Dog breeds from China are phenomenally popular all over the world. And why not, since the group comprises Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Pugs, and Chinese Crested dogs. This DogAppy article profiles the most famous dogs breeds originating in China.
Did You Know?
Chinese Crested dogs have been champions at winning a certain competition almost every year―that of the World’s Ugliest Dog. Previous winners include Mugly (2012), Yoda (2011), Miss Ellie (2009), Gus (2008), Elwood (2007), and Rascal (2002).
But the champion of champions remains Sam, a blind Chinese Crested from California, who was voted the world’s ugliest dog three times in a row (2003 – 2005).
The Chinese take their dogs very seriously, as is evident from their historical accounts which document the presence of these beloved canines, both as guard and lap dogs. Some of the breeds which are profiled here have been known to be around since the past 2,000 years, whereas the origin of a few, like the Japanese Chin is slightly debated.
Several DNA tests have now revealed that the Shar Pei is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world―there is conclusive evidence proving their existence as far back as the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE). Currently, the breed finds itself among the rarest in the world.
One can easily spot a Shar Pei from a mile away―the huge head, the sand-colored coat, and the unmissable wrinkles, especially in case of a Shar Pei pup. Their coat evens out as they grow, but the face may remain a bit wrinkled. Another striking feature is their blue-black tongue, which compels us to believe that they are descendants of another ancient Chinese breed, the Chow Chow.
Shar Peis were predominantly used as hunting dogs. It was much later that these dogs were made to participate in dog fighting. As a result, their personality is stubborn, and requires persistent behavioral and social training since a young age, failing which, they become very aggressive and territorial. If these qualities are reined in, Shar Peis are extremely loyal and devoted to their owners and become excellent family dogs.
The Chow Chow is considered to be a contemporary of the Shar Pei, as far as history goes. This breed was an efficient hunting companion and a favorite among the royals. The Chinese valued this breed for its rich fur, and for its supposedly-delectable meat.
The Chow Chow, just like the Shar Pei, has some distinct features, besides the shared trait of the blue-black tongue. This breed bears an uncanny resemblance to lions, and are often groomed by their owners to take on the appearance of the big cat. They have a big head, which is covered by a thick mane, extending to the neck. Their eyes are relatively tiny as compared to the size of the head, and are deep set.
Chow Chows are inherently aloof by nature and can be suspicious of strangers. They need to be socialized since a young age, as they have quite a rebellious streak in them, which can prove troublesome when they grow up. They can be quite feline-esque at times, behaving in a reserved manner and being moody and shy.
Their dubious distinction has been chronicled at the top of this write-up, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Chinese Crested dogs are very lovable and amusing companions to keep. In the olden days, it was believed that the heat produced by their bodies had medicinal properties, and they were used to heat the painful parts of the body, much like the heating pad we use these days.
The Chinese Crested is a toy breed, and comes in two varieties. The Hairless has soft, fine hair on its head, tail, and feet. The skin on the rest of the body is soft and smooth. The Powderpuff is entirely covered with a double soft, straight coat. The ears of both are rather large and stick out of the sides of the head.
Chinese crested dogs are very patient and loving. They love to play and run around, and possess high levels of intelligence. They can get irritated quickly when teased, which is why they need to be trained to be around children and other pets since a young age.
The Pekingese was a coveted breed in ancient China―only the royalty could own it. Anyone trying to steal the dog faced the death penalty. The breed gets its name from the city of Peking, which we now know as Beijing. The Pekingese is classified as a toy breed, but don’t let its diminutive size fool you into thinking it is a docile little being.
The Pekingese is short, with an elongated body. The head is big, dotted with two large, sparkling eyes. It has a double-layered fur, with a thick, fluffy inner coat and an outer coat made of long, straight hair that is rough to touch. This mane extends beyond the neck, and touches the ground, and needs persistent brushing to keep it from tangling.
Pekingese take their personality from their royal ancestors and are very well-mannered and dignified. They are also very playful and affectionate with their owners. These dogs are perfect to keep in apartments owing to their small size, and the fact that they are fairly independent.
Pugs easily rank among the most popular breed of dogs in the world. Their compact size, along with their ‘so-ugly-it’s-cute’ face makes them a must-have pet for dog lovers. The American Kennel Club mentions that pugs were the favored pets of Buddhist monks in ancient China.
Compact and cute as a button, pugs are irresistibly attractive little fellas. They are square and chubby, with a distinct ‘mask’ on the muzzle. Their beady eyes are very prominent. They are short and wide-chested, with a double-ringed tail. The fur is short, dense, and glossy.
Pugs are affable by nature, and a sheer delight to have around. They are very attached to their masters, and a suckers for attention. Sensitive and sociable, pugs need basic training to compliment their friendly temperament.
The Shih Tzu is believed to be a cross between the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese. Just like their parent breeds, this one too was immensely popular among the royals of the day. Quite in the line of the Pekingese, Shih Tzus were among the ‘lion dog’ breeds as well.
A short muzzle, with a largish head and an elongated body makes up the Shih Tzu. The over coat is long and silky, layered over a dense under coat―it goes without saying that these dogs need regular grooming sessions to keep their fur in top condition. A distinct feature of the breed is their underbite, which is a standard requirement.
Lively, alert, and active, Shih Tzus make excellent guard dogs. Behavioral training is vital as these dogs tend to have a mind of their own. This, coupled with their guarding tendencies make for a rather suspicious dog who will charge on strangers if he isn’t contained on command. Nevertheless, a Shih Tzu will be a fabulous house pet, and easily adapt to an apartment life.
The Japanese Chin’s name can be misleading when it comes to its place of origin, which is accepted to be China. It was from here that the breed made its way into the Imperial Palace, and was later known to be the favored breed of Japanese royalty.
The Japanese Chin is a toy breed. Its body is compact and covered with silky straight hair, which gives it a refined and elegant look. The head is small, with rather large round and expressive eyes. These dogs have a graceful gait, which makes them popular show dogs.
If you are undecided on whether you are a cat person or a dog person, this is the breed for you. Though the Japanese Chin is technically a dog, it does have several cat-like traits. This dog uses its paws to clean its face, is very intelligent and aloof, but loves attention all the same. It loves to hide in unexpected corners, and is wary of strangers. All in all, this breed is as close you can get to a cat-dog amalgamation.
Besides these, there are two other breeds which have been accepted to have Chinese origins. First, the Chinese Chongqing dog, which was once a hunting companion, but has now been reduced to a rarity. This breed was known to exist since the time of the Han Dynasty, about 2,000 years ago, but is sparingly seen now, even in China. The other breed is the Chinese Imperial dog, which was classified under the Shih Tzu breed until very recently, after which it was declared to be an independent breed.