Depends on who you ask! While watching the National Dog Show last week, the announcer briefly focused on Chihuahuas… plural. Since there are two different AKC-recognized types of Chihuahuas, there were two dogs representing the Chihuahua breed.
But between Chihuahua sub-varieties, “designer” dog breeds, and mixes, there are many types of Chihuahuas that exist outside of official AKC recognition.
The AKC recognizes two types of Chihuahuas, the Long Coat Chihuahua and the Smooth Coat Chihuahua. Outside of official AKC recognition, there is also the Apple Head Chihuahua, Deer Head Chihuahua, Pear Head Chihuahua, Teacup or Mini Chihuahua, and Fawn Chihuahua.
This article will talk about the different types, what makes them unique from one another, health concerns in the Chihuahua breed, and a feel-good story of a bodybuilder who rescues Chihuahuas.
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AKC-Recognized Types of Chihuahuas
As we mentioned just a minute ago, there are two types of AKC recognized Chihuahuas: Long Coat Chihuahuas and Smooth Coat Chihuahuas.
Type #1: Smooth Coat Chihuahua
A Smooth Coat Chihuahua is the type of dog you probably think of when you hear “Chihuahua”. They have a short coat that is typically tan (“Fawn”) in color, but can also be black, red, blue, chocolate, white, or some combination thereof. You might hear “smooth coat” Chihuahuas described as “short haired” instead; the meaning is the same.
Type #2: Long Coat Chihuahua
Long Coat Chihuahuas on the other hand have longer hair. At first glance they almost look like Papillons, another small breed dog with long hair and large ears. You may also hear “long coat” described as “long-haired”.
What are AKC breed varieties?
Aside from the coat difference, the rest of the breed standard is the same. But because there are two AKC-recognized varieties, a Toy group showing in a show such as the National Dog Show will include two Chihuahuas.
These are not separate breeds but instead “varieties” of the same breed. There are varieties in other AKC-recognized breeds, sometimes focused on size (such as Toy, Mini, and Standard Poodles), coat length (Smooth vs Rough Collies) or color (such as Cocker Spaniel color varieties).
But in other cases, variations in breed are accepted within the same overall breed standard and don’t merit different “variety” status. How does the AKC decide? That’s a good question that probably comes down to breed history and popularity.
Breed Stats and Temperament
The Chihuahua is part of the Toy group, a dog breed group known for its small size, bright demeanor, and suitability as companion animals.
The AKC describes the breed as charming, graceful, and sassy. The breed standard says that they should be “graceful, alert, swift-moving” and a “compact little dog with saucy expression and terrier-like qualities of temperament”.
They are the smallest breed of dog at 5-8″ high at the withers (shoulders) and weigh less than 6 lbs. They have a long-life expectancy at 14-16 years.
Other Types of Chihuahua
The rest of the Chihuahuas on our list are either variations on the official two types that are still within the breed specification but have specific attributes, or are “designer” dog breeds that don’t quite conform to the breed standard. As always, all dogs are good dogs.
Type #3: Apple Headed Chihuahuas
The official breed standard for Chihuahuas mentions an “apple dome” skull, meaning a very round, apple-like head. This is often also accompanied by a short muzzle, and a molera (which is like a soft spot similar to a human baby’s skull).
Apple Head Chihuahuas tend to have eyes that can be described as “bulging”, which can cause eye issues since their eyes are more exposed.
Type #4: Deer Headed Chihuahuas
Another type of Chihuahua differentiated by its head shape is the Deer Head Chihuahua. These dogs have a slightly longer head that looks like, well, a deer. It doesn’t have the roundedness of the Round Headed variety and is instead more tapered or elongated.
These Chihuahuas may also be slightly heavier and/or taller than other varieties, sometimes to the point of being outside of the breed standard. Remember that the “breed standard” upper weight limit is 6 lbs, which is pretty light!
Type #5: Pear Headed Chihuahuas
If you mix an Apple Head and Deer Head Chihuahua, you will end up with an in-between skull shape that can be described as Pear Headed. This is a less common variety and has some of the attributes of the previous two types: a tapered muzzle with a rounded skull, that resembles the outline of a pear. We’ve really never spent so much time describing dog heads before!
Type #6: Fawn Chihuahuas
Wait, what? A certain color of Chihuahuas get their own category? Apparently so!
Fawn is a type of light reddish brown, and is one of the many accepted breed standard colors for Chihuahuas. It may also be one of the most popular, so it’s a bit confusing that this would be its own category.
And, because fawn describes the color and not the head-shape, you could have a Chihuahua that could be described by more than one category here. Likewise, you can also have short-coat and long-coat varieties of each of these sub-categories.
Type #7: Teacup Chihuahuas
The last type of Chihuahua that we’ll describe here is the Teacup variety. These dogs are bred to be even smaller than normal Chihuahuas, weighing in at 3-5 lbs.
This variety was made popular by Paris Hilton and other trendy socialites in the early 2000s.
While these tiny dogs are very cute, they also suffer from a lot of health issues due to their abnormally small size. These issues can shorten their lifespan, and their incredibly tiny size makes them more susceptible to injuries or being picked up by wild animals. As such, many reputable Chihuahua breeders view breeding Teacup dogs as unethical.
History of the Breed
While the breed is not the official dog breed of Mexico (that’s the Xoloitzcuintli!), people often associate Mexico with Chihuahuas, and vice versa.
But the breed might not be from Mexico originally. According to the National Dog Show, Chihuahuas are a very old breed whose ancestors may have originated in Asia before coming to Mexico in ancient times. This isn’t as unlikely as you may think–Chinese contact with ancient Mexico had resulted in Mexico City having a Chinatown by the 16th century.
Other theories speculate that the breed’s ancestors was brought to central America by conquistadors.
Yet another breed origin describes the dog as being the descendent of the Techichi, a type of dog kept by the Toltec people around the 9th century AD. The Toltecs were later wiped out by the Aztecs. The Chihuahua may also have been bred with the Xoloitzcuintli, which is also known as the Mexican hairless dog.
Across many books (cited later in this blog post) and internet sources, there remains a lot of mystery around the Chihuahua breed.
But sometime in the 19th century, the Chihuahua breed itself was noticed in the US. Chihuahuas are named after the Chihuahua region of Mexico. According to the Smithsonian Handbook on Dogs, most of the Chihuahuas in the US are descended from the original 50 dogs brought to the country early on. The breed was formally recognized by the AKC in 1904.
Chihuahua Health Problems
According to Dogs: A Natural History by Jake Page, the Chihuahua breed can be susceptible to rheumatism and heart disease.
Chihuahua varieties that are bred to be even more miniaturized may suffer from other health problems, resulting in a shorter life expectancy.
Dogs with the “Apple Head” or rounded head style may have more eye issues, as their eyes protrude out more and are thus more susceptible to being hurt.
Additionally, Bruce Fogle’s book “Dog” notes that while the breed is alert, bold, and highly intelligent, they may also suffer from behavioral problems. Namely, they may be “feisty or snappy” towards strangers or children, may be “excessively noisy”, and may cause problems for themselves by “posturing towards bigger dogs”.
This description may sound daunting, but Chihuahuas can be great pets with patient owners who are able to provide consistent training.
Big Guy Littles World
We’ll finish off this article by mentioning former bodybuilder Bobby Humphreys. This “big guy” has since made another name for himself, taking care of neglected, abandoned, elderly, or otherwise unwanted Chihuahuas.
He documents his adventures running the Big Guy Littles World Sanctuary on Youtube.