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. 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.
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.
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.
Hairless Syrian Hamsters may shock some but they have been floating around the pet population for years where enthusiasts have named them Alien Hamsters. 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.
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