What the Heck is a Techichi Dog? Part 2

Part 1 is here, if you want to read it first.

I left off with the beginning of historical sources about Techichi dogs. I found a useful reference when I downloaded, “Dogs of the American Aborigines” by Glover Allen  of Harvard ca. the turn of the 20th century. An interesting monograph for $4.33 on Kindle. In it, he mentions the “small Indian dog, or Techichi” in a couple of contexts and speculates that very similar dogs were found as far south as Peru, more or less all over both Americas. Those were apparently called Alco down south, but seem to be the same dogs with different names. He mentions black and white dogs more than once, from the far north thru Mexico, at least. He remains a bouncing off point for the dog writers who follow.

The next major source of information on dogs in the New World is Marion Schwartz of Yale, a book titled, “A History of Dogs in the Early Americas“. The best tidbit is this one under the Great Aztec Market:

To the north of the heavily populated Basin of Mexico, groups of nomadic hunters roamed areas too dry for agriculture. Farmers from the Basin called them, Chichimeca, which means “dog people”

In fact, the Mexica, who became the Aztecs, moved from Chichimec or Aztlan to the Basin in the 13th century. Schwartz also mentions Diego Duran, a Dominican monk, who said of one visit to an Aztec market,  that there were over 400 dogs for sale for food and that was a much lower number than he usually saw at such markets. Dogs had many uses to the peoples of the area, and one of them was as a dependable source of protein, so the Aztecs had huge puppy farms to use today’s language. She also quotes Father Sahagun, in a text unavailable to me, who also said there were people who specialized in raising dogs for the table and that if such a man were born under the sign of the dog, his dogs would mate, grow and multiply and none would die of sickness and that such a person would always prosper.

That northern area did have agriculture, but on a much more limited basis than the lush Mexican Basin. One major food source was the nopal cactus which grew in sprawling “forests” from western  Texas to the west coast. This kind of subsistence life style was documented by Cabeza de Vaca, in the 1540’s, who was the first to describe how the tribes the ‘civilized’ people lumped together and called the “Chichimeca”, dog people, or people of the dog,  lived across northern Mexico and Southern Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. People near the Texas coast subsisted on seafood in the winter and prickly pear and nuts in the summer. (Nopales are a prickly pear with huge pads. The pads and flowers are eaten as the major food in the summers) The peoples of the Arizona/Sonora desert  and the Rio Grande river Valley were excellent farmers, more  settled than the Texans. Many of the old locals still speak Uto-Aztecan languages including Nahuatl. so there is a continuity. The northern areas were not as deeply explored, once gold was ruled out, though there were often skirmishes between the soldiers of the Conquest government and the various tribes. However, the further north, the less the interference.

The next Text of note was written by Mary Elizabeth Thurston, called, The Lost History of the Canine Race. The first half of the book is about the Old World dogs, but she mentions the Techichi dogs by name. She describes them as,

Small and spritely, with erect ears and a curling tail. It lived predominantly in farming communities throughout the Souhwest and parts of Northern Mexico, although similar dogs also were reported in Canada and even along the North Atlantic seaboard. But whether the regional populations were genetically related is not known.

She also comments there is a Mexican Taxidermy Techichi in England. It is white with black patches. She also says that after 1800, naturalists such as Hamilton Smith in the Naturalists’ Library 1840, could no longer find them and considered them extinct.

To jump around in her pages,she mentions various archeological finds of small dogs from two thousand years BC at white dog cave to the basketmaker pups of around 300AD. A number of these were small and had black and white hair. She has photos of natural mummies, but I think I’ll skip them for now. There is a cache of sashes woven from Dog hair found in Obelisk, Arizona, but residing the the Anthropology Museum at the U of Arizona. There seems to be a pattern of shaggy or long haired dogs from various areas in the Americas, but I do not want to lose my point.

Thayendanegea Joseph Brant -Mohawk Chief with small dog.

If the Naturalists of the first half of the 19th Century could not find the small Indian dogs, James Watson,  one of the founders of the AKC and its biggest, curmudgeon, certainly had no trouble. He got his first small Indian dogs from Tucson and El Paso in the 1880’s as soon as the railroad went through, because it was not safe to live in Tucson from the 1840’s until the 1880’s when the Apaches were more or less subdued, and you could get to Tucson by train. He was an original breeder of the little dog they newly named the “Chihuahua”. James Watson famously admitted he went to Jaurez, Mexico, but could not find any of the little dogs he found in El Paso and Tucson. Too bad he did not contact any naturalists to let them know the little Indians dogs were plentiful along the border! This was barely 40 years later, and few Easterners lived in Tucson from the 40’s to the 1880’s. Watson made several trips and actually showed his dogs in 1904- after 20 years of his own breeding of the little dogs they now named the Chihuahua. The next famous collector of the  little dogs from Tucson was Ida Garrett, the developer of the long hair version of the AKC Chihuahua. She was one among many who came out here just to get the little dogs, though the dogs were actually about 10 pounds, not the tiny ones  the AKC was breeding for consistency in size.

The little Indian dogs were mainly about 10 pounds, but they throw larger or smaller dogs, depending on the pattern of the alleles for size they inherit.So there were a few tiny dogs, always, but they were the sports, not the average. The larger dogs and the smaller dogs could all have pups that were the same size, smaller or larger, so breeding aawy from the average was possible.

So there you are, a continuous history of techichi dogs from the 16th century to the 20th Century.


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