As early as the 1500s, explorers found what we call the Chinese Crested Hairless in Asia, Central, and South America ports, as well as in African cities which some experts believe is their true origin, having descended from dogs known as African Hairless Terriers. Chinese traders encountering these dogs refined them, and renamed the dogs, “Chinese Crested Hairless;” their spread across the world was likely at the hands of merchants and sailors who found that the dogs were natural-born ratters who could keep a ship’s vermin under control.
By the 19th century, the breed appeared in European art and architecture, and in America, it gained passionate fans in the late 19th century. One of those fans was a newspaper reporter named Ida Garrett who saw the breed at dog shows in the late 1870s (three Chinese Crested’s were shown in 1878 at the Gilmore Garden, the predecessor to Madison Square Garden). Garrett worked well into the 20th century breeding the dogs, and in the 1920s, collaborated with a fellow fancier Debra Wood, who went on to found the American Hairless Dog Club which for a time served as a registry for all Hairless breeds. In the 1950s, Louise Hovick, better known as Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stage personality (okay, she was a stripper) got a Crested and helped give the breed exposure (ha, a pun) as well as becoming an ardent breeder, herself. When she died in 1970, her dog, “Lee,” was sold to none other than Ida Garrett and Debra Wood.