Description & History

The Pekingese originated in Imperial China. It is a breed of great antiquity which can be traced back the Han Dynasty, 206 BC - 220 AD.

At various times down the centuries, the history of the breed has shown that it was not just a highly respected lap dog, but an efficient and hard working resident at the royal court in Peking.

On ceremonial occasions they had certain functions to perform, such as carrying the hem of the Emperors robes in their mouths and barking to announce his arrival.

In the Han Dynasty it was known as the Sleeve dog. They were used as a a source of warmth, as they were small enough to be put inside the sleeves of a garment.

In the early part of the Middle Ages the Pekingese had a more functional use as a guard dog. They would give warning of approaching strangers so as to alert the palace guards.

Later in the seventeenth century a few members of the breed were very occasionally seen in Europe. They were considered to be some sort of oddity and because of this they were exhibited at times.

It was not until 1860 that the Pekingese was to become well known outside China. For centuries only the Emperors, their families and courtiers at the Imperial Court in Peking were allowed to own these lion dogs.

Although hundreds of them lived at the royal court, only the finest of the breed were kept in the Emperor's apartments. Considered to be sacred and much cherished, the theft of one of these dogs was punishable by death.

In 1860 the Summer Palace was stormed by British and French troops. All dogs in the Palace were killed by the Chinese to prevent them falling into foreign hands.

Five dogs belonging to the Emperor's aunt, who had taken her own life before the arrival of the enemy, survived and were brought to England.

One small fawn and white dog, named Looty, was given to Queen Victoria by the commanding officer, General Dunne. The original five dogs brought from China with others imported later were to form the foundation of all stock in Great Britain today.

The Pekingese was recognised by the British Kennel Club in 1898.

The are adaptable, not minding whether they live in the town or the country. Members of the breed who are lucky enough to live on a farm, with barns and out buildings, will if given the opportunity spend hours trying to become skilful mousers and ratters!

Rosamund Walters.



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