X is for Xoloitzcuintle

| April 21, 2014

The Xoloitzcuintle (show-low-eets-kweent-lee), known to us as the Mexican Hairless Dog, is definitely a breed apart. When we think of the aesthetic aspects of dogs, we typically think of cute, cuddly beings with lots and lots of fur. Because of this, as natives to the tropical climates of Central and South America, the Xolos and their lack of hair certainly stand out.

However, it’s interesting to note their roles in other experiences outside of this typical “pet” context—including aesthetic ones. When I studied abroad in Mexico in Summer 2011 during undergrad, we stopped at El Museo Dolores Olmedo, in Mexico City. The photos throughout this post are from my trip to the museum, which exists on Olmedo’s estate and showcases her collection of artwork. A philanthropist and close friend to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivero, Olmedo’s collection includes hundreds of their paintings, in addition to other paintings, drawings, pottery, statues, and more.

Most notably, her estate also features a wide variety of animals—chickens, geese, and even peacocks. And, of course, a small pack of Xoloitzcuintli. Having received her first Xolo, Nahual, as a gift from Rivera, Olmedo fell in love with the breed and soon expanded.

A symbol of Mexican culture, the dog has historical roots in Aztec and other indigenous groups’ cultures as a dedicated being in life, and a type of guide to the underworld in death. A statue, dedicated to her first dog, remains, as do his descendents—“guarding” the estate to this day.  I can easily say firsthand, giving the Xolos pretty much free reign of the grounds really shaped an experience out of the visit to the museum. With their statue counterpart, the rare breed’s continued presence at the museum adds a whole new level of liveliness and uniqueness to the moment.