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American Hairless Terrier
American Hairless Terrier

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Country of origin United States

Weight 5-25 lbs (2.5-12 kg)
Height 7-18 in (18-45 cm)
Coat hairless, coated variety has a short dense coat
Color variety of colors and patterns with white

The American Hairless Terrier is a rare breed of dog that was derived as a variant of Rat Terrier. As of January 1, 2004, the United Kennel Club deemed the AHT a separate terrier breed, in January 2016 it will achieve full AKC recognition. An intelligent, social and energetic working breed, the American Hairless Terrier is often listed as a potential good breed choice for allergy sufferers.

The American Hairless Terrier's American ancestry begins with the mixed breed terriers called Feists brought from Europe to the North America as early as the 18th century. In the late 1800s the Rat Terrier breed was developed from the Feist by the addition of Beagle, Italian Greyhound and Miniature Pinscher bloodlines.

The distinct American Hairless Terrier breed began in 1972 when one hairless puppy named Josephine appeared in a Rat Terrier litter in the state of Louisiana, United States. Owners Edwin and Willie Scott liked the dog's look and temperament, and upon maturity bred her hoping to reproduce the hairless quality. They were eventually successful; a litter produced in 1981 provided the foundation stock of the breed.

Breed recognition
In 1998, the breed gained recognition as the American Hairless Terrier (AHT) by the American Rare Breeds Association and the National Rat Terrier Club. Canada was the first country outside the US to gain recognition, by Canadian Rarities in 1999. In 1999, the breed was recognized as Rat Terrier, Hairless Variety by the United Kennel Club.

In the US, the American Hairless Terrier Association is the provisional breed club. Other national breed clubs around the world include the Canadian American Hairless Terrier Association and the Japanese Hairless American Terrier Club.

On January 1, 2004, the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the AHT as a distinct breed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) also includes the AHT within its Foundation Stock Series and allows them to participate in AKC Performance events and in Open shows.

Despite its smaller size, the AHT is not a toy breed. Rather, like its Rat Terrier cousin, the AHT is a working breed.

In January 2016 the American Hairless Terrier will be recognized fully by the AKC in the terrier group.

Coated American Hairless Terrier
In its 2006 description, the UKC continued to recognize the hairless and coated varieties of the American Hairless Terrier noting that "[w]hile it may seem contradictory to have coated dogs in a hairless breed, it will be necessary for the foreseeable future to continue to include some Rat Terrier crosses until there are sufficient hairless dogs to maintain a separate and healthy gene pool".

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American Hairless Terrier blue tri coated male with frisbee

American Hairless Terrier and Rat Terrier distinctions
The American Hairless Terrier's origins are unique in that the entire breed originated from a single hairless Rat Terrier female born in 1972. The AHT is therefore very similar to the Rat Terrier and the coated AHT is almost indistinguishable from its Rat Terrier cousin.

However, since the first litter born in 1982 from the originating hairless female, the AHT has continued to be developed as a distinct breed (see "Breed Recognition") with several characteristics that distinguish the AHT from its Rat Terrier origins. These differences include smaller sizes, more refined features, new eye colors, new patterns, new (skin) colors and, of course, a complete lack of fur on the hairless variety.

Other breeder choices have further differentiated the AHT. AHT breeders and clubs promote the undocked tail appearance on hairless, unlike the more traditionally docked appearance of the Rat Terrier. To date, the hairless trait has not been bred over to the other types of Rat Terrier such as the Giant Decker Rat Terrier or the Type B Rat Terrier (also known as the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier).

Hairless breeds and genetics
While there are unproven theories that other hairless dog breeds have common ancestry, the recent evolution of the American Hairless Terrier demonstrates an independent evolution from other hairless breeds.

A key difference found between the American Hairless Terrier and other Hairless Dog breeds is that the AHT's hairless gene is recessive, while the gene for hairlessness found in the ancient breeds is a lethal dominant.

The American Hairless Terrier does not have dental issues (absent premolars) or other characteristics associated with the dominant hairless gene.

For dogs where hairlessness is a dominant gene, hairless to hairless matings will on average produce 66.6% hairless and 33.3% coated puppies. For hairless to coated matings, there will be an average one to one ratio between coated and hairless offspring. In coated to coated matings, all puppies will be coated.

Matings between hairless AHTs will produce completely hairless litters. Between hairless AHT to coated AHT or Rat Terrier, results are more variable and will produce mixed hairless litters to all coated litters.

Hypoallergenic dog breed
There is no scientific evidence supporting the existence of a completely hypoallergenic dog breed and hairlessness is not the sole characteristic that will determine allergic reactions or its degree.

The American Hairless Terrier Association recommends individual allergy tests prior to adopting an AHT.

The American Hairless Terrier (AHT) is an intelligent, curious, and energetic breed.

Graceful and elegant, the American Hairless Terrier is also strong and athletic. The AHT enjoys participating in agility games like its other terrier cousins. The AHT typically likes to dig, chase small game and will bark when alarmed and will act as a good watch dog. The AHT is not a strong swimmer and should be monitored around water.

Its ancestry gives the AHT a strong hunting instinct, but its lack of coat makes it a less likely candidate for a hunting dog as rough underbrush may hurt the AHT's unprotected skin. As a breed founded by working dogs, the prey drive is strong in many AHTs. This has led to debate among owners as to whether or not AHTs are appropriate for families with young children. Due to the small size of many AHTs, they can be hurt if roughly handled.

The American Hairless Terrier continues to be a rare breed with a limited breeding stock. The UKC recognizes the need to continue to breed in Rat Terrier blood lines until "breed of breeds".

Although often stated otherwise, AHTs do not have sweat glands. There is no scientific evidence to suggest an independent evolution of sweat glands unique to this breed. The misperception has likely arisen from the presence of sebaceous glands associated with hair follicles. These are the same glands that are present in all canines. The hairless variety of this breed has the same follicles, however the "hair" is lost early on as the dog matures.

Rashes due to grass allergies are not entirely uncommon. Other allergies may occur as well, but this is no different from most other breeds of dogs. Due to their lack of hair, they may need protection from the sun (based on the season, their geographic location and the individual dog's degree of pigmentation or lack thereof). If needed, sunscreen can be applied or a light shirt may be worn. Clothing is oftentimes used, not only for the protection from the sun but from the cold as well (where the climate warrants).

The Fast and the Furless: Explaining Newly Recognized Dog Breeds
The American Kennel Club's latest members, the sloughi and the American hairless terrier, have some intriguing histories.

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The sloughi is an ancient breed that originated in North Africa. 

By Jason Bittel
PUBLISHED WED JAN 06 15:59:48 EST 2016

Meet the fast and the furless new members of the American Kennel Club: the greyhound-like sloughi and the American hairless terrier. 

The two new additions, which bring the AKC's total breed list to 189, have some quirky characteristics—and couldn't be more different. 

As its name suggests, the American hairless terrier is typically bald as a result of a recessive gene found in rat terriers.

In the early 1970s, breeders in the U.S. began selecting for that gene, eventually giving rise to a new breed of hairless canine that resembles a Dalmation mixed with a chupacabra. 

The American hairless terrier’s skin, which can be spotted or solid gray, is smooth to the touch. The animals are especially popular with people who suffer from allergies. 

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People with allergies often go for the American hairless terrier, which was bred to be bald. 

“Except there’s a twist,” says Gina DiNardo, vice president of the American Kennel Club. “Some American hairless terriers do have hair.” 

Because the hairless gene is recessive, all it takes is one dominant hair gene to make the dogs produce a wiry coat, she says. 

Born to Run

In contrast to the newly distinct American hairless terrier, the sloughi (pronounced SLOO-ghee) is a breed that’s likely been around for thousands of years. 

“There are paintings found in North Africa dating around 7,000 years ago with pictures of dogs that look very much like sloughis,” says DiNardo. 

While the smooth-coated, short-haired sloughi’s genetics may be ancient, the breed was only introduced to the U.S. as recently as 1973. 

Like greyhounds and whippets, sloughis were bred to chase prey over long distances. (If they were on a football team, they’d be wide receivers.) 

It’s for this reason DiNardo recommends not taking them off of the leash unless you’re in a fenced area. 

“Those traits that have been bred for thousands of years are still in that dog,” she says, “so if it sees something little running, it’s going to go chasing right after it.” 

Waiting in the Wings

Unfortunately for the newbies, the breeds won’t officially be allowed to enter the renowned Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show until 2017. (

However, when the breeds do become eligible to compete for Best in Show, they may have to watch out for the newest canine on the block. In July 2016, the AKC plans to formally recognize a small-to-medium-size Hungarian sheepdog called the pumi. 

And unlike its American hairless cousin, this pup’s got plenty of hair to parade before the judges. 
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