Breed Origins

Illustration contributed by Amy Fernandez

As with many breeds there is some dispute over the origins of the Chinese Crested Dog. However, it is almost certain that despite its name, the Chinese Crested Dog did not originate in China. Until very recently the two most popular theories had the Chinese Crested originating in either Africa or South America. On both continents there are similar primitive type dogs. In South and Central America in particular there are a couple of hairless breeds that share very similar morphology to the Chinese Crested, and it is not inconceivable that the Crested and these other hairless breeds share a similar ancestry. Recent genetic research has isolated the mutation responsible for the hairless characteristics in all three identified hairless breeds (the Crested, the Peruvian Inca Dog, and the Xoloitzcuintli from Mexico) and the mutation is identical. This leads researchers to conclude that these breeds share a common origin. As there are artefacts in Mexico that date back 4,000 years that depict hairless dogs looking remarkably like modern Xolos it would be hard to argue that Mexico is not the wellspring for the hairless family of dogs including the Crested. Apparently, and here is where the Chinese connection comes in, they were not uncommon on board Chinese merchant trading vessels, but were first identified in their modern form in Europe and attributed to Chinese origin in the late 18th Century - although by then specimens of the breed could be found world-wide. The ratter theory seems highly possible, as many breeders will attest that most Cresteds have a high prey drive and will chase small animals. The first Chinese Crested dogs brought to Great Britain were exhibited as part of a zoological show.  There was no breeding program put into place to continue the breed, so the Chinese Crested disappeared from England for a time.  The first Chinese Crested to be registered in Great Britain was in 1881.  The Kennel Club there focused its attention (through the standard) on two distinct types of Chinese Crested dogs.  The "Deer" and the "Cobby".  Not until 1984 did the Kennel Club agree to make provision for the third type, which is found in most litters, that of the fully coated Chinese Crested, the "Powder Puff". The Chinese Crested's American past can be traced back over a century. In 1880 a New Yorker, Ida Garrett, became interested in the breed and was involved in breeding, exhibition and writing about the Chinese Crested for over sixty years.  Mrs. Garrett also shared her enthusiasm for the breed with Debra Woods, whom she met in the 1920s.  For nearly forty years these two women worked together to promote the Chinese Crested dog breed in the U.S. Another person that was very involved in the promotion of the Chinese Crested worldwide was the American singer, dancer and entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee.  Her sister had rescued a Chinese Crested dog from a Connecticut animal shelter and had given it to Ms Lee.  Ms Lee was so taken with the breed she became a breeder and protector of the Chinese Crested.  It is to be noted that most active Crested kennels in the world can trace the ancestry of their dogs to the Crest Haven (Debra Woods) and Ms Lee. In Canada, Mrs. Glenna Fierheller of Four Halls Kennels was instrumental in getting the Chinese Crested recognized by the Canadian Club. In 1987 while on a trip to England, Mrs. Fierheller attended a Crufts dog show and fell in love with the breed. She acquired her foundation dogs from Amy Fernandez of Razzmatazz Kennels and after dedicating her efforts to popularize the breed, in 1992 the CKC agreed to recognize the Chinese Crested in Canada. The Chinese Crested was officially recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1987, by The Kennel Club (UK) in 1981, by the American Kennel Club in 1991, the Canadian Kennel Club in 1992 and by the Australian National Kennel Council in 1995.