Looking Back into
Shih Tzu History

Max the Shih Tzu LionMax

The Shih Tzu history is an interesting one, however maybe somewhat obscure.

It is believed the ancestors of the modern Shih Tzu may have originated from Tibet as early as 600 AD, and are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.

Some people think the Shih Tzu was created by crossing Lhasa Apso's, which I can totally see, with Pekinese, while others adamantly disagree.

The truth is still unclear, but what is generally accepted is Tibetan holy dogs are the ancestors of today’s Shih Tzu.

Although mostly thought to have originated in China, some breed journals indicate their ancestors were given as gifts to the Chinese imperial courts from the Dalai Lamas.

What Does Shih Tzu Mean?

Shih Tzu, (pronounced sheed zoo) when translated means “lion”, and they were bred to resemble lions.

Lions held a significant importance in the Buddhist religion.

It was widely believed that Buddha himself tamed and rode a lion. 

Since lions are not indigenous to the Far East, these little “lion dogs” took their place as religious symbols.

Huge stone lion dogs, like the one here, guarded palace doors, many temples and public buildings.

Royalty and Shih Tzu History

Although the history of Shih Tzu is not entirely clear, what is known is that they were highly valued by the Empress Dowager Cixi, the most important woman in Chinese history, during her reign in the 19th century, and she instructed the court eunuchs to maintain their breeding until her death in the early 1900’s.

After the Dowagers death, a few Shih Tzu were brought to Europe during the pre-war years, to England (by Lady Brownrigg, wife of Douglas Brownrigg the Quarter Master General to the North China Command), to Norway (by Madame Henrik Kauffman, wife of the Danish Ambassador to China), and to Ireland, (by a Mrs. Hutchins.)

This turned out to be very important to the survival of the Shih Tzu breed, whereas when the communists came to power in 1949, they were viewed as a symbol of wealth and privilege and also a drain on resources, and were eventually all destroyed.

The Shih Tzu history would have ended there, were it not for the breeding done by those three women who brought them to the western world.

It’s said that all of the Shih Tzu today are descended from those few dogs.

It’s a sad thought to think we may have not been graced with these precious little lion dogs, had it not been for these saved few.

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