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What Were Chihuahuas Originally Bred For? 19 Facts Revealed

What Were Chihuahuas Originally Bred For

If you’re asking yourself what Chihuahuas were bred for, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • 19 interesting and fun facts about Chihuahuas.
  • When and why Chihuahuas were used as sacrificial dogs.
  • How owning a Chihuahua can benefit the development of a child.
  • And much, much more…

What were Chihuahuas originally bred for?

Chihuahuas are derived from the Techichi dog and were first used as sacrificial dogs. This was for ancient sacred practices. Throughout history, they were eventually given roles as hunters for rats. Today, Chihuahuas are known as man’s best friend. They’re mainly used for keeping owners’ company. 

19 interesting facts about Chihuahuas

#1: Chihuahuas may have originated in Asia

For hundreds of years, experts believed Chihuahuas started in Mexico. But these ancient Mexican civilizations may not be to credit for the pups. Researchers have recently found that the ancestors of Chihuahuas were actually from Asia.

While Mexico is involved in a deep part of their history, China could very well be the root of the ancestry of the dog. If you have seen a similar-looking Chinese Crested pup, these links may not be surprising.

However, there is a chance that both of these dogs are derived from the same ancient breed.

#2: Chihuahuas are derived from the Ancient Techichi

For years, it has been believed that Chihuahuas were developed from an ancient dog from Mexico. This dog was called the Techichi.

It was from the Toltec indigenous tribe in Mexico. This ancient breed dates back as far as the 9th century AD and is an ancestor of the modern day Chihuahua.

The Techichi dog is a very interesting breed. They were actually mute dogs – they did not bark. This is funny considering Chihuahuas can be very vocal pups compared to their ancestors.

Since these dogs lived so long ago, the information on them is limited. Researchers do not know a great deal about the Techichi itself. However, they believe that they were bred for hunting purposes by the Toltec people.

The Toltec people themselves were a powerful civilization. They inhabited the area that is now known as present-day Mexico. This tribe ruled the area during the Mesoamerican period.

Images of the Techichi have been seen on burial pots in Mexico. These images and basic text from the time period are all we have to know about these dogs. However, pictures can date back from as far as 300 BCE.

When individuals passed away, these dogs were often mummified and placed with owners. This leads to why the dogs may have been bred for sacrificial purposes (more about that later in the article).

#3: Some actually believe the Chihuahua is part rat

Chihuahua Part Rat

While there is no evidence to back this idea up, some believe Chihuahuas are rats. There was a satirical piece written years ago that released this fact online. Since then, the rumor has spread rapidly and couldn’t be further away from the truth.

However, it is safe to say that Chihuahuas have a funny, rodent-like appearance. Despite this unique look, they originate from the gray wolf. Quite a difference between expectation and reality isn’t it?

It is hard to believe that a Chihuahua has the same ancestry as a Lab, Pit Bull, or Husky. But they do.

#4: Chihuahuas are still highly loved in Mexico

Even if their heritage can be truly thanked to Asia, the dogs are still highly loved in Mexico.

They are not truly the national dog of Mexico. But many believe that they are. They are usually highly represented in Mexican culture, filmography, and advertising.

The dog itself is named after the area in Mexico called Chihuahua. And this is a big part of the reason why they are abundant in households throughout Mexico.

#5: Chihuahuas made it to North America on a land bridge

Perhaps as unique as the history of the breed is how the dogs got to North America.

Unlike other dog breeds, the Chihuahua actually came into North America on a Land Bridge. Most breeds came on boats with travelers.

Long ago, there was a land bridge that connected North-East Asia and North America. During this time, early ancestors of the Chihuahua traveled into the area with nomadic people.

This is how the dog got established in Mexico.

#6: Chihuahuas are now very popular in the United States

Around 1884, Mexican merchants began selling the small dog to border tourists. These pets eventually made their way back into the United States. The dog at this time had no official name.

Originally, the dog was called the Arizona dog, Texas dog, Mexico dog, and Chihuahua dog, all after areas where they were sold.

Clearly Chihuahua was what stuck and is the name by which the dog is called in America today.

Today, the Chihuahua is very popular in the United States. It has actually become a top well-loved breed in the country . The first Chihuahua was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1904.

The Chihuahua was slow to gain popularity in the early 1900s. Most people lived on farms during this time and did not have a need for these tiny pups. They only adopted dogs that were useful on the farm and could work (by herding sheep for example).

However, once people began adopting pups for companionship, the breed picked up popularity. They are a great choice for a variety of home sizes. Today, thousands of dog parents take care of Chihuahuas.

That wasn’t the case years ago…

So, what were Chis originally bred for?

#7: Chihuahuas were sacrificial dogs

Now that you know more about the history of the breed, let’s jump into their purpose.

As a descendent of the Techihi dog, the Chihuahua was often used in religious ceremonies. Unfortunately, during this time, sacrificing dogs was a common sacred practice for the Toltec people.

Going hand in hand with this, the Aztecs and Toltecs believed that the dogs guided them into the underworld. When they died, dog guides would take their soul into the underworld.

This is often why the Techichi dogs were buried with deceased family members, to serve as a spirit guide.

Many do not like to hear this fact. But it was a major part of the breeding of the dog.

However, before these deaths and rituals, there is evidence that they were well treated. In fact, people believed they were sacred animals.

Since they believed the dogs guided their souls upon death, they lived good lives. They may have even been some of the most popular pets during the time.

In addition to the Toltec, Mayan and Mesoamerican cultures did these sacrifices. The Aztecs believed that these sacrificial dogs joined owners in the afterlife.

They also often believed that diseases could transfer from humans to dogs.

Essentially, they used these sacrifices to please their gods and help with healing. Whether this be through spiritual guidance or to help cure their people.

At the time, this was not a surprising thing and was a very big part of culture.

#8: They were used as a food source

While most of the modern Western world has banned the consumption of food, this was not the case long ago. In fact, even today, in some areas people consume dogs.

For many this is extremely taboo. But during the ancient Aztec times, it was simply a way of life.

The consumption of dogs was not banned until the early 1900’s. While many would never consider this, for ancient civilizations, they were a food source.

The Chihuahua ancestors or Techichi dogs, were often bred for food. About 10% of the meat that was consumed by ancient Mayans came from these dogs.

I know – it’s contradictory, especially I mentioned that dogs were thought of as sacred. However, there is research to support food shortages led to these practices.

During this time, finding food was much more difficult and consuming dogs could have been a survival need.

#9: They were companions even long ago

Companion Dog

While these purposes may seem dark, before that the dogs were also often used as companions.

Similarly to how we treat the Chihuahuas today, they were great for families even back then. And some Toltec families benifited from the Chis’ companionship.

The dogs have always been charming and affectionate pets. And since the Toltec people lived in small homes in crowded ancient cities, the tiny Chihuahuas were a great fit (literally).

There is evidence to suggest that Chis lived good lives up until the point they were sto be sacrificed.

There is actually an old Mayan figure of a woman holding a child in one hand and a small dog in another. In this sculpture, the dog greatly resembles a Chihuahua.

This further supports the idea that the dogs were used as companions (despite the dark uses as well).

#10: Chihuahuas were great ratters

While these dogs are tiny, they can truly pack a punch. Though they are not overly aggressive, they can defend themselves when they have to.

Chihuahuas have also served the purpose of ridding homes of unwanted vermin. This makes the misconception that they’re rats even funnier.

The truth is they’re great at catching and killing rodents. Chihuahuas are quite fearless hunters and can take down smaller prey. In Mexico, they are prized as top ratters. They can kill a variety of vermin, including squirrels and other small prey.

While your lounging Chihuahua may not look like a rat killer, they often retain strong hunting instincts. Owners may be surprised when their tiny pup kills a mouse in their home.

However, this could be a major reason why they continued being bred early on.

#11: Some believe they alleviate asthma

Another myth that many deeply believe is that Chihuahuas relieve asthma. While this is not necessarily true, it could impact why many bought them and bred them early on.

The myth is that sleeping next to a Chihuahua can relive asthma symptoms. Parents of children with asthma add these pups to their homes in hopes this is true.

The idea is that if a child sleeps with a Chihuahua in their bed, the illness will transfer to the pup. This leaves the child with no asthma.

This theory could date back to the ancient days when this was a common thought. When Chihuahuas were sacrificed, they thought that diseases could go into the pup.

While we know today that this is not likely, there is still the idea that the dogs can take on disease.

This could also be related to the occasional wheezing sounds the breed often makes.

There are people who believe that Chis wheeze, because they’ve taken the symptoms of a person’s asthma. In reality, this is just a common respiratory issue Chihuahuas suffer from.

Of course, this is more so an old wife’s tale. However, many still believe this method is true and swear by it.

This leads to the question: why do we still have Chihuahuas today?

#12: They make great emotional support dogs

Similarly, to breeding the pups for companionship, the breed stays popular for their emotional support.

These small, intelligent dogs are a great way to provide comfort and solace. Whether you want to train the dog to be an official emotional support dog or not, Chihuahuas are great at keeping you company.

Whether you have a family or for older individuals, this is a great choice. They can provide friendship and are a relatively easy breed to care for.

For those who may be suffering from deeper emotional issues, they can even be trained pups. This is a great way to get the support that you need.

They also work well for practically any home size, working for even those in apartments or assisted living homes.

#13: They can be awesome watch dogs

It’s important to make the distinction though… watchdogs not guard dogs. 🙂

I know what you’re thinking… Chis are small and look so fragile…

But oh boy, can they bark! As soon as they spot anything that looks out of order, you’ll hear from them (literally).

This is actually one of the biggest reasons why people adopt the breed for these reasons is to warn them of any sketchy activity. The dogs are very vocal and are sure to warn you if they see anything through barks or growls.

They are also slightly hesitant of strangers, ensuring they let you know if someone new is around.

#14: They can be trained as service dogs

While Chihuahuas may not be able to guide you around your entire town easily, they can be service dogs.

Similarly to emotional support pups, they can be trained professionally in several areas. Such areas include:

  • Hearing.
  • Psychiatry.
  • Seizure alert.
  • Diabetic alert.
  • Mobility assistance.

Let’s look at these areas a bit more in-depth:

Hearing dogs

A Chihuahua that’s been trained to be a hearing dog can alert their owner in a variety of situations. These can be whenever they hear an alarm go off, or when a baby is crying, after the kitchen timer goes off or someone is at the doorbell.

As soon as the Chi hears the sound, they touch their owner and will take them to where the noise is coming from. Such dogs can be of major help to people with limited hearing abilities.

Psychiatric service dogs

This goes hand in hand with emotional support. However, mental health is critical. These pups can be there to provide comfort. But they can also be trained for a variety of mental disorders.

They can help assist owners when symptoms become evident. Some common disorders are anxiety, PTSD, autism, and depression.

Epilepsy service dogs 

Sufferers of epilepsy know this can happen anywhere and at any time. However, Chihuahuas can be trained to feel the seizure in advance. The dogs can alert their owners of these upcoming seizures.

They can also stay with the owner during these episodes.

Diabetic alert dogs 

Chihuahuas are great for elderly individuals and can be trained as diabetic alert pets. They can alert to bad blood sugar spells, giving medication reminders to those who may be more forgetful.

These dogs can even detect a certain odor that high blood sugar produces, alerting owners.

Mobility service dogs

If the purpose of training is to make the Chi a mobility service dog, they’ll bring objects to their human. Or press certain type of buttons.

There are of course bigger dog breeds that are used to pull wheelchairs up ramps. But depending on the individual person’s needs and immobility, Chihuahuas can too be useful as mobility service dogs.

#15: They boost your health

While this may sound crazy, owning a dog boosts your health. While Chihuahuas are not the most active pets, they can still help. Whether we’re talking about your mental or physical health, a Chihuahua will benefit you greatly.

Just some of the many health benefits of Chihuahuas include:

Better heart health

Those who have had heart attacks have actually had a better chance of survival if they owned a pet. Pet owners have a lower resting heart rate and better blood pressure. Truly, dogs can help keep your heart strong.

Lower cholesterol and triglycerides 

Your cholesterol and blood sugar can be greatly affected by owning a pet. Pets can warn of blood sugar issues. They also lead to better fitness (read on to find out more about it). Both of these things lead to better blood levels.

Reduce chronic pain

Research is uncertain why, but chronic pain sufferers’ benefit from owning pets. If you suffer from issues like rheumatoid arthritis, pets may help. Also, cuddling a warm pet can help soothe pain associated with several disorders.

Stronger immunity

Animals can help children build a stronger defense against illness and have less allergies.

Pets can trigger asthma in some children. However, those who live with pets from a younger age are less likely to develop the allergy later on in life.

#16: Chihuahuas can increase your fitness levels

While Chihuahuas do not need an excessive amount of exercise, they do need regular walk. And let’s not forget physical and mental stimulation.

If you live a slightly unhealthy lifestyle or are older, they can be a great choice. The same goes for owners with limited mobility.

When you have a dog, you must take them on short walks. While Chihuahuas need very little walking, this is great for certain lifestyles. It’s also a big reason why elderly owners love these pups.

Regardless of if they give you a major fitness boost, they will get you outside. Taking your pup on stroll everyday can help increase your energy and fitness.

You’ll clear your head before and after work. And you’ll be more mobile. It’s a win-win without a doubt.

#17: They can boost senior cognition

Owning a Chihuahua can help boost cognition in seniors. Older adults can struggle with mental functions. However, owning a dog can help improve cognition and memory.

Those who are 65 and older can benefit from these pups greatly. Pets help keep these individuals mentally and physically active.

Also, caring for a pet can benefit the ability of performing daily tasks.

#18: Pets are great for children

Chihuahuas are great family pets. One thing to keep in mind though, is that it’s critical to teach your child how to handle these tiny pups. They can be very beneficial to children.

Similarly to their early years, they are great companion pets for families. If you have been considering adding a pet to your home, Chihuahuas are an absolutely great option.

However, research has shown that other pros of these pups are:

They increase empathy in children

When children grow up with pets in the home, they show more empathy. They can be used to teach responsibility and increase emotional intelligence.

Having a dog increases bonding hormones in children. Having empathy as a child can increase chances of later success.

They improve your mood

Children with pets are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. Dogs can improve children’s mood.

They can also help relieve mental stress in young children and even adults. They help the body release the hormone serotonin.

Children will be more social

Children who have Chihuahuas or similar pets are more social. They have something in common with other pet owning peers.

They can also help banish feelings of loneliness, which can be common in children.

Chihuahuas can serve as a form of therapy

Children who suffer from disorders like autism, social anxiety, ADHD, behavioral issues, PTSD, and more can benefit greatly. Pets like Chihuahuas can help children navigate through rough days.

They also can help learn responsibilities, scheduling, burn off energy, and more.

#19: They are great for traveling owners

Travelling Dogs

If you have considered getting a pet but love to travel, Chihuahuas are a great option. Those who travel often avoid getting pets. However, if you are an avid traveler, these pups are a great choice for you.

When it comes to portability, there is little better than a Chihuahua. These tiny dogs take up little space and can easily be placed in a car.

They are also very intelligent and can be easily potty trained. With proper training, they can easily become travel-friendly dogs.

To make their travels easier, you can use a dog carrier. That way your Chihuahua will have their own designated place in a car, or a plane.

And the sooner you get them used to it, the better. By doing so, you will ensure they’re not stressed out and won’t bark or whine. This alone would make the travel much more enjoyable.

Don’t forget to always secure fresh water and fresh air for your Chihuahua. While being in the car, they can easily overheat. You want to avoid that at all costs. Turn the air conditioner on or open a window or two.

Why do Chihuahuas exist?

With the above 19 facts, you should now know more about these tiny pups. Especially since we went together over their unique history and the many benefits they bring.

But what about today’s Chihuahuas?

Today, Chihuahuas still exist for their many health benefits and companionship. The breed itself remains one of the most popular in the world.

They are a great addition to almost any household. These tiny dogs are even ideal for very small homes.

Caution: Keep in mind that if you have kids, you better not get a Chihuahua yet, as these tiny dogs can be snappy. Instead, wait a bit. Chihuahuas fit better in households with children.

The Chihuahua today has come a long way from the Techichi ancestors. However, they still have a unique appearance and spunky personality many love.

There are many breeders throughout the world who sell these dogs, but adoption is always a great option as well.

It is important that no matter why you chose your Chihuahua, you give them proper love and care. Your Chi needs proper shelter, food, water, and regular vet care.

You should also have your pup spayed or neutered.

You will want to do your own research into the breed, including some of the cons. You also want to weigh your ability to care for the dog. They are fairly healthy but may need vet care along the way.


Chihuahuas have a very extensive history. While they are highly accredited to Mexico, they may have originated in Asia. Regardless, their ancestry has been dated back to the Techichi, an ancient dog breed.

Originally, Chihuahuas were bred:

  • As a food source.
  • To be spirit guides for the dead.
  • As ratters to rid homes of vermin.
  • The “ability” to rid owners of illnesses.
  • For companionship to ancient civilizations.
  • Sacrificial reasons for the Toltec people in Ancient Mexico.

Today, we are long gone from these sacrificial times. But the Chihuahua still has a place in many family’s hearts. While they are a great seller for breeders, beyond this they are a great pet for owners. They also serve a variety of purposes from health benefits to service dogs.