The "Chinese Powderpuff" isn't a strange doll with large eyes and pink hair or a new technique for applying lightweight make-up. It is a dog breed--known as the Chinese Crested--that weighs roughly 5 to 12 pounds, measures 11 to 13 inches tall up to the shoulders and typically lives between 13 and 15 years. Nowadays, Chinese Cresteds are recognizable as show dogs that are unique, loyal, playful and as purebreds go, relatively easy to keep.
There are a couple of theories as to the origins of the tiny Powderpuff. Some breeders believe that it is a descendant of African canines known as the African Hairless Terrier. The Terrier was transported to China in the 13th century and modified to serve as a rodent killer and exotic pet. The breed has now become extremely popular in South and Central America, where breeding has been encouraged. This popularity may be why others believe that the breed is a combination of the Mexican Hairless dog and the Chihuahua. Ironically, the Chinese Powderpuff can no longer be found in China.
The "Powderpuff" name refers to the silky coat of the Chinese Crested puppy, but the breed can also be hairless. Hairless Chinese Cresteds only have hair on the head, tail and feet, resembling a Clydesdale horse. The Hairless Crested happens to be like a "horse of a different color": not only does its skin come in various hues such as lilac, blue or gold, but during the summer months, as often occurs with humans' skin, the color deepens. One could say this is natural skin pigmentation reacting to sunlight; however, a little dog that turns purple could be seen as magical.
A Chinese Crested Powderpuff has an amiable temperament. Quite energetic and affectionate, this purebred acts like a shadow, because it can become very attached to its owner. Some sources say the breed is great with children, while others stress that the animal is delicate and may not benefit from touching by little hands. This love bug needs patient and gentle training, due to its sensitive nature. Despite their energetic nature, Chinese Cresteds are content with short walks and lots of attention.
The Breed today
The Powderpuff requires weekly brushing, but the Crested breed's soft skin can also easily burn and needs protection from the damaging sun. However, even Powderpuffs shed very little and thus are good companion animals for those with allergies. Hairless Cresteds face greater health challenges because they are more prone to genetic defects. For this reason, Powderpuffs are used in breeding, to improve the health of the Hairless variety. In order to keep a Chinese Crested healthy, many owners resort to cooking the dog's food, keeping in mind that the breed's geographic origins (China and South America) indicate the need for a diet of fish, rice and soy. An owner should make sure to provide the correct mineral and vitamin supplements to any home-cooked meal, but excluding vitamin C and excessive carbohydrates, to spare the breed's kidneys.
By Kathleen March
About the Author
Kathleen March has been a writer for 40 years. A professor and translator of Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician, she has studied several languages and uses them for travel and research. She enjoys medieval architecture and avant-garde poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous critical journals in the U.S. and Spain.