Cute, confident, and outspoken, Chihuahuas are one of the oldest dog breeds. Some dogs have an apple-shaped head, which conforms to the breed standard, while others are deer-head Chihuahuas.
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Regardless of their head shape, as any Chihuahua owner can tell you, their personalities are much bigger than they are. People love to dress them up and take the dogs with them wherever they go, and they fully cooperate. In fact, they seem to take all of this special attention in stride with an attitude of, "But of course! This is my right!"
Chihuahua history and origin
While the Chihuahua's exact origin is somewhere between speculation and educated guess, they're included in decorations on ancient artifacts from many parts of the world. Exactly how they made their way to Mexico is unknown.
They appear in ancient Mexican paintings and are Mexico's national dog. They were first discovered by North Americans around 1850. Chihuahuas are named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which is south of El Paso, Texas.
Ranked No. 1 on the list of "Top 16 Smallest Dog Breeds" and 30th in popularity among the 193 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, Chihuahuas have wiggled, yipped, and demanded their way into people's hearts.
The Chihuahua’s good looks
The little and infinitely lovable Chihuahua comes in 30 different colors and with a dozen different types of markings. No wonder the AKC's breed standard reads, "Color: Any color — Solid, marked or splashed."
Standing a mere 5 to 8 inches tall, and weighing no more than 6 pounds, Chihuahuas are classified as a toy breed. They can easily live a good 14 years and up.
They come with short, smooth coats or long, fluffy ones. Chihuahuas have a rectangular silhouette, which means they are a bit longer than they are tall. The most significant difference between various purebred Chihuahuas is their head shape. Most Chihuahuas have an apple-shaped head or a deer-shaped head.
The apple-head Chihuahua
Apple-headed Chihuahaus have very round, domed skulls. There is a distinct and straight vertical line from the bottom of their forehead to the top of their muzzle. Apple-head conformation tends to make the muzzle look quite short and slightly upturned, and the eyes look large. This gives the apple-headed Chihuahua an adorable puppyish expression no matter how old she is.
Apple is the only head shape accepted by all of the major kennel clubs, including the AKC. If you have thoughts of joining the dog show circuit, you'll have to pass on any Chihuahua puppy that doesn't have an apple head.
The deer-head Chihuahua
The deer-headed Chihuahua is so called because the shape of its head closely resembles the shape of a baby deer's head. The top is gently curved rather than obviously round like the apple-headed Chihuahua. Also, deer-headed Chihuahuas have longer muzzles than their apple-headed cousins.
The head's overall shape is triangular. It's wider at the back and narrower at the front. There's no 90-degree angle between the bottom of the forehead and top of the muzzle. Instead, there's a natural and gradual slope.
What causes different head shapes?
There's no clear documentation on how Chihuahuas came to have distinctly different head shapes. But backyard breeders and possibly even puppy mills contributed to creating the differences in the deer head and apple head chihuahua.
Professional breeders, who may have best in show aspirations, are very careful about pairing up Chihuahua parents who are likely to produce puppies that meet the breed standard. More casual breeders, who are just trying to produce cute pets to sell, are likely more relaxed about which mom they introduce to which dad.
Over time, dogs that don't meet the breed standard are mated and pretty soon you have an entire line of dogs that are still purebred Chihuahuas but have their own distinct appearance.
Which head shape is better?
The answer to which head shape is better is simple: It depends. Are you looking for a sweet and sassy little pup who will be loyal, fun, and feisty? Or are you looking for a sweet and sassy little pup who will be loyal, fun, feisty, and meet the official breed standard?
Some sources claim that there are behavioral and personality differences between apple-headed and deer-headed Chihuahuas. The truth is that any differences of this sort are purely anecdotal. There is no scientific evidence that one variety is behaviorally different or better than the other.
What is a molera?
If you start digging around for information on Chihuahua head shapes, you'll soon come across the term "molera." A molera is a small opening in the middle of the top of your Chihuahua puppy's head. Similar to the fontanelle that newborn humans have, it feels like a soft spot.
Most puppies of any breed are born with moleras. Sometimes, especially in toy breeds like the Chihuahua, it never closes. If your Chihuahua's molera does not close, it's no cause for alarm. Just be extra careful to protect him from head injuries.
Sometimes the molera is touted as a sign of excellent breeding in Chihuahuas. Don't buy it. Some have it, some don't. The AKC's breed standard accepts both.
The peach-head Chihuahua
Another type of Chihuahua head, also named after a fruit, is the peach head. This head type is basically just a combination of the apple and deer head. It's not distinctively one or the other, so it's been dubbed the "peach head."
A peach-headed Chihuahua may have a rounded head that has a slightly triangular shape to it and a gentle slope from its forehead to its muzzle. Or it may have a deer-shaped head that has a sharp, straight line from forehead to muzzle.
Different heads, same care
Regardless of their head shape, color, or coat length, all Chihuahuas need the same loving care. First and foremost, their very small size must be considered. A Chihuahua is probably not the best choice in a house full of rambunctious children. There's too much risk of accidental injury to the tiny dog.
Chihuahuas are smart and need stimulation. They're easily purse-portable, so many owners keep their Chihuahuas' minds active by bringing them wherever they go. If you're unable to do this, make sure your pup gets regular stimulation with walks and trips to the dog park. Also, when walking your Chihuahua keep in mind that she takes at least five steps for every one of yours and temper the length of walks accordingly.
Be sure to socialize your Chihuahua puppy early. They tend to bond with one person and can be downright hostile toward anyone else. Giving them opportunities early on to interact with others will help them learn to at least tolerate someone else petting them.
Chihuahua health issues
Some common Chihuahua health issues are problems that affect a lot of small breeds. They include dental problems, hypoglycemia, and luxating patellas.
Small dogs have small mouths that can cause their teeth to become overcrowded. This could lead to painful impactions and premature wearing away of the enamel. The usual annual canine dental treatment that's recommended for most dogs may have to be stepped up to twice a year for your Chihuahua.
Hypoglycemia is not that unusual in toy breeds. IV treatment will be required in severe cases but feeding your Chihuahua small amounts of food frequently can prevent it. A luxating patella is essentially a dislocated kneecap. It can be helped with a supportive splint and medication but may also require surgery.
The last word on heads
If you're Chihuahua puppy shopping, you may be smitten by the apple head. They can be especially endearing when they're at that stage in which their head looks just a little bit too big for their body. Or, you may be drawn to the deer head because it's a sleeker, smarter look. But then there's that peach head with the gorgeous, long, silky coat.
Remember, they're small. The only thing better than one Chihuahua is two or three. More than one apartment dweller has conquered the "one small dog" policy by pointing out that several tiny Chihuahuas weigh the same as one small dog.
- All Things Dogs: Deer Head Chihuahua vs. Apple Head Chihuahua – What’s the Difference?
- American Kennel Club: Chihuahua
- America’s Pet Registry: The Chihuahua
- Chihuahua Wardrobe: What is a Molera in Chihuahuas?
- Healthy Children: Your Baby’s Head
- Inside Dogs World: Top 16 Smallest Dog Breeds
- Pet Chi Dog: Chihuahua Colors