Deer Head vs Apple Head Chihuahua: What’s the Difference?

Deer head vs apple head Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are often referred to as being either "deer head" or "apple head," depending on their appearance and physical characteristics.

It's a common assumption that deer head and apple head are official varieties of the Chihuahua. But if you read the breed standards for the Chihuahua, you won't find them listed as such. The American Kennel Club (AKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) and United Kennel Club (UKC) recognizes only long coat and smooth coat (short coat) varieties. They do, however, call for a well-rounded "apple dome" head. So, what are deer head and apple head Chihuahuas and how do they differ?

Deer Head and Apple Head: What Does it Mean?

"Deer head" and "apple head" are unofficial terms used to describe a Chihuahua's appearance, particularly in regards to his muzzle and facial structure.

  • Apple head Chihuahuas have a round apple-like head with a 90-degree angle where the muzzle joins the forehead.
  • Deer head Chihuahuas have a longer deer-like head with a sloped junction of approximately 45 degrees where the muzzle joins the forehead.

There are other differences between the two (see below for a complete list), but you can usually tell a Chihuahua's type by looking for these characteristics.

Somewhere throughout the Chihuahua's history, the breed separated into two variations: the apple head and deer head. We don't when this genetic evolution occurred, nor do we know how. Pre-Columbian artifacts discovered in Central America depict small dogs with both apple and deer-shaped heads, suggesting this evolutionary split occurred before the Europeans discovered the New World.

Some breed experts theorize that a small ancient dog known as the Techichi is the Chihuahua's true ancestor, while the deer head variety is a cross between the Techchi and the Chinese Crested. Others believe the Techichi is the deer head's true ancestor. Regardless of how it happened, there are now apple head and deer head Chihuahuas.

The Apple Head Chihuahua

Apple head Chihuahua

The apple head Chihuahua is named after its apple-shaped head, which is noted in the breed's standards.

Apple head Chihuahuas can have a smooth coat or a long coat in any number of colors or color combinations.

Here are some of the characteristics of an apple head Chihuahua:

  • Apple head Chihuahuas feature a prominent 90-degree angle (known as a stop) where the muzzle meets the forehead. This juncture should essentially form an "L" shape, indicating an apple head. This is the most distinguishable feature of an apple-head Chihuahua.
  • Apple head Chihuahuas have shorter jawlines than deer head Chihuahuas.
  • They often have shorter necks than deer head Chihuahuas.
  • The AKC specifically mentions the apple-like facial features in its breed standards for the Chihuahua.
  • Due to their apple-shaped skulls, apple head Chihuahuas tend to have more prominent and expressive eyes.
  • Apple head Chihuahuas have a stout, "cobby" body featuring short legs relative to their body length.
  • Nearly all apple head Chihuahua puppies are born with a molera or "soft spot" in their skull. This cranial opening typically closes, however, by 3 to 4 months of age.
  • Apple heads are the only type of Chihuahuas that can compete in the show ring.

The Deer Head Chihuahua

Deer head Chihuahua

Also living up to its namesake, the deer head Chihuahua has facial characteristics resembling that of a young deer's face. If you look at a young deer's face, you'll notice they have a long muzzle, large ears and a sloped forehead, which are characteristics of this breed variation.

Deer head Chihuahuas are also found in both smooth and long coats. While coat colors vary, fawn is the most common.

Deer head Chihuahuas are just as popular, if not more popular, than apple heads. The Taco Bell dog, Gidget, was actually a deer head Chihuahua. During her 8-year career with the national fast food chain, she was responsible for introducing this breed to millions of Americans. Gidget was the first Chihuahua many Americans had ever seen. Her adorable appearance and fun-loving personality skyrocketed the breed's popularity through the late 1990s.

Here are some of the characteristics of a deer head Chihuahua:

  • The muzzle of a deer head Chihuahua is longer than an apple head's.
  • Instead of a 90-degree angle, deer head Chihuahuas have a slope where the muzzle meets the forehead. You can feel for this slope by gently running your index finger from the tip of your Chihuahua's nose up to his skull, which should reveal a gradual slope of approximately 45 degrees.
  • This variation typically has longer legs, resulting in a taller body height without the "cobby" appearance of an apple head Chihuahua.
  • Deer head Chihuahuas have larger ears, which like its apple head counterpart, also remain erect and upright once fully developed.
  • Deer head Chihuahuas often have longer necks.
  • They also have a longer jawline than apple head Chihuahuas.
  • Because they are not recognized by the AKC as an official variety, deer head Chihuahuas are disqualified from participating in conformation dog shows.
  • Moleras occur in deer head Chihuahuas, though the condition is more prevalent in apple heads.
  • Fawn is the most common coat color for deer head Chihuahuas (see images of deer head photos above).
  • Deer head Chihuahuas are often larger than apple heads, weighing more than the standard six pounds as defined in the AKC's breed standards.
  • Whether true or not, some owners claim deer head Chihuahuas are less aggressive.
  • It's also believed that deer head Chihuahuas have fewer health problems.

Only Apple Head Chihuahuas Meet Breed Standards

Neither the AKC nor any other major canine association distinguishes between apple head or deer head Chihuahuas. The breed standards for the Chihuahua require "A well rounded 'apple dome' skull, with or without molera." Other variations of the head, including the deer head, are not allowed.

Upon hearing this information for the first time, many owners assume their deer head Chihuahua isn't a real Chihuahua. If a Chihuahua doesn't meet the AKC's breed standards, conventional wisdom may lead you to believe he's not an actual Chihuahua, right? Not necessarily. You can still have a purebred Chihuahua without the characteristic apple-shaped head, and you can still register him with the AKC, assuming he's a pedigree whose parents are also registered. However, he won't win any ribbons for showmanship at conformation shows like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the National Dog Show, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, or Crufts since he doesn't meet the breed standards.

Breed standards created by the AKC and other canine organizations are used for judging dogs at conformation shows. If a competing dog fails to meet the standards for his respective breed, judges will automatically disqualify him from receiving the championship title. Spayed or neutered dogs are also disqualified from competing in conformation shows, regardless of whether they meet their respective breed's standards.

The bottom line is that deer head Chihuahuas are real Chihuahuas; they just won't win points or championship titles at conformation shows. The same can be said for Chihuahuas weighing over six pounds, which is also grounds for disqualification.

Should the AKC Recognize Deer Head Chihuahuas?

Being that they are so common, there's a strong argument that the AKC should acknowledge deer head Chihuahuas as a variation of the breed -- and this wouldn't be the first time the organization has done so.

In 1936, the AKC separated the English Cocker Spaniel into two varieties: the traditional English Cocker Spaniels and the American Cocker Spaniels. A decade later, they revised the standards again to include the American Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed (only dogs of different varieties can be interbred, not breeds). While similar in appearance the English Cocker Spaniel is shorter than its American counterpart and found in more colors. English Cocker Spaniels are also "showier," with less instinctual drive to chase prey.

1952, the Chihuahua Club of America (CCA) -- the official AKC parent club for the club --revised its standards for the breed, separating the Chihuahua into long coat and smooth coat varieties, the latter of which was preferred as pets. More than half a century later, breed standards created by all of the major canine associations recognize long coat and smooth coat varieties. Perhaps we'll see similar action taken by the AKC in the near future, acknowledging the deer head Chihuahuas as a separate variety.

Can My Chihuahua Have Characteristics of Both Apple Head and Deer Head?

Absolutely! Many Chihuahuas are born with, or later develop, characteristics of both apple head and deer Chihuahuas. A Chihuahua with a perfectly found apple-shaped dome may feature the longer muzzle and larger ears of a deer head variety. Or a Chihuahua with the sloped muzzle of a deer head may feature the apple head's cobby body.

Furthermore, don't assume that breeding two apple head Chihuahuas will result in a litter of all apple heads, or vise-versa for deer heads. When breeding two Chihuahua of the same variety, there's always a chance that one or more puppies in their litter will be the opposite variety.

In Conclusion...

Unless you plan to compete your Chihuahua in a conformation show, don't worry about whether he's an apple head or deer head. While there nuances between these two varieties, both exhibit the breed's fierce, confident and fun-loving personality.

Is your Chihuahua an apple head or deer head? Let us know in the comments section below!


88 Responses to “Deer Head vs Apple Head Chihuahua: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Trisha says:

    I have adopted an apple head I think he was at least a year old, his previous owners mistreated him (they only wanted the puppy stage ) apparently he had to fend for himself and ran loose all over town ,when I got him he was timid and even scared of doggie toys I had bought him,he knows now what LOVE is, he is the sweetest, cutest little guy I love him so very much, I guess you could say we found each other we make each other happy.

  2. Lori says:

    I have had my apple head chihuahua Rocco for almost 15 years. He has a perfect bill of health, a great temperament and loves children as well as other dogs and cats! My little “old man”, has brought so much joy to my life!

  3. Deborah says:

    I have a applehead pretty baby girl. She loves everyone. She is 3.5 lbs. She wants to lick everyone that comes to the house. Her name is pee wee. She is 1 and 6 months old now. She is really smart and gets along with everyone and every dog. I couldnt live without her.

  4. Jackie says:

    I am so fortunate to have a little one that not only is loyal but protects me in my panic attacks depression episodes and anxiety episodes. He has not had any training but my doctor said he wants me to always have him with me because I am better when he is. So he is now registered and is always by my side. Love goes along way with this breed my apple head is forever my fur baby.

  5. Natalie Henry says:

    I’m the owner of a hyper, clever, obedient,intelligent and loyal deerhead chihuahua.

  6. Dale Akers says:

    We have a chihuahua-jack Russell mix named 6-volt & a deer head chihuahua named Srae, (ears spelled backwards), both are well behaved, although voltie is more vocal. They are the first small breed dogs we’ve ever had & wouldn’t trade either of them for the world!

  7. Jess Morton says:

    Im the proud owner of a little, jealous, protective, loyal, clingy, spoiled Chiwawah named Gizzy. That my husband and I adore, he’s our child, literally! I would love to receive daily info on my bff♥♥~~ Thanks so much Michael, Jess, and Gizzy Danner

  8. Cathy says:

    Sheva, 6 years old, 3 pounds. Apple head and loves all people. She hates our female mixed, 6 pounds and All cats. She is vicious and will knock the huge cats down & eat them up. None of the cats attack her. As a pup of 10 ounces one cat did chase her. Just want her to not want to kill our little Bella. I flip her on her side and make her lay till she quits growling. I feel so mean but have no clue what else to do. Help us have a happier home. None of my dogs or cats will be given away ever!

  9. Darlene says:

    I have a second hand apple head and she is the most sweetest dog . I inherited her from my daughter after she moved out and had to leave her behind. my daughter never trained her so she barked at everyone and every thing. I dont tolerate that so she now only barks when nessessary. She loves all people and a hollow leg… does’nt like strange dogs though. We have a bulldog , the bulldog thinks she is a chihuahua Im sure… they play together and wrestle all the time, every so often the bulldog forgets her size and the chihuahua promply reminds her by chomping on her lip. Then all is good again.

  10. Kate says:

    The photo you have on this article of a deer head chihuahua actually looks like a Jack Russell.

  11. Laura says:

    Just got two chihuahua puppies that are 14 weeks old. Told both parents are purebred chihuahuas. Seen the mom looks like she is purebred. Only dad has papers (don’t know dad dog). How do I get my puppies registered. Also how to tell is mine are apple-heads or deer-heads…Google pictures are hard tell difference. Also any other info on training welcomed. Thanks!

  12. Hope Hale says:

    I’ve been told that Lindy my rescued chihuahua is a Mexican Chihuahua. She is long legged , has a long Snout, and her head isn’t Apple shaped, she has a arrow chest and long body. She was rescued from a kill shelter down south 2 days before she was to be put down. Lindy is now a therapy Dog, working at a residence for mostly People with memory loss. She also works with special needs children I do respite for and adhd kids I tutor. She is the sweetest calmest chihuahua I have ever had.

    • Carla says:

      A reputable breeder should have both parents registered. You register them from their paperwork. Chihuahuas and Pitbulls are the 2 most killed breeds in shelters. I sincerely hope you did not knowingly or unknowingly buy these from a puppy mill and sincerely pray you do not plan on breeding them.

  13. Lorraine says:

    We have an apple head. He is definitely aggressive. We have a German shepherd whom is very, very patient with him. Max has nipped many people and will attack other dogs. When the door bell rings, he is in attack mode. He’s almost bitten me a few times as well. He also has the breathing difficulty from time to time as well. However, he is a good watch dog and after reading the difference between the apple head and deer head, next time I will definitely search out a deer head. Max is a rescue and I attributed his behavior difficulties to his possible negative past treatment. I now there is a difference. I believe in obedience training and have competed many times over the years for obedience titles and have also judged the performance of many breeds. It was always a pleasure to see a well trained Chihuahua in the ring. Max is my first Chihuahua, my husband had several prior to our marriage. I do love the little guy, I just keep working at his less than friendly attitude.

  14. ceejay says:

    I have a little apple head she only weights 5 lb. and travels every where with me . She is my little service dog she is very smart . But they only thing I can’t change is she dislikes other dogs out side her family and she lives with a pit-bull and two other dogs , 4 cats and she just plays with them all.

  15. Randall Lane says:

    I have an apple head, she is not friendly to strangers and barks when she hears a noise even whenever the ice maker dump. She is very protective of my wife and me, she was potty trained in one week. She does not like outside and the smartest thing ever and love her so much

  16. Donald says:

    I own both an apple head and a deer head .. my deer head is the father(Matthew) my apple head is his daughter(pepper) .. Matthew is 2 1/5 had him since he was 2 months old .. self house broken by 4 months (I have never heard of animals house braking themselves .. until this one .. pepper i have had since birth .. the mother was also a deer head .. she had 4 puppies .. 3 apple heads 1 dear head .. pepper was fully pad trained/house broken by about 3 month .. I personally do not see an intelligence difference between the two breeds .. my two are the opposite both guard dogs but the apple head is generally the first to bark .. but as the guard dog bark .. if I’m walking them it’s the deer head that’s first ..(Matthew was my first small dog I have ever thought about owning now I don’t know what I would do without him .. or both at this point)

  17. catherine furr says:

    have adeerhead and anapplehead, Mocha and cocoa, had 3 and let them out to potty and someone got my bigger one, they are sisters and will not go anywhere without the other one. Mocha the deerhead is very protective and barks at every thing Chocoa is the applehead and never barks at anything, they are very sweet and different but adorable.

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