Peruvian Inca Orchids: Dogs, Not Flowers!

With skin tones of pink and gray, this striking, naked dog certainly commands attention. Even more fascinating than their bizarre appearance is the rich history behind this unique, primal breed.

Dec 12, 2023By Chelsea Pinkham
2 peruvian inca orchids dogs not flowers

From high in the Andean Mountains of Peru comes a dog so ancient that his origin story must be traced back through ceramics and textiles. If dogs could speak their history to us, the Peruvian Inca Orchid would have a long and fascinating tale to share.

From being revered as sacred beings––to being driven nearly to extinction––this breed has faced a plethora of changing circumstances. Today, these clever sighthounds continue to turn heads wherever they go. And it isn’t just their nudity that is captivating!

A Poignant History: These Dogs Were Revered

inca orchid face
Image credit: Canva

The tale of the Peruvian Inca Orchid, also known as the “Perro sin Pelo del Peru” (dog without hair of Peru), is one that captivates anthropologists as much as dog enthusiasts. Just how far back their kinship with the indigenous people of Peru goes is not clear. From the outside perspective of anthropologists, the breed’s history begins around 750 A.D., when the dogs began to appear on Moche pottery. The indigenous Chimu, Chancay, Vicus, Nazca, and Incan peoples also portrayed the Peruvian Inca Orchid through ceramics and textiles.

In addition to being companions, the canines also held medicinal and spiritual value. Some cultures were believed to use the dogs’ urine and feces in medicine, and the Chimu people found that the dogs’ warmth was useful to those with joint pain or respiratory issues. Those who have never pet a hairless dog might be shocked to find that they are hot to the touch! Cuddling up alongside a Peruvian Inca Orchid provided warmth on chilly nights high in the mountains.

Ancient People Loved Their Hairless Hounds

peruvian inca orchid pottery
Photo Credit: American Kennel Club

An absolutely beautiful piece of the dogs’ history is the fact that ancient pottery and textiles often depict the naked canines dressed in sweaters. This isn’t just cute; it speaks to the compassion of the dogs’ caregivers. Not only was the dogs’ survival a priority, but so was their comfort.

The tenderness and consideration for this animal’s well-being, enough to adorn them in cozy sweaters to protect them from the cold, is a testament to the love that humans have felt for their dogs since the beginning of our species’ relationship. This challenges the myth that ancient peoples did not care deeply for their canine companions. The dogs were often buried alongside their human companions, thought to serve as guides and protectors to help navigate the road to the afterlife.

Peruvian Inca Orchids, in addition to being beloved friends, held a mystical, spiritual value to those who cared for them. They are more than just oddities–– they are living pieces of ancient history.

Peruvian Inca Orchids Are Rare

peruvian hairless dogs in peru
Image credit: NBC News

When Spanish colonizers arrived in Latin America, they wreaked havoc on long-established cultures. The lives of indigenous Peruvians were changed forever, and their beloved dogs did not fare much better. The Spaniards’ dogs began to interbreed with the Peruvian hairless dogs, causing many new litters to lose their hairless genetics forever. This change also caused three size variations to develop in these breeds. Today, there are both coated and hairless variations.

The Spanish invaders drove the dogs to the brink of extinction in a variety of ways. Some believe they were intentionally targeted and killed due to their spiritual value, as a method of replacing indigenous beliefs with Catholicism. Other sources state that the disruption forced many of the rural dogs into cities, where they were killed due to beliefs that the dogs were diseased or dirty. Either way, the arrival of the colonizers drove the dogs to the brink of extinction.

peruvian inca orchid staring
Image Credit: Peru for Less

Luckily, many ethical dog breeders in Peru continued to breed and preserve the dogs in hopes of saving the breed. This paved the way for later breed conservation efforts.

In 1966, eight dogs were brought to the United States, where the breed that Americans refer to as the Peruvian Inca Orchid was established and eventually registered by the American Kennel Club.

In 2000, the National Institute of Culture in Peru issued a resolution to relocate many dogs to museums and archaeological sites. There, breeding could be carefully monitored, and the long road towards re-establishing the breed began. Peruvians across the country poured a great deal of effort into resurrecting the dying breed.

Today, while the breed is uncommon outside of Peru, the dogs are steadily gaining traction in their home country.

These Hairless Hounds Are Very Independent

jumping inca orchid
Image credit: Canva

Peruvian Inca Orchids are about as dramatic in personality as they are in unusual appearance. Being sighthounds, all three size variations have a strong prey drive––meaning these dogs have no problem chasing cats. All Peruvian Inca Orchids are incompatible with small animals. Their swift, sleek, and agile nature bears resemblance to more familiar sighthounds, such as the Greyhound and the Whippet. True to their sighthound nature, Peruvian Inca Orchids can excel in breed-specific sporting events, like Lure Coursing.

Like most sighthounds, the Peruvian Inca Orchid is a sprinter, not an endurance athlete. This means that with access to space for a daily run, the dogs have a strong ability to settle in and relax. These dogs are deeply affectionate with family members and generally good with kids. Yet, they’re not always enthusiastic about meeting strangers. This is why positive socialization is essential from a very young age.

These Cat-Like Dogs Need Patience With Training

peruvian inca orchid
Image Credit: Canva

Peruvian Inca Orchids are considered an ancient dog breed, with its history spanning back centuries. These dogs haven’t been selectively bred for any behavioral purpose, so their temperament is similar to what it was thousands of years ago. These dogs have always done what they wanted to on their own time! This genre of dog breeds typically lacks traditional biddability, or a dog’s innate desire to please and work on behalf of humans.

They are highly intelligent but require a great deal of high-value reinforcement when training. Get your treat pouch ready because these pooches need plenty of incentive to learn even easy dog tricks! Training a Peruvian Inca Orchid can be compared to training a cat; it’s absolutely doable but requires patience, understanding, and motivation. Be proud of small accomplishments when training this breed; they’re not as fast to learn like Border Collies and German Shepherds.

Peruvian Inca Orchids Come in These Sizes

showstack peruvian inca orchid
Image credit: American Kennel Club

Peruvian Inca Orchids are recognized in three different size variations: small, medium, and large. The smallest can weigh as little as just nine pounds, while the largest up to 55 pounds. The small class starts at nine inches at the shoulder, with the large class standing at nearly 26.

These diverse dogs can come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, tan, gray, white, pink, copper, blue, and more. Hairless dogs can be solid in coloration and can also be covered in spots. Most Peruvian Inca Orchids are hairless, but there is also a coated variety. Coated dogs have short, tight fur. At first, one might not even recognize the coated Peruvian Inca Orchid as a member of its breed. After all, a lack of hair is what these dogs are known for!

Some Hounds Come with Hair!

coated inca orchid
Image Credit: Canva

While some hairless breeds are completely naked, Peruvian Inca Orchids aren’t always. These dogs often come with small patches of wiry hair around their heads and faces. They are sleek and deep-chested with large ears. The hairless variety has what are called “prick ears,” while the coated variety has “rose ears.” These strong dogs have relatively long legs and are among the fastest dog breeds in the world. Their unique appearance, paired with a confident and assertive personality, lends Peruvian Inca Orchids a regal and dignified look.

With proper care, the Peruvian Inca Orchid has an average lifespan of 12-14 years.

These Canines Have Special Care Considerations

peruvian inca orchid sweater
Image credit: Hepper

Hairless breeds are incredible to admire, but they are not for everyone. There are special care considerations that go into keeping Peruvian Inca Orchids, as well as other hairless dogs.

First, not all climates are suitable for hairless breeds. The Peruvian Inca Orchid comes from a region with relatively hot weather. Hairless dogs kept in cold climates will need clothes to supplement their nudity, just like humans! Dogs’ body temperatures are even higher than ours, so without hair or fur to keep them warm, these dogs can begin to feel cold pretty fast. If adding a hairless canine friend to your family, prepare yourself with a sweater collection.

Hairless Dogs Still Require Grooming

inca orchid pup
Image Credit: Canva

Peruvian Inca Orchids often need sunscreen to keep their skin healthy. Special, dog-safe sunscreens can be purchased to prevent sunburns and other common skin issues. While it’s true that the grooming needs related to fur coats are eliminated with this breed, the special care they require can cancel out their supposed low maintenance.

There is a strong genetic link between hairlessness and having fewer teeth in dogs; Peruvian Inca Orchids often lack molars. This means that dental exams, in addition to routine veterinary exams, can be beneficial for these dogs.

Temperament should always be considered above a dog’s appearance. Sighthounds and primitive breeds are groups that present unique challenges and aren’t good matches for everyone. Researching a breed’s behavior and compatibility with one’s lifestyle should always be the first step to adding a new dog to the family, regardless of how appealing a breed’s looks are.

Chelsea Pinkham
By Chelsea Pinkham

Chelsea is an animal advocate, rescuer, and aspiring rewards-based dog trainer. She is a Fear Free Certified Pet Professional with over a decade of animal experience. Chelsea has worked at animal shelters, sanctuaries and with many private dog training clients. She immerses herself in canine behavior education as she pursues her CPDT-KA dog training certification. In her spare time, she trains dozens of fun tricks for her and her partner’s rescued adventure cat, Iggy!