It is thought that these sturdy dogs originated in the Tibetan mountains, and they were esteemed members of the Chinese royal family. Over the centuries, court officials jealously guarded their breeding programs to produce dogs that would win royal favor. The luxurious, dense coat, which is long, flowing and silky in texture, can come in any color and with a variety of markings. It requires regular grooming. The Shih Tzu is beloved for his happy, outgoing temperament, his affectionate demeanor and his devotion to his family. These qualities plus a friendly and trusting nature make the Shih Tzu a great house pet and companion.
Height at shoulder: 8-11". Weight: 9-16 lbs. AKC group: Toy Dogs.
The legend of the Shih Tzu has come to us from documents, paintings, and objets d'art dating from A.D. 624. During the Tang Dynasty, K'iu T'ai, King of Viqur, gave the Chinese court a pair of dogs, said to have come from the Fu Lin (assumed to be the Byzantine Empire). Mention of these dogs was again made in A.D. 990-994 when people of the Ho Chou sent dogs as tribute.
Another theory of their introduction to China was recorded in the mid-17th century when dogs were brought from Tibet to the Chinese court. These dogs were bred in the Forbidden City of Peking. Many pictures of them were kept in The Imperial Dog Book. The smallest of these dogs resembled a lion, as represented in Oriental art. In Buddhist belief there is an association between the lion and their Deity. Shih Tzu means Lion. The dogs for court breeding were selected with great care. From these the Shih Tzu known today developed. They were often called "the chrysanthemum-faced dog" because the hair grows about the face in all directions.
These dogs were small, intelligent, and extremely docile. It is known that the breeding of the Shih Tzu was delegated to certain court eunuchs who vied with each other to produce specimens which would take the Emperor's fancy. Those which were selected had their pictures painted on hangings or tapestries, and the eunuchs responsible for the dogs were given gifts by the Emperor.
It is known that the Shih Tzu was a house pet during most of the Ming Dynasty and that they were highly favored by the royal family. At the time of the Revolution a large number of dogs were destroyed and only a few escaped the invaders' knives.
In 1934, the Peking Kennel Club was formed and by 1938 a standard for the Shih Tzu was developed with the help of Madame de Breuil, a Russian refugee. Breeding of the Shih Tzu began in England after Miss Madelaine Hutchins brought one pair of her own and another of General and Mrs. Douglas Brownrigg's from China in 1930. The breed was first classified as "Apsos," but after a ruling by the Kennel Club that Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzu were separate breeds, the Shih Tzu Club of England was formed in 1935.
From England, dogs of this breed were sent to the Scandinavian countries, to other countries in Europe, and to Australia. During World War II, members of the American Armed Forces stationed in England became acquainted with the breed and on their return brought some back to the United States, thus introducing them to this country. Since then many have been imported.
The Shih Tzu was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in March 1969, and to regular show classification in the Toy Group at AKC shows beginning September 1, 1969