A True History of the AKC Chihuahua Dog

A typical Techichi aka deer Chihuahua

The true history of the modern AKC Chihuahua dog began in 1884 when the first so called Chihuahuas were exhibited in NYC. These were within years of the first trains to El Paso Texas, and Tucson Arizona in 1881. In 1888, one of the most famous curmudgeons of the dog world and a founder of the AKC, James Watson, traveled to Los Angeles on the train, not in search of dogs, specifically, although he was a huge dog person and always looked for dogs he liked.

He was busy with the activities surrounding the newly formed/forming AKC when, on his first trip by train to California, he found a pint-sized dog in El Paso Texas, which he promptly put in his pocket and took with him for the rest of his trip. This little dog, named, Manzanita, became a beloved companion, though he didn’t specifically see her as part of a breed.

He even left this type of dog out of his famous dog encyclopedia, although others were, at the time rushing to Tucson,El Paso and even Yuma, to find the ubiquitous extra small Indian dogs. That they were Indian dogs was unmistakeable according to the travelog articles of the day, who claimed the dogs were brought to the train stations by very poor Indians and held up to the windows of the train where the sellers  would beg for money in exchange. $5.00 is what James Watson paid and that may have been about standard for the time.

I think Manzanita was a teacup, a runt because she was described as very tiny. Though Watson cherished her, she did not live long and never had pups. However, Manzanita sparked an interest amongst other wannabee AKC dog people, many of whom were looking for new breeds to promote. Owen Wister was one of these and perhaps he was among the first breeders of Chihuahuas. He may even have been the final influence on the name, Chihuahua, for the newly designed breed, because Watson called them variously Arizona dogs, Mexican dogs and Chihuahuas- the latter name was Watson’s private joke because none of these East Coast raiders of Southwestern dog stock, ever found a dog in Mexico proper, but only in the aforementioned cities on the American side of the border. At least this is the only documented area for the ancestors of the modern AKC Chihuahua. (Any European ancestry in these dogs has been suppressed so the AZ dogs are the only DOCUMENTED ancestors! DNA tests will eventually reveal the true state of affairs.)

Another absolutely average Techichi

What happened next, is behind the scenes, because the original Chihuahua breeders were very secretive about their formulas to develop the new extra-tiny dog breed. What is known is that Watson, Wister, Garrett, and others, all complained about the variability of the Arizona dogs in size and other characteristics and went about defining the breed as about 5 pounds with only a short coat, usually tan, fawn, reddish, or black and tan or tricolor, though many more colors emerged as the breeding continued. In other words, they eliminated all the wiry-haired and long haired dogs from their breeding programs and seriously began to breed down the size. It is well known that European small dog stock was used -most likely including the Podengo, a Portuguese/Canary island terrier that had a tiny version, and often had the molera, which trait quickly became a signature trait of the new AKC breed. No mention of the molera was ever made about any of the dogs collected from the southwest. Or, for that matter, in any of the ancient American small dogs. Although the molera is probably not breed specific, but would occur in many dogs under 5 pounds, whatever the breed.

Most modern geneticists discount any American blood in the finalized breed, saying it was made up entirely of European dog genetic material, but I think it is possible there are some Ancient American genes in the final product, because the deer type head shows up on so many Chihuahuas, even though it is not the preferred head. I have spent some major time researching one of the foundation breeds of the AKC Chihuahua, the techichi dog, and I can only say, the AKC version has been highly refined from the 10 pound average techichi foundation stock from the Southwestern states.

The final result of the AKC breeding program-                                                        a dog without too much in common with its ancestor stock

The ten pound average Indian dogs had pups both smaller and larger. Thus, 12 pound dogs and 8 pound dogs were both likely from 10 pound parents. Sometimes, a runt would show up that weighed about 5 pounds or less, as an adult. These were the most sought after by the Eastern Chihuahua breeders,though they soon realized a tiny male bred to a larger female would produce more viable puppies than the reverse. It has also become plain that 4 pound bitches have huge problems birthing without expensive help, so this breed has an automatic built in snob appeal as poor people can’t afford to breed the dogs that need caesarians.

The biggest disappointment among many Chihuahua puppy buyers is when the dog turns out to be oversized, as a lot of them do- even the AKC variety. This appears to be a reason some people abandon their 10 pound Chis- they weren’t small enough!

This guy is getting away from average with her big ears, but she sure is cute!

1 Comment


A common trait in the early Chihuahua was a natural bobtail, as well. Some breeders considered it as much of a ‘classic’ breed trait as the molera:



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