12 Surprisingly Hairless Pets
We as a people love little fluffy things. It doesn’t matter if it’s a puppy, a kitten, a hamster, or a wee baby lamb, fluff is in. However every once in a while a freak is born, a creature who was supposed to be cute and fluffy but somehow ends up bald. All mammals have the capability of having offspring with these spontaneous hairless genes and in some cases it's useful. Whales and dolphins are mammals and they don’t have hair. They would look utterly bizarre to us if they did. However most of these flukes are exactly that, something interesting that happens but really doesn’t benefit anyone, sort of like a two-headed turtle. In fact most people would cringe to see some of these creatures as we’re only used to seeing hairlessness in fluffy creatures when they have mange or some other disease. That being said some of us are attracted to them, we seek them out as pets and breed them purposely. Below are some of the crazy hairless animals found within a domestic setting.
The first hairless horse to be recorded by science was found roaming feral amongst a herd of zebra in South Africa in 1860. The horse was captured, studied, and put on exhibit. She had bright blue skin and captured the public’s adoration immediately traveling from South Africa to England where she performed in a circus, hunted fox, and stayed awhile in the Crystal Palace in London. What ultimately happened to her is a mystery but what we do know is many more like her were discovered in other countries in both feral and domestic populations of horse. So far as I can tell none were bred purposely to be hairless and this is probably best as they are prone to sun burns and other skin conditions. The most famous living hairless horse is ironically named Harry, though he was named this before he went completely bald. Unlike the first hairless horse who lacked follicles Harry was born with some fuzz and everyone expected he’d grow more but instead he lost it all.
There are at least five breeds of hairless dogs, some with a little hair like the hairless Chinese Cresteds and some with no hair like the Xoloitzcuintli (that’s Xolo to all of you who don’t care to try to pronounce that one!) The other breeds include but are not limited to the American Hairless Terrier, the Hairless Khala, and the Peruvian Incan Orchid. Not to be outdone some hairless puppies are born spontaneously to hairy breeds like Yorkshire Terriers, often to the shock and horror of their breeders. At that point these dogs are either not bred or encouraged to start a new breed so there might be a lot more mooning dogs out there than you think!
There are at least two genetically different strains of hairless cats out there forming the Sphynx breed and the Peterbald breed. There are several breeds on top of this but I have yet to discern if they’re playing with the same gene or are distinctive. Either way people love these little naked kitties. They’re obnoxiously friendly (or maybe just using your lap for heat – we may never know) and often are even colorful. Badly bred kittens may have heart issues later in life or other health problems while well bred ones are generally pretty healthy. In fact one of the world’s oldest cats, Grandpa, was a sphynx and he lived to be 34 years old! Not bad for a cat rescued from the Humane Society.
Hairless Guinea Pigs
Hairless Guinea Pigs come in two distinct varieties. The first to show up were named Skinny Pigs. These little darlings were indeed furless except for their fuzzy noses and faces. Baldwin Pigs were shortly after discovered. They were completely hairless. Not many people know that guinea pigs were first domesticated in order to be eaten and still are in some countries. So if you look at the photo adjoining this paragraph and think the hippo-like creature in it looks delicious don’t feel so bad.
Hairless Syrian Hamsters may shock some but they have been floating around the pet population for years where enthusiasts have named them Alien Hamsters. The first people I saw breeding them were doing so to feed them to reptiles. Why hairless animals get this terrible job I don’t know, you’d think the furry ones would be more nutritious. Now I think they’re more popular as pets, though they chill easier and therefore can send themselves into hibernation when other furry hamsters wouldn’t. Other than that I haven’t heard of any particular problems with them.
Hairless rats were first used in laboratories. This strain was called Nude and they genetically had little to no immune system making them very valuable for disease research. They are still bred and used in labs but in the meanwhile pet owners have discovered their own strains of hairless rats, at least two different distinct strains, some claim as many as four. All these strains are called sphynx, like the cat breed, or just hairless/furless rats. While the first ones in the pet market initially had very poor health, often dying of kidney failure early in life, breeders have worked very hard in outcrossing the strain and making them far more genetically diverse and viable. A good line of hairless from a reputable breeder should live about the same age as their hairy counterparts.
Hairless mice have been used in laboratories for years. You may remember seeing one with a human ear growing on its back in the 1990’s. They’re still mostly used for this but have made it into both the feeder and pet population.
Hairless Rabbits are being purposely bred for meat production at Texas A&M University in Kingsville. There they house 50 or so individuals they are using to create a bunny that can withstand tropical heat so that they can be used as a food source to developing countries. Many in the pet world are a bit horrified by this as to date furless bunnies that have showed up spontaneously in the pet population (and there have been many) usually die very early in their life suffering from all sorts of health problems. Besides this hairless animals might be OK in heat but they’d bake like a lobster in the sun with no fur to protect their delicate skin.
Don’t worry, I thought this photo was a testicle with a face too. It’s not just you snickering like a school child. No really, this is Spud, the world’s only known spineless hedgehog all rolled up into a ball. No one knows why he’s spineless but he was donated to the staff of the Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital in the United Kingdoms where he now enjoys lots of warm baths and I’m sure quite a bit of whispering.
Hairless calves show up fairly frequently but farmers usually slaughter them right away because what is the use of a hairless cow? That’s more work for what? Is someone going to eat that thing? They have all the same issues as hairless horses and are usually weak and die off anyway. The ones who grow old are a real odd novelty but do sometimes happen. Careful, too much sun and you’ll have a prematurely barbequed cow, too much cold and frostbite give him a bad case of living freezer burn.
Here again we see the obsession with making meat animals naked. In Tel Aviv scientists created featherless broiler chickens they hoped would do well in tropical foreign countries. The birds did not grow as large as normal meat chickens, they could not breed on their own as the rooster had no wings to give him balance to mate, and they had the same frailties as their mammal counterparts. FAIL. All this being said a few did get out into the pet population where bored knitters have adopted making clothes for them. The photo here is actually of someone's pet not lunch.
OK, most of us don’t keep each other as pets but I still found it worth mentioning that we are not unique in the animal kingdom as we too can inherent hairless genes. There are at least three known to cause non-fatal hairlessness and things like alopecia and male pattern baldness will probably always be around to wreak havoc on certain patches of hair, mainly on our heads. Since I can’t post a photo of a perfectly 100% bald human body on here I figured I’d just put a photo of Cinder the hairless chimp up instead. She lived to the 15. RIP Cinder.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.