Archaeological evidence has been found in the tombs of the Colima, Mayan, Toltec, Zapotec, and Aztec Native Americans dating the breed to over 3500 years ago. Long regarded as guardians and protectors, the indigenous peoples believed that the Xolo would safeguard the home from evil spirits as well as intruders. In ancient times the Xolos were often sacrificed and then buried with their owners to act as guide to the soul on its journey to the underworld. These dogs were considered a great delicacy, and were consumed for sacrificial ceremonies–including marriages and funerals. Most likely, early forerunners of the Xolo originated as spontaneous hairless mutations of indigenous American dogs. Hairlessness may have offered a survival advantage in tropical regions. Indigenous peoples of Mexico had Xolo dogs as home and hunting companions, and today they are still very popular companion dogs. They are also the national dog of Mexico. Their value in ancient native cultures is evidenced by their frequent appearance in art and artifacts.
Xolos were considered sacred dogs by the Aztecs, Toltecs, Maya, and other groups. They were also useful companion animals. According to Aztec mythology, the god Xolotl made the Xoloitzcuintli from a sliver of the Bone of Life from which all mankind was made. Xolotl gave this gift to Man with the instruction to guard it with his life and in exchange it would guide Man through the dangers of Mictlan, the world of Death, toward the Evening Star in the Heavens. Some people in Mexico continue to believe this breed has healing qualities. The Aztecs also raised the breed for their meat. Sixteenth-century Spanish accounts tell of large numbers of dogs being served at banquets. Aztec Merchant feasts could have 80–100 turkeys and 20–40 dogs served as food. When these two meats were served in the same dish, the dog meat was at the bottom of the dish, either because it was held in higher regard or because it was increasingly considered a step above cannibalism.
The Aztecs consumed few domesticated animals like Xolos or turkey. Over 90% of the bones found at archeological sites are of deer that were hunted. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, his journal entries noted the presence of strange hairless dogs. Subsequently, Xolos were transported back to Europe. The breed is not well known in the United States. As a result, the Xolo has been mistaken for the mythical Chupacabras of Mexico. The Xoloitzcuintle is the symbol of Club Tijuana, a Mexican professional football club.