History of the Shih Tzu Breed
The exact date of origin of the Shih Tzu is not known, but evidence of its existence
has come to us from documents, paintings and objets d'art dating from A. D. 624.
During the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.), the King of Viqur gave the Chinese
court a pair of dogs said to have come from the Fu Lin (assumed to be the
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. The smallest of these dogs resembled a lion, as
represented in Oriental art. "Shih Tzu" means "lion".
The Shih Tzu is reported to be the oldest and smallest of the Tibetan holy dogs, the
lion being associated with the Buddhist deity. These dogs were bred by the Chinese
court and from them the dog we know today as the Shih Tzu developed. They are
also called "the chrysanthemum-faced dog" because the hair grows about the face
in all directions.
It is known that the Shih Tzu was a house pet during most of the Ming Dynasty (1368
- 1644 A.D.) and that they were highly favored by the royal family. Dowager Empress
Cixi (T'zu Hsi) kept an important kennel of Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu. After her
death in 1908 the dogs were dispersed and breeding mostly ceased. When the
Communist Revolution occurred in China the breed became almost extinct. Every
Shih Tzu today can be traced to fourteen dogs - seven bitches and seven dogs -
some of which were imported to England where breeding of the Shih Tzu began in
1930. There the breed was first classified as "Apsos" but after a ruling by the Kennel
Club (England) that Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus were separate breeds, the Shih Tzu
Club of England was formed in 1935.
From England members of the breed were exported to other countries in Europe
and Australia. American soldiers stationed in these countries brought the breed
back to the United States thus introducing them to this country. 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