Shih Tzu - A Little Dog With A Big Story To Tell
Author: Connie Limon
Few dog breeds have such a well-documented and exciting history as the Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu’s entire history is steeped in legends, myths and mystery. However, we have fossil records that tell us the brachycephalic (short-skulled, short-nosed, flat-faced) dog breeds, which include the Shih Tzu, Pug, and Pekingese originated in Central Asia. In addition, we also have written history and legends to help us sort of piece together the last 3,000 plus years of the Shih Tzu’s history. There are meticulously maintained Shih Tzu breeding records and pedigrees for more than 50 years as well.
Many historians believe the Asian dog breeds originated in Tibet and reached China as early as 1,400 years ago. The Chinese traded silk in exchange for pet dogs along the Great Wall of China. The Dalai Lamas also gave “holy dogs” to the Chinese imperial courts as diplomatic gifts and tributes during the Manchu dynasty (1644-1911). In literature the Shih Tzu is mentioned by name in the late fourteenth century.
In China breeding and raising Shih Tzu were the responsibility of the eunuchs of the imperial court. Eunuchs who produced the best dogs were rewarded with gifts. Competition between the eunuchs to produce and raise the most attractive Shih Tzu was fierce. The best Shih Tzu specimens were painted in the imperial dog books and tapestries.
The Shih Tzu was considered to bring good luck. These regal little Shih Tzu followed on the heels of emperors and empresses. If you have ever owned a Shih Tzu, you will find one of their favorite activities is following around after you and right on the heels of your feet is where they try to ride. Shih Tzu think they should make each and every step you make. I have one Shih Tzu at the present time, Duke, by name, who tries to walk with me in between my feet. It is quite amusing.
It was against the law to sell any of the royal dogs in China during the Manchu dynasty. The punishment was death.
As war dominated the political picture in Asia the “Lion Dogs” was added to the list of tragic casualties. By 1884 the American Kennel Club was founded and was registering thousands of dogs. There were no Shih Tzu among them.
In 1908 the thirteenth Dalai Lama gave the Empress Dowager of China some Shih Tzu-type dogs. The Empress fell passionately in love with these little dogs. She instructed the court eunuchs to maintain a breeding program for many years. Although the Empress Dowager was noted to be a cruel dictator she had a soft spot in her heart for the little Shih Tzu. The Empress Dowager was the person who most influenced the development of the Shih Tzu. At her death in 1908, some of the imperial palace Shih Tzu were sold to wealthy individuals or given as gifts to foreign dignitaries an visitors.
It is questionable as to how many of these survived as it has been noted some of the eunuchs fed the Imperial Palace Shih Tzu glass to keep them from surviving. They were so possessive of their Imperial Palace bloodlines, this was the only way they could think of to keep others from gaining access to their secrets.
The Shih Tzu, a little dog with a big story to tell has much, much more to say.
About The Author
Connie Limon is a Shih Tzu breeder http://www.stainglassshihtzus.com