Xoloitzcuintle, the mysterious 7 thousand year old dog

When Europeans arrived on the American continent in the 16th century, they were impressed by the cultural expressions of the indigenous peoples and the exuberance of the environment they inhabited. Among the oddities they found was a creature that they initially mistook for a dwarf horse, but it was actually the xoloitzcuintli.

The aztec dog either xoloitzcuintli (a term derived from ‘xólotl’, strange, deformed, and ‘itzcuintli’, dog) was part of the daily life of pre-Hispanic cultures, and also of their worldview: it was believed that it accompanied its deceased owner on the path to the Mictlan -the Aztec underworld- to protect and guide him. For this reason, it also served as a funerary offering for his masters. This canid was considered a sacred animal, a guardian and transcendental ally.

It is said that the Aztec ruler tlatoani Moctezuma He came to possess hundreds of xoloitzcuintles in his palace. At the beginning, this breed was owned by the Mexica upper classes, but over the years it became popular among the same people.

was about to become extinct

The conquerors used it as food during their expeditions, a pretext not only to satisfy their hunger but also to eradicate the Mexica customs that they considered pagan, which brought it to the brink of extinction. Luckily, the xoloitzcuintle survived in the mountains of Oaxaca and Guerrero, using its own instincts.

This dog is more than 7000 years old without man having intervened in its generation

Its absence of hair and the early loss of its teeth make it a unique species in the world due to a genetic mutation, although there are also strange specimens with fur. The Mexicas used it to cure certain rheumatic ailments when they let the animal sleep on the affected area.

Its intelligence, as well as its social temperament, faithful and affectionate, but also territorial and vigilant, makes it ideal as a guard and companion dog.

the aztec dog and the intellectuals

After the Mexican Revolution, the image of the xoloitzcuintle was adopted by artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo and Raúl Anguiano as one of the nationalist symbols that tried to recover the Mexican identity, Europeanized during the Porfiriato. They rescued the image of the Aztec dog, having it as a pet or representing it in their paintings.

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National Geographic

Collective Culture