Ancient Chihuahuas Once Roamed, and Eaten, in Southeastern U.S.?

Chihuahua pot from Niesler Mound in Georgia

The origins of the Chihuahua have been lost in the mists of time yet new research reveals they once roamed the southern states of Georgia and Tennessee. The discovery was made by analyzing dog effigy pots unearthed in Georgia and Tennessee to determine the most likely breed they represented. Although most of these pots were unearthed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, no breed analysis had ever been conducted until now. The shocking conclusion was that Native Americans in the southeast likely raised Chihuahuas as food for their elite and that these Chihuahuas arrived there from west Mexico, 1800 miles away, after an ancient version of 9/11 destroyed the Native American “world trade center” known as Casas Grandes. (For more info read: “Possible Representation of Mexican Chihuahua Breed on Dog Effigy Pots from Georgia?

Archaeologists Uncover Dog Pots in Georgia

In 1937, a large Native American cemetery was discovered in west Georgia known as the Bull Creek site. Located near Columbus, Georgia, the pots were described as dog effigies yet no attempt was made to determine the breed they represented. They were said to be similar to dog pots found near Nashville, Tennessee. The pots were cataloged and then donated to the local museum, the Columbus Museum of Arts & Sciences, where one such pot is currently on display.

Chihuahua pots unearthed in Georgia

In 1997, the Georgia Department of Transportation prepared the final report on the site and noted similarities between the dog pots from the Bull Creek site with those from four other Native American towns dating between 1325-1500 AD. Yet, once again, no attempt was made to determine the breed of dog represented by these pots. These dog pots were noted for their similarity to other such pots unearthed in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Colima dog pot from west Mexico

In 2011 the first attempt was made to identify the breed of dog represented by these pots and their possible origins. The research, “Were Creek Indians from West Mexico?“, noted the similarity between the dog pots and the modern Chihuahua breed. The report also noted similar dog effigy pots were found in west Mexico in the state of Colima. Yet most research about the origins of the modern Chihuahua breed speculated that they were the result of crossbreeding native Mexican dogs with European or Chinese dogs brought with the first explorers in the 1500s. Since the dog pots in Georgia dated to around 1325  AD this seemed to contradict this widely held belief about the origins of the Chihuahua.

Chihuahua Origins in Mexico

Comparison of Bull Creek dog pot and modern Chihuahua

The latest research reveals that not only do these pots found in Georgia represent Chihuahuas but that the Chihuahua is purely a native dog of Mexico. (Read “Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S.?“)  The research shows that the pots match the American Kennel Club’s breed standard for only one breed of dog: the Chihuahua. In addition, the research uncovered Chihuahua dog effigy toys found in Veracruz, Mexico that represented the Chihuahua breed and dated back to at least 100 A.D., long before the arrival of Europeans. In fact, these toys were widely distributed being found as far south as El Salvador, thus suggesting the Chihuahua had a similar wide distribution at an early time period.

Wheeled toy representing “apple head” Chihuahua from Tres Zapotes, Veracruz dated ca. 100-200 AD.

These toys are notable because they have wheels, an invention the people of Mexico were not supposed to have known about before the arrival of Europeans. All the archaeological reports on these wheeled dog toys focused primarily on the wheels and not the breed of dog they represented. Thus without even realizing it, archaeologists had discovered not only evidence of the wheel in Mexico but also the earliest evidence of the Chihuahua breed.

Chihuahuas, Ancient Terrorism, and the American Southeast

Modern legend has it that all modern Chihuahuas are descended from those first discovered roaming around the ruins of the Casas Grandes archaeological site in Chihuahua, Mexico thus the origins of their name. Casas Grandes was a major center of trade in west Mexico. The site was similar to modern southwestern pueblos but on a much larger scale. Its structures rose seven stories tall making them the Native American equivalent of a skyscraper.

Casas Grandes pot depicting “Deer Head” variety of Chihuahua.

Archaeologists have noted that Casas Grandes seems to have been greatly influenced by the cultures of west Mexico. Archaeologists have also noted that Casas Grandes had a far-flung trade network whose traders roamed far and wide throughout Mexico and the American Southwest. They raised scarlet macaws and turkeys in a multitude of cages and one room contained over 4 million seashells from the Pacific Coast. Apparently trade in seashell jewelry was big business. A pot unearthed at Casas Grandes is decorated with the heads of Chihuahuas proving that the dog had a long history in the area.

Ruins of Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Yet around 1340 AD the city came to a violent end when it was apparently attacked, burned to the ground, and its inhabitants massacred. The city’s walls were breached and the supporting timbers on the ground floor were set ablaze causing the massive seven story complex to collapse in on itself much like the fires ignited by jet fuel weakend the World Trade Center’s structural supports and caused them to collapse in on themselves on September 11th. Two centers of trade housed in the tallest structures of their time and both met the same tragic end. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Bull Creek dog pot dates to around 1325 AD

Around the same time that Casas Grandes came to a violent end, the dog effigy pots representing Chihuahuas first showed up in Georgia. Could survivors from Casas Grandes have escaped their enemies by fleeing into the woodlands of the southeastern U.S.?

Interestingly, the Kasihta-Creek Indian tribe lived in the area of Georgia where these dog pots were found. Their migration legend strongly suggests they originated in west Mexico before undertaking a long migration and eventually settling in Georgia. Unfortunately, the legend also states that when they arrived in Georgia they massacred an entire village so that their tribal members could each have a house.

Early eye-witness accounts of Chihuahuas throughout the Southeast

The dog effigy pots are not the only evidence of Chihuahuas in the southeastern United States. The early Spanish conquistadors who explored the region in the 1500s noted that several tribes raised “little dogs” which they kept very fat in order to eat. Apparently this food was reserved for the elites of the towns. The Spanish also noted these “little dogs” were mute.

Scholars apparently thought the Spanish accounts couldn’t be trusted and suggested the animals referred to as “little dogs” were more likely oppossums. Yet a similar custom of elites eating fattened dogs was common in Mexico. The breed usually eaten was the Techichi which was a mute dog that the modern Chihuahua is thought to be derived from. The dog pots in Colima in west Mexico show fattened Techichis which provide visual evidence for this practice. The dog pots in the southeastern U.S. show fattened Chihuahuas which suggest this tradition was also practiced in the southeast. Thus it is likely the early Spanish eyewitness accounts were accurate descriptions of Native American traditions in the region.

The Maya Connection

In both Colima and Casas Grandes there is evidence of extensive Mayan influence. In both areas archaeologists have unearthed typical Mayan ball courts. The red macaws bred at Casas Grandes are a bird from the Mayan areas of southern Mexico. Cacao trees have been found in Colima which is far outside their natural habitat in the Mayan areas of southern Mexico. It is likely these represent an orchard established by Mayan traders. It is also known that Maya elites ate a small Chihuahua-like dog just as their Southeastern U.S. counterparts. And as noted previously the earliest evidence of Chihuahuas in the form of wheeled toys comes from Mayan areas. Thus it seems likely that both areas were ruled over by Mayan priests and traders which may explain the ferocity with which Casas Grandes was attacked and destroyed. The attackers paid special interest in destroying the religious temples. Was this an uprising by locals who were tired of being ruled over, exploited and used as sacrificial victims by their Maya overlords? Was it these Mayan overlords and traders who fled and re-established themselves in Georgia?

Conclusions

The presence of Chihuahuas in the southeastern U.S. provides a new view of Native American life before the arrival of Europeans. The fact that these dogs likely arrived with people from west Mexico shows that the cultures of North America were more interconnected than modern scholars currently accept and trade was more widespread than believed. Alas, the destruction of Casas Grandes shows that human nature has changed little over the centuries since and is likely to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future. To learn more about the evidence that Chihuahuas once roamed the Southeastern U.S. read: “Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S.?

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