At the threshold of the Bicentennial of Peru, I fondly observe the portrait of the three Peruvian Hairless Dogs that are representing out country as pets native to Peru living in some of our embassies in Europe, North America and the Caribbean.
In the portrait I can see the look of tenderness that these little dogs transmit. At the same time, I admire their physical beauty: their silhouette, posture, and poise. Qualities acquired due to the geographical conditions of the land where they originated: the North and the Central Coast of Peru. On the one hand, these territories are populated by lavish beaches and, on the other, by enigmatic adobe pyramids that emerge from a vast desert where the Peruvian Hairless Dog or “Viringo” (as they call this breed in the North) has been able to develop its physical and mental aptitudes. Incidentally, when talking about this I remember a conversation I had with Mr. Roberto Rodriguez Arnillas, Peruvian Ambassador in Canada, when we were talking about Apu, his beautiful Peruvian Hairless.
“I wanted to have the opportunity to have a specimen of our national breed and to be able to showcase it in the country where I work, so that many people would know this beautiful dog breed.” – Roberto Rodriguez Arnillas, Peruvian Ambassador in Canada.
Indeed, enjoying a semi-warm but also dry tropical coastal climate, the Hairless Dog belongs to a megadiverse territory that consists of several different ecosystems.
As for its character, without a doubt the Hairless Dog is tender and noble. This being the result of the affection he received from the lords of the highest pre-Hispanic Peruvian elites, as well as from the inhabitants of their lands. Furthermore, it is its deep roots in the history of our country that has allowed it to survive to this day.
In this portrait I can imagine that each of them poses proudly next to the red-and-white flag of Peru, with the same pride with which they sat for the pre-Columbian ceramists and iconographers. But obviously it is not a human quality, but rather the beauty of the Peruvian Hairless Dog that captivated ancient Peruvians and is again inspiring new artists.
A few months ago, talking with Mrs. María Eugenia Echeverría Herrera, Peruvian Ambassador in Romania, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the Republic of Moldova, about Quilla, her cheeky Peruvian Hairless, she told me the following about the benefits of this dog breed:
“[They’re] noble dogs and attached to their owner (actually, to all the people in the house), affectionate, playful, with a positive temperament.” – María Eugenia Echeverría Herrera, Peruvian Ambassador to Romania, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Republic of Moldova.
However, for a moment I think about the impact that the new social and religious model imposed during the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire has had on this noble dog. Being an icon for ancient Peruvian cultures, dishonors were imposed on it that have lasted for many decades, to the point where it was practically forgotten in its own country for more than two centuries.
Despite this, today the Hairless Dog is once again recovering its place in society and regaining the affection of Peruvians. As the world-famous plastic artist Alberto Quintanilla tells us:
“This century, it is said to be the century of the Dog. The Peruvian Hairless Dog returns completely by itself, imposing itself on history and time, and challenging space by reaching other countries.” – Alberto Quintanilla, Plastic Artist
What’s going on? Are we currently living in a world where modernization takes us further away from ourselves, bringing us closer to our animals? Or is it the symbiosis between the inherent magic of the Hairless Dog and the fundamental changes of a society in constant reconstruction of its historical values and seeking to reinvent itself to face the new challenges in favor of the conservation of its biodiversity and the protection of its environment?
By the way, today, without realizing it, modernization imposes new challenges on us. We Peruvians are already a step ahead in this area because, though at a slow pace, several decades ago the Law of Protection of the Peruvian Hairless Dog was declared, which recognizes it as national heritage and a species to be preserved. Unfortunately, though, this law is not yet known to all Peruvians.
However, this will fortunately change. With this lack of awareness in mind, a Law was passed that requires archaeological site museums of the Peruvian coast to have a Peruvian Hairless specimen living on the premises. As a result, several museums in the country have already been working for the last couple of decades toward showcasing the Peruvian Hairless Dog in situ with aims to educate visitors about this dog breed that is an intrinsic part of the pre-Hispanic culture being studied in the place. One of these museums that proudly showcases the Peruvian Hairless Dog is the Museum of Túcume in Lambayeque, where even a cemetery dedicated to this dog breed has been built. The Director of the museum, the Archaeologist Bernarda Delgado Elías, is a great fan of the breed, and has been for many years. She had the idea of building this cemetery to pay tribute to all the dogs that lived with her now, as they did millennia ago with the ancient inhabitants of Túcume.
“Chisca Primera was an exceptionally good dog. She had up to four litters. She was the one who inspired me to build this cemetery for Peruvian Hairless Dogs. They will be our guardian angels for life.” – Archaeologist Bernarda Delgado Elías.
As well as Túcume, there are other museums in Northern Peru and Lima that, for several decades, have had at least one Hairless Dog specimen living on the premises for the purpose of promoting culture through exhibitions dedicated to this theme.
In the year 2015 we produced the film “The Peruvian Hairless Dog,” the first documentary film in the history of dogs dedicated exclusively to this Peruvian breed. It had the support of UNESCO and the Fédération Cynologique International (the largest canine association worldwide). In addition, many cultural activities have been carried out for several decades: animated characters of the Hairless Dog have been created; children’s books, comic strips and books on this subject have been published; among other things.
Undoubtedly, these are some examples of the advances that have been made in favor of the revaluation of the Peruvian Hairless Dog, thanks to which this breed has regained an important place on the list of cultural values of our nation
I can’t fail to mention the great work that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been doing toward spreading awareness about the Hairless Dog and the need for its conservation. A few months ago, I published an article pertaining to the rescue of a specimen of our Living National Heritage: a Peruvian Hairless was being given up for adoption in the city of Havana, Cuba. Due to its owner’s lack of resources, this dog was living under deplorable conditions. Its adoptive mother, Claudia Betalleluz, Minister in the Diplomatic Service of Peru and Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Peru in Havana, told me:
“As soon as I adopted it I baptized it with the name of Ñusta, thus returning to it that Peruvian cultural baggage it had lost on its arrival in Cuba.” – Claudia Betalleluz, Minister in the Diplomatic Service of Peru and Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Peru in Havana.
“El Tour de la Lengua” (The Language Tour) was the name of the first tour we made in 2017 to present the film “The Peruvian Hairless Dog” translated into Quechua. The first presentation was held at the House of Literature in Lima and was followed by lectures led by the writer and Quechua translator Gloria Cáceres Vargas and the filmmakers. This tour highlighted the importance of the Quechua language and that symbol of Peruvian Living Heritage, the Hairless Dog. The goal of the tour was to give Quechua a scientific dimension that would interest young Peruvian scientists. The tour was held consecutively in other cities of Northern Peru.
In 2019 we released a documentary short film titled “The Peruvian Hairless Dog with Hair”. The title introduces the paradox of the existence of a variant that contradicts the name of the race. However, this first film on the subject reveals the existence and importance of this variant of Hairless Dog. It presents a lot of new information that, until then, no Peruvian institution had dared to broadcast—perhaps due to lack of interest or little research on this subject. The film introduces scientific studies that, when investigating the hairy variant, link for the first time the genetic condition of the Hairless Dog and the Foxi3 gene responsible for the lack of hair. The film was premiered at the Instituto Cervantes in Paris under the auspices of the Peruvian Embassy and was followed by a lecture led by biologist Víctor Vásquez Sánchez, President of the Arqueobios Association.
At that conference we were able to summarize the scientific and archaeological advances that have been made to date by world-renowned institutions and scientists. After this presentation we had a tour with the support of several institutions and universities of Northern Peru interested in delving deeper into this topic.
For our part, the adventure of the Peruvian Hairless Dog is just beginning. The second documentary film is in post-production. It promises to reveal much new information that was previously ignored, about this dog breed but also about political problems that have resulted in it being hidden almost to the point of disappearing from modern history.
But there is still a long way to go. At the threshold of the Bicentennial of our independence it is time to take a step back and have a renewed perspective in order to find solutions to perpetuate the conservation of our millennial dog breed, the Peruvian Hairless Dog, and ensure its place in the society of the new century.
It’s possible that thanks to the Hairless Dog’s intrinsic magic that place is already assured. Taking this into account and added to the interest that we see through our readers (academics, young students, lovers of the Hairless Dog and enthusiasts in general), I have the feeling that Peruvians will be up to the new challenges for the permanent conservation of this millenary dog.