The western dog moves to the East: let's stop this migration!
By Paolo Tartaro, Francesco di Paola Nuzzo and Marzia Miodini -
Source: CCC Magazine n° 7

We will try not to comment the new standard (FCI 218 of 21.10.09) but to examine it, in a verbal and figurative way, always referring to the elements of dog expertise ,essential to get the characteristics required by the standard itself. In the morphological classification chihuahuas are described as an aberrant dwarf, lupoides, dolichomorphic and brachycephalic type.

We will deeply analyze how to reach and observe its expression of relative type, its correct harmony, its correct movement, the distinction and both its relative and its absolute values. We will also remember, its origins and its diffusion from the new to the old world.

Historical notes
Chihuahuas are the only native canine breed of the western hemisphere. Their origins are very mysterious and fascinating. It is likely that the ancient dogs that have accompanied the birth, the growth and the decadence of Toltec and Aztec civilizations ,have contributed to create the modern breed . Archaeological evidences confirm that rather small dogs were used for religious and alimentary purposes . They probably escaped destruction from the conquistadors; during the years they have been influenced by the small dogs travelling with Spanish and the Chinese dealers. In the middle of the nineteenth century a dog very similar to the chihuahuas we know today made his appearance at Mexico's borders, between Texas and Arizona. Tourists and the American businessmen purchased these small dogs, as souvenirs, from the Mexican farmers. Right at that time it was emerging the interest in dogs, in the selection of pure breeds and in dog shows, so American dog fanciers dedicated themselves to the selection of this dog fixing its desired features.

In 1923 the first Standard was compiled and the following year the Chihuahuas were recognized by the American Kennel Club. From that moment the breed conquered more and more American dog-fancier,reaching a level of popularity that has brought it to be among the twelve most popular breeds. After the Second World War chihuahuas started to be known overseas, at first in England and then all over the world, conquering more and more breed's lovers.


The pioneers of the breed in Italy were Count Giovanni and Countess Licia Lanza di Mazzarino that at the end of the 50's, started to import the first specimens of the breed and began to breed them with the "Del Brusuglio" kennel name. However, chihuahuas were practically unknown to the E.N.C.I.'s studbook until 1950 when we find 5 chihuahuas registered; during the same year three imported chihuahuas became champions. Two specimens were registered in 1956 and two more in '57. 8 specimens were registered in 1962, 17 in 1963, 8 in 1964, 23 in 1965, 12 in 1966, in 1991 there were 155 smoothcoats and 48 longcoats. In 1996 there were 260 smoothcoats and 90 longcoats. Since the mid-90's, popularity of the breed has been increasing in our country. In 2000, with 364 smoothcoats and 190 longcoats, we can speak of a real boom of this breed, with increasing success of Italian bred Chihuahuas in the show rings the world over. Unfortunately, as it always happens, success has its dark sides which, in our case, are represented by poor quality specimens of the breed: Chihuahuas, put on the market by unscrupulous dealers, that could ward off those approaching the breed for the first time. Since 1963,in Italy the breed is protected by the Club Cani Compagnia. With 2000 registrations to the ROI studbook in 2009, chihuahuas are the most popular breed of group IX in Italy.


It's the smallest dog in the world. There are many features that make this breed so peculiar in comparison to all the other recognized canine breeds. Its temperament is dynamic, vigilant, vivacious and very brave. Below, we will analyze the head of the chihuahua with its proportions and its profiles and the general morphology in detail.

The skull area is one of the two great areas of the head and, together with the facial area, is of primary importance. The head is considered the breed's main feature, or better yet: head is the absolute indicator of breed type. Skull should never be flat, absolutely not, but solely domed with a rounded forehead, apple-shaped and broad, mainly between parietal bones and not between temporal bones and a good transversal development should be noticed. The top longitudinal axis of the skull is parallel to the top longitudinal axis of the muzzle, only the nose will have a slight tendency upwards which gives the correct breed expression; this top profile of the nose is called "dish edge". Given the parallelism of the top craniofacial axes, let's examine the nose-frontal fall, also known as "stop": as it usually happens, from these two parallel axes we will have an accentuated nose-frontal fall due to the shape of the frontal bone and to the lowering of nasal apophysis and to the top jaw to determine the stop. The stop is very accentuated, around 90 degrees. This area has to be broad, slightly convex above insertion of the muzzle. The degrees of the nose-frontal fall are determined by craniofacial angle that, after craniofacial axes, determines the type of the head in its bony part.


Many differences can be noticed if one compares a poodle to a pekingese. But among these two morphologies there are many different types. For this reason the zoognostic of the muzzle is extremely difficult and peculiar. By facing the zootechnical test of a chihuahua, particularly by examining the face area, you cannot just focus on the evaluation of the nose lenght to affirm: "typical muzzle". That would be easy and elementary but, certainly, it would also be a reductive and hasty zootechnical consideration. The muzzle area must be deeply examined, considering its diameters, the face and the profiles, the coat variety, the labial commissur, the facial wrinkles and the buccal fissure. Chihuahuas' top profile of the nose is rectilinear and never divergent.

In profile: top and bottom line of the face appear almost parallel. Muzzle appears trunk, short but not too short. It has to be of right proportions, in harmony with the skull. In order to have the expression of a Mexican dog, and not of an oriental dog or to be neither of mollosoid nor braccoid type, chihuahuas' facial area must to be wrinklefree with elastic and tight skin. Muzzle in its aboral part must be broad and then gradually tapering towards the oral part, in conseguence the side faces of the muzzle will be slightly convergent and the labial development will not be too developed like all dog breeds whose side faces of the muzzle are convergent. Cheeks, or masseter area, are slightly developed and very tight. The science that studies the morphology of the animals teaches us that, for all breeds, a limited development of this ares is appreciated to avoid coarseness and to enhance rifinement of the sub-orbital area, which is considered a great quality. The well chiselled sub-orbital area is a distinguishing factor. Few people have heard or read the statement, "chihuahuas' smile"; actually it's rarer and rarer to find this sublime expression. In order to get this now difficult to achieve breed feature we have to go back to the face area, to its correct harmonious proportions and precisely to the labial lines and its commissur. The lips must be tense, tight, never with relaxed skin, always very stretched, never fleshy, neither wrinkled nor pleaded to favor the visibility of labial fessures. The labial commissur must not be too accentuated, the top lips should never appear baggy or fully covering bottom lips. Summing up all of these morphological peculiarities belonging to the facial and skull areas, finally our chihuahuas return to smile. Now we analyze the bite: the standard asks for a "scissors bite", a "level bite" is accepted. To get it,we need the same length of top and bottom jaws. Same lenght of top and bottom jaws makes for a good chin which is a distingushing breed feature. Jawbone is broad so that the muzzle won't be too narrow and to provide enough room for a correct straight teeth line. In the morphological evaluation of the head, "overtype" (over the type), a typical British expression meaning hypertype, must be heavily penalized. On the other side, lack of type is a serious fault just the same. Moderation and harmony are to be sought after.

Eyes are in frontal position and wide set, rounded, big but not enormous, always in balance with the head, never bulging nor prominent. An imaginary line, departing from the lower point of the ear insertion, crosses the eye going from the outer corner of eye to the inner corner of eye, bordering the meeting point of the nasal apophysis and of the muzzle.The center of the eye is on the trajectory of a straight imaginary line that connects the inner and the outer corners of the same eyes to the base of the stop and to the lowest point of the ear insertion. Dark eye colours are prefered, keeping in mind that the colour of the eyes is strictly genetically linked to the coat colour and to the mucosas pigmentation. The eye, with its shape, position and colour, contributes to the Mexican breed type. Eye white should never be visible, which is an absolute fault in every toy breed but Japanese Chins where it is a breed feature. Ears are isosceles triangle shaped, broad at the base and gradually tapering to the tip, which is slightly rounded. Ears are carried erect, they are big but not enormous, always in balance with the head. We say that ears are well set when the outer corner of eye is on the same line with the ear lowest point of insertion. Please, notice that only when the dog is not alert its ears are at a 45° angle; when chihuahuas are alert their ears must reduce that angle and they are carried closer to each other. On some occasions, sometimes related to emotional factors, ears might be carried close to the skull. In this case, it is sufficient to get the dog's attention to be able to see the correct ear carriage and breed expression. Feet are round and elongated in shape, neither hare feet nor cat feet, with well separated but not flat fingers. Fingernails are very well arched and moderately long. Pads are well developed and very elastic. Chihuahuas'skin is smooth and elastic all over the body surface, and never wrikled.

The neck, fairly cylindrical and of average length, is slightly arched. Its dorsal profile is convex towards the nape with proud and elegant head carriage. This type of neck topline is considered the most functional of all, hence it is very sought after. A swan neck must be penalized same as the one with convex top profile with high head carriage; very nice looking neck but not functional causing the rearward displacement of the center of gravity and pressuring a stronger effort of the rear. Also, it projects forelegs upward causing an incorrect hackney movement. The ventral profile of the neck and of the throat must be free from relaxed skin, plaits and wrinkles; it shouldn't give the impression of a head wrapped in a fur collar. This definition refers to the skin which should never be abundant and loose. Even in this area, the skin is tight and elastic, never exaggeratedly loose and essentially lacking dewlap: it consists of two skin folds starting from the mandibular branches and involving the lower edge of the neck and the throat, side limiting the latter.


This is a fault in some breeds and a sought after feature in others as, for example, in some breeds belonging to group II and group XI. In most breeds it is always a fault, showing skin looseness and revealing a lymphatic origin. Inclination of the neck should be around 45 /50 degrees, just like the shoulder, to guarantee the shift of the barycentre in all directions. Together, neck and head are named cephalo-cervical balancer and they have the important function of keep balance during movement. Also, a correct lenght of neck promotes an ample stride forward. A short neck is almost always related to a straight shoulder with a marked obliquity of the humerus, therefore our chihuahuas look bent forward or with forelegs slightly inclined towards the stomach. A neck that is too short doesen't blend well with the shoulders. A neck that blends well with the body is an absolute quality, not a relative one. Apart from some exceptions, lenght of the shoulder is related to its inclination: a short shoulder is usually straight, a long shoulder is correctly back tilted. The correct inclination of the shoulder allows for a long stride and, therefore, we could say it covers the ground well. A long humerus is appreciated; lenght of humerus is almost the same as lenght of shoulder, which is an absolute quality. The scapulo-humeral angle is around 90/95 degrees.


It's an elegant breed, one of great refinement and distinction. Its shape is harmoniously compact with the right overall proportions between mass and volumes. It is almost square built with a good bone and muscle structure development, with no deficiencies. Body, which is cylindrical in shape, strong and compact, should look almost square. Bitches may have a slightly longer body, which is a trait allowed but not desireable.
Watching a chihuahua in profile, the measure from elbow to ground should equal the measure from elbow to withers and the sum of these two measures should be slightly less than the measure that goes from the tip of the shoulder to the tip of the buttock, also known as scapulo-ischial length.Topline is horizontal, while the bottom line goes up to the ventral area; we'll see a well upturned belly to avoid the obese effect. Rump is broad, which is an absolute quality, strong, flat or slightly tilted. Its inclination determines all rear angulations, from femur to hip bone and from tibia to tarsus. The rump transmits the movement deriving from the opening of all articular angles of the hindlegs. Withers is slightly raised, which is an element of great distinction. It should never be neither low nor short as that would cause movement to be incomplete and certainly atypical, with short drive. Chest is of essential, vital and functional importance, the latter in reference to movement.

It is deep and wide; if seen from the front it looks broad in order to provide more room between the top of the shoulders. Long and well arched ribs are appreciated. Also, ribcage tapers to the waist with its broadest point just behind the elbows. Also, this shape of the ribcage helps to get a typical movement.

In this harmonious breed, the tail helps to consolidate harmony and type both standing and moving. Tail is very high set and carried to form either a sickle or a semi-circular shape with its tip pointing towards the loins. It is broader at the root than at the tip and giving the feeling of having flat vertebrae, which some old expert Italian judges used to define "noodle tail".

A good movement is the test of a dog's correct construction. A Chihuahua that is structurally well constructed, according to the standard, will move according to the standard. Footsteps are long, quick and elastic, showing neither effort nor deficiency. The hindquarters' footmarks perfectly cover the forequarters' footmarks; with a good reach you consequently get a good drive of the rear. In order to get this effect, chuhuahuas must have the correct shoulder angulation to accomodate the thrust coming from the opening of the internal angle of the hocks. These angles open thanks to the twin muscles contraction. Hindquarters are well angulated with short hock and an evident development of saphenous Achilles tendon, synonymous with thin skin, therefore refinement and elegance. While examining chihuahuas's correct movement, a fast and sustained pace should be required from a specimen of this breed. Only under these circumstances it will show us that all four legs converge towards the median axis, this way determining the classic movement named "single tracking". During the extended trot, as the dog increases the pace, limbs converge inward until the time when the feet are placed in line with the median longitudinal axis of the body. Moving, front and rear legs have a correctly vertical direction, even if they are tilted inward. Hindlegs perfectly cover the footmarks of the forelegs. Sideway, while trotting, good reach and drive must be present together with coordination of all four legs, so that movement is light and functional.

Chihuahuas only have two coat varieties: smooth coat and long coat. Both varieties must be well recognizable, even if under the coat both varieties have identical morphological features.


Both varieties have a double coat (undercoat and outer coat) and have a flat type of coat, in other words every single hair is straight for the entire lenght with no deviation from its axis and is of silky texture. In the short coat variety, coat is smooth and thick particularly on the body where it is well skin-tight. Coat nature according to dog expertise: texture is soft and silky, smooth to the touch, coat is always glossy and this aspect is more visible in dark colours. Coat on the entire head, throat, belly and legs must be shorter and coat covering some areas like the stomach can be quite sparse. In this coat variety there must be moderate undercoat which is more accentuated on the neck and on the tail to make a ruff and a bushy tail. The distribution of hair on the tail gives it a slightly "flat" look on the ventral side due to the hair growing sideway, particularly close to the root where it is normally longer and gets shorter and shorter towards the tip. This flat look of the tail is due to the coat and not to the tail structure and it has always been considered a distinctive breed feature. Blue chihuahuas have a sparser coat, particularly on the ears. Dobermann like coat is a fault: when stroking backward, coat won't stand giving the tail an appearance similar to that of a rat. In longcoat chihuahuas, coat is of medium lenght, soft in texture (never hard or rough to the touch), it must me smooth or slightly waved, never curly, thicker on the body and with moderate undercoat. It is very short on the head, muzzle and front of legs. It forms long fringes on the ears, especially at the base, on the neck, on the chest, behind frontlegs, on the outer side of the buttocks (panties) and, most of all, on the tail which is very furry and looking like a feather. In long coat chihuahuas, the tip of the hair must capture and reflect the light of a sunny day; a dull coat means an incorrect texture and this is much more obvious in the dark shades of colour. A coat lacking undercoat is not correct, same as a coat with too much undercoat which makes the hair stand from the body giving the impression of a spitz like type of coat. Besides, this type of coat sheds abundantly and is difficult to care for. Among the faults: coat too long or too wavy or lack of coat. If of correct type, both varieties of coat guarantee our small chihuahuas a good protection from external agents. Shedding is moderate and coat care is very easy in both varieties.


Keep in mind that lenght of fringes depends on the sex and age of the dog and, also, on the season. Males have a much more abundant ruff than females and their tails are more likely to look like a feather as the standard asks for. A three year old dog has a fully mature coat. Females, also due to moults of hormonal nature, are often not in full coat. Therefore, when judging chihuahuas it is advisable to evaluate coat texture very carefully, not just its lenght. All colours are allowed in all shades and markings except for merle colour which is considered a disqualifying fault.