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Chihuahua standing in grass

The essentials

  • Much debated origins — Because chihuahuas are such an old breed and much of their history has no written record, historians are left to speculate and debate the specifics. While many state the chihuahua is solely of South American origin, some animal scientists believe the dog originally descended from China.
  • A versatile and diverse American breed — Surprisingly, the first chihuahuas in the United States were actually the long-coated breed, rather than the more recognizable short coated.
  • Their trainability made them stars — When the chihuahua breed took off in popularity in the United States, their loyalty, compact size and trainability made them excellently suited for stage and screen. As early as the 1940s, chihuahuas were popular in show business, and are recognizable today in such movies as Legally Blonde and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
Chihuahua laying on a plush toy looking at camera


Throughout centuries, these pint-sized pups have been bred to be friends and lap companions for humans. The evolution of the chihuahua’s breed makes them an excellent buddy you can always have (almost literally) in your back pocket.

  • Size. The world’s smallest breed weighs in at under six pounds, and only 5-8 inches tall. Not only does their small size make them the perfect lap dog, but compact enough to fit in a lightweight carrier to go everywhere with their humans.
  • Temperament. These little dogs have very big personalities and a lot of love to give. Chihuahuas also often get very attached to one person, making them a loyal lifelong friend.
  • Health. Chihuahuas have on average a very long lifespan, between 14-16 years. While all dogs are susceptible to some health conditions, a well cared for chihuahua can live a long, happy and healthy life with their human.

Pest Control

There is a lot of debate about what chihuahuas were bred for, but it seems that this breed has served a number of purposes throughout history. While historical evidence doesn’t indicate their primary function in ancient times as a pest controlling breed, chihuahuas do possess a lot of tenacity and a strong prey drive. As the breed became more popular in North America, this quality may have helped them grow in popularity as a household pest controller. The chihuahua’s contemporary mix-breed relation the chiweenie is also a dog known for their strong prey drive and pest control skills.

Chihuahua standing outside and alert


While chihuahuas were not bred specifically for the role of watchdogs, again their personality and temperament shines through, proving this is another skill modern chihuahuas excel at. Of course, their tiny size doesn’t make a chihuahua the best choice for a guard dog. But their barky natures and alertness to the presence of intruders in the yard or their home makes them great at letting their humans know when something is afoot.


While this grim historical fact is something we cringe at today, historically chihuahuas were commonly raised as food and considered a delicacy in ancient Central American cultures. Thankfully this practice, while very rare today, is completely outlawed in the United States, and is no longer a common practice in Mexico. Other parts of the world such as a mainland city in China have also banned the practice as more attention to animal welfare and love for pets becomes recognized.

Two Chihuahuas standing on a lake shore

Sacrificial animals

The ancient Aztecs bred chihuahuas as holy animals and considered them to have magical properties. One aspect of this breeding was the regular ritual sacrifice of chihuahuas in religious ceremonies. The practice of sacrificing animals for religious purposes is one that has been done across many cultures and millennia. It is not considered common today to sacrifice living animals in the United States, however it is technically considered protected by the first amendment constitutional law of freedom of religion. Animal sacrifice rituals are still regularly committed by some African tribes and Jewish religious sects in Israel.

Frequently asked questions

Were chihuahuas used as hot water bottles?

Yes, people often slept with chihuahuas or held them against their bodies for warmth or to ease muscle tension.

What two dogs were bred to make a chihuahua?

Chihuahuas are thought to be bred from some combination of dogs with the now extinct Techichi dog. It is possible they may have also been crossbred with the Chinese Crested.

What are chihuahuas good for?

Chihuahuas make loyal, loving pets and excellent watchdogs.