CHINESE cresteds, tiny dogs that usually are hairless except for floppy tufts on their lower legs, skulls, ears and tails, will become on Feb. 1 the American Kennel Club's 132nd registered breed.
Cresteds are odd looking or beautiful, depending on the eye of the beholder. In addition to the hairless, tufted ones, there are less-common "powder puffs," which, in addition to the tufts, have a veil of soft silky hair over their bodies. Both types come in all colors; many are spotted.
Approximately 2,200 of the breed are listed with the American Chinese Crested Club (ACCC).
Cresteds date back at least to the 16th century. As with most ancient breeds, facts about their origin are scarce. Some historians say there were hairless crested dogs, including varieties eaten by humans, in ancient China.
Another theory is that the Aztecs crossed the Mexican hairless with the Chihuahua. However, many contemporary breeders disagree with that theory, contending that the crested doesn't look a bit like either a Mexican hairless or a Chihuahua.
Mature specimens should be sturdy yet elegant and fawn-like, weigh seven to 10 pounds and measure 13 inches at the shoulder. To those who call the hairless skin "reptilian," breeder and former ACCC secretary Shirley C. Merrill of Randallstown, Md., retorts, "They don't feel reptilian at all. Their skin is soft and warm, like a baby's bottom!"
Cresteds are very cuddly, lively and playful, with a great sense of humor. Fanciers report that they do not shed, and are odorless; generally rugged and healthy, with excellent appetites. They adjust readily to different climates in spite of their bare bodies, are highly intelligent and fond of children.
A Chinese crested can grip with its paws, much as a human being does with the hands. They need frequent baths to prevent blackheads and will sunburn if care is not exercised.