Get to Know the Chinese Crested: The My Little Pony of the Dog World

Some say "most beautiful" while others say "ugliest" -- the Crested is a dog of extremes.


The My Little Pony of the dog world, the Chinese Crested does look like a tiny prancing pony. Touted by some as the most beautiful breed and by others as the ugliest (they’re wrong!), the Crested is a dog of extremes. Some are hairless, while others are puffballs. Some are adventurers, while others are lap dwellers. But they have in common being one of the sweetest breeds there is!

More interesting things about the Chinese Crested

  • The Crested comes in two types: the hairless and the powderpuff. And you’d never guess they were related if somebody didn’t tell you!
  • The hairless Crested may be confused with the Italian Greyhound or the hairless Peruvian Inca Orchid, but the Crested has long, silky hair on his head, ankles, and tail tip.
  • Despite its name, the breed probably originated in Africa as the dog called the African Hairless Terrier in the 1800s. Cresteds share the same hairless gene with the Xoloitzcuintli and are probably related.

  • Chinese seafarers may have acquired these hairless dogs on trips to Africa and kept them as flea-free ratters and as curios to trade.
  • The breed made its debut in England as part of a zoological exhibit.
  • The first Crested was registered in England in 1881.
  • The first Crested came to America in 1880.
  • In the late 1950s and ’60s, burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee popularized the breed in America. She was a serious breeder and most of today’s Cresteds go back to her breeding.

  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1991. It is in the AKC Toy Group.
  • A single gene, identified in 2008, is responsible for the hairless trait.
  • All hairless Chinese Crested are heterozygous for the mutation causing hairlessness; that is, they have one gene for being a hairless and one for being a powderpuff. This is because the hairless gene is what’s known as a lethal dominant. One copy of it causes hairlessness; but two copies cause death in the earliest embryonic stages. Because of this, on average, matings between two hairless Cresteds will produce two-thirds hairless puppies and one-third powderpuffs. Before this was understood, breeders thought the powderpuffs who kept appearing in their litters were nature’s way of keeping the other puppies warm! Matings between two powderpuffs will only produce more powderpuffs.

  • The mutation that causes hairlessness in the Chinese Crested, as well as in most other hairless breeds except for the American Hairless Terrier, also causes crooked and missing teeth (especially premolars).
  • Hairless Cresteds are naked except for long silky hair on their head, ears, ankles, and tail. The extent of hair growth is quite variable. A so-called “hairy hairless” is a hairless who has so much coat growth it covers nearly his entire body; it is believed to occur because of variation in the gene’s expression. The coat of a hairy hairless is silky and single, rather than the fuller double coat of a powderpuff.
  • Powderpuffs grow long double coats over their entire body and face. The face and often the ears are usually shaved close for show purposes.

  • The hairless skin can be prone to sunburn, drying, blackheads and acne, and actually needs a lot of care.
  • A hairless Crested named Sam won the World’s Ugliest Dog contest for several years.
  • The Chinese Crested is the 68th most popular AKC breed, down from 61st a decade ago.
  • A Chinese Crested has yet to win the Toy Group at the Westminster dog show.
  • Chinese Crested Nathan the Dancing Dog just may be the most amazing doggy dancer ever!
  • Lastly, do you know what’s unbelievable? We can’t find any celebrity owners!

Do you own a Chinese Crested? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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