SaTaMu - Chinese Crested Dogs 

History of the Breed

Chinese Crested Dog History

By Rhonda Brown
Sa’TaMu Chinese Crested Dogs
[email protected]

Published in:

New Zealand Kennel Gazette, July 2004

The history of the hairless breeds (Xoloitzcuintli or Mexican Hairless, Peruvian Hairless Dog, Chinese Crested Dog, Khala, etc) as a whole is not well documented.  There are many and varied writings about the first time Chinese Cresteds were mentioned, but unfortunately, none are referenced.  After saying that, here are some of the attempts that have been made to give a history to the Chinese Crested - one of them may be true.

The hairless dogs are said to originate from the genus Canus africanis, rather than Canus lupis, to which other breeds of dog belong.  The most commonly expressed thought is that the hairless dogs originated in Africa, through evolution or the Asteroid theory, possibly at the same time as the other hairless mammals - the elephant, the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus.  All of these mammals have a tougher skin or hide and unusually shaped teeth or tusks.  These are characteristics that are shared with the hairless dogs of the world.

The Illustrated London News, Jan 4, 1896 - Dogs of All Nations At the Westminster Aquaruim. Cecil Aldin

Many countries within 35 degrees of the equator have had hairless dogs.  Some of these breeds have fairly well recorded histories, such as the Xoloitzcuintli (records dating back over two thousand years) and the Peruvian Hairless Dog.  Unfortunately the Chinese Cresteds history at this point in time is uncertain, as the records kept by their original Chinese breeders are said to be stored either underground or in the caves in China’s north.  If this is true, the records were hidden due to the Chinese Cultural Revolution when historical documents were destroyed or concealed. 

There are many references to Chinese Crested Dogs being  transported on Chinese ships to other countries.   They were used on these ships as 'ratters' as early as the 13th Century. There is also a commonly referred to hairless dog that was listed on a wedding inventory in fifteenth century China.  This Crested was said to have been decorated with beads in its hair.  Another story is that the deer type (longer-legged, racier, hound type variety) was used as a temple dog, while the cobby type (shorter-legged, heavier-boned, barrel-bodied variety) was used to hunt small game for food or as food itself if it did not catch enough food for its family.

There is a story about the development of the Chinese Crested told by Miss Elizabeth Kovacs, who lived in China at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Miss Kovacs related her experiences to Mary Slatter in England, who wrote and published the story in the magazine of the Chinese Crested Club of Great Britain.  Miss Kovacs had gone to China with her missionary parents, both physicians, in 1927 when she was six years old.  They were stationed at a Mission on the border between China and Mongolia. 

Miss Kovacs saw her first Chinese Crested Dog in 1933 when she was twelve.  Her parents saved the life of one of the tribal  Mongol Khan’s wives.  Miss Kovacs and her parents met with the Khan in his tent surrounded by six blue hairless bitches, two spotted, with silky hair on their heads and tails. The Khan, grateful to her parents for saving the life of his favourite wife, presented Miss Kovacs with one of these dogs. 

On her return to the Mission, Miss Kovacs was invited to learn about the breed  at the Jesuit school.  Apparently Vasco  De Gama, in the fifteenth century,  was gifted with four Xoloitzcuintli, three bitches and one dog, when he left Mexico.  His travels took him to India, where the Jesuit priest who had travelled with him, offered to take the four dogs to his monastery in Northern China.  I believe this to be the ‘school’ where Miss Kovacs learnt about the breed.

A Lama at the Monastery had developed a breeding programme for hairless cats.  This programme became the basis for the breeding programme they devised for the hairless dogs.  They had in mind a shape and type of dog that they wished to breed.  From this they selected the breeds they would introduce to the programme to achieve this type of hairless dog.  They decided to use the Basenji, Pharaoh hound, Ibizan hound, Abyssinian Sand Dog (hairless), Tibetan Terrier, Maltese and others, but the hairless Xoloitzcuintli was always bred back to every third generation to keep the hairlessness.    Only the very best specimens of powder puff (the coated variety) were used in the breeding programme, others were given to relatives or concubines of the Khans.
The matings always occurred at the monastery where the stud dogs were kept and where the breeding programme was devised and recorded.  The Khans travelled to the monastery when it was time for their bitches to be mated.

Miss Kovacs goes on to say that the Chinese Cresteds were sacred animals and were only allowed to be handled by the Khans and the “Keeper of the Dogs” and that they were never eaten by the Chinese.  She also gives very detailed information  regarding the care of the dogs.

As for the Western World, a French Naturalist, Buffon, drew pictures of the “Turkish Hairless” and the “Hairless King
Charles Spaniel”.  These drawings were originally published in the mid 1700s, with editions of this book being published in other countries during the following century.  [I wonder if the King Charles Hairless is actually a Chinese Crested, as it has long fringing.  The Crested is the only hairless dog to have long hair.]  Chinese Crested Dogs and other hairless dogs including an African Hairless and an Abyssinian Sand Dog made their way to England during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and were shown or kept as oddities. 

The Chinese Cresteds of today were developed in the 1880’s in the United States of America where Ida Garret became interested in showing and breeding these little hairless dogs.  This work was carried on by Debra Woods in the 1920’s and Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stripper, in the 1950’s.  In 1979 the American Chinese Crested Club was established, but the breed was not officially recognised by the AKC until 1991. 

Mrs Ruth Harris was the first to import Chinese Cresteds into England from Mrs Woods in 1965, and around the same time Mrs Marjorie Mooney from Scotland also imported Cresteds from Mrs Woods.  There were difficulties breeding these dogs, with litters dying, but eventually things improved in 1968 with two healthy litters whelped by Mrs Harris.  Gypsy Rose Lee exported three Cresteds to Mrs Harris in 1969.  In the same year the Chinese Crested Dog Club was founded with their first show being held in 1974.

Australia’s first Chinese Cresteds were imported by Mrs Wyn Jackson in 1973.  They were recognised and first shown in the same year.  There are three Championship Crested Clubs in Australia;  the Chinese Crested Club of New South Wales the Chinese Crested Dog Club of Victoria and the Chinese Crested Dog Club of Queelnsland.  At present, there is not a  national club.

A genetic study about the evolution and genetic diversity of the domestic dog, carried out by Vilá, Maldonado and Wayne, published in 'The Journal of Heredity 1999, found that the DNA of the Xoloitzcuintli and of the Chinese Crested Dog are unrelated and that there is no common ancestor.  This, unfortunately, does not support the historical story told by Elizabth Kovac. 

If anyone does have further information available about the history of the Chinese Crested Dog, I would love to hear from you.



Heslet, S. & Linzy, J.,  2002.  Chinese Crested Champions 1991 - 2000.  Camino E.E. & Book Co. Incline Village, NV.

Cardew, M., 1986.  A Chinese Crested Dog for Me.  Midland Counties Publications, England.

Cunliffe, J., 2001.  Chinese Crested.  Interpet Publishing, England.

Fernandez, A. & Kelly, R.,  1998.  Hairless Dogs - The Naked Truth.  The Chinese Crested, Xoloitzcuintli & Peruvian Inca Orchid.  Canada.

Jones, B., 1990.  The Complete Chinese Crested.  Ringpress Books Ltd, United Kingdom.

Petrie D.,  1997.  A Celebration of the Chinese Crested Past & Present.  Makara Chinese Cresteds Ballston Spa, New York, USA.

Rachunas, R.,  199?.  A New Owners Guide to Chinese Cresteds.  T.F.H. Publications, Inc.

Thompson, D., 1996.  The Chinese Crested Hairless and Powderpuff.  Dorothy Thompson, O-Lan Chinese Cresteds Illinois, USA.

Van Der Lyn, E,.  1964.  How to Raise and Train a Chinese Crested.  T.F.H Publications, Inc.  New Jersey.

Vitá, C., Maldonado, J.E., and Wayne, R.K., 1997. Phylogenetic Relationships, Evoloution, and Genetic Diversity of the Domestic Dog. The Journal of Heredity 1990:90(1).

Contact Details
Rhonda Brown
Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia
Phone : 0412591353
Email : [email protected]

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