According to the FCI breed standard, the most important aspect of its appearance in Peruvian Inca Orchid is its hairlessness. The dog may have short hair on top of its head, on its feet, and on the tip of its tail. In Peru, breeders tend to prefer completely hairless dogs. The full-coated variety is disqualified from conformation showing. The color of skin can be chocolate-brown, elephant grey, copper, or mottled. They can be totally one color or one color with tongue pink spots. Albinism is not allowed. The eye color is linked to the skin color. It is always brown, but dogs with light colors can have clearer eyes than darker-skinned dogs.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid gene that causes hairlessness also results in the breed often having fewer teeth than other breeds, mostly lacking molars and premolars. All are born with full sets of puppy teeth, but these are not fully replaced by adult teeth as they naturally fall out, leaving them with varying levels of adult dentition. The hairlessness trait is a dominant double lethal mutation, which means that homozygotic hairlessness does not exist. Homozygous embryos, those with two copies of the gene, do not develop in the womb. This results in an average birthrate of 2:1, hairless : coated. According to Hans Räber “Enzyklopädie der Rassehunde” T.I 33% of the population is born coated.
While they are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) for its Foundation Stock Service as Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs, they cannot be shown at AKC shows, they are also registerable with FCI, UKC, NKC, APRI, ACR. Some breeders think that interbreeding with coated (Peruvian) dogs is required to maintain functional teeth and nervous system health in subsequent generations. They say that breeding of hairless with hairless (and common but unacknowledged culling of hairy pups from litters to maintain a “pure” image) leads to short-lived dogs with serious health problems. However, other breeders (especially in Peru) think the opposite, and are doing well (for centuries already), too. Peruvian non-breeder families typically out-breed with coated dogs every other or every third generation to keep them healthy.
Like all breeds there are some health problems. These include IBD, seizures, stroke, and skin lesions. They are very sensitive to toxins and care should be taken in use of insecticides. Insecticides are absorbed through the skin, and body fat keeps these toxins from entering the liver too quickly. Since these dogs have very low body fat, toxins are absorbed too quickly and cause severe damage to the nervous system and GI tract.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid, also called the “PIO,” is a lively, alert, inquisitive sighthound that plays well with other dogs and is easy to live with. The Peruvian Inca Orchid’s temperament is similar to that of a Whippet. They are loyal and affectionate to their family members and make excellent companions. These are sensitive dogs that are best suited for homes with adults and older children. They are instinctively protective and defensive around unfamiliar people and dogs. Because they are suspicious of strangers, PIOs make good watch dogs and guard dogs. They don’t appreciate being left alone for long periods of time and do best having at least one other canine friend in the family. These are active, agile, athletic animals that probably aren’t the best choice for first-time dog owners. However, with experienced owners, they can be alert guardians and friendly companions all in one package. It is very important to start socializing and training PIOs at an early age, so that they grow into stable, reliable adults. Mature PIOs are generally calm, quiet, smart and somewhat independent. They are devoted to their owners, reserved with strangers, but rarely aggressive.
Built like Greyhounds, Peruvian Inca Orchids are extremely active and love to run. They are not quite as speedy as Whippets, but they hold their own in lure coursing competitions. These are high-energy animals, especially as puppies and adolescents, and they need a healthy dose of regular daily exercise to stay physically and mentally fit. They do best in homes that have moderate-to-large, securely-fenced yards, where they can stretch their legs and get lots of exercise on their own. They also enjoy and benefit from long, leisurely daily walks. This breed loves to chase birds, plastic bags moving in the breeze and anything else that moves and is within sight. PIOs should stay indoors during periods of extreme temperature or weather, or be well-covered with sunscreen (if it’s hot and sunny) or a coat (if it’s chilly or damp).
Peruvian Inca Orchid are smart, alert, attentive and trainable. They usually learn standard obedience commands and household manners fairly easily. They can be a bit rambunctious, but still typically are fast learners, especially when trained with reward-based positive reinforcement techniques rather than harsh, loud verbal or physical corrections. PIOs do best with multiple short, fun training sessions instead of single long training sessions, to prevent boredom, distraction and loss of interest. They can be quite protective of toys, food and people. Consistent training from a young age is necessary to teach PIOs proper doggy etiquette.
Hairless Peruvian Inca Orchids are extremely sensitive to weather conditions. They do poorly in extreme heat and extreme cold. They will seek out tightly confined spaces to avoid drafts and maintain proper body temperature. Most owners put coats or sweaters on their hairless PIOs when they go outside in cold or damp weather, and apply lots of sunscreen when they are out in the heat of the day. Both the hairless and coated varieties are virtually non-shedding. They rarely drool. PIOs are quiet dogs, but certainly will sound an alarm when their people are threatened or when they are scared or directly challenged. Some PIOs, especially young ones, become frightened and flighty in unfamiliar situations. Owners should socialize their dogs regularly with unfamiliar animals and people starting when they are young puppies. This will help to desensitize them and make them more comfortable around strangers and in new settings, which in turn will make them react more predictably as they mature. With their extreme intelligence and alert, protective nature, Peruvian Inca Orchids make excellent guard dogs. With their affectionate, kind, sensitive dispositions, they also make terrific companions for the right people.
Hairless Peruvian Inca Orchids obviously don’t need to have their coats groomed, because they have no coats. However, they still need grooming. They should not go outdoors without sunscreen or a wrap of some sort, to provide protection from the sun or from chilly weather. Their skin should be wiped down with a warm, damp cloth every few days to remove dirt, dust and debris. Their skin also should be moisturized regularly with lotion or oil appropriate for use on dogs. The coated variety rarely sheds. However, its coat is prone to developing tangles and should be brushed regularly to keep it neat and tangle-free. Regular baths, with a very gentle shampoo, are important in both varieties of this breed. Ears, nails and teeth should be cared for as in any breed, with regular cleaning, clipping and brushing, respectively.
This is an ancient breed. Although it is often perceived to be an Incan dog because it is known to have been kept during the Inca Empire (the Spaniards classified them as one of the 6 different breeds of dogs in the Inca Empire), they were also kept as pets in pre-Inca cultures from the Peruvian coastal zone. Ceramic hairless dogs from the Chimú, Moche, and Vicus culture are well known. Depictions of Peruvian hairless dogs appear around 750 A.D. on Moche ceramic vessels and continue in later Andean ceramic traditions. The main area of the Inca Empire (the mountains) is too cold for the natural existence of hairless dogs. While they were commonly eaten in ancient times in the northern coastal areas of Peru the Inca prohibited the consumption of dogs when they conquered that region.
The Spanish conquest of Peru nearly caused the extinction of the breed. The dogs survived in rural areas where the people believed that they held a mystical value, and because of their reputation to treat arthritis.
In recent years, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) accepted the breed and adopted an official breed standard. Before that time, in the United States, some enthusiasts created another type of Peruvian hairless dog, the Peruvian Inca Orchid. The Peruvian Inca Orchid is recognized by the AKC, and all recognized dogs are descendants of 13 dogs brought from Peru in the early 20th century. The club UKC also recognized the breed in recent years.