Curious Canines: Colima Dogs at Special Collections

As we at special collections work to sort out our vast collection of ceramic pottery, we have found several beautiful and unique pieces. We recently found several Colima dogs; colima dogs are intricately crafted ceramic vessels or figurines molded to resemble early breeds of Mexican canines. These dog figurines were then buried in tombs with their “masters”. In Colima society it was believed that these dogs would help lead their masters into the afterlife. Some of the vessel shaped dogs would be filled with organic material such as food to serve the deceased on his or her journey to paradise. The Colima dogs are thought to be depictions of two Mexican breeds of dogs: Chihuahuas and Xoloitzcuintlis, also known as Xolos. Both breeds of dogs have long been crucial players in Mesoamerican folklore. The Chihuahua may have been used by the Aztecs for “religious sacrifice, burying them with their dead masters so the person’s sins could be transferred to the dog. Some people believe the Chihuahua’s small warm body can be used to relieve stomach upset and arthritis or to discourage asthma attacks”. The Xolo is one of the world’s oldest breed of dogs and is the first dog of the Americas. “In ancient times, it was believed that Xolos safeguarded the home from evil spirits and intruders. Today the breed is still considered a “healer” in remote Mexican villages and is used to ward off and cure ailments such as rheumatism, asthma, toothache and insomnia”. There are currently four Colima dogs housed at Special Collections. One of the dogs is thought to have been used as an early incense burner; the remaining three are the vessel shaped dogs. These vessel dogs were probably buried with their masters long ago and resurfaced to be used for research in an institution like ours. If you are interested in seeing these curious canines stop on by Special Collections any week day between 8 am and 5 pm.

For more information on Mesoamerican dog folklore click here.

Colima Dogs

Colima Dogs

Colima Dogs

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