Breed Spotlight: the Shih Tzu

The exact origin of the Shih Tzu breed is unknown, but a dog with similar characteristics appeared in Oriental paintings dating back to 600 CE. The Shih Tzu’s ancestors are traced back to the temples of Tibet, where the Tibetan Lion Dogs were highly regarded as sacred animals. Only the most distinguished citizens were allowed to own them, and any person who harmed or stole a Shih Tzu could be put to death. 

The Shih Tzu breed was eventually brought to China, the country credited with the breed’s development, during the seventeenth century CE. During the Manchu Dynasty, Chinese emperors were given Shih Tzus as a token of kindness and good fortune. It became customary for all distinguished Chinese visitors to be presented with a pair. 

Although the Shih Tzu faced extinction during the Chinese Revolution, one ruler, Empress Dowager Cixi, had been an avid breeder of the Shih Tzu. It is thought that some of her eunuchs sold some of the palace’s dogs to the wealthy countrymen and foreign dignitaries. Although the death of the empress in 1908 ended an era for the Shih Tzu in China, its popularity continued to grow in the Scandinavian countries, Holland, England, and the United States after its introduction in the 1930s.

Want to learn more about the Shih Tzu? Click here for the full breed standard.


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