Un Chihuahua. Look how cute. So many of the older ladies in Hispanic communities own a Chihuahua. I think I can hardly remember a house in my old neighborhood that didn't own one. Un Chihuahua. Hay que lindo! As I was researching for information on a good small dog for myself, I happened upon the information that Chihuahua's are actually a Hispanic pooch. I thought, wow, I never knew that. Now, being Hispanic, you would think the name would ring a bell that the Chihuahua is at least named after a Hispanic place. Yet, as so many things that you do not seem to notice when growing up, the obvious has escaped me. So I thought, why not read up and see what Chihuahua's are all about and any other good information I can dig up concerning Hispanic bread dogs. After all, we breed dogs to suit our customs and needs. This would definitely give us some insight into our past culture as to what our Hispanic forefathers thought was important and valuable in pets. You would not believe the wealth of information hidden behind the cute little faces of the Chihuahua or the rich history. The tiny Chihuahua holds a history of mystique and intrigue that rival even the aristocrats. Here is what I learned about the beloved Chihuahua.
The history of the Chihuahua goes back to 5 A.D. It's ancestors can be traced through out South America. It is one of the few domestic dogs belonging to the America's. Mayans made clay sculptures of small dogs that appeared to be similar to the Chihuahua. These sculptures have been dated as far back as 5 A.D. Chihuahua's are named after the Northern part of Mexico that bares the same name. This area borders Mexico, and the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
The story of the Chihuahua begins all the way back with my very own ancestors the Toltecs. The Toltecs were known to have a breed of dog which was small in stature yet was heavier boned and had a longer coat than the familiar Chihuahua. This dog is known as a Techichi. Though this dog was kept by Toltecs as a pet it was often used in religious services. Also known to the Toltecs was another small dog that lived in the ground much like a mere cat would. This dog was called a Perro Chihuahueno. It was a foraging type of dog.
When the Aztec's conquered the Toltecs they also began using the small dogs as companions as well as in religious service. It is thought based on artifacts found in burial sites that the Aztecs may have believed that these small dogs would serve as guides in the after life. The Burning of these dogs with a human corpse was often a popular practice as the belief was that you could transfer the wrong doings of the human to the dog upon cremation. It is also believed that these small dogs may have been a source of food for the Native Americans. The evidence shows that the dogs eaten by the natives then were bred specifically to this purpose. These dogs were short, thick and plump. Hardly a good description of the Chihuahua we know today. Though there are ancestors of the Chihuahua as we know it today found through out the developing history of the Americas, it is the Aztecs who having conquered the Toltecs further bred and cultivated several distinct breeds for various uses.
Even though there are these facts to support the history of the Chihuahua, there is some substance to the belief that the dogs may have hailed from Spain. There on the island of Malta is a dog that possesses a natural molera, which is a soft spot in it's head, being a very rare quality for a dog and is exclusive to certain breeds. In the Sistine chapel is a painting by artist Sondro Botticelli, dated 1482, which shows a small dog which appears similar in appearance to today's Chihuahua. This painting predates Columbus's voyage to the New World, so this supports the belief that the Chihuahua may have in fact hailed from Spain. Yet there are many who now know and believe that before Christopher Columbus ever sailed, many travelers from the old world had in fact come to the New World and traded freely with the natives that were here. There are artifacts in many chapels through out the Old World of maize and other treasures that were achieved for posterity's sake. Since there is no direct history of the pet in the lives and customs of the Spanish and there are many in the American Natives dating back to 5 A.D., I would think that the stronger claim would be that the lovable little spit fire we know as the Chihuahua was most likely born and bred in the new world.
The dogs life and fate have the strongest links to the native inhabitants of the Americas and ever have they loved nurtured and cared for the Chihuahua. The Chihuahua was used for sacrifices to appease the gods along with any human captives. The life they would have lead would have been blessed and much like that of a king up until the day they were sacrificed to satisfy a god. As the Chihuahua lived in the temples and were very much involved in the rituals of the Aztecs, it is believed that they shared the place of those captives when none were available. You might ask yourself, why would someone use a dog as a sacrifice over other animals? The dog was thought to posses many mystical attributes. It was thought that these small dogs could see into the future. It was also believed as mentioned before that they could transfer the bad deeds of the dead to a dog upon cremation. It was also believed that these same dogs could transfer illness from one person to the other. The Red Chihuahua is believed to be the most sacred of all as it was thought to be the guide in the after life. It is for this reason that this small little Chihuahua had found a place in almost every Aztecan home and through tradition may have maintained the place in the Hispanic home. It was custom to slay and bury the family dog with a deceased from the household to serve as a guide in the afterlife. The Chihuahua was also used as a living hot water bottle to ease the pains in joints. This would explain the way in which we have bred and cared for the Chihuahua as a culture and the reason for the Chihuahua's personality.
The Chihuahua's personality if you have not had the pleasure to meet them personally is quite a unique and endearing trait. They are energetic, alert, self possessed and self assured. It is this tiny little Titan that believes it can take on any who cross his path and has a temper to match his position and stature from the days of old. The Chihuahua will fiercely protect it's owner and territory from any who would think to encroach upon his claim, even if it is a battle that he is sure to loose. In the mind of the Chihuahua, all are servants to his will and taking into account his size, this makes for quite a little bundle of joy to those who are appreciative of a good self esteem. The breeders over the years have worked at making this little ball of self importance into a more domesticated pet and have done wonders in their task, but the Chihuahua remains today to be that of one who feels as though they own all they see. As history would have it, they held many a key to the health and welfare and thusly earned that position in the Ancient family home and that of Hispanic's today.
After the fall of the Aztec's to the Spaniards, these small dogs were all but abandoned and forced to live out lives of scavengers or eating small prey where they found it. How the Chihuahua developed from the short stocky dog from Toltec days to the thin fragile dog we know today is of much speculation. Some believe that other migratory natives would have introduced a small hairless dog into the pack during their travels. Some believe that the Chinese might have crossbred the dogs with a hairless dog from the Orient. Some believe that possibly the Manchester Terrier may have been introduced into the pack and crossbred naturally due to the Spaniards arrival. When the bred resurfaced some 300 or more years later, they were varied in characteristics. Some of the Chihuahua's were long haired, some short haired, and some had no hair at all. They were named after a state of Mexico where they were found by Americans and have been in the hearts and homes of Hispanics and others ever since. A true treasure to the Hispanic family and culture, may the Chihuahua live forever in our hearts and homes as a reminder of where we come from and where we might go in the future. Rising from the ruins of history to become one of the treasures of the world come the Chihuahua, a true Hispanic American story.
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Lamentations of the Caves By Rebecca Cuevas De Caissie