May 5, 1862, the Battle of Puebla, marked the turning point in Mexico’s fight for independence.

What does that mean to us?

It’s another reason to put funny hats on our dogs!

In Cinco de Mayo parties from coast to coast, Chihuahuas will have their apple-shaped heads topped by tiny sombreros. Some will wear serapes, others will be dressed as matadors, while still others will dangle itty-bitty maracas from their collars.

The Chihuahua is the dog most often identified with Mexico but it is only one of the two south-of-the-border breeds. The other is an exotic creature with a strange name, the Xoloitzcuintli (get the pronunciation for that one here), among the oldest of the domesticated dogs.

Here are some fun facts about these Mexican originals.


What’s in their Names?

* Xoloitzcuintli comes from the Aztec dog-headed deity of the underworld Xolotl. Itzcuintli is the Aztec word for dog. Being able to pronounce it is considered the sign of a true dog person. Being able to spell it elevates you to true crazy dog person.

* Chihuahua comes from the largest of the Mexican states, officially known as the Estado Libre y Soberan de Chihuahua.



Myths and Legends

* Aztecs said that Chihuahuas were guides for the dead, carrying human spirits on their backs across the river into the afterlife.

* Xolos are called “hot-water-bottle” dogs, and were said to have magical healing powers.


Vital Statistics

* At between three and six pounds, the Chihuahua is the smallest AKC-recognized breed.

* Xolos come in three sizes—toy, miniature, and standard—and can range from 10 to 50 pounds. 

* Chihuahuas have two coat types—smooth and long.

* So do Xolos. Although originally recognized by the AKC in 1887 as the Mexican Hairless, there is also a coated variety.

* Both have long life spans, averaging 15 to 20 years for Chihuahuas and 14 to 17 years for Xolos.


Perfect for …

* People with small apartments! Compact Chihuahuas and toy or miniature Xolos are great choices when space is at a premium.

* People with allergies: No animal is 100 percent hypoallergenic, but by being bald the Xolo eliminates one major irritant—hair.

* Neat freaks: If you love dogs but hate vacuuming, the Xolo is for you.



Ones Who Have Gone From Wags to Riches

* “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!”

Who can forget Gidget, the Taco Bell Chihuahua at the heart of the fast-food ad campaign?

* Brusier Woods is the canine sidekick of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

* Xavier Cugat, the “undisputed king of Latin American music” of the 1940s, kept a Chihuahua with him even during performances.

* Mexican artist Frida Kahlo painted her Xolos and they also appear in the works of her lover, Diego Rivera.

* The Xolo is a national treasure in Mexico, and one sports team—Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente—has adopted the breed as its mascot.