History of Shih Tzu

The exact origin of the Shih Tzu is still unknown, but most likely dates back to ancient times. Their first recorded appearance of this breed occurred in China around the year 1650. Shih Tzu puppies were brought from Tibet to the Chinese Court, and later bred in the heart of Peking, the Forbidden City. It is believed that Shih Tzu puppies were bred by cross breeding Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. Their name Shih Tzu means “little lion.” They were used as watchdogs and became favourites in Chinese Courts.

It was known that Shih Tzu puppies were a house pet during most of the years in Ming Dynasty. In 1908, the Dalai Lama sent Shih Tzu puppies to Tzu His for Dowager Empress of Manchu Dynasty, who was known to be a passionate dog breeder. Dowager Empress Cixi of T’zu Hsi kept an important kennel of Pekingese, Pugs, and Shih Tzu. The Empress herself supervised the breeding of the Shih Tzu pups to ensure that they would remain distinct from Pekingese which she already owned. For centuries, breeding of Shih Tzu puppies were kept as a secret inside the palace, but when the Empress opened her Palace to English diplomats, westerners were introduced to her beloved Shih Tzu. After her death on the same year, the breeding was not closely monitored and cross breeding occurred.

During the Communist Revolution, Shih Tzu puppies faced the brink of extinction. There was a point where only fourteen of them remained in the world—seven females together with seven males. Some of these fourteen were located in England, which imported its first pair of Shih Tzu puppies in 1930. It was also during that time when these puppies were first classified as the same breed as “Lhasa Apsos” but after a ruling by the England’s Kennel Club that Shih Tzu puppies and Lhasa Apsos and were separate  dog breeds, the Shih Tzu Club of England was formed in 1935.

Shih Tzu puppies were introduced during World War II to the US by soldiers. It was recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1969, and since then has become enormously popular as a companion and as a show dog. Breeding continued outside the palace where kennels of Shih Tzu became established. The Comptesse d’ Anjou was the third hand recipient of some of these palace dogs.

Since then, Shih Tzu puppies were occasionally brought to UK at the beginning of the century but were not bred from. Other Shih Tzu breeds were imported at this time, but these are the lines that have survived.

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