DNA testing by The Royal Society of Biological Sciences has suggested that chihuahuas are direct descendants of ancient Mexican dogs called techichi. The techichi breed of the Toltec civilization is pictured in stone carvings in the Franciscan monastery called Huejotzingo located between Puebla and Mexico City. The people who built the monastery used stones from the ruins of the Toltec Pyramid of Cholula. Dog pots from Colima, Mexico dating back to 300 B.C. depict the techichi. In Mesoamerica from Mexico to El Salvador archeologists have excavated toys of wheeled dogs depicting the chihuahua. The earliest of these were found in Veracruz, Mexico and date back to 100 A.D.
After the Aztecs came to power they embraced the techichi, using them for religious sacrifice. The dogs were prized as sacred and were mute. Chihuahuas are thought to have gained a voice or bark through breeding with either an indigenous Peruvian hairless or an Asian hairless that came across the Bering Strait.
In Toltec and Aztec cultures chihuahuas were revered for their spiritual functions, especially in death ceremonies. Yellow was the color associated with death by Toltec and Aztec so the little gold colored dogs were highly valued. They sacrificed the yellow dog so that it would be waiting for its master to assist with his transition to the Toltec and Aztec idea of heaven which was considered to be a perilous passage.
The color red was associated with temptation, so they cremated the red-colored chihuahua with its master in the belief that the dog could absorb the sins of the deceased helping to assure his passage to heaven. They also were comforted by the thought that the master and dog would be companions in after-life. If you have experienced the fidelity and devotion of a Chihuahua there is little doubt that such a dog would eagerly accept the sins his adored master, loyally await him and lead him to heaven.
When the Spaniards arrived in America they annihilated the indigenous people and countless numbers of their domesticated dogs from Mexico to Florida. Spanish scribes who chronicled the conquest of the “New World” described the indigenous dogs as being a major source of meat for the conquistadors. It is possible that the captured and enslaved the Aztecs were forced to breed legions of dogs to feed the conquistadors who held them captive. Fortunately, the insatiable Spaniards probably found the chihuahua to be too small to be worth the trouble of roasting.
Chihuahua lovers are grateful that the tiny indigenous Mexican breed survived. Enrico Caruso the legendary tenor toured with a pack of chihuahuas. Other famous chihuahua lovers include Marilyn Monroe, Gertrude Stein, Billy Holliday, Martina Navratilova, Ricky Martin and many more. The huge Taco Bell chain restaurant ad campaign made a star of Gidget the chihuahua who orders tacos and constantly says, “Yo quiero Taco Bell!” The ads were so popular that the little dog developed a cult following. The chihuahua, Bruiser became famous starring in the Legally Blonde movies with Reese Witherspoon. All the attention has made the tiny breed even more popular.
Perhaps the ancient Mexican chihuahua’s popularity as a loyal companion will assure its existence for thousands of years to come.
CHIHUAHUA: History, Habits, Care, Legends and Training of the World's Smallest Dog by Bill EdwardsA is a great book about Chihuahuas.