Chihuahuas are one of the world’s smallest dog breeds, so it may seem unlikely that they were originally bred to hunt and kill rats. However, their roots can be traced back hundreds of years to an area of Mexico where small dogs were valued for their speed, courage, and aptitude as ratters.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, chihuahuas were originally bred by the Toltec civilization in Mexico to hunt and kill rats and other rodents.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll explore the origins of the chihuahua breed, examine historical accounts describing their use as ratters, analyze their physical and behavioral attributes that suit them for rodent hunting, and compare them to other breeds also developed for ratting.

The Origins of Chihuahuas in Mexico

Chihuahuas, those adorable tiny dogs with big personalities, have a fascinating history rooted in Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, they were not specifically bred to kill rats. Instead, their origins can be traced back to ancient times.

Chihuahuas Descended from the Techichi

The ancestors of Chihuahuas were known as the Techichi, a small companion dog breed that existed in Mexico as far back as 300 BCE. The Techichi were highly valued by various indigenous cultures, including the Toltecs and the Aztecs.

These dogs were cherished as companions and were often depicted in ancient artwork.

The Techichi dogs were small in size and had a distinct appearance similar to the modern-day Chihuahuas. They had large, round eyes, erect ears, and a compact body. These traits have been passed down through generations, contributing to the characteristics we see in Chihuahuas today.

Toltecs in Mexico Valued Small Dogs

The Toltecs, one of the ancient civilizations in Mexico, held a particular fondness for small dogs. They believed that small dogs possessed mystical and healing powers. These beliefs and their admiration for small dogs like the Techichi played a significant role in the development and preservation of the Chihuahua breed.

The Toltecs’ reverence for small dogs continued even after their civilization declined. The Aztecs, who followed in the footsteps of the Toltecs, also held small dogs, including the Techichi, in high regard.

They believed that these dogs had the ability to guide the souls of the deceased through the afterlife.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Chihuahuas began to gain popularity outside of Mexico. They were introduced to the United States, where they quickly captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts. Today, Chihuahuas are one of the most beloved and recognizable dog breeds worldwide.

For more information on the history and origins of Chihuahuas, you can visit

Historical Accounts of Chihuahuas Used for Ratting

16th Century Writings Describing Techichis as Ratters

Historical accounts from the 16th century reveal that Chihuahuas, or Techichis as they were known back then, were indeed bred for ratting purposes. These pint-sized dogs were highly valued by the ancient civilizations of Mexico, including the Toltecs and Aztecs, for their exceptional hunting skills.

They were trained to hunt and kill rats that infested homes, farms, and communities.

Did you know? The ancient Mayans believed that Chihuahuas possessed mystical powers and would bury them alongside their deceased owners to guide them in the afterlife.

19th Century Descriptions of Chihuahua Ratting Abilities

Fast forward to the 19th century, and we find numerous accounts of Chihuahuas being used as formidable ratting dogs. The breed’s small size, agility, and tenacity made them ideal for squeezing into tight spaces and dispatching rats with ease.

Their keen sense of hearing and acute sense of smell allowed them to detect and track rodents, making them an invaluable asset in controlling rat populations.

According to American Kennel Club (AKC), Chihuahuas have retained their hunting instincts throughout the years. They are still known to exhibit strong prey drive and can be quite successful in ratting competitions today.

Fun Fact: In the 19th century, Chihuahuas were often referred to as “ratters” due to their exceptional ratting abilities.

Chihuahua Physical Traits Suited for Ratting

Chihuahuas, known for their small size and adorable appearance, may seem like unlikely rat hunters. However, these pint-sized pups were indeed bred with the purpose of being skilled ratting dogs. Their physical traits make them well-suited for this task.

Small Size

One of the key physical attributes that make Chihuahuas effective rat hunters is their small size. Being compact and lightweight, they can easily maneuver through narrow spaces and tight corners where rats often hide.

Their petite stature allows them to access areas that larger dogs may struggle to reach, making them ideal for hunting vermin in confined spaces such as barns or warehouses.

Quick Reflexes

Chihuahuas are known for their impressive agility and quick reflexes. These traits are crucial when it comes to ratting, as rats are notoriously fast and nimble creatures. The Chihuahua’s ability to react swiftly and change direction rapidly enables them to keep up with their prey and make swift movements to catch them.

Terrier-Like Nature

While Chihuahuas are not classified as terrier dogs, they do possess some terrier-like qualities that contribute to their ratting abilities. Terriers are known for their tenacity, determination, and prey drive, which are all characteristics that can be found in Chihuahuas as well.

Their feisty and fearless nature allows them to fearlessly confront rats and stay focused on the task at hand.

It is important to note that while Chihuahuas have a history of being rat hunters, not all Chihuahuas possess these ratting instincts today. The breed has evolved over time, and many Chihuahuas are now beloved companion animals rather than working dogs.

However, their physical traits still make them well-suited for ratting if their instincts are nurtured and encouraged.

To learn more about Chihuahua history and their ratting capabilities, you can visit, the official website of the American Kennel Club, which provides comprehensive information on various dog breeds.

Chihuahua Behaviors Show Instinct for Rodent Hunting

Chihuahuas, despite their small size and adorable appearance, have a natural instinct for hunting rodents. This may come as a surprise to many people who associate Chihuahuas with being lap dogs or fashion accessories.

However, these tiny dogs were originally bred for a purpose – to hunt and kill rats. Their behaviors and characteristics clearly demonstrate their innate abilities for rodent hunting.

High Prey Drive

One of the key traits that make Chihuahuas effective rodent hunters is their high prey drive. They have an instinctual desire to chase and capture small creatures, which includes rats. This drive can be observed in their behavior, as they quickly become alert and focused when they sense the presence of a rodent.

Their small size and agility allow them to navigate tight spaces and corners, making them excellent at tracking down and catching their prey.

Courage and Tenacity

Despite their small stature, Chihuahuas are known for their courage and tenacity. These qualities are essential for engaging in a task as challenging as hunting rats. Chihuahuas are not easily intimidated by their prey, and they will fearlessly confront rodents that are many times their own size.

Their determination and persistence in the face of danger make them formidable opponents for rats, ensuring that they fulfill their purpose as efficient rodent hunters.

Expert Nose for Sniffing Out Rodents

Chihuahuas possess an exceptional sense of smell, which enables them to detect the presence of rodents with great accuracy. Their noses are finely tuned to pick up the scent of rats, making them ideal for sniffing out these elusive creatures.

This keen sense of smell is a crucial asset in their hunting abilities, as it allows them to track down rodents even in hidden or hard-to-reach places. Once they have located their prey, Chihuahuas will use their other hunting instincts, such as their high prey drive and agility, to capture and eliminate the rodents.

Comparisons to Other Ratting Dog Breeds

Chihuahuas are often associated with their small size and big personalities, but did you know that they were also originally bred for ratting? While it may be surprising to some, Chihuahuas were indeed bred to hunt and kill rats, just like other ratting dog breeds.

Let’s explore some of the similarities and differences between Chihuahuas and other ratting dog breeds.

Similarities and Differences with Rat Terriers

Rat Terriers are known for their exceptional ratting skills and high energy levels. Just like Chihuahuas, Rat Terriers were originally bred for hunting and eliminating rats. However, there are some notable differences between the two breeds.

Rat Terriers are generally larger and sturdier compared to Chihuahuas, making them more suitable for physically demanding tasks. Additionally, Rat Terriers have a strong prey drive and a keen sense of smell, which allows them to excel in ratting activities.

On the other hand, Chihuahuas may be smaller in size, but they compensate with their speed and agility. Despite their small stature, Chihuahuas are incredibly fearless and tenacious when it comes to hunting down rats.

Their small size also allows them to access tight spaces where rats may hide, giving them an advantage in certain hunting scenarios.

Shared Traits with Yorkies and Other Ratting Dogs

While Chihuahuas and Rat Terriers have their unique characteristics, they also share some common traits with other ratting dog breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers (Yorkies). Yorkies, like Chihuahuas, were initially bred for ratting purposes.

They possess similar qualities, including a strong prey drive, intelligence, and a fearless attitude.

These ratting dog breeds, including Chihuahuas and Yorkies, have been highly valued for their ability to control rat populations. Their skills have proven to be invaluable in various environments, including homes, farms, and even ships.

Ratting dogs have played an essential role in keeping these areas free from vermin and protecting valuable resources.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and characteristics of ratting dog breeds, visit the American Kennel Club’s website for detailed information.


While chihuahuas today are known primarily as companions and lap dogs, evidence shows they were originally developed in Mexico by the Toltec civilization to fulfill an important role as ratters. Their small size, quickness, courageous temperament and keen sense of smell made them adept hunters of rodents around Toltec settlements.

This ratting heritage is still evident in the breed today, though most chihuahuas now use their rat-hunting instincts and abilities mainly for recreational animal pursuits like lure coursing.

Chihuahuas share many traits with other breeds specialized for rat catching, but have a uniqueness from their beginnings in Mexico helping the Toltecs manage vermin. Their long history as ratters makes sense when you look at their physical abilities and behaviors that seem tailored by breeding specifically for that purpose.

So while they may be tiny dogs, chihuahuas have big roots as fierce rodent hunters and killers.

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