Much of the history of this fascinating breed, the Chinese Crested, cannot be stated as factual since much of it has become obscure over the centuries. As is the case with many of our very old breeds, the early development of the Chinese Crested is undocumented, therefore permitting spread of many tales and theories. The origin of the Chinese Crested has been one of speculation over the years. Some historians have theorized that the Chinese Crested is the result of the cross breeding of the Mexican Hairless and the Chihuahua indicating the root of origin being Mexico; others have theorized that the Chinese Crested had evolved from African Hairless dogs which were reduced in size by the Chinese. While either theory may be possible, there is pictorial confirmation that during the 16 century (as early as 1550) Chinese traders obtained the Chinese Crested either from the ports of Mexico or Africa and in turn sold or bartered them at ports throughout the world. In the 1800’s the Chinese Crested appeared in Central and South America as well as various ports in Asia. The Chinese Crested were of great value to the Chinese sailors during the time of the plague. The dogs were stowed away on board ships to hunt vermin, which were greatly infested with fleas carrying the disease. The Chinese Crested also served as a hot water bottle for those suffering from stomach pains and needing warmth. The final conclusion for this breed on ships was sailors serving them as a meal, thus the breed was also known as the Edible Dog, the Chinese Ship Dog, the Chinese Hairless, and the Royal Chinese Hairless.
The Chinese Crested had started to appear in paintings by the mid-19th century. Photos began to appear of the breed in the 1850’s and 1860’s; there were some dogs exhibited at zoological shows in England. At that time, there was no known established breeding program.
In the 1800’s dog shows became an organized sport throughout the world with an occasional Chinese Crested being entered in competition. Three Chinese Cresteds were shown in 1878 at the Gilmore Garden (predecessor to Madison Square Garden) show. A picture of both the Powderpuff and Hairless appeared in Harpers Weekly. During this period, a well-known journalist of the times, Ida Garrett, became interested in the Chinese Crested. thus turning a love of the breed spanning over the next 60 years. In 1885, a Chinese Crested was shown at Madison Square Garden from April 28 through May 1 under the auspices of the Westminster Kennel Club’s 9 Annual Bench Show.
Ida Garrett bred, exhibited, and wrote extensively about the Chinese Crested Breed with precedence being the Hairless variety. In the 1920’s Mrs. Garrett had befriended Debra Wood, who in the mid-1960’s founded the American Hairless Dog Club. This club eventually served as a Registry for all Hairless breeds. There were ladies in the entertainment industry who were responsible for rekindling an interest in the breed. Gypsy Rose Lee had acquired her first Chinese Crested from her sister, June Havoc, in the early 1950’s. June Havoc had obtained the dog from an animal shelter in Connecticut and it soon became Gypsy Rose Lee’s first Chinese Crested. It was believed that her Chinese Crested was abandoned when its owner died while in port. Through the diligent efforts of Ida Garrett, Debra Wood, Gypsy Rose Lee, June Havoc, and Florence Gorsky the Chinese Crested breed began being promoted.
The Chinese Crested was in the Miscellaneous Class of the American Kennel Club in 1955 when the first breed list was printed in the American Kennel Club Dog Show Rules. The revised list in 1965 dropped the Chinese Crested due to lack of an acceptable registry, no National Specialty Club, or reliable standard. At the time there were 200 Chinese Cresteds registered.
Ardent friends and supporters of the breed formed the American Chinese Crested Club in 1979. A reliable Standard was developed as well as a dependable Registry. Through intense work and commitment to the breed by the membership of the American Chinese Crested Club, in September of 1985 the Chinese Crested was once again able to compete in the Miscellaneous Class at American Kennel Club shows. From 1979 to February of 1991 the hairless and powderpuff Chinese Crested were shown as separate varieties, both needing to adhere to the same Standards, the only difference being the hairlessness of one variety and the coat of the other variety. While both varieties may appear to be different breeds, upon familiarity it becomes easy to see that they are the same breed with the differences being the lack of hair on the Hairless and complete hair covering the Powderpuff. The Chinese Crested became eligible for full American Kennel Club registration on February 1, 1991. Two months later on April 1, 1991 the Chinese Crested was given full recognition by the American Kennel Club to be shown at American Kennel Club shows in the Toy Group. On this momentous day, two Chinese Cresteds had won Best In Show; the first was Ch. Darshire Sun Nee Dal of Luvan and the second was Ch. Razzmatazzmanian Stripper, both hairless females.
While the Chinese Crested has been around for a long time, it remains a relatively young breed. The establishment of the breed over the past 30 plus years has required meticulous breeding programs and promotion of the breed. The evolution of the Chinese Crested has been a fascinating one; it has grown from being an almost extinct breed, to being ranked 79 out of 192 as recorded for 2019 by the American Kennel Club registered Breeds.