Round-the-Globe Look at Native Dogs: First Stop, Home

native dogs

Story at-a-glance -

  • There are around 60 dog breeds that originated in the U.S., including the little cutie once known as the American Gentleman
  • Mexico boasts three native breeds, including the world’s smallest
  • Brazil has four originals, though one of them has been extinct and “under reconstruction” since 1973

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

This week we're showcasing dogs native to different countries around the world. Today's stops are the good ole U.S.A., Mexico and Brazil.

Born in the USA

Nearly 60 dog breeds had their start in this country, and Wikipedia has a full list here. As one of the very first, the Boston Terrier is an American original.

In the late 1800s, Robert C. Hooper of Boston, Massachusetts, purchased a dog named Judge, who became known as Hooper's Judge. Judge was either a direct descendant of the original Bull and Terrier breeds of the 19th and early 20th centuries, or he was the result of English Bulldogs crossed with terriers in the 1860s. Whatever his heritage, the AKC lists Hooper's Judge as the ancestor of almost all modern Boston Terriers.

Also once called the "American Gentleman," the breed was accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a non-sporting breed in 1893.

boston terrier

The Boston Terrier is known for being highly intelligent, playful, gentle and well-mannered. They are also are eager learners and fairly easy to train, though they can sometimes be difficult to house train.

Bostons are a brachycephalic breed, which means they're prone to eye problems including dry eyes, cherry eye, entropion and corneal ulcers. Their short muzzles may cause breathing difficulties, especially when they're stressed by exertion. They may also snore or drool. Other health problems common to Bostons include deafness, patellar luxation (floating kneecap), and heart and skin tumors, including mast cell tumors.

Dogs Native to Mexico

Our neighbors to the south boast three original dogs, the Chamuco, the Mexican Hairless (aka the Xoloitzcuintli) and last but certainly not least, the tiny Chihuahua, which is the smallest dog breed in the world. Chihuahua is the largest northern state in Mexico, where the breed is called the chihuahueño.

The most common theory about the origins of the breed is that Chihuahuas are descendants of the Techichi, a companion dog kept by the Toltec civilization in Mexico. Speculation is that earlier ancestors of the breed were present prior to the Mayans, because depictions of dogs very similar to the Chihuahua have been unearthed at the Great Pyramid of Cholula that predates 1530, and at the ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula as well.

In the late 1800s, U.S. travelers to Mexico discovered the breed and brought some of the dogs back to the states. The Chihuahua has been consistently popular in the U.S. since its arrival and was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904.

chihuahua

A Chihuahua owner's temperament greatly influences his or her pet's temperament. Chis tend to be one-person dogs who develop a fierce loyalty to one family member. This can lead to over-protectiveness, especially when other people and pets are around. For this reason, Chihuahuas aren't considered a good choice for homes with small children.

Chis are also reported to be "clannish," preferring the company of Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes to other dog breeds. Even well-bred, healthy Chihuahuas are quite small, with average-size adults weighing just 4 to 6 pounds and standing a mere 6 to 10 inches high. Unfortunately, many disreputable people interested primarily in making money deliberately breed Chis that will only weigh 1 to 2 pounds as adults.

These dogs are advertised as "miniature" or "teacup," and while they may look adorable, they are typically very frail. Their bones are exceedingly thin and prone to sprains and breaks. Too-small Chihuahuas are also at greater risk for tracheal collapse, food intolerances, failure to thrive and several other disorders.

Dogs of Brazil

Brazil lays claim to four original breeds: the Brazilian Dogo, the Brazilian Terrier, the Fila Brasiliero and the Rastreador Brasileiro. The Rastreador Brasileiro (the Brazilian Tracker for English speakers) is a large breed scent hound that originated in Brazil. Sadly, in the late 1960s a disease outbreak, coupled with an overdose of insecticide wiped out the breeding stock. The breed was declared extinct in 1973, but since then largely unsuccessful efforts have been made to resurrect it.

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