Dog Breed: Xoloitzcuintli

One of the most unique breeds of dogs I’ve ever seen is the Xoloitzcuintli. I wouldn’t even know how to pronounce the name… if it weren’t for catching an Animal Planet special on the breed. For the record: sho-lo-eats-quint-lee is how you pronounce it, though most folks just call them “Xolos” (sho-los). The breed is also known as the Mexican Hairless, which eliminates the pronunciation issue entirely. Like the poodle, the Xolo comes in three sizes: toy (between ten and fourteen inches at the shoulder), miniature (between fourteen and eighteen inches at the shoulder), and standard (between eighteen and twenty-three … Continue reading

Show Dogs and Their Crazy Names

Last year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show winner was a beagle called Uno — his official name is Ch. (Champion) K-Run’s Park Me in First. What a mouthful! Purebred dogs tend to have long, crazy names like that. My mom’s purebred German shepherd Shashi was officially named Wildwoods Scheherazade. Shashi is a much easier name! So what’s with all the crazy names? Champion is actually a title — not part of the dog’s given name. A dog has to win a certain number of “points” in competition before officially earning that title at the front of his or her name. … Continue reading

Italian Greyhound

The grace and hunting instincts of a greyhound… in a smaller size. The Italian greyhound is the smallest of the sight hounds. Historians believe that the breed developed more than two thousand years ago in the Mediterranean basin. Likely sites for the breed’s origin include Greece and Turkey. The miniature greyhounds appear in art and architecture dating back at least two thousand years. The breed became prominent in the sixteenth century. Across southern Europe, miniature breeds rose in popularity with the upper classes — the greyhound’s popularity in Italy earned the breed its name. English, Italian, Prussian, Russian, and Danish … Continue reading

French Bulldog

Not surprisingly, the French bulldog has the English bulldog as an ancestor. During the late 1800s, English breeders sent a lot of toy-sized bulldogs into France. English bulldogs bred with various other breeds, resulting in the “Boule-Dog” (say it out loud, it sounds like bulldog). Early on, the French bulldog came it two varieties — one with rose ears (like an English bulldog) and one with upright bat ears. European breeders were inclined to breed for the rose ear, but American dog breeders objected. Eventually, breeders stuck universally to the distinctive bat ears. The breed got a lot of good … Continue reading

Great Pyrenees

Back home in New Jersey, my neighbor’s daughter had a Great Pyrenees named Cloud — what a perfect name for this fluffy, white breed of herding dog! Cloud is a pretty awesome dog. My dog Miko sure thought so — he loved Cloud and she could do no wrong. When she came to visit, she was allowed to eat his biscuits and flop out on his bed. Of course, she probably outweighed him by a good fifty pounds or so… so I don’t know that he could have stopped her anyway! Great Pyrenees are BIG dogs. Males can reach up … Continue reading


For a month that comes in like a lion, I thought it a good idea to take a look at a dog that looks like a lion: the Pekingese! This little Chinese dog is bold, courageous, and independent — and comes with a long history. The breed was considered sacred in ancient China. Those Foo Dogs we looked at earlier this month? You can find Foo Dog representations that might just be Pekes. The imperial family kept the oldest, purest bloodlines; Imperial Dog Books were used as breed standards. Legend says that a lion fell in love with a marmoset … Continue reading

Dog Breeds: Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is a breed that most likely originated in China and moved to Japan as part of a royal gift. Images of a dog that resembles the Japanese Chin appear on ancient Chinese pottery, embroideries, and temples. They were bred to be companions and lap warmers for nobility; historical evidence suggests that the dogs could not be purchased. They were only given as gifts from one noble to another. There are two classifications of dog in Japan: Inu (working dogs, like the Shiba Inu) and Chin (the royal lap dogs). Japanese Chin were often given as gifts to … Continue reading

Dog Breeds: Shiba Inu

I once saw a Shiba Inu puppy at a pet store and totally fell in love with the breed. Shibas are the smallest of the native dog breeds that come from Japan. It is one of the breeds declared national monuments by Japan — that list also includes akitas and the Japanese chin. The breed nearly went extinct during World War II — I’m very glad it didn’t! The Shiba Inu was developed to be a hunting dog — both a scent hound and a sight hound. The breed is built for hunting in the dense undergrowth found in Japan’s … Continue reading

Dog Breed: Weimeraner

Have you ever seen a Weimeraner? These dogs are aristocratic and striking, with a glossy grey coat and amber eyes. Weimeraners are known for grace, speed, stamina, balance, and alertness. They were bred to be hunting dogs; experts believe that the bloodhound is one of the Weimeraner’s ancestors. Germany’s Weimar court sponsored the breeding efforts, and lent its name to the result. Court nobles favored the breed for hunting big game like wolves, wildcats, and deer. The dog has amazing speed, a strong nose, courage to face large prey, and intelligence. Obedience trials helped generate American interest in the breed. … Continue reading

Dog Breeds: Sealyham Terrier

Best in Show at the seventh annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship was Charmin, a Sealyham terrier from Cochranville, Pennsylvania. The representative of the terrier group won the largest dog show prize in the world — fifty thousand dollars. The breed comes from Haverfordwest, Wales. Sealyham estate was the home of one Captain John Edwards — a breeder who set out to create a dog who could hunt badgers, otter, and fox. He was hoping to combine endurance, speed, and strength, so the new breed of dog could chase down and battle prey underground. Historians believe that Edwards created the Sealyham terrier … Continue reading