While they are still relatively rare breeds in the US, you may have seen photos of bald dogs or even bald dogs with wild hairdos. They pop up on calendars, funny greeting cards, and internet memes. You may have wondered if they are real.

The Chinese Crested Dog is probably the breed most photographed, but the Xoloitzcuintli, the Peruvian Hairless Dog, and the American Hairless Terrier are becoming more well-known.

Here are some interesting facts about these unusual dog breeds.

What Does a Hairless Dog Look Like?

Depending on the breed, they may have topknots, mohawk hairdos or even just a poof of hair. Each breed standard will specify the placement and amount of hair allowed for show-quality dogs.

Oddly enough, some purebred hairless dogs will have a full coat of hair. Learn how that happens in the next section.

What Causes a Dog to Be Hairless?

Canine genetics are interesting. Animals inherit half of their genetic material from each of their parents. A dog has 78 chromosomes - humans only have 46. Some of those chromosomes control how much and what type of hair a dog has.

Genetic mutations can result in lots of unexpected changes, and if those changes are admired by humans, selective breeding can pass that mutation on to offspring. Over time, a new type or even a new breed of dog can occur. This is how hairless dog breeds came into being.

Since genes can be dominant or recessive, sometimes a litter of pups will contain both haired and hairless individuals. And even those dogs that have hair can produce hairless puppies! But no dog can inherit two dominant genes for hairlessness. Those embryos will be reabsorbed into the mother's body.

An interesting fact is that the genes responsible for hairlessness also affect the teeth. It's not uncommon for the hairless breeds to suffer from missing teeth and poor dental health. (I think I have an Uncle that has these same genes.)

How Many Hairless Breeds Are There?

There are at least eight or nine distinct breeds of hairless dogs. It gets a little complicated because some dogs are known by different names. And not all hairless dogs are a recognized breed—that is, they are not represented by a breed club that has written a breed standard or breeding records identifying the foundation stock of the breed or type. This is a requirement for recognition as an identifiable breed.

Some breeds, like the Argentine Pila Dog, the Abyssinian Sand Terrier, the Hairless Khala, and the Jonangi, are so rare that it is unlikely they will be found outside their native countries.

Currently, the American Kennel Club (AKC) only recognizes four hairless breeds, making them eligible to compete in affiliated dog shows. They are generally small to medium-sized dogs, each with special characteristics beyond hairlessness.

Let's take a closer look at these four breeds and a fifth that is just too cute to ignore.

1. American Hairless Terrier

This 12 to 16-pound bundle of eager-to-please energy is the result of the selective breeding of a litter born in the state of Louisiana to normal Rat Terrier parents in the 1970s. The puppies have a soft coat of hair at birth, which disappears by the time they are 10 weeks old. Some individuals will have hair that is short, smooth and has what is described as a sheen.

They are allowed whiskers on the muzzle and eyebrows. All colors are acceptable except for albino and merle patterns. Spots on light-colored skin are common and attractive. The standard notes that the skin should be warm and smooth.

The breed club was established in 2009, with AKC recognition in 2016. Possibly because it is a young breed, the American Hairless Terrier has fewer dental problems than the other hairless breeds.

american hairless terrier
Photo from AKC.org

2. Peruvian Inca Orchid

An ancient breed once admired as sighthounds, the Inca Orchid is more streamlined than other hairless breeds. They are built to run and need sufficient exercise to keep them in shape. They also need enough mental stimulation and training to keep them interested and occupied.

The breed standard describes three sizes, with the small dogs weighing 8.5 to 17.5 pounds, the medium versions weighing from 17.5 to 26.5 pounds, and the largest weighing in at 26.5 to 55 pounds.

Congenitally missing teeth are common. The smooth skin can be any solid color or spotted. Sparse patches of hair are allowed on the head, the tip of the tail, and the paws. Some will have short to medium-length hair with feathering on the neck and ears.

The first specimens arrived in the United States in 1966, with AKC recognition in 2011.

Photo from AKC.org

3. Xoloitzcuintli

Also known as the Mexican Hairless, this breed boasts the hardest-to-pronounce name of all AKC breeds. According to the breed page on the AKC website, the proper pronunciation is "show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee". Lots of people just shorten it to Xolo (show-low).

The breed has been around for at least 3000 years. The Aztecs considered them to be sacred. Today, they make great companions and calm watchdogs.

The standard, approved in 2004, calls for tough, protective skin of any solid color. Some white markings are allowed. Small amounts of stiff hair are allowable on the top of the head, the feet, and the last third of the tail. The pups with hair will have very short, smooth coats.

This breed also comes in three sizes. The toy weighs 10 to 15 pounds, the miniature should fall between 15 and 30 pounds, and the standard can weigh up to 55 pounds.

The Xolo has been recognized by the AKC since 2011.


4. Chinese Crested Dog

Another ancient breed, this smart, happy, and elegant little dog, is thought to have served as a rat catcher on Chinese trading ships. They arrived in America in the 1880s, and the breed club was established in 1979. AKC recognition followed in 1991.

Known for the long, silky hair on their heads (crest), tails (plume), and lower legs and feet (socks), the Chinese Crested Dog attracts a lot of attention. The skin on areas free of hair should be soft and smooth. They can be any color or combination of colors.

The individuals with hair are called “powderpuffs” and have a double coat of silky hair. Missing teeth in a powderpuff is a fault but not unexpected in the hairless variety.

At only 8 to 12 pounds, they can live happily in apartments if given proper exercise and mental stimulation.

chinese crested

5. Hairless Chihuahua

Some Chihuahuas are born hairless because of a genetic defect. While they are super cute, it's considered a fault in the breed standard. A Hairless Chihuahua cannot compete in dog shows and should not be bred. This in no way affects their ability to be loving companions and pets.


Why Choose a Hairless Dog?

Lots of people admire certain breed characteristics and choose a dog for a specific purpose or quality. Others just love the look of a hairless dog.

Some people choose a hairless breed because of allergies to dog hair. Hairless dogs are not entirely hypoallergenic because they do produce dander, which is what most people are actually allergic to. Many find that the hairless breeds let them enjoy the company of a dog without symptoms.

Some just can't stand all the shedding. There's nothing wrong with choosing a low-maintenance dog.

How Does Inclement Weather Affect My Hairless Dog?

Yes! Hairless dogs can get sunburned easily and will need sunscreen when outdoors for any length of time. They really cannot be outside dogs.

Cold weather is challenging, too. Dog clothing comes in all sizes and degrees of protection. Your hairless dog may need a wardrobe of coats, sweaters and shoes to suit your local weather conditions.

Is Hairless Dog Skincare Difficult?

It's not difficult, but grooming is different with these breeds. While most won't require brushing, they do need to be bathed regularly to prevent skin issues. Ask your veterinarian what type of shampoo to use and ask about skin moisturizers made for dogs.

Exposed skin needs attention to stay healthy. Pay attention to small cuts and bug bites. Ask your vet to check out any odd bumps or growths.

Proper nutrition is an underrated treatment for healthy skin. The right fats and fatty acids, along with protein, vitamins, and minerals, will go a long way toward keeping your dog's skin healthy. Hey, it works for you, too!


In general, hairless dog breeds are friendly, easy-going animals with lots of personalities. They tend to be healthy, except that they are prone to problems with their teeth.

They certainly look striking and may have an interesting breed history to brag about. Walking a hairless breed is sure to attract attention, which is great if you have trouble meeting new people. An unusual dog automatically gives you fodder for conversation.

Because all the hairless breeds are relatively rare you will want to locate a responsible breeder and be prepared to prove that you are a responsible pet owner.

You may have to wait a bit before your desired dog becomes available. A well-bred representative of one of the hairless dog breeds is a unique and delightful companion that will give you many years of love and companionship. It's worth the wait.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

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