Major dog breed organizations, like the American Kennel Club (AKC), categorize the Chihuahua breed into two types: short coat and long coat. Unofficially, however, Chihuahua fans break things down even further. Namely, there are two major sub-categories: deer head Chihuahuas and apple head Chihuahuas.
While the most obvious difference between the two types of Chihuahua is the head shape, there are several other differences between the two, from size to body shape to likelihood of breathing problems. Categorizing Chihuahuas into deer heads and apple heads is useful, as it provides a wealth of information on what to expect from each type.
Apple Head Chihuahuas
- Dome-like, “apple” shaped head
- Short snout that connects to the head at a 90-degree angle
- Large, pronounced eyes
- Short jaw
- Small body with shorter appendages
- Often have moleras (a soft spot in the head, like a baby’s fontanelle)
- In line with AKC characteristics; can compete in traditional dog shows
Apple head Chihuahuas have a broad, rounded head, similar to—you guessed it—an apple. Their eyes appear to be quite large and they often protrude from their head due to the dome-like shape of their skull. They have a short snout that meets the head at a 90-degree angle. It’s also slightly pointed. Apple head Chihuahuas are smaller than deer head Chihuahuas, averaging five to nine inches height and a teensy two to six pounds in weight. Their legs and necks are generally shorter as well.
Unsurprisingly, most teacup Chihuahuas are apple head Chihuahuas. Similar to the unofficial deer head and apple head categorizations, there is no official teacup breed; the term simply refers to a small Chihuahua. Be cautious about breeders using the term “teacup” because breeding dogs for smaller and smaller size can lead to serious health issues.
Most apple head Chihuahuas are born with moleras, which are small soft spots on the top of their heads that occur because their skull hasn’t completely fused together. Moleras tend to close up as dogs get older, oftentimes in just three to four months, but they don’t always close. Even if a Chihuahua’s molera doesn’t fully close, it becomes smaller over time, as cartilage pushes the parts of the skull together.
It’s important to be extra careful with Chihuahuas with moleras, as head injuries can be more dangerous for them. That said, the molera itself isn’t harmful.
Apple head Chihuahuas are more prone to health problems than deer head Chihuahuas are. For instance, the sharp angle at which their muzzle joins their head puts them at risk for developing respiratory issues such as reverse sneezing, tracheal collapse, and brachycephalic airway syndrome, which can cause snoring and discomfort.
They’re also more likely to develop dental problems and eye problems. It’s important to make sure apple head Chihuahuas have excellent eye hygiene, as eye infections are common.
Although the AKC doesn’t specifically recognize apple head Chihuahuas, it does specify that a “rounded ‘apple’ head” is a hallmark of the Chihuahua breed. The AKC also defines Chihuahuas as having a height of five to eight inches, which is more in line with the apple head type than the deer head type. Subsequently, apple head Chihuahuas are the type that competes at dog shows, as they are most in line with the official characteristics laid out by the AKC.
Deer Head Chihuahuas
- Narrow, deer-like head
- Longer snout that meets the rest of the head with a slope
- Less pronounced eyes
- Longer jaw
- Larger body with longer appendages
- Can have moleras, though less common
- Cannot compete in traditional dog shows due to their head shape and size
Deer head Chihuahuas have more sloping facial features that resemble those of a deer. They have narrower, more angular heads than apple head Chihuahuas. Their snouts are longer and they don’t attach to the head at the same abrupt angle; it’s more of a gentle 45-degree slope. Their ears are typically larger and their eyes less pronounced. While deer head Chihuahuas can have moleras, they’re far less common.
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Deer head Chihuahuas are generally larger in size than their apple head counterparts. They can stand up to a foot tall and weigh up to 10-12 lbs, which is roughly twice as much as apple heads weigh. Their legs and necks are longer as well, giving them a more elegant appearance. It’s possible that deer head Chihuahuas are generally larger because breeders were never concerned with keeping them small since they can’t show. That said, teacup deer head Chihuahuas do exist.
While deer head Chihuahuas can’t compete in traditional dog shows due to their deviance from the official Chihuahua characteristics, they can be registered with the AKC if they’re purebred. Even though they don’t meet the criteria to show, deer head Chihuahuas get plenty of love in pop culture. In fact, many famous Chihuahuas are deer heads, including Legally Blonde‘s Bruiser Woods and Gidget of Taco Bell fame. Paris Hilton’s signature purse pup, Tinkerbell, however, is an apple head Chihuahua.
Deer head Chihuahuas and apple head Chihuahuas also have plenty of things in common. They can both come in short-haired and long-haired varieties. They also come in a number of colors including white, black, tan, red, fawn, and sable. They can be one solid color, or they can have markings such as a blaze, a mask, or kiss marks. There are no known differences in their temperaments—they both have that protective, spicy personality we know and love.
It’s also possible for a single Chihuahua to have characteristics of both the apple head and deer head varieties. Looking at the two parents will give you a sense of what their offspring will likely look like. That said, it’s possible for a deer head pup to pop up in the litter of two apple heads or vice versa.
Whether apple head or deer head, all Chihuahuas tend to be loyal and loving, and they make excellent companions.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons (deer head), Pixabay (apple head)