this “job.” 

Chihuahuas as Watchdogs 

Okay, they weren’t exactly bred for this. However don’t underestimate their watchdog abilities. Also, don’t get it confused. We’re saying they can be great watch dogs, and not guard dogs.

If you expect a Chihuahua to attack an intruder and defend the house, you’ll probably be out of luck. But because these dogs are fairly territorial and yappy, expect them to bark like a mad-dog when intruders come.

This can be a good or bad thing. For example, if you have a gated front yard and pedestrians walk by, chances are your Chihuahua will go investigate and bark as they’re passing. With their always-alert ears, they seem to always pick up on the slightest of sounds.

It can be annoying to many owners. And it definitely takes a while to get used to. However, when unwanted intruders actually invade your property, you’ll be happy that your little Chihuahua was able to alert you and the family. 

Why Get a Chihuahua?

There are so many reasons to keep a Chihuahua. They’re not particularly difficult to care for. These dogs are normal shedders. They don’t require as much physical activity as other dogs. 

In addition, they’re spirited and lively little dogs. There’s rarely a dull moment when you’re with a Chihuahua. Plus, they’re more intelligent than people give them credit for.

It’s unlikely that you need a Chihuahua to help hunt vermin. You’re likely looking for a companion, which these dogs were literally bred to do. 

When debating about a dog breed, make sure that you pick a breed because their temperament and personality fits yours. Also, consider your schedule, as some dogs can’t spend too much time alone. Because Chihuahuas are companion dogs, they can’t stand being alone all day long.

To make the relationship work between your Chihuahua, you’ll need to be patient with them. You’ll quickly learn this when obedience training starts, as they’re stubborn little dogs.

Every chance you get, shower them with love and affection – nothing less. In return, the Chihuahua will be one of the most loyal and entertaining companions you’ll ever own. Give the Chihuahua a try and you won’t regret it!


So do you own a Chihuahua? Let us know in the comment section what you think about these past roles and jobs of these wonderful small dogs.

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Ruben Arizpe

Friday 20th of May 2022

One simple fact that most people are unaware of is that the Chihuahua natural enemy is the Scorpion. Chihuahuas were used in Mexico to hunt and kill scorpions. I've owned a few Chihuahuas and I live in Arizona, and they do kill scorpions with great efficiency.

Richard

Friday 20th of May 2022

That's so interesting, thanks for sharing!

Shelly jenkins

Tuesday 19th of April 2022

I own 2 and they are the most loveing dogs a little noisy at times but that’s ok by me I love them both they will definitely let you know when somebody is there

Joan

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

I have a Chihuahua mix. The Chihuahua is not my favorite dog breed. I have been snapped at by several Chihuahuas. I love my little Chloe, from what I can tell she is mixed with some type of terrier. Her momma was a purebred Chihuahua and it was a backyard breeding. She is my shadow and goes everywhere with me. Wherever I am that's where you will find Chloe. She cries like a baby when I am not home. For the past 12 years this dog has done just about everything. From being my horse back riding companion to my personal guard dog.I am not sure if I will own another Chihuahua or even a Chihuahua mix, I do know I am glad I have my little Chloe.

Mark

Sunday 13th of February 2022

Love my chihuahua looks like a mini huzky

Mark

Sunday 13th of February 2022

Great description of the chihuahua.... mine is the smartest gopher killer ,best friend ,