Chihuahuas are little bundles of charm and sass. Though these Mexican dogs are tiny, they have big and beautiful personalities. As a result, they’re some of the most popular family lap dogs today. But with their petite size, owners may wonder what were Chihuahuas originally bred for.

Chihuahuas are descendants of an ancient dog called the Techichi dog, with origins that trace back to ancient Mexico and potentially even Asia. Originally bred for various purposes, such as companionship, religious ceremonies & rituals, and food, these dogs have transitioned into modern companion pets.

There’s much more to the Chihuahua’s history than most people know. And unlike some dogs, it’s not as apparent as being black and white. That said, let’s look into the Chihuahua’s complex origins and discover the valid reasons why these dogs were bred.

Original Chihuahua breed information, illustrated by two pups
Original Chihuahua breed information, illustrated by two pups

For hundreds of years, we believed Chihuahuas originated from an ancient civilization in Mexico. Though this is all true, past researchers have claimed that the ancestors of the Chihuahua dog originated from Asia. And to be specific, roots in China.

It’s certainly a controversial claim, considering how iconic and significant the Chihuahua is to Mexican culture. They may not be the national dog of Mexico (the Xoloitzcuintli is), but they might as well be how what were Chihuahuas originally bred for.

But despite these recent claims, we can safely say that it developed the modern iteration of the Chihuahua in Mexico. Chihuahuas were bred from the ancient Mexican dog, the Techichi. 

Bred From the Ancient Techichi

It’s long believed that Chihuahuas were developed from the ancient dog of Mexico’s Toltec indigenous tribe, the Techichi dog. These dogs can be traced back as far back as the 9th century AD. 

What’s interesting about the Techichi is that they’re mute dogs. In other words, they didn’t bark. And it’s uncertain if they knew how to bark. But considering Chihuahuas are notorious barkers. It’s hard to imagine they were derived from these mute dogs. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information on these ancient Mexican dogs, and we know very little about the ancestor breeds of the Chihuahua. The Techichi dogs are extinct today; everything scientists have learned about them comes from old artifacts.

What Were Chihuahuas Originally Bred For

Nearly every dog breed we know today has been purposely bred for a job or role in society. For example, Australian Shepherds were bred to herd livestock, and Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve game. Even Pit Bulls were bred for bull-baiting – and outlawed blood sport.

However, not all dogs were bred for a specific “working” job, including the Chihuahua. Still, these dogs served many jobs and purposes early on. The ancient Chihuahua arguably had the most notable roles in their society. The Chihuahua was indeed a multi-purpose dog.

To cover all the original roles of the Chihuahua, we must first look at the Techichi in ancient Mexico. Though they’re not the same dogs, they are their true ancestral breed.

Chihuahua history facts, illustrated by three Chi variations
Chihuahua history facts, illustrated by three Chi variations

Chihuahuas as Sacrificial Dogs

The Chihuahua, being a multi-purpose dog, served many roles in ancient societies, often tied to religious rites, including being sacrificed during sacred Toltec practices.

In addition, evidence suggests that the ancient Aztecs and Toltecs believed that Chihuahuas guided the soul to the underworld after death. For this reason, the Techichi dogs were often buried with their deceased family members and owner. 

Though it may seem like these ancient civilizations treated these dogs poorly, this is not the case. When these dogs aren’t sacrificed or buried, they are cared for very well. The Toltec people loved these animals!

The people treated these dogs as sacred animals because of their connections to religious ceremonies. And as you may have guessed, they were some of the most popular companion pets back then, too – at least in ancient Mexico.

Chihuahuas For Food

Most of the Western world has banned the consumption of dogs today. Even in other parts where consuming dogs is legal, it’s still considered taboo (such as in Korea). 

However, this perception was not always the case around the world. Most of the Western world did not ban the consumption of eating dog meat until the early 1900s. 

Chihuahuas were also bred as food, with around 10% of the ancient Mayans’ meat consumption coming from these dogs

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It’s hard to comprehend why these people decided to eat such a “sacred” pet. But some researchers believe that the civilization faced significant food shortages and had to resort to such consumption.

Still, we have no conclusive evidence that can back this theory. 

Were Chihuahuas used in war? Illustrated by a dark brown Chihuahua
Were Chihuahuas used in war? Illustrated by a dark brown Chihuahua

Bred as Companions

Aside from being sacrificed and eaten, Chihuahuas were also popular companions for the families of the Toltecs. Even after all these years, they have remained some of the best dog companions worldwide.

These dogs were (and still are) charming and affectionate, making them perfect family dogs no matter what period. The people of the Toltec civilization lived in tiny homes around the crowded ancient city. Because of this, I was keeping a small mute dog such as the Techichi was a perfect fit.

Like Chihuahuas are now some of the best apartment dogs, the Techichi dogs were ideal for those living in that period. 

What Were Chihuahuas Originally Bred For

The Chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog breed, so they’re limited in what jobs they can do. That being the case, we can rule out herding, guarding, hunting, tracking, and retrieving.

So what are Chihuahuas bred for todayChihuahuas are solely bred as loving companion dogs today. They are among the top 11 best companion dogs in the canine kingdom. However, in rural areas, there are still Chihuahuas that serve as skilled ratting dogs.

Highly Skilled Ratters

So what exactly is a “matter?” They’re dogs explicitly developed for helping humans in the capture and killing of rats. And although they’re great companions for families, some will argue Chihuahuas are even better at hunting small vermin (such as rats!).

These dogs are fearless ratters that take down squirrels, rats, and other rodents in their native country of Mexico. This innate skill set is their intuitive intelligence, partly what makes the Chihuahua smarter than people think. 

Even after domestication, these instincts to hunt still live within the Chihuahua. A Chihuahua may be your best weapon if you have a rat problem in your home! Keep in mind that these dogs are only used as ratters in more rural areas of Mexico.

Techichi vs Chihuahua, illustrated by a light-colored Chi
Techichi vs Chihuahua, illustrated by a Chi explaining what were Chihuahuas originally bred for

The Ultimate Lapdog

Part of the Chihuahua’s charm is that they make such excellent and affectionate lapdogs. With a strong bond and loving relationship, they enjoy nothing more than cuddling up with their owner. And Chihuahuas love to do this with their family members.

Joe, a Chihuahua owner, tells us:

My Chihuahua sits on my mom’s lap pretty much endlessly. If she lies down she sleeps on her chest.

Other Reddit users chimed in, saying, “that’s pretty typical” for a Chihuahua temperament

Others say they do not quite lap dogs but rather great “velcro dogs.” And by velcro dogs, we mean they stick to you (the owner) or other family members.

Another Chihuahua owner on Reddit said,

If either of us are sitting down, Brinkley (Chihuahua) is in one of our laps. When we have one of his dog park friends over, there is always competition for for the available lap.

One owner said, “mine follows me everywhere, hangs out in the bathroom when I’m getting dressed, wants to sit at least beside me when I’m sitting, and sleeps next to me anytime I’m sleeping. “

If you check out the Chihuahua Subreddit forum, there are hundreds and hundreds of owners telling you the same thing. They all say that these dogs were meant to be lap dogs. And sure enough, they’re one of the best in the world at this “job.” 

Chihuahuas as Watchdogs 

Okay, they weren’t precisely bred for this, and however, don’t underestimate their watchdog abilities. Also, please don’t get confused. We’re saying they can be excellent watchdogs and not guard dogs.

You’ll probably be out of luck if you expect a Chihuahua to attack an intruder and defend the house. But because these dogs are pretty territorial and yappy, expect them to bark like a mad dog when intruders come.

This can be a good or bad thing. For example, if you have a gated front yard and pedestrians walk by, your Chihuahua will investigate and bark as they pass. Their always-alert ears seem to always pick up on the slightest of sounds.

It cannot be enjoyable to many owners. And it takes a while to get used to. However, when unwanted intruders invade your property, you’ll be happy that your little Chihuahua was able to alert you and the family. 

Why Get a Chihuahua?

There are so many reasons to keep a Chihuahua. They’re not particularly difficult to care for. These dogs are average shedders and don’t require as much physical activity as other dogs. 

In addition, they’re spirited and lively little dogs. There’s rarely a dull moment when you’re with a Chihuahua. Plus, they’re more intelligent than people give them credit for.

It’s unlikely that you need a Chihuahua to help hunt vermin, and you’re likely looking for a companion, which these dogs were bred to do. 

When debating about a dog breed, make sure that you pick a breed because their temperament and personality fit yours. Also, consider your schedule, as some dogs can’t spend too much time alone. Because Chihuahuas are companion dogs, they can’t stand being alone all day long.

To make the relationship work with your Chihuahua, you’ll need to be patient with them. You’ll quickly learn this when obedience training starts, as they’re stubborn little dogs.

Shower them with love and affection every chance you get – nothing less. In return, the Chihuahua will be one of the most loyal and entertaining companions you’ll ever own. Give the Chihuahua a try, and you won’t regret it!

So do you own a Chihuahua? Let us know what you think about what were Chihuahuas originally bred for.

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