8 Dog Breeds That Originated in China

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
fast facts

Happy Chinese New Year – 2017 is the Year of the Rooster! To celebrate this new year, here’s our list of eight dog breeds that originated in China.

In honor of this most auspicious occasion – and because the number 8 has long been regarded as a lucky number in China – let’s take a peek at eight unique dog breeds that call China home.

1. Shih Tzu

Rumored to have descended from the crossing of a Lhasa Apso with a Pekingese, this little guy dates back to approximately 624 A.D. where he was considered a Tibetan holy dog because of his resemblance to a lion. These pooches were so prized by the Chinese royals that owners refused to sell or trade the pups and it wasn’t until the 1930’s when they were brought to England that they gained world-wide popularity.

2. Tibetan Mastiff

This big boy weighs in around 150 pounds so no surprise that he was used by nomadic tribes in China, India, Mongolia, Nepal and Tibet to guard homes and livestock as far back as 1100 B.C. Described by Marco Polo as being “tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion”, their popularity soared after Queen Victoria received a pup in the mid-1800s. Today they are highly prized and a golden-haired pup recently sold in China for $2 million.

3. Shar Pei

Highly distinctive, this ultra-wrinkled pooch is thought to have originated in a small village in China around 200 B.C. Although there is no definitive link, his purple tongue suggests he may be kin of the Chow Chow. A protective pooch, he was bred to be a working dog in China, used for hunting, tracking, herding and guarding the family home. In fact, the Chinese believed that his wrinkles and purple tongue would actually scare off evil spirits.

4. Tibetan Spaniel

Originating over 2,500 years ago in the Himalayan Mountains, this spunky little pooch is the Chinese equivalent to the “Heinz 57” with ancestry linking him to Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Tibetan terrier and Pug breeds. Similar to the Shih Tzu, his lion-esque features earned him a place as a monastery dog in Tibet and because he was held in such high esteem, this charming and clever pooch was often given as gifts to the royal house.

5. Chow Chow

Genetic testing of this lion-like pooch places him in Mongolia and Northern China around 200 BC where he would have travelled with nomadic tribes hunting, herding and protecting. A distinctive pooch with an independent streak he’s known many famous fans over the years including President Calvin Coolidge who owned two while in the White House and more recently Martha Stewart. Chinese legend claims his tongue’s blue hue came from the time of creation, when a Chow licked up drops of color as the sky was being painted.

6. Chinese Crested

This unique looking pooch is believed to have been developed by Chinese Mariners from the African hairless dog and used for hunting vermin on board ships. Litters can include both fully coated Powderpuff pups and the true Hairless that has a pale white to black skin and tufts of fur on his head, tail and paws. The most famous of the Chinese Crested hairless pooches would be purebred Sam – winner of the World’s Ugliest Dog contest from 2003 to 2005.

7. Pug

This highly animated pooch originated in China where it was bred as a companion dog to ruling families. Recognition of the loveable breed soon spread to other parts of Asia including Tibet, where Buddhist monks began keeping Pugs as monastery pets. First popular in Europe in the 18th century, its rumored that before marrying Napoleon Bonaparte, the imprisoned Joséphine had her Pug dog Fortune, carry concealed messages to her family. Fortune alone was granted visitation rights!

8. Pekingese

Named for the Chinese city of Peking (now Beijing), DNA analysis confirms this is one of the oldest dog breeds on record, dating back more than 2,000 years. For centuries, “Pekes” could only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace where they were considered sacred Foo Dogs that could drive away spirits. Following war in the mid-19t century, five were saved from death by being brought back to Queen Victoria in England. It’s from these dogs that many of today’s Pekingese originate.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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