Description & History

The Shih Tzu (pronounced "shid zoo") is considered to be Tibetan, although its origins are mixed Tibetan-Chinese.

As a token of respect, it was a yearly custom for the Dalai Lama to give dogs to the Emperor of China. In exchange, he received either dogs or other gifts from the Imperial Palace. It was from this practice, continued for hundreds of years, that small dogs from Tibet originally arrived in China.

The breed, also known as the Lhasa Lion Dog - Lhasa referring to their Tibetan origin and Shih Tzu being Chinese for lion - are believed to be a cross between the Lhasa Apso, (the Tibetan monastery dog) and the Pekingese. It is also possible that the Chinese Pug was bred with Apso-type dogs to create the Shih Tzu.

For centuries little was known outside China about the breed, as foreigners were unwelcome. It is known that they were favourites at the Chinese court and that they had been revered for hundreds of years.

Years later, when the Chinese authorities allowed foreigners into their country, they went to great lengths to make sure that none of these small dogs fell into the hands of Westerners as they wished the Shih Tzu to remain in China.

However, in 1930 the breed was introduced into Great Britain by General Sir Douglas and Lady Brownrigg. Gradually, as they became more popular, more dogs were imported and they were officially recognised by the British Kennel Club in 1946.

Rosamund Walters.

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