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A Brief History of the Chinese Imperial Dog

Written by Karen Christensen© of Eaglegate Chinese Imperial Dog


The ancestors of our Chinese Imperial Dog originated in the Imperial Palace Of China. The Chinese Imperial Dog was called Imperial, Hah-Pah, and the solid colored imperials were called Chin Ssu Ha-Pah in the Chinese Imperial Palace. In early English books they are called Imperial or “Pekinese Type” when they didn’t know what
to call them. The Imperial was always a separate dog from the Pekinese, Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso. They were being bred along side them in the very early days but they were not the same dog. The Shih Tzu came much later.2 The Shih Tzu Kou or Liondog, as the early Imperials were called, were bred in the likeness of the Buddhist perception of the lion because when Buddha came to earth from heaven he rode on a lion. Therefore, the Imperials were also believed to be holy or tribute dogs and were highly prized. When an Imperial became too large then it was put to death as it was highly undesirable. As you can see from this antique Chinese fan that the Imperial was a small dog indeed.1

In later years these larger Imperials were called a Shih Tzu. An old tapestry picturing an Imperial, Shih Tzu and a Pekinese was found recently dating to before the time of Christ. You can see the complete difference of the dogs in this tapestry. This puts to death a rumor that an Imperial is a Shih Tzu and that a Shih Tzu is a mix between a Llasa and a Pekinese. The Shih Tzu, Pekinese and Imperial have been completely separate breeds of dogs for more that 2000 years. The early ancestors of the Imperial were given to the emperors of the Manchu dynasty of China as gifts of great honor and were only allowed to be owned by the emperors. In China the dogs became little temple dogs and were kept in the palace and carefully guarded and cared for by the court eunuchs. As the lion dogs were the property of the Royal family, they were not widely known outside the Imperial Palace and it is said that anyone unlawfully owning one was sentenced to death. However, it is thought that puppies which did not meet the Dowager Empress’s high standards, were secretly sold by the eunuchs to the nobility outside the palace. The Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi was greatly interested in dogs and during her reign she was personally concerned with their breeding and welfare. They were bred to be loyal companions, bed warmers and would lie across the feet of the Emperor and Empress while taking would take care of court business to keep their feet warm. She would keep a few Imperials and Shih Tzu around her at all times. At one time it was the fashion for the dogs to be carried in their kimono sleeves.2

After the death of the Dowager Empress in 1908, the breeding of the dogs was no
longer important. The young Emperor and Empress were not interested in the dogs and some were given as gifts to noblewomen and men in England and the Netherlands.3 This is how the Imperial was introduced to the west. In 1938 an individual standard was set for the Shih Tzu. At the time the dog fanciers did not know what to do with the Imperials so they lumped them together in with the
Shih Tzu. In the United States, fanciers obtained the first Shih Tzu in the late 1930’s and they gained even more popularity in the 1960’s with many imports coming from England and Europe.

Our Chinese Imperial Dogs went to the Netherlands and Australia and were kept pure bred and small.4 In the 1960’s a small few breeders brought them to the United States. These breeders fought hard to get them recognized but in their ignorance the AKC would only classify our lovely Chinese Imperials as Shih Tzu.5

This is how many of the imperials became mixed with the Shih Tzu. Now the dedicated breeders of the Chinese Imperial Dog are fighting just as hard to get them recognized again.  We have been quite successful so far.

The Chinese Imperial dog was first accepted as it's own breed separate from the
Shih Tzu by the NCA as of March 2005 and by the CPR, UABR, and the NKC in
2006. The Chinese Imperial Dog is also internationally recognized by the IPDBA.
A breed club has been formed to support this new breed and is dedicated to
promoting and preserving this wonderful little dog.

#1Chinese Fans with the Chinese Imperial Dog found in Dogs of China and Japan in Nature and Art
#2Dogs Of China And Japan In Nature And Art V. W. F. Collier
# 3This Is The Shih Tzu Allan Easton
#4 First Account from Jane Seng
# 5First Accounts from Ron Finney and Jane Seng

Copyright© 2010 Karen Christensen All rights reserved.

 

My Personal History with the Chinese Imperial Dog

After many years of breeding the Chinese Imperial Dog and creating flat baby doll faces without sacrificing the health or personality, I have finally been rewarded with my dogs becoming their own breed.

The Chinese Imperial is a very tiny dog with tons of personality.    The Chinese Imperial is purebred dog that is registered with the National Canine Association and the Certified Pet Registry.

I personally started with tiny lines that someone had been working on for about 15 years, who got her dogs from someone that had been breeding tiny for many years in another country and then for the last 18 years I have sized them down even further. A select few breeders decided they would like to show their dogs and not be restricted from the show ring just because of size. We then started looking for great registries to register and show our dogs.

The Chinese Imperial is also lovingly referred to as Imperials, Imps or CID's.

The standard size Shih Tzu breeder would have you believe that the Imperial is a myth or unhealthy but in this video you can see the cutest TINY Shih Tzu. She looks quite healthy to me. Wouldn't you say?...

 

Questions? Please feel free to Contact Me

 

 

Linda

435 219-3128

 

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