The big, bright eyes peering from the opposite page belong to a Chihuahua, the midget of the dog world. What the Chihuahua lacks in size, however (his average weight is four pounds), he more than makes up in popularity. Last year he was exceeded in American Kennel Club registrations only by the beagle, and the number of nonregistered Chihuahuas is impossible to estimate.
Most Chihuahuas, as a matter of fact, are rarely seen at all except by the people who own them. Bandleader Xavier Cugat has been leading the cha-cha-cha with a Chihuahua in his pocket for years. Others have been known to cross the Atlantic in handbags (unknown to the airlines), live at the best hotels (unknown to the management) and go to church (unknown to the minister). But most Chihuahuas are content to stay at home, where they can get all the exercise they need—in a minimum of space—without ever going outdoors. This is probably just as well because they sometimes catch cold.
Colds are bad for Chihuahuas, but they are only one of the little fellows' problems. Ever since a group of American tourists discovered this midget dog a century ago in Mexico's state of Chihuahua, people have been spreading false rumors about his ancestry. First of all, they confuse him with the Mexican hairless. One glance is enough to prove that the Chihuahua is not hairless; his coat may be short and smooth or long and wavy. Besides, the Mexican hairless is believed to be descended from the Chinese crested dog—not even a distant relative. The Chihuahua has also been accused of not being a dog at all, but a kind of feral mountain animal. Then there are people who claim he is a cross between a dog and a chipmunk; and still others who believe he is half wild dog, half prairie dog. Actually, he is 100% all dog.
To clear up some of the misunderstandings about the Chihuahua's background, archaeologists have gone as far back as the 9th century A.D., where they found his true ancestor, the Techichi, was a pet of the Toltecs. The Aztecs considered him a sacred dog and their emperor, Montezuma, is reported to have carried a Chihuahua around in his mantle.
As if this weren't enough pedigree, historians believe the Chihuahua is the only dog indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, which makes him every bit as American as the Indian—and just as proud of his ancestry.