Martha Hooks & Sallie Buckman share a half century of detailed knowledge in this graphic description of the Chihuahua, from history and function to Breed Standard.
Chihuahua History, Function, Breed Standard
By Sallie S. Buckman & Martha D. Hooks - authors' bios below
Few breeds have more romantic, fanciful and controversial theories expounded about them, and while some of these may be basically sound, and certainly merit more consideration than others, real historical facts are scarce. So much mystery surrounds the origin of the Chihuahua that every book you read on the subject will have varying tales of this ancient breed...
It is generally accepted that Chihuahuas originated in Mexico, dating back to Mayan, Toltec and Aztec Civilizations. However, the little Chihuahua literally made its way around the world...they have been known in Malta, Sardinia and Venice for a very long time - and it is assumed that explorers took them to Europe.
Some of the world's most famous artists frequently included little dogs (resembling the Chihuahua) in their paintings and many of these can be found in the public art galleries of Europe.
Pertinent to the development of the Chihuahua, it is important to remember that the breed is not related nor descended from the Mexican Hairless. The two breeds differ as much in type as do the Bull Terrier and the Boston Terrier. It is believed that the Mexican Hairless is related to or descended from the Chinese Crested breed.
Whatever its origin, the modern smooth coat Chihuahua has been developed and purified to its present type by American breeders during this century .The American standard is world-wide and probably every Chihuahua in the world traces its ancestry to purely American bloodlines. That is especially true in Mexico today. Up until 1935, there was a strong terrier influence in the breed; this can still be seen occasionally in Chihuahuas with typical terrier markings and movement.
The long coat Chihuahua is entirely an American-made breed and to produce a long coated Chihuahua, crosses with long-coated breeds were necessary .In the early days of this century the chief breeds used for the evolution of the long coat Chihuahua were the Papillon and the Pomeranian. Today, however, the long coat should have all the true features of the smooth coat Chihuahua and should not resemble any other toy breed.
Function: This is the world's smallest breed and I know you are thinking "What function can this dog possibly have?" Well, for one thing, there is, no better companion in all of the dogdom; the Chihuahua is the most loving and loyal of all dogs!
It is also a terrific watchdog. Those big ears can hear a pin drop a block away and its shrill bark has been known to scare off would-be burglars. Chihuahuas have also been trained to be "hearing" dogs for hearing impaired people.
Diagram showing ears correctly placed, corresponding to the hands of a clock set at 10 minutes to 2; base of ears in line with center of eyes and base of stop; and line drawn across tips of ears about half an inch above dome of skull
An Overview of the Present AKC Chihuahua Standard
General Appearance: A graceful, alert, swift-moving little dog with saucy expression, compact body and terrier-like qualities of temperament.
Weight: A well-balanced little dog not to exceed six pounds.
Proportion: The body is off-square; hence slightly longer when measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks, than height at the withers. Somewhat shorter bodies are preferred in males.
Disqualifications: Any dog over 6 pounds in weight. Broken down or cropped ears. Cropped or bobbed tails. In long coats, too thin coat that resembles bareness.
Head: A well-rounded "apple dome" skull, with or without molera.
Eyes: Full but not protruding, balanced, set well apart-luminous or luminous ruby. (Light eyes in blond or white dogs permissible.)
Ears: Large, erect type ears, held more upright when alert, but flaring to the sides at a 45° angle when in repose, giving breadth between the ears.
Muzzle: Moderately short, slightly pointed, cheeks and jaws lean.
Nose: In blond types self-colored or black. In moles, blues and chocolates they are self-colored. In blond types a pink nose is permissible.
Bite: Level or scissors. Overshot or undershot, or any distortion of the bite or jaw should be penalized as serious faults.
Neck: Slightly arched and gracefully sloping into lean shoulders.
Body: Ribs rounded and well sprung, (but not barrel-shaped).
Tail: Moderately long, carried sickle either up or out, or in a loop over the back, with tip just touching the back, (never tucked between legs).
Forequarters: Shoulders lean, sloping into a slightly broadening support above forelegs that set well under, giving a free play at the elbows; shoulders should be well up, giving balance and soundness, sloping into a level back, (never down or low.) This gives a chestiness, and strength of forequarters, yet not of the "bulldog" chest.
Feet: A small dainty foot with toes well split up but not spread, pads cushioned, (neither the hare nor the cat foot.)
Hindquarters: Muscular, with hocks well apart, neither out nor in, well let down, firm and sturdy. The (rear) feet are as in the front feet (above).
Coat: In the smooth coats, the coat should be of soft texture, close and glossy. (Heavier coats with undercoats permissible.) Coat placed well over body with ruff on neck preferred, and more scanty (coat) on head and ears. Hair on tail preferred furry. In the long coats, the coat should be of a soft texture, either flat or slightly curly, with undercoat preferred.
Ears: Fringed. (Heavily fringed ears may be tipped slightly, if due to the fringes and not to weak ear leather, but never down).
Tail: Full and long (as a plume). Feathering on feet and legs, pants on hind legs and a large ruff on the neck desired.
Color: Any color - solid, marked or splashed.
Gait: The Chihuahua should move swiftly with a firm, sturdy action, with good reach in the front equal to the drive from the rear. From the rear the hocks remain parallel to each other, and the foot fall of the rear legs fall directly behind that of the forelegs. The legs, both front and rear, will tend to converse slightly toward a central line of gravity as speed increases. The side view shows good, strong drive in the rear and plenty of reach in the front, with head carried high. The topline should remain firm and the backline level as the dog moves.
Temperament: Alert, with Terrier-like qualities. There are several points we would like to discuss:
Head: An apple domed head is more shaped like a cooking apple - in other words, not round like a ball. There should be greater width between the ears than above the eyes.
Proportion: We prefer a "square" dog over an "off-square" dog and we think if you take the time to observe Chihuahuas being judged, you will note that regardless of the standard, the judges seem to like the "square" dogs better! Also, how does one breed for shorter bodies in males and longer bodies in females? Genetically speaking, we think this is asking the impossible and would almost demand that breeders maintain 2 types of dogs, one for breeding and the other for showing. Breeding tiny males to larger females quickly causes breeds to become more and more diminutive. This is too easily accomplished to the general detriment of the breed. Our breeding stock and show stock are the same. We do not believe in double standards in our world nor in our dogs' world!
Molera: In the center of the skull a Chihuahua often has what is known as a "Molera ", the misspelling of a Spanish word which means an unclosed fontanel - a membrane covered opening in the skull.
Ears: - Sometimes it is difficult to visualize the required 45 degree angle because it depends on the place from which the angle is taken. It is easy to describe the perfect position by saying if the angle is taken from the center of the stop, the ears would be equivalent to the hands of a clock showing the time at ten minutes to two o'clock. When the ears are in repose the base of the ears should be in line with the center of the eye and base of the skull.
Color: One of the most fascinating aspects of the Chihuahua is the variation of colors - anything goes! The breed has snow whites, pure blacks, rich reds, beautiful chocolates, various shades of fawn, parti-colors with interesting markings in different combinations of fawn and white and blue and white. There is also sable, brindle, shades of silver fawn, a perfectly peachy fawn and gorgeous blues. Having a litter of Chihuahuas is like opening Christmas gifts - you never know what colors you will get!
Gait: Let us try to clarify the sentence in the standard about the front and rear legs tending to converge toward a central line of gravity as speed increases. When walking slowly, the dog will "double-track," and as speed increases, the dog will "single track." Sketches included in this article will show correct and faulty fronts and rears, which contribute to the gait of the animal. Other sketches included give clarification to what is a level topline verses a roach or humped back. Weak pasterns, feet too long and thin, underbelly too tucked up, tail carried too low, correct tail verses "rat" tail, arched neck, flaring ears, apple domed head and good spread of ribs.
PRESENT DAY BREED PROBLEMS
Small eyes - we are not seeing enough of the large and luminous eyes.
Gait - we see a large number of Chihuahuas moving with a hackney, or near hackney, gait action. This is not correct Chihuahua movement. Our new AKC standard addresses the proper gait for the first time, so perhaps judges and breeders alike will take note! We are also seeing a lot of patella luxation (slipping stifles in the rear knees) and a serious hereditary fault known as hip dysphasia, which many fanciers and judges are familiar with in the larger breeds.
Ears - soft ears, ears set too high on head, giving a terrier appearance and ears set too low on head, giving a dumb appearance (see clock illustration for correct ear placement.)
Tail - flat, furry tails, sad to say, but one of the most unique characteristics of this breed, have all but disappeared. The official standard does not even require this very distinctive tail. As a matter of fact, the Chihuahua Club of America was not organized until Feb. 1, 1923 - some 19 years after the breed was recognized by AKC, due to dissension over the standard, particularly that of the tail! The sickle tails were agreed upon as a happy medium between the "rat-tail" and the flat, furry tail. Although an interesting point of breed history , few fanciers today would take an exception to any kind of tail on an otherwise good Chihuahua!
PRESENT STATE OF THE CHIHUAHUA
There is little doubt the Chihuahua has improved since the breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1904. Chihuahuas shown prior to 1940 were generally of the "deer" or "fawn" type, a bit leggy and longer bodied, and - too frequently, roach backed. Also, well into the 1930's the breed was still showing the results of mixed breeding. The year 1940 brought a marked change for the better, with more breeders recognizing the true Chihuahua type. The strength of the Chihuahua rests entirely in the hands of the dedicated breeders who strive, with each breeding, to produce dogs meeting the breed standard. We think this is a pretty good testimony of the Chihuahua today!
reprinted with permission, TOP NOTCH TOYS / DECEMBER 1995
Bio for two authors:
Martha D. Hooks has been a breeder/exhibitor of long coat Chihuahuas since 1969 and is the breeder of the 7 time Best In Show winner, Ch. Snow Bunny d'Casa De Cris (Featured in the "Fondest Memories" section of the 1992 December issue of TNT). Although Martha is no longer active in breeding nor showing, she still has a great love of the breed and is willing to give advice to new fanciers.
Sallie S. Buckman has been a breeder/exhibitor of Chihuahuas and a member of Chihuahua Club of America since the early 1960's. Her club affiliation credits include being a board member of the Chihuahua Club of Alabama since 1972 and she was recently honored with a life-time membership award by the Nashville Chihuahua Club.
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