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A Brief History of the Shih Tzu

By Victor Joris

 

Dogs of various sizes, shapes, and colors have been bred in China for centuries. Records substantiate the

existence of short, square, "under the table" dogs from at least 1000 B.C. By piecing together historical facts

and documented records, it is possible to some extent to follow the development in China of the breeding of

dogs likely to be the ancestors of the present-day Shih Tzu.

The ancestry of the Shih Tzu is rather obscure, but it is probable that the breed is primarily of Tibetan origin.

The history of the Tibetan “Lion Dogs” is interwoven with the tenets of Buddhism, which originated in India. The

lion was closely associated with Buddhism, but the lion was not indigenous to China, so the Chinese and the

Tibetan lamas bred their toy dogs to resemble lions. The Shih Tzu (whose name means “lion”) is reputed to

have been the oldest and smallest variety of the Tibetan “holy dogs” and bears some similarity to other Tibetan

breeds. For much of the long and illustrious history of China, the breeding of the small “Lion Dog” was a favorite

 pastime of succeeding imperial rulers.

Prior to A.D. 624, documents show that small dogs were exported from Malta, Turkey, Greece, and Persia as

gifts to the ruling Chinese emperors. It is likely that the first small Tibetan Lion Dogs from which the Shih Tzu is

probably descended came to China during the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty (1644-62) as tributes from the Grand

Lamas to the Chinese Imperial Court, and that the Chinese interbred these Tibetan dogs with the early western

 imports and with the Pug and the Pekingese.  The existence of the Shih Tzu as we know it today is owed to the Dowager Empress Cixi (T’zu Hsi), whose kennel of Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu was world renowned. Although she carefully supervised the kennel during her lifetime and attempted to keep the three imperial breeds separate, the actual breeding was carried out by palace eunuchs who secretly crossed the breeds to reduce size and produce unusual and desirable markings. After her death in 1908, the kennels were dispersed and palace breeding became haphazard. Some breeding was still practiced by private individuals and specimens were exhibited, but the dogs were almost impossible to acquire. So far as is known, the breed became extinct in China after the Communist revolution.

Seven dogs and seven bitches comprise the gene pool of all existing Shih Tzu. These fourteen include the

Pekingese dog used in an admitted cross in England in 1952--a cross which caused considerable trouble, as

it was done by a newcomer to the breed and reported after the fact. The other foundation dogs included three

Shih Tzu imported from China that became the foundation of the Taishan kennel of Lady Brownrigg in England

and eight additional imports to England between 1933 and 1959. Three other Shih Tzu were imported into

Norway from China in 1932 by Mrs. Henrick Kauffman, including a bitch that was the only Shih Tzu bred in the

Imperial Palace to reach the Western world.

Returning military personnel brought some of the first Shih Tzu into the United States during the late 1940s and

 1950's and began breeding programs. The unique beauty and outstanding temperament of this “new” breed

quickly found favor with the fancy. From the first day of formal AKC recognition (Sept. 1, 1969), the Shih Tzu

catapulted from a relatively unknown breed to one of the most glamorous and popular of all canine companions.

This month’s column was contributed by Shih Tzu breeder-judge Victor Joris, author of The Complete Shih Tzu

 (Howell Book House). We hope you have enjoyed it.

 

Originally published in the Shih Tzu breed column in the American Kennel Club Gazette . Written by Shih Tzu

breeder-judge Victor Joris, author of 'The Complete Shih Tzu' (Howell Book House).

The Early Days Of The ASTC

By Mrs. Andy Warner

The American Kennel Club accepted the Shih Tzu into the Miscellaneous Class in 1955. At that time, there

were very few Shih Tzu in this country. Maureen Murdock and Philip Price, her nephew, were the first to import

and breed Shih Tzu in this country. In 1954 Mr. Price brought back to the United States Golden S. Wen of

Chasmu and imported Ho Lai Sheum of Yram in 1955; both were from England.

As with all unrecognized breeds, complete records of imports and births must be kept by individuals or groups

 until such time as a club is formed and a registrar is selected. This is extremely important if a breed hopes to

be recognized by the American Kennel Club. If the interest in a breed does not increase and spread across the

 country, the Miscellaneous status may be withdrawn by AKC. The same thing may happen if incorrect,

up-to-date records are not kept on all imports and births.

In 1957 the Shih Tzu Club of America was formed in the eastern part of the United States. By 1960 there were

three Shih Tzu clubs: the Texas Shih Tzu Society, the American Shih Tzu Association in Florida, and the Shih

Tzu Club of America. Many of the early Shih Tzu supporters and enthusiasts were military people who bought

their Shih Tzu in England and Scandinavia and returned to the United States with them when they were

stationed stateside again. Because they were so spread out across the country, the three clubs were formed

independently of each other. By 1961 there were over 100 Shih Tzu registered in the United States, both

imports and offspring born here.

The first champion bitch to be imported into the United States was French Ch. Jungfaltets Jung-Wu, a 9-pound

 gold and white, in 1960. Ingrid Colwell bought her in Sweden and showed her to her championship in France

while her Air Force husband was stationed there. Ingrid arrived in the United States with five Shih Tzu, including

 two with the Pukedal prefix (her mother’s kennel name in Sweden). From 1960 to 1968, when Ingrid sadly died

 in a fire, she imported several Shih Tzu from both Scandinavia and England.

Yvette Duval, a close friend of Ingrid’s, imported the first male champion, French Ch. Pukedals Ding Dang.

Yvette bought this black and white male from Ingrid’s mother and finished his championship in France before

she and her Air Force husband, Lucian, were reassigned to the United States. They also brought two Shih Tzu

 bitches into the country with them at the same time.

In 1963 the Shih Tzu Club of America and the Texas Shih Tzu Society merged to form the American Shih Tzu

Club. Since the AKC had accepted the Shih Tzu into the Miscellaneous class in 1955 it was important to have

only one club, with one registry. Lucian Duval was selected as registrar, and he combined the work of the two

clubs into one. Our hope was that if we did a good job of keeping our records and spread the word of how great

 the Shih Tzu was by showing and exposure, we might hope to someday be recognized by the AKC and be

able to earn American championships. With much pleasure, and always a great deal of fun, many early

Shih Tzu lovers showed their best all over the country. We were stopped by all kinds of curious people and

answered questions at shows all day long. Many of us sold dogs to new people to the breed, thus spreading

the joy of owning a Shih Tzu and helping to educate about this relatively new breed to the United States. In 1962

, when there was still a Miscellaneous class held at Westminster, there were 12 Shih Tzu entered. By the end of

 1962 there were more than 300 Shih Tzu registered with the American Shih Tzu Club.

We had three registrars during the history of the American Shih Tzu Club. Gene Dudgeon

 (publisher of the Shih Tzu News) followed Lucian Duval. Mary Wood then served as registrar until AKC

recognition.

By July 1965 there were 656 Shih Tzu registered by the ASTC, and registrations had spread rather nicely

across the United States. Some groups were starting to form local Shih Tzu clubs. a fun match had been held

in June of 1964 at Ingrid Colwell’s home in Middletown, PA, and others were being planned.

In 1967 it felt as though we were finally getting closer to our goal of recognition. In the spring of that year the

AKC asked several representatives of the ASTC to meet with them in New York to discuss revising the breed

standard. We had originally adopted the English Kennel Club standard when we formed the ASTC, and we

were asked to clarify points that seemed unclear. A committee was formed to do this, and we returned to the

AKC with revisions. Nothing major was changed, but we felt that if AKC was interested it was a very

encouraging sign. Shortly before recognition another committee came up with a few changes approved by the

AKC.

The ASTC was incorporated in 1968--another step forward in our efforts for recognition. The following year the

AKC accepted the Shih Tzu as its 116th recognized breed. It was an exciting day for all of us. The carefully

kept records of the ASTC registry were turned over to the AKC, and in September 1969 Shih Tzu were shown

 for the first time in the United States for championship points. At recognition, the registry had increased to

almost 3,000.

 

Originally published in the Shih Tzu breed column in the American Kennel Club Gazette.

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