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Why Did the Aztecs Raise Chihuahuas?

The Chihuahua is one of the tiniest dog breeds in the world today. They were named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua. But did you know in the early years in Mexico, Chihuahuas had a different purpose for the Aztecs?

Aztecs in the 16th century took care of this little dog for food. However, there were a variety of small dogs that may have existed in the area alongside the Chihuahua during that time.

The Aztec Culture and Its Origins

The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico from 1300 to 1521 during the post-classic period. The Aztecs were various ethnic groups from central Mexico, particularly those who spoke the Nahuatl language and ruled over large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries.

Aztec culture was organized into city-states, some of which joined to form alliances, political confederations, or empires. The Aztec Empire was a confederation of three city-states founded in 1427: Tenochtitlan, the Mexica or Tenochca city-state; Texcoco; and Tlacopan, previously part of the Tepanec Empire, whose dominant power was Azcapotzalco.

Although the term Aztecs is frequently used to refer to the Mexica of Tenochtitlan, it is also used broadly to refer to Nahua polities or peoples of central Mexico during the prehispanic and Spanish colonial eras. Since German scientist Alexander von Humboldt established its common usage in the early nineteenth century, the definitions of Aztec and Aztecs have long been the subject of scholarly debate. (Source: Britannica)

What You Need to Know About the Chihuahua

Registries’ current breed standards call for an apple-head or apple-dome skull conformation. Chihuahuas with apple domes have large, round eyes and large, erect ears set in a high, dramatically rounded skull. The stop is well defined, with the muzzle meeting the skull at a near-90-degree angle.

Dogs of the older deer type, with a flat-topped head, more widely set eyes, larger ears, and longer, more slender legs, can still be registered; however, the deer head is not considered a separate type in competition, and deviation from the breed standard is considered a fault.

Breed standards for this dog generally do not specify a height; only a weight and a description of their overall proportions are specified. The average height of a dog is between 15 and 23 cm; however, some dogs can grow to be as tall as 30 to 38 cm. For confirmation, a Chihuahua must weigh no more than 5.9 pounds, according to both British and American breed standards. (Source: American Kennel Club)

Where Did Chihuahuas Come From?

The Chihuahua, which was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, is thought to be a direct descendant of the Techichi, a small desert canine that dates back to Mayan times. These pre-Columbian dogs were similar in size and shape to Chihuahuas and are thought to have been domesticated by the ancient Toltec civilization.

Although the Techichi breed is no longer extant, depictions of this dog in historic relics and effigies indicate that they possessed distinct physical characteristics that are commonly associated with modern Chihuahuas.

According to research conducted by the Institute of Technology in Stockholm, roughly 70% of modern Chihuahua DNA originates from the ancient South American Techichi. For decades, the remaining 30% has been a source of contention. According to the evidence, the unknown DNA most likely came from a dog breed outside of Mexico. The exact breed, however, is still unknown. (Source: Bil-Jac)

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