Meet the Breed: The American Hairless Terrier



  • Height: 7"-16”
  • Weight: 5-16 pounds
  • Historical function: Companion
  • Modern function: Companion
  • AKC classification: Miscellaneous Group

Physical Characteristics:

The American Hairless Terrier is physically identical to the Rat Terrier as it is a direct descendant of them. This breed has a sturdy, muscular build and does not have the dentition and skin problems of the other hairless breeds. Through refining the breed, the structure of the breed has changed somewhat from his Rat Terrier origins, becoming a slightly smaller in size, having finer features, new eye colors, new skin colors and patterns. Because the gene pool is small, there are outcrosses with rat terriers and there are both hairless and coated varieties within the breed. The ears are upright when the dog is alert, similar to the Rat Terrier. The skin is pink with gray, black, golden or red spots. Eye color may be brown, blue, grey, amber and turquoise. The tail is not docked and a bob tail is a disqualification. Dogs that exhibit the hairless quality are born with sparse, fuzzy hair all over their body. This fuzzy coat is completely shed by age six weeks except for normal eyebrows and whiskers.   

History of the Breed:

The American Hairless Terrier originated from a single puppy in 1972. In a litter of mid-sized Rat Terriers, a completely hairless female was born. This puppy became the pet of Willie and Edwin Scott in Louisiana. They were so enamored with her personality and clean nature that the decided to try and create a new breed of hairless dogs. They named her Josephine. Under the guidance of a geneticist and veterinarian she and her puppies became the foundation of the American Hairless Terrier. The AHT is often a good choice for allergy sufferers with fewer allergic reactions than other breeds. This trait, in combination with their intelligence and ease of care, make them excellent companions. With the breed's predecessors hunting history, the AHT has a lot of drive for performance events but is largely unsuitable for hunting as they have little protection from the elements.


The American Hairless Terrier is an intelligent, curious, and energetic breed that gets along well with children and even cats. Though elegant and refined, they are still strong and athletic. The AHT enjoys participating in agility trials and other performance events. They make good watch dogs but are not overly protective. Like other terriers, they enjoy digging and chasing small animals. 

  • Best suited for: Active families that provide plenty of mental and moderate physical exercise. Often an excellent choice for allergy sufferers, but must be evaluated on a case by case basis. 
  • Preferred living conditions: This is an indoor dog that does well in the town or city. Is well suited to an apartment with adequate walks. 

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Easy care skin requires clothing and sunscreen to protect from the elements. The coated variety has a very short coat that requires minimal grooming. 
  • Exercise needs: Daily walk and playtime are sufficient. Though energetic, this is a milder terrier that is often content being a lap dog. 
  • Life expectancy: 14-16 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to grass allergies, luxating patellas. Not prone to poor dentition like the other hairless breeds. 

Breed Club Links: American Hairless Terrier Club of America, Inc. Perfect Pairings: Dog clothes and sunscreen.

Have any stories about a American Hairless Terrier? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Patrick Oscar Boykin.

This entry was posted by Mary.
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