Peruvian Inca Orchid

AKC Miscellaneous Class


Photo copyright © Patti Neale. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Patti Neale. All rights reserved.

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is thought to be descended from a hairless breed raised by the Colima culture, which flourished in western Mexico between 250 B.C. and A.D. 450. The breed then probably made its way to Peru via trade between various indigenous cultures. Pottery representations of these dogs have been found that date back to the Moche culture in A.D. 750.

Originally valued as guardians of the dead in several cultures, the dogs were also highly valued for the warmth of their skin, which was thought to cure fevers, asthma, and arthritis. The breed also has a coated variety, but indigenous people didn’t value that variety as highly.

Inca royalty used the dogs, which are a kind of sight hound, to keep their children and babies warm. When the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire in the sixteenth century, Incas fleeing the colonists took many of the dogs with them into the mountains where they still exist today among the Quechua Indians. In the cities of Peru, PIOs were for a long time low-status animals, often living as strays or among packs of other wild dogs in the streets. Many people believed the dogs were diseased; an American who brought eight of the dogs to the United States in the 1960s even exhibited them as the “Killer Dogs of Peru.”

Here in the United States, they are now valued for their intelligence, affectionate natures, loyalty, abilities as sight hounds, and primitive qualities (including strong guarding and prey instincts). Advocates of the breed are also trying to boost the popularity of the coated dogs.

While the AKC name for this breed is Peruvian Inca Orchid, it goes by many other names, too, including “Caa-Allepo” (the Quechuan word for “Dog Without Vestments”); “Perro Llucho” in Ecuador (meaning “Dog Turned Inside Out”); and “Perro sin Pelo de Peru” (the name now used in Peru, meaning “Dog Without Hair of Peru”). In 2001, Peru declared the Perro sin Pelo de Peru a “national patrimony” (or legacy). As a result, its status in the country is rising again. A board of scientists, government officials, and Kennel Club of Peru officials oversees the protection of the dogs.


The Peruvian Inca Orchid is a slim, elegant dog that comes in two varieties: hairless and coated; and in three sizes: small, medium, and large. The coated variety is less common, but both can be born into the same litter. The eyes should have an alert and intelligent expression, and can be any color from black to yellow. The hairless dogs have prick ears; coated dogs have a semi-prick ear that folds forward. The body is long, lean, and muscular, with a curved (convex) neck, a straight topline, a tucked-up belly, and a low-set tail that can be carried in a round curve above the back. The feet are longish and hare-like.

In the hairless variety, the skin should be smooth and elastic. Hair on the head, lower tail, and feet is acceptable; in fact, tufts of hair on the head are common. The skin can be any color, including spotted. The coat can be short or medium with feathering and can also be of any color.

Peruvian Inca Orchids move with a short, fast, soft step, although when they are full out running, they use the same “double suspension gallop” that other sight hounds do (with all four feet off the ground as the dog gathers her legs under her and when she stretches out). This movement provides for maximum speed and ground coverage.

Key Facts

  • Height:  Small: 9-3/4 to 15-3/4 in.; Medium: 15-3/4 to 19-3/4 in.; Large: 19-3/4 to 25-3/4 in.
  • Size:  Small to large
  • Weight:  Small: 8.5 to 17.5 lbs.; Medium: 17.5 to 26.5 lbs.; Large: 26.5 to 55 lbs.
  • Availability:  Difficult to find
  • Talents:  Lure coursing, hunting, sighting, agility, obedience, watchdog, guarding, and performing tricks


The skin on hairless dogs (and coated dogs with thin coats) needs to be bathed often, protected with sunscreen, and lubricated with a lotion or cream. The edges of the ears also need to be lubricated regularly to keep them from cracking. (The coated dogs just need normal bathing and brushing.) Webbing between toes needs to be checked regularly for cysts. Some Peruvian Inca Orchids react badly to rabies vaccines and should get them in the muscle, rather than subcutaneous tissue. Some hairless dogs are born without all of their teeth. The Peruvian Inca Orchid can be an inveterate fence climber, so high fences are necessary around your property.


Noble and affectionate at home with his family, the Peruvian Inca Orchid is lively and alert. They tend to be wary of strangers, which makes them good watchdogs. While they are very intelligent, this breed is primitive and requires a great deal of socialization or the dog can become fearful. Peruvian Inca Orchids are good with older children, but caution should be taken with young children, who might be too rough with these delicate dogs. Also be cautious with small pets that the dog might see as game. These dogs are athletic and agile, and require a great deal of exercise. They are very fast and must be leashed when outside or kept in yards with high fences, as they can easily climb or jump out.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Moderately protective
  • Trainability:  Can be slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Moderate (not particularly dominant or submissive)
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other dogs in the household; do not trust with non-canine pets.
  • Combativeness:  Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker


  • Grooming:  Little grooming needed (Hairless); Regular grooming (Coated)
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Hairless, short coat, medium, feathered
  • Shedding:  None (Hairless); Seasonal or constant shedder, depending on climate (Coated)
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Indoors:  Moderately active indoors
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Best in warmer climates
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners
  • Longevity:  Moderately long-lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Peruvian Inca Orchid Breed Standard

Peruvian Inca Orchid Breed Club

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Rescue Organizations

Books about the Peruvian Inca Orchid

Peruvian Inca Orchid Gifts