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The Difference Between Deer Head Chihuahuas and Apple Head Chihuahuas
By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 07/13/2020, edited: 11/18/2021
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If you’re thinking of getting a Chihuahua, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about two different types of these pint-sized pooches: deer head Chihuahuas and apple head Chihuahuas. But if you look at the official breed standard from the American Kennel Club (AKC), the only types of Chihuahuas mentioned are smooth-coated and long-coated varieties.
So what exactly is a deer head Chihuahua, what’s an apple head Chihuahua, and what’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look.
The Official Version
Let’s clear up one point of confusion first. Despite what you may have heard, neither the deer head Chihuahua nor the apple head Chihuahua is an official variety of the breed.
Instead, the AKC breed standard calls for Chihuahuas to have “a well rounded ‘apple dome’ skull.” Most major kennel clubs around the world have the same requirement, so if you want to conform to the official benchmark and take your dog into the show ring, you’ll need to choose an apple head Chihuahua.
But if you’re just looking for a companion animal, either a deer head or an apple head Chihuahua could be the “pawfect” choice. Both varieties have long coats or smooth coats, and can come in all the normal Chihuahua colors. They also boast the same charming, spirited personality for which Chihuahuas are adored the world over.
As the name implies, the most obvious difference between these two gorgeous Chihuahua varieties is the shape of their skull.
We’ll start with apple head Chihuahuas first because they conform to the “ideal” standard. These dogs have a round, apple-shaped head that looks much like a dome. This broad head is paired with a short muzzle, the two meeting at roughly a 90-degree angle.
This apple-shaped skull tends to make the dog’s eyes much more prominent, which is a very endearing characteristic, while apple head Chihuahuas tend to be slightly smaller in size than their deer head counterparts. They have shorter legs and necks, which makes them one very adorable little package.
Interestingly, apple head varieties are usually born with moleras. Just like a fontanelle on a baby, a molera is a soft spot on the skull where it hasn’t entirely fused together. This spot may never fully close, so you’ll need to be cautious when handling your pet (just as you would need to be with the head of any dog).
Meanwhile, the deer head Chihuahua is recognizable by their longer, narrow head that is somewhat reminiscent of — you guessed it — a deer. This dog’s longer snout meets the forehead with a slope rather than at a right angle, so those gorgeous eyes are often less pronounced than on apple head Chihuahuas.
The ears and limbs of deer head varieties also tend to be larger, giving them a somewhat delicate appearance. In fact, because breeders of deer head Chihuahuas aren’t aiming to comply with the official breed standard, these dogs are often a little taller and heavier than apple heads. It’s not a major difference in the scheme of things, but it is certainly noticeable.
And while deer head Chihuahuas can have moleras, these skull soft spots are nowhere near as common as they are on apple head Chihuahuas.
Okay, so deer head Chihuahuas and apple head Chihuahuas look different. But does this have any effect on the overall health of these dogs?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Apple head Chihuahuas are susceptible to a wider range of health problems than deer heads. The abrupt angle at which the snout meets the head means these dogs are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems like reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse, while dental and eye issues can occur as well.
The shortened head also places these Chihuahuas at an increased risk of hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. However, the Chihuahua Club of America points out that hydrocephalus is not linked to the presence of moleras.
Frequently asked questions
Can my Chihuahua be a combination of both varieties?
Yes. Many Chihuahua pet parents are surprised to learn that some dogs will combine some of the physical features of apple head and deer head Chihuahuas. For example, your Chihuahua may have a narrow head but a short muzzle.
If you get a chance to meet the parents of a litter, you should be able to get a good idea of what the puppies will grow up to look like.
That said, don’t assume that breeding two deer head Chihuahuas will produce a litter full of deer heads, or that two apple heads will produce apple head puppies — either variety of puppy could potentially appear.
Should I buy a deer head Chihuahua or an apple head Chihuahua?
The main thing to remember when choosing between these two different types of Chihuahuas is that they both make magnificent pets. While they may look different and be prone to different health issues, this won’t affect their ability to bring joy, love, and companionship into your life.
If you’re keen to step into the show ring with your pooch, you’ll need to look for an apple head Chihuahua pup. But if that’s not important to you and you’re just looking for a loyal and adorable furry friend, either variety is wonderful. In short, don’t worry about the shape of the dog’s head — just give your Chihuahua all the love and attention they need and you’ll receive plenty in return.