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10 Feisty Facts About Chihuahuas

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The American Kennel Club refers to this dog as “saucy,” and with good reason: Despite their small size, these dogs have a ton of personality. 

1. They hail from Mexico. 

Chihuahuas are believed to be descendants of an ancient breed, the techichi. Toltecs in Mexico kept these pups as lap dogs as early as the 9th century CE.

2. Christopher Columbus might have brought them to Europe.

While experts are certain the small dogs come from Mexico, the route they took to Europe is less clear. Some point to Christopher Columbus, who wrote a letter to the King of Spain referencing the tiny dogs. It's possible that he brought some of the canines back from his travels.

3. They shrunk over time.

The earlier version of the dog was probably much larger than the ones we see today. After being crossed with a smaller hairless dog from Asia—perhaps a Chinese crested brought to Alaska across the Bering Strait—the breed shrank in size.

4. Don’t poke their heads.

Like human babies, chihuahuas have a soft spot on their heads called molera. But unlike babies, a chihuahua might have the spot for its whole life. Whether or not a chi keeps its soft spot depends on size, genetics, and skeletal structure. Show dogs aren’t penalized for having them.

5. There are two different shapes of noggins 

Chihuahuas can either have apple or deer shaped heads. Deer-headed Chis have a narrower head and longer snout. The apple-headed pooches sport a bulbous dome. Both are adorable, but the AKC strongly prefers the apple shape for show dogs.

6. They’re little geniuses.

Rebecca O'Connell

Relative to their bodies, Chihuahuas have the biggest brain in the dog world. They're quick-witted and easy to train. They're not, however, easy to housebreak as a result of a tiny bladder and a willful personality. As desert dogs, they’re also not too keen on the rain or cold.

7. Don’t mess with the Chihuahua.

Chis are tiny, so they compensate with fierceness. One study found that the tiny pups are one of the most aggressive breeds toward humans and dogs outside their own breed. To combat this, owners are urged to socialize them with other people and dogs early.

8. A feral pack took over and terrorized an Arizona town in 2014.

Speaking of the Chihuahua’s fierceness: Last year, a group of strays overran a small town in Arizona. Packs of the dogs would run around Maryvale, terrorizing children and defecating freely. They would form large groups and harass the townsfolk. Sometimes they even teamed up with larger dogs. "I seen six or seven Chihuahuas ... and big dogs running with the Chihuahua's in a pack running every single day," a resident told Fox News.

Residents made about 6000 calls to Animal Control, which had a difficult time wrangling the disobedient pooches. “We compared the number of calls we got in 2013 from that area to similar areas in town and the calls from Maryvale were three times higher than surrounding areas,” Melissa Gable of the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control told ABC11. “Part of it is these animals aren't spayed or neutered, so they're out looking for a mate and are having babies, which also contributes to the problem."

9. The smallest dog in the world is a Chihuahua.

Brandy, the smallest dog in the world, is just six inches from her nose to the tip of her tail. Comparatively, the largest dog living is over 7 feet long.

10. The Taco Bell Chihuahua had lots of work.

In the late '90s, Taco Bell ran commercials featuring a Chihuahua voiced by Carlos Alazraqui saying “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" The dog, named Gidget, was found at a kennel. She didn’t have dog show good looks—she had an undershot jaw and big ears—but she knew she was a star. In addition to her Taco Bell gig, the diva dog also appeared in Legally Blonde 2 and a GEICO commercial. As her star rose, Gidget was credited with sparking a resurgence in the breed’s popularity. When she passed away in 2009, Taco Bell released a statement: "Our deepest sympathies go out to her owners and fans."

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.


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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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