Every once in a while, I behold a creature so magnificent in its obscurity that I have to stop to marvel at its existence. This is how I felt when I first stumbled upon the Peruvian Inca Orchid. I want to share its cultural and historical splendor with you in this blog.

Let me paint the scene of our first encounter: I was volunteering at Huellitas Perrunas (a local animal shelter that Globalteer collaborates with) when this dog that looked like it might try to rob me in a dimly lit alleyway started sniffing my pockets. At first, I’ll admit, I gawked at the dog in horror and sheer disbelief. The animal was completely bald except for a mop of stringy hair on its head that vaguely resembled a mohawk. It appeared to be suffering from some disease that sparked hair loss.

“Does this dog have mange?” I questioned, quietly taking two steps back.

“No, that’s just Brad Pitt,” one of the shelter workers replied. “He was born that way.”

And it’s true. Despite needing sunblock to survive the Andean sun, the Peruvian hairless dog is often considered the national dog of Peru, widely admired for its affection, intelligence, and healing attributes.

Peruvian Inca Orchid"
Peruvian Inca Orchid"
A Brief History:

Brad Pitt’s ancestors date back 3,000 years, making the breed one of the oldest in the world. 

In fact, this absolute punk rocker of a dog is even immortalized in pre-Incan pottery and textiles dating back to 750 AD, demonstrating the Peruvian Inca Orchid’s cultural significance. For the Incans, owning one of these hairless wonders was a sign of nobility. Additionally, the Peruvian Inca Orchid was revered for hunting game while fearlessly guarding homes and protecting livestock. 

However, in the 19th century, Spanish colonizers viewed the dogs as diseased outcasts and nearly wiped out the entire population. Fortunately, villagers strived to save the dogs, as they were considered companions with healing properties. Luckily, the population is stable today.

Peruvian Inca Orchid"
Peruvian Inca Orchid"
A Mystical Link:

The Peruvian Inca Orchid has been associated with good health since pre-Incan times. 

Interestingly, the Chimu used the dogs' urine and feces as medicine. The Incans thought the animals held a spiritual connection to the moon. Due to their spiritual connection to the moon, some beloved pets were even mummified upon their owners' passing to keep unwanted spirits away. 

Peruvian Inca Orchid"
POI"

The dog is still believed to hold some magical attributes in the modern era! In Quechua, the dog is lovingly called Calato (naked) or Kaclla (hairless dog). The dogs are a welcome member of many families around Peru. Local Indigenous communities say that sleeping next to a hairless dog can relieve rheumatism or other health conditions like arthritis. 

Regardless of whether the dog can cure illnesses or not...spending time with the Peruvian Inca Orchid is always enjoyable because it is loyal, intelligent, and loving.

Peruvian Inca Orchid"
Peruvian Inca Orchid"
Volunteer or Intern with PAWS

By applying for an internship or volunteering position with Globalteer, you can spend time with a dog that once guarded the homes of the Incans. Of course, with the health campaigns and trips to local shelters, there are many other amazing animals to cuddle and play with too!

POI"
POI"

Are You Ready to Join Us?

The PAWS team always needs animal welfare interns to support their work. Your role will always be varied, depending on the skills and knowledge you bring. Interning is a two way street: you help to relieve the suffering of animals in Cusco and improve their lives, but also develop professional skills, add to your CV and have unforgettable cultural experiences on the way. To learn more, click on the link below or write to info@globalteer.org.

girl crouching with her arms around two brown dogs as a white dog comes up behind

Kathryn McDanel

Kathryn McDanel is a blog writer and photographer at Globalteer. With a master’s degree in Community-based Journalism and Cultural Advocacy, Kathryn has collaborated with communities in the United States, East Africa, and Latin America to protect human rights and promote cultural survival.

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