Peruvian Hairless Dog

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Peruvian Hairless Dog

The Peruvian Hairless Dog originated in Peru long before written records began. They come in three potential sizes: small, medium or large. Regardless of size, they must have a slim line, athletic figure and their overall appearance should be sophisticated and elegant. Roughly one third of the breed will have a full coat of fur, though their breed name does not change.

While sometimes used to hunt small prey, the real purpose of the Peruvian Hairless Dog in ancient times was as a companion animal, and also as a type of ‘healer’. Local people had a strong belief, and some still do, that this breed has the potential to cure certain ailments. Vibrant dogs, they relish the opportunity to participate in canine events, such as obedience and agility, and due to their natural sporting abilities and intelligence, they can make fierce competitors.

About & History

One of the truly ancient breeds that is still in existence, the Peruvian Hairless Dog or Peruvian Inca Orchid has survived for many centuries, dating back to before the Inca Empire. They were often depicted on pottery and carvings, and relics that portray them have been found from as early as 750 AD.

They have traditionally been thought of as spiritual beings with healing powers, and the local people would have treated them with great respect. Their hairlessness ensures that they feel warm to the touch, and this heat has been thought to help cure human maladies, such as arthritis and asthma. Some sources claim that even their urine was thought of as powerful and was used in ancient medicine. Alongside their use as healers, they were also natural born hunters, who used their exceptional vision to seek out and catch small prey, such as mice.

They were recognised by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) as early as 1955, and just over a decade after, Americans began importing the breed. It is thought that the first importer was a man named Jack Walklin, and, in fact, it was he who gave them the name ‘Peruvian Inca Orchid’ when he first discovered the breed standing among orchid flowers.

Their international popularity has steadily increased since then, and they are now registered with both the AKC and the UKC – though are still considered a rare breed. While sometimes seen at dog shows, the Peruvian Hairless Dog is most likely to be found as a family pet.

Still revered in its home country, the Peruvian Hairless Dog is generally accepted to be the national dog of Peru – an accolade it received in 2001. The local government have also introduced a rule that all archaeological historic sites should have a pair of Peruvian Hairless Dogs present. This initiative has been very popular with tourists and has helped to safeguard the breed against potential extinction.

More recently, a documentary was made called El Perro sin pelo del Perú, which premiered at the World Dog Show in 2016. Created by Pedro Santiago Allemant, it took 14 years to make, and its aim is to educate people on the history of the breed.

Appearance

Peruvian Hairless Dog Large Photo

Primarily a hairless dog, the other characteristics are thought of as secondary. While a small amount of wispy fur is allowed on their feet, head and tail, the remainder of the dog should be bald. Their skin may be grey, brown, copper or mottled, and might have pink spots. Eye and nose colour are dependent on coat colour. In truth, a proportion of Peruvian Hairless Dogs are born with fur, but these dogs are not allowed to be shown. However, these dogs make fantastic companion animals, and do not suffer with many of the complaints that their hairless counterparts do.

Peruvian Hairless Dogs come in three varieties: small, medium and large. Dogs should be as long as they are tall (a ratio of 1:1). The smallest of the breed measure 25 to 40cm and weigh as little as 4-8kg. The medium Peruvian Hairless Dogs measure 40 to 50cm and weigh 8-12kg. Finally, the largest of the breed measure as tall as 50-65cm, weighing in at 12-25kg.

Their body type is slender and graceful with long legs, though should also be somewhat muscular. Their tail is noticeably thin, and usually held close to their body. Their ears stand erect and are prominent and well-spaced on their head. Interestingly, the ears of the haired variety may flop over owing to the extra weight they are carrying.

Character & Temperament

Energetic and fun-loving, these dogs are usually good-tempered and affectionate with their family. They can be suspicious of strangers and may act defensive if they sense a threat. This characteristic does, however, make them excellent watch dogs. They are known to form tight bonds with their owners, and often attach more to one chosen ‘master’ above all others.

Sensitive at times, they are prone to developing separation anxiety, particularly if left alone for long periods. They have the potential to do well with young children and animals, and at the minimum will tolerate them. Ensuring they have been introduced to them from puppyhood, increases the chances of them getting along.

Trainability

Ranking well when it comes to intelligence, the Peruvian Hairless Dog can be trained to a high degree. They tend to tackle new tasks with confidence and enthusiasm, though care should be taken to not dissuade them with discipline or punishments when they fail. Instead, good behaviours and improvements should be rewarded with encouragement and tasty titbits.

Health

The genetic mutation that has led to hairlessness in the breed is dominant. This means that breed members with just one copy of the gene will exhibit hairlessness. Unfortunately, those who are homozygous for the gene (inherit two copies) will not survive to birth. Due to this, when two hairless Peruvian Hairless Dogs are mated, there is a 25% chance a puppy will not make it, a 25% chance they will be haired and a 50% chance they will be hairless.

It is known that the gene involved with hairlessness is also linked to dentition, and many hairless dogs are lacking molar and pre-molar teeth. While this can potentially lead to issues with chewing food, the vast majority of dogs do not seem to have any issues with eating.

Of course, like other hairless breeds, the lack of protection offered by fur causes several issues. They are more susceptible to sunburn, hypothermia, rashes, dry skin and skin allergies. They also tend to get more cuts and lesions after a trauma, as they have no ‘armour’, or fur. On the plus side, they are not good hosts for external parasites, such as fleas and lice.

Other health issues reported in the breed include:

  • Epilepsy – Like many other animals, the Peruvian Hairless Dog can develop epilepsy, which is a condition which leads to periodic seizures, but has no known cause. Most dogs will be affected for their entire lives, though many are successfully managed with medication. As epilepsy is a diagnosis of exclusion, a vet will need to run several tests to ensure there is no other medical condition that is causing the seizures, before a diagnosis of epilepsy is made.
  • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) – When a Peruvian Hairless Dog is affected by IBD owners will report that they have altered bowel habits (constipation, diarrhoea). They may also vomit, appear bloated and lose weight. Some animals will improve when their diet is changed and the stress levels in their environment are reduced.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Peruvian Hairless Dogs do enjoy spending time outdoors, and they have modest exercise requirements, with a walk or two a day being sufficient for most. Care must be taken to avoid them being outside during times of day when the sun is at its hottest, to avoid sunburn or heat stroke. Equally, during the winter, many dogs enjoy the luxury of a doggy coat or jumper to keep them warm.

A breed that enjoys home comforts, they are content to spend the majority of their time indoors with family. It is important to mention that they may become destructive if under-exercised, a fact that holds true to many breeds. Sporting events, such as agility, are to be encouraged, as this smart cookie loves the opportunity to exercise in a stimulating environment.

Grooming

Their skin should be sponge-bathed every so often with a sensitive skin dog shampoo and a sun screen routine should be put into place if the dog lives in a warm country. Due to their lack of fur, Peruvian Hairless Dogs are a hypoallergenic breed, making them good fits for humans who suffer with allergies. Even the Peruvian Hairless Dog with fur are low maintenance when it comes to grooming, and just need brushing once to twice weekly.

Famous Peruvian Hairless Dogs

As of yet there are not any famous Peruvian Hairless Dogs in the media that we know of, however, if you're researching the breed and are looking for more information, Instagram is always a great place to start with plenty of gorgeous examples of this lovely breed.

Cross-Breeds

There are no well-known crosses of the Peruvian Hairless Dog just yet.

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