Did The Aztecs Keep Chihuahuas?

The Chihuahua is a much-loved breed of dog that has made its way into the hearts of people all around the world. It’s small, cute, and fiercely loyal, making it a popular choice for a companion animal. But where did this breed originate from, and more importantly, did the Aztecs keep Chihuahuas? In this article, we will explore the history of Chihuahuas in Mesoamerica, the relationship between Aztec society and dogs, and the evolution of this beloved breed.

This article is part of my series on Chihuahua Breed History. And related to this I have an article on Chihuahua history facts.

The History of Chihuahuas in Mesoamerica

The history of Chihuahuas can be traced back to Mesoamerica, which includes Mexico and parts of Central America. It is believed that the Toltec people, who lived roughly between the 10th and 12th centuries, were the first to breed Chihuahuas. However, it wasn’t until the Aztec Empire was established in the 14th century that Chihuahuas became more prevalent.

During the Aztec Empire, Chihuahuas were highly valued and were often used in religious ceremonies. They were believed to have healing powers and were used to ward off evil spirits. Chihuahuas were also kept as pets by the ruling class and were often depicted in Aztec art. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they were impressed by the small dogs and brought them back to Europe, where they became popular among the aristocracy.

Aztec Society’s Relationship with Dogs

Dogs played a significant role in Aztec society: they were kept for hunting, as guardians, and even as sacrificial offerings in religious ceremonies. The Aztecs believed that dogs had a special connection to the afterlife and could act as intermediaries between humans and the gods. They were also highly valued for their loyalty and companionship, which may explain why they were often buried with their owners.

In addition to their practical and spiritual roles, dogs also had a cultural significance in Aztec society. They were often depicted in art and literature, and their images were used in various symbols and motifs. For example, the Xoloitzcuintli, a hairless breed of dog, was considered sacred and was often depicted in pottery and other artwork. The Aztecs also had a festival dedicated to dogs, called the Tlacaxipehualiztli, where dogs were dressed in finery and paraded through the streets.

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The Evolution of the Chihuahua Breed

Chihuahuas are believed to have descended from the Techichi, an ancient breed of dog that was kept by the Toltecs. These dogs were slightly larger than the Chihuahuas we know today and had a thicker coat. Over time, the breed evolved to become smaller, which is likely due to selective breeding.

In the late 1800s, Chihuahuas were introduced to the United States and quickly gained popularity as a fashionable pet. However, the breed faced criticism for its small size and delicate appearance. In response, breeders worked to refine the Chihuahua’s features, resulting in the modern breed we see today. Despite their small size, Chihuahuas are known for their big personalities and make loyal companions for those who appreciate their unique charm.

Evidence Supporting Aztecs Owning Chihuahuas

There is evidence to suggest that the Aztecs did indeed own Chihuahuas. Archaeological artifacts, such as pottery and statues, depict the breed with distinctive facial features and body shape. Additionally, historical texts from the time period mention small dogs being kept as pets and even used in religious ceremonies.

Furthermore, recent genetic studies have shown that the Chihuahua breed has a genetic link to ancient Mexican dogs, which were likely kept by the Aztecs. This supports the theory that the Chihuahua breed was developed by the Aztecs through selective breeding.

The Role of Chihuahuas in Aztec Religion and Culture

As previously mentioned, dogs played an important role in Aztec religion and culture. In particular, Chihuahuas were believed to have a connection to Xolotl, the god of lightning and death, who was often depicted as having a canine head. Chihuahuas were also used in healing ceremonies to ward off evil spirits.

Additionally, Chihuahuas were highly valued as pets among the Aztec nobility. They were often adorned with jewelry and clothing, and were even sometimes buried alongside their owners as a sign of their importance. Chihuahuas were also used as a source of food, with their meat being considered a delicacy.

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How Chihuahuas Were Used in Aztec Warfare

Chihuahuas were not only valued for their companionship and spiritual significance but were also used in Aztec warfare. They were trained to bark and alert soldiers of any approaching enemies or intruders. Additionally, they were used as lightweight messenger dogs, able to carry small items and important messages across long distances quickly.

It is believed that Chihuahuas were also used as a form of psychological warfare. The Aztecs would dress up the dogs in elaborate costumes and parade them around the enemy’s camp, causing confusion and fear among the opposing soldiers. This tactic was particularly effective against the Spanish conquistadors, who had never seen such small dogs before and were unnerved by their presence.

Comparing Aztec Chihuahuas to Modern-day Chihuahuas

While Chihuahuas have undoubtedly evolved over time, the similarities between Aztec Chihuahuas and modern-day Chihuahuas are striking. Both breeds are small in size, with large ears and eyes, and display highly affectionate and loyal personalities.

However, there are some notable differences between the two breeds. Aztec Chihuahuas were primarily used for religious and ceremonial purposes, while modern-day Chihuahuas are popular companion pets. Additionally, Aztec Chihuahuas were often adorned with intricate jewelry and clothing, while modern-day Chihuahuas are typically kept in more practical and comfortable attire. Despite these differences, both breeds hold a special place in history and continue to be beloved by many.

The Legacy of Aztec Chihuahuas in Present-day Mexico

Despite the Aztec Empire falling, the legacy of Chihuahuas continued in Mexico. Today, Chihuahuas are still celebrated and adored in Mexico and are even considered a national symbol of the country. They appear in art, literature, and traditional folklore, proving that their significance has not diminished over time.

In addition to their cultural significance, Chihuahuas also play an important role in modern-day Mexico. They are often used as therapy dogs in hospitals and nursing homes, providing comfort and companionship to those in need. Additionally, Chihuahuas are popular pets among Mexican families, with many households owning at least one of these beloved dogs.

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Debunking Myths Surrounding Aztec Ownership of Chihuahuas

Despite the evidence supporting the ownership of Chihuahuas by the Aztecs, there are still myths and misconceptions surrounding this topic. Some people believe that Chihuahuas were bred exclusively by European colonizers and are not native to Mesoamerica. However, the evidence suggests that Chihuahuas have been present in this region for centuries.

In conclusion, the evidence suggests that the Aztecs did indeed keep Chihuahuas. These small dogs played a significant role in Aztec society, from being valued companions to serving in religious ceremonies and warfare. The legacy of these beloved dogs continues to this day, with Chihuahuas being celebrated in present-day Mexico as a symbol of national pride and cultural heritage.

Despite the historical evidence, some people still believe that Chihuahuas were bred for their small size and cute appearance, rather than for their practical uses in Aztec society. However, it is important to recognize that the Aztecs were a highly advanced civilization with a deep understanding of animal husbandry and genetics. They would not have bred dogs solely for their appearance without considering their practical uses as well.

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