The Pekingese, with its distinctive lion-like appearance, rolling gait, and regal demeanor, is a breed steeped in ancient Chinese history and lore. Originating from the imperial courts of China, the Pekingese has been a symbol of royalty and divine right for centuries. Its history is intertwined with the tales of Buddhist monks, and Chinese emperors, and the belief that the breed is the incarnation of the mythical Foo dog that drove away spirits. The Pekingese’s luxurious coat, flat face, and bold spirit have made it a cherished companion through the ages, from the laps of Chinese nobility to the homes of dog lovers worldwide. This article delves into the rich history and origins of the Pekingese, exploring the breed’s development, its esteemed place in Chinese culture, and the enduring qualities that make the Pekingese a beloved breed across the globe.

The Ancestral Origins of the Pekingese

The Pekingese breed boasts an ancient lineage that dates back to the Tang Dynasty of China, around the 8th century. Legend has it that the breed was created by Buddha, who shrunk a lion down to dog size, resulting in the lion-like appearance of the Pekingese. These dogs were highly treasured by Chinese emperors and nobles, often referred to as “lion dogs” or “Foo dogs,” symbols of luck and protection. The Pekingese were exclusively owned by the imperial family, and it was believed that stealing one could result in the death penalty. The breed’s development was closely guarded within the Forbidden City, contributing to its distinct characteristics and demeanor.

Development and Recognition

The Pekingese’s journey to the Western world began in 1860 during the Second Opium War when British and French troops invaded the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Five Pekingese were discovered and brought back to England, one of which was presented to Queen Victoria, who named it “Looty.” This event marked the beginning of the breed’s presence outside China. The Pekingese quickly gained popularity among European royalty and nobility for its exotic origins and unique appearance. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1906, further cementing its status as a cherished companion dog internationally.

The Breed in Modern Times

Today, the Pekingese enjoys worldwide popularity as a companion pet, valued for its affectionate nature, independence, and distinctive appearance. The breed has adapted well to various living situations, thriving in both city and country settings. Despite its small size, the Pekingese possesses a bold and courageous heart, often described as having a “big dog” personality. Modern breeding efforts focus on health and temperament, ensuring that the Pekingese continues to bring joy and companionship to its owners.

Characteristics and Temperament

The Pekingese is characterized by its compact body, broad head with a flat face, and a long, flowing coat that comes in various colors. The breed’s prominent eyes, short nose, and “mane” of fur around the neck contribute to its lion-like appearance. Pekingese are known for their loyal and affectionate nature towards their families, though they can be reserved around strangers. They possess a dignified and somewhat independent personality, often preferring to do things on their terms. Despite their regal demeanor, Pekingese enjoy play and companionship, making them endearing pets.

The Pekingese’s storied history, from the imperial courts of ancient China to its role as a beloved companion today, is a testament to the breed’s enduring appeal. With its unique appearance, bold spirit, and affectionate nature, the Pekingese continues to captivate the hearts of dog lovers around the world. As a living link to China’s imperial past, the Pekingese stands as a symbol of nobility, luck, and protection, embodying the rich cultural heritage from which it originated. Whether as a cherished family pet or a reminder of ancient traditions, the Pekingese remains a treasured breed, cherished for both its beauty and its storied past.


Frequently Asked Questions About The History of Pekingese

1. What is the origin of the Pekingese breed?

The Pekingese breed boasts ancient roots, originating from China, particularly within the confines of the Imperial Palace. This breed was highly esteemed by Chinese royalty and was bred and refined over centuries, dating back to the Tang Dynasty around the 8th century AD. The Pekingese were considered semi-divine and were companions to the imperial family, often carried in the sleeves of Chinese nobility. Their role was not only as cherished pets but also as symbols of status and spiritual protectors against evil spirits.

2. How did the Pekingese get its name?

The name “Pekingese” is derived from Peking, the former name of Beijing, the capital city of China, where the Forbidden City, the residence of the emperors and their lavish courts, is located. The breed was thus named after the city where it held significant cultural and royal importance, embodying the essence of Chinese imperial tradition and heritage.

3. What roles did Pekingese historically serve?

Historically, the Pekingese served a dual role as both a companion and a symbol of wealth and divine right within the Chinese Imperial court. They were believed to ward off evil spirits due to their resemblance to the mythical Chinese lion, thus serving a protective role. Their presence was exclusive to the imperial family and trusted courtiers, symbolizing the breed’s esteemed status and the luxury and isolation of the Chinese nobility.

4. When was the Pekingese breed officially recognized?

The Pekingese breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1906, marking its acceptance and standardization outside of China. This recognition followed the breed’s introduction to the West in the late 19th century, particularly after several Pekingese were brought to England from the Imperial Palace during the Second Opium War in 1860.

5. What challenges has the Pekingese breed faced?

Throughout its history, the Pekingese breed faced challenges, especially during political upheavals and wars in China, which threatened its existence and the preservation of its pure lineage. The breed’s numbers dwindled significantly during such times, but dedicated enthusiasts and breeders, particularly in the West, worked to safeguard the breed’s future through careful breeding and conservation efforts.

6. How did Pekingese come to be recognized outside of China?

The Pekingese were first recognized outside of China when British troops invaded the Imperial Palace in Beijing during the Second Opium War in 1860 and brought back several of these dogs to England. One was gifted to Queen Victoria, which significantly boosted the breed’s popularity in the West. Their unique appearance and noble demeanor quickly captured the hearts of European dog enthusiasts, leading to the breed’s spread and recognition internationally.

7. What are the distinctive physical characteristics of the Pekingese?

The Pekingese is known for its distinctive lion-like appearance, featuring a broad, flat face, large, expressive eyes, and a long, flowing mane of fur. The breed has a compact, muscular body, short legs, and a characteristic rolling gait. Their coat, which can come in various colors, requires extensive grooming to maintain its condition. These physical traits, combined with their dignified bearing, highlight the breed’s royal heritage.

8. What is the temperament of the Pekingese?

The Pekingese possess a regal and confident temperament, often described as aloof or reserved with strangers but fiercely loyal and affectionate with their owners. They are intelligent, independent, and have a strong sense of self-worth, which can sometimes manifest as stubbornness. Despite their small size, they are courageous and possess a big-dog attitude, making them excellent companions and watchdogs.

9. Are Pekingese good with children and other pets?

Pekingese can be good with children and other pets if properly socialized from a young age. However, due to their small size and sometimes assertive personality, interactions with very young children should be supervised to ensure gentle handling. With other pets, Pekingese can coexist peacefully, especially if raised together, but their independent streak means they may prefer to be the sole focus of their owner’s affection.

10. How do Pekingese perform in dog sports and activities?

While not traditionally known for their athleticism, Pekingese can enjoy and excel in certain dog sports and activities suited to their capabilities, such as obedience and agility at a pace that respects their physical limitations. They are also known to succeed in conformation shows, where their unique appearance and dignified demeanor can be showcased. Pekingese enjoy mental stimulation and can engage in activities that challenge their minds.

11. What are the grooming requirements for a Pekingese?

The grooming requirements for a Pekingese are relatively high due to their long, dense coat. Regular brushing and combing are necessary to prevent matting and tangles. They also require routine baths, ear cleaning, and nail trimming. Some owners opt for professional grooming services to maintain the breed’s distinctive appearance, including the care of their mane and feathering on the legs and tail.

12. How long do Pekingese typically live?

Pekingese have a relatively long lifespan, typically living between 12 to 15 years. With proper care, including a balanced diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and adequate exercise, Pekingese can enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life. Their longevity is a testament to the breed’s robust nature and the care provided by dedicated owners.

13. What health issues are common in Pekingese?

Pekingese are prone to certain health issues, including brachycephalic syndrome due to their flat faces, which can lead to breathing difficulties. They may also experience eye problems, heart conditions, and skin allergies. Their short legs and long backs put them at risk for spinal issues. Regular veterinary care and monitoring can help manage these conditions and ensure the health and well-being of Pekingese dogs.

14. How much exercise do Pekingese need?

Pekingese require moderate exercise to maintain their health and well-being. Short, daily walks and play sessions can provide adequate physical activity. Due to their brachycephalic nature, care should be taken to avoid excessive exercise in hot or humid conditions to prevent overheating. Pekingese enjoy interactive play and mental stimulation, which are essential for their overall happiness.

15. How can prospective owners ensure they are getting a healthy Pekingese puppy?

Prospective owners can ensure they are getting a healthy Pekingese puppy by choosing a reputable breeder who conducts health screenings and genetic testing on their breeding dogs. Reputable breeders should provide health clearances for both parents and be transparent about any potential hereditary conditions. Visiting the breeder’s facility, meeting the puppy’s parents, and observing the living conditions can offer insights into the puppy’s health and temperament. It’s also advisable to ask for references and review the breeder’s reputation to ensure they adhere to ethical breeding practices.

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