The Chihuahua is named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, where the Chihuahua is thought to have originated from. The city of Chihuahua, Mexico lies about 150 miles southwest of Presido, Texas in the United States. The state of Chihuahua is bordered by the United States in the southwest region by New Mexico and Texas.
It was in these bordering states like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona where the Chihuahua first rose to popularity in the United States. The Chihuahua was also nicknamed the Arizona dog and the Texas dog as it was so popular in these regions of the country.
Chihuahuas in the United States:
A Chihuahua named Midget was the first officially recognized Chihuahua to be registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904. The AKC, being only 20 years old at the time makes the Chihuahua one of the oldest registered breeds in America.
Although it is one of the oldest breeds in the country, it took many years for the Chihuahua to become popular as a pet. People in the early 1900's tended to buy dogs that were more utilitarian in nature. The majority of people in the U.S. lived on farms in the early 1900's and needed dogs that could be used for herding livestock, pulling carts, chasing off varmints, scaring away predators, and hunting dogs that could retrieve. The Chihuahua was simply too small to be of much use on a farm. It wasn't until the 1960's, when most of the population was now living in cities and desired a dog that was more suitable to household living, that the Chihuahua become really popular. In 1964 the Chihuahua became the 12th most popular breed in the country (out of 161).
The Chihuahua has remained a popular breed in the United since the 1960's. As of 2012 the Chihuahua is the 18th most popular dog in the country. The Chihuahua reached it's peak of popularity in 2002 when it cracked the top ten and became the 9th most popular breed in the U.S. This peak in popularity may have had something to do with the immensely popular Taco Bell advertising campaign that featured a talking Chihuahua named Gidget.
The history and origin of the Chihuahua is a debate fueled by much speculation and theory. It is generally accepted that the Chihuahua was present in Mexico as early as the 9th century A.D. and perhaps earlier. This knowledge is based on legends, artwork, and artifacts that have been found during archeological excavations throughout Mexico and Central America. Artifacts found at the pyramids of Cholula (near Mexico City) contain artwork pre-dating 1500 A.D. that depicts a dog resembling the modern day Chihuahua. Another discovery depicting a Chihuahua like dog was found at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza which dates as far back as the 5th century A.D. There are depictions of the deer head and the apple head Chihuahua found in Mexico. A pot resembling the modern deer head Chihuahua found at Casas Grande dates from 1100 to 1300 A.D. A wheeled toy dog was found at Tres Zapotes in Veracruz Mexico dated 100 A.D. resembles the modern day apple head Chihuahua. The evidence suggests that some kind of small dog resembling a Chihuahua has inhabited Central America for over a thousand years. Whether this dog was an actually Chihuahua, a relative, or an ancestor from which the Chihuahua descended from is unclear.
A common theory is that the Chihuahua descended from the Techichi. A small dog that is believed to have been domesticated by either the Toltecs (900 A.D. - 1200 A.D.) or the Mayans (1800 B.C. - 900 A.D.) The Techichi was a small dog that lived in central and northern Mexico (present day state of Chihuahua), and was similar in size and appearance to the modern day Chihuahua. The Techichi was not as diminutive as the modern day Chihuahua, but was sturdier and more heavily boned. The modern American Chihuahua was not always as small as it is today because it was selectively bred for smaller sizes in the early 1900's. Even today, some Chihuahuas are born much bigger than the AKC standards and more closely resemble their Techichi counterparts. This could be due to dormant genetic information passed on from the Techichi that has not been entirely bred out. Some believe that the Techichi and the Chihuahua are not separate species at all, but are actually the same dog but with different names.
The other theory regarding the Techichi is that it is in fact a separate species from the Chihuahua, but was crossed with a smaller hairless Mexican dog and the result was the Chihuahua. Another option is that the Techichi was not crossed with the Mexican Hairless, but with a small short-haired variety that is evident in many Indian tribes in the southwest United States as well as Mexico.