Where do Shih Tzus Come From?

two brown and white shih tzu puppies
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Shih Tzus are well known as loyal companions with impressive physical features. The small pooches are natural stunners with a deep and rich history that we unpack in this article. Where do Shih Tzus come from? Let’s find out…

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Where Do Shih Tzus Come From?

The origin of these stunning dogs has not been completely unearthed.

Little is known about the origin of Shih Tzus, but there is evidence of their existence as of 624 CE.

This is the earliest evidence of the existence of the predecessors because of the available art during this period.

Shih Tzu’s origin has been traced back to Tibet.

According to available evidence, Buddhist monks started the breed in Tibet. The monks bred a collection of dogs with lion-like features.

The dogs were called holy dogs. History indicates that Shih Tzus originated from one of the holy dogs.

There are accounts that the holy dogs made their way to China when Dalai Lama came with them in the 17th century.

The Dalai Lama came to China with three pooches from the holy dog group created by the monks.

In China, the holy dogs were bred with Chinese dog breeds to get dogs with a shorter snout.

The first Shih Tzus are said to be bred by a Chinese empress.

She received gifts of Tibetan lion dogs and bred them with pugs and Pekingese to create the first Shih Tzus.

a shih tzu and a chihuahua
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Shih Tzus and Royalty

Shin Tzus are premium companions and known for their loyalty.

This may be because they provided companionship for royalty back in the day.

The pooches were closely associated with royalty especially during the Tang Dynasty, between 618 to 907 A.D, and the Ming Dynasty, between 1368 to 1644 A.D.

They were also associated with royalty during the Manchu Qing Dynasty.

This was through Dowager Empress Cixi, a charismatic woman that played a major role in the Manchu Qing dynasty for 47 years.

She adored miniature dogs and kept a kennel with dogs such as Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Pugs.

In the 20th century, after the death of Dowager Empress Cixi and the small dogs in her kennel were dispersed, Shih Tzus became quite rare.

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The Almost Extinction of Shih Tzus

The communist revolution of China pushed Shih Tzus to the edge of extinction.

The breed was preserved by avid fans who kept 14 of them, seven males and seven females.

The popular Shih Tzus of today came from those 14 pooches.

Shih Tzus in England

As of the 1930s, Shih Tzus had made their way to England, where they were categorized as a different kind of dog.

In England, Shih Tzus were initially described as Lhasa Apsos.

They were eventually classified as different bread.

In 1935, the Shih Tzu Club of England was formed.

It has been reported that the first set of Shih Tzus that came to England were gifts and bred by a Mrs. Hutchins for Lady Brownrigg.

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How Shih Tzus Got to America

The first Shih Tzus were brought to the US by soldiers, during World War II.

Since the first pooch was brought to the US and until now, Shih Tzus have become very popular and are one of the most loved dog breeds.

Shih Tzus were first imported to the US by Maureen Murdock and Philip Price.

The Breeding History of Shih Tzus

The first ancestors of Shih Tzus are Tibetan dogs.

The first of these Tibetan dogs is Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog.

This dog, which dates to about 10,000 years ago was known to be wild and untamed.

Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog evolved from the Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog.

The next dog in the evolution journey of the Shih Tzu is the Kitchen Midden Dog, from which breeds such as Tibetan Spaniel, the Japanese Chin, the Pekingese, the Papillon, the Shih Tzu, and the Pug evolved.

Empress Cixi created special breeding facilities for the dogs.

The empress so loved dogs that it has been reported that she decreed that whoever is caught harassing palace dogs will face serious consequences.

There are also reports that the dogs were given some of the best treatments in their dedicated palace and even taught to put on a show for the empress.

After her death and during the Communist revolution, the facilities were destroyed.

It was after the breed was perfected that it was introduced into the US.

The American Kennel Club accepted the breed in 1955 but put it in a miscellaneous class.

The Shih Tzu Club of America was created in 1957.

Even with the creation of the Shih Tzu Club of America, the America Kennel Club did not accept Shih Tzus as a breed until 1969.

There were initially three Shih Tzu clubs in America: Texas Shih Tzu Society, American Shih Tzu Association in Florida, and The Shih Tzu Club of America.

These clubs existed as of 1960.

In 1963, the American Shih Tzu Association in Florida and the Shih Tzu Club of America merged to become the American Shih Tzu Club. 

shih tzu puppy in a wicker basket
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Shih Tzus As Treasured Companions

Shih Tzus were originally designed to be companion dogs, a design they have followed to date.

Paintings, writings, and art indicate that they have always been treasured companions.

Documents described them as docile dogs with a lion-like face.

Related Questions:

What do Shih Tzus look like?

Shih Tzus were bred to look like lions.

The hair of the dogs grows in all directions, and they were specifically bred to achieve this appearance, similar to lions.

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To Sum it All Up:

Tibetan and Chinese roots of Shih Tzus have been established, based on available evidence. The pooches come from a rich heritage and have always been prized possessions.

Ancestors of Shih Tzus were sacred temple dogs kept by monks. The ancestors of the modern Shih Tzus were also prized palace dogs bred in a special program.

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