Every year, in Petaluma California, a contest is held. It receives extensive media coverage, and over the years has even featured scandal related to hacking and vote tampering. What, you may ask, is so important that it drives contestants to such skullduggery? This coveted trophy, awarded to the “World’s Ugliest Dog.”
In recent years, this contest has been dominated by the Chinese Crested breed. These hideous little monsters are often hairless except for the top of their heads, their paws, and their tails.
But while the Chinese Crested has been getting all of the repugnance accolades, Peru boasts a breed that can give it a run for its money.
I give you the Peruvian Hairless!
The Peruvian Hairless is one of three breeds of hairless dogs that are internationally recognized as such, the other two being the Chinese Crested, and the Xoloitzcuintli, or Mexican Hairless, to us non-Nahuatl speakers.
I don’t know who sits on the International Board of Guys who Decide whether or not to Recognize a Dog Breed (actually, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale), but the criteria are actually pretty simple. The breed has to have a dominant hairless gene. Thus, while there are some other dogs that can be bred to be hairless, like the American Hairless Terrier, these three lucky breeds are the only ones that can be that ugly all by themselves.
Interestingly, though, they all have a recessive “furry” gene. In the case of the Peruvian Hairless, each litter usually contains a 2:1 ration of hairless vs. coated puppies. Here’s what a coated one looks like – proudly flaunting his hair and general overall good looks:
The genetic combination resulting in hairlessness also often results in missing teeth. While the puppies are born with a complete mouthfull of teeth, they often don’t get all of their adult teeth. Maybe this has something to do with why they’re often seen with their tongues hanging out of the side of their mouths:
Oops! Wrong picture!
Not having hair, they’re also liable to get sunburned. In Peru’s Sacred Valley and the surrounding area, at only 13° south, and 10,000-14,000 feet elevation, this is a real issue. And when you don’t have any fur, you get cold. Thus most Peruvian Hairless owners in the Sacred Valley region make or buy little sweaters to help their pets stay warm.
Of course, it’s not who we are on the outside, but on the inside that counts, right? The Peruvian Hairless is all about inner beauty. They are friendly and affectionate with their owners, but wary of strangers. They are especially protective of women and children. And they’re smart. So at least they’ve got something going for them.
Apparently, Peruvians are not shallow people, because the Hairless has been a popular pet for many hundreds of years. Prior to the Inca, the Peruvian Hairless was common among cultures located along the Peruvian coast (where it’s warmer). For them, it was a pet as well as a source of meat. Once the Inca empire got rolling, the Peruvian Hairless was one of the most popular dog breeds, although only as a pet; the Inca prohibited eating them.
And honestly, can you blame them? Who would want to eat such a cuddly critter?