The American Hairless Terrier is a rare, energetic terrier breed equally adept at companionship and dog sports such as agility or barn hunt. In contrast to other hairless breeds of dog, the mutation responsible for their lack of coat is due to a recessive mutation that arose in Rat Terriers. The dog originally exhibiting this trait become the foundation for the American Hairless Terrier breed.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
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American Hairless Terriers are sometimes purposefully bred with their furry cousin, the Rat Terrier. While breeding two American Hairless Terriers together will guarantee a litter of completely bald puppies, their gene pool is so limited that it is often unsafe to breed them together too frequently, and out crossings with Rat Terriers are common in order to keep the gene pool somewhat varied.
American Hairless Terriers are a very rare breed of dog that has the distinction of having been created accidentally! American Hairless Terriers are actually a genetic variant of the much more popular Rat Terrier. They were discovered by accident when some Rat Terriers gave birth to a few inexplicably hairless puppies! The first totally hairless litter was born in 1981 and became the foundation dogs for the breed.
American Hairless Terriers are interesting from a genetic point of view. While there are a few other hairless or nearly hairless breeds around the world, the gene that most often produces dogs without any fur are dominant genes. These dominant genes often have collateral effects on the dog’s health, such as genetically absent adult teeth. On the other hand, the gene that makes American Hairless Terriers totally bald is a recessive gene, so they are not susceptible to some of the health issues that may crop up in other hairless dogs.
Despite their small size, American Hairless Terriers are technically a working breed, as their ancestors were used to hunt rodents. They are surprisingly strong and athletic and make excellent competitors in dog sports, particularly agility. They are very energetic and while they can do very well in apartments, they require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation or may become bored and restless.
True to the typical terrier temperament, American Hairless Terriers may not get along very well with other dogs. Because of their spunk, it’s very important to train them and socialize them from puppyhood. They are not an ideal breed for families with young children, as they are a small and somewhat impatient little breed that may not be too sympathetic to the antics of children.
Despite the myth that hairless dogs are hypoallergenic, American Hairless Terriers are not necessarily a good choice for those who suffer severe dog allergies, as many people are allergic to the dander and not the dog’s fur. There are also special grooming and health considerations to keep in mind when deciding to add a hairless dog to the family: they are sensitive to the elements and require skin care, just as other breeds require grooming.
American Hairless Terriers on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share American Hairless Terrier ancestry.