The Regal History of Shih Tzu

As we cuddle with our furry Shih Tzu companions, it’s hard to imagine a time when they were exclusively the pets of royalty in China. The history of Shih Tzu as royal dogs, from their ancient origins to their modern-day popularity, is a fascinating journey that deserves to be explored. Let’s delve into the regal world of these beloved lap dogs and discover how they went from being cherished pets of the Chinese emperors to becoming cherished family members in households all over the world.

The Origins of Shih Tzu

One of the most captivating aspects of the Shih Tzu breed is its history as Chinese royal dogs. The Shih Tzu’s origins are traced back to ancient China, and the breed’s roots are believed to lie in Tibet. One theory is that the breed was created by crossing the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese breeds.

The name “Shih Tzu” translates to “little lion,” which is fitting given their regal history. Shih Tzu dogs were prized by Chinese royalty and were considered sacred. It is said that these adorable dogs were often kept in the royal palace and used as lap dogs by the emperors and empresses.

According to legend, the Shih Tzu was also believed to bring good luck and fortune to its owners. These dogs were so treasured that they were kept away from the public, and it was a crime punishable by death to take one of these royal dogs out of the palace.

The significance of the Shih Tzu in Chinese culture extended beyond their role as royal dogs. The breed was also seen as a symbol of luxury, and it was not uncommon for wealthy families to have a Shih Tzu as a companion. During the Ming Dynasty, the Shih Tzu was even bred by palace eunuchs, who developed a unique line of the breed, known as the “Lion Dogs,” due to their distinctive, flowing coats.

Despite their history as sacred, royal dogs, the Shih Tzu breed faced a decline after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. It was not until the 1930s that the breed began to experience a resurgence in China, and it was during this time that the first Shih Tzu was exported to England.

Today, Shih Tzu dogs remain a beloved breed and a popular choice for pet owners around the world. Their adorable appearance and affectionate personality have made them famous companion dogs, and their royal history has only added to their allure. If you want to learn more about the Shih Tzu’s role in Chinese royal history, be sure to check out our article on Shih Tzu in Imperial Palace.

Shih Tzu as Chinese Royal Dogs

It’s fascinating to learn how different dog breeds have been used throughout history by different cultures for various purposes. In China, one such breed that had a significant place in the royal courts was the Shih Tzu. This small dog is believed to be bred for companionship and as a symbol of status and wealth. The significance of Shih Tzu in Chinese culture can be traced back to their association with the imperial family, particularly during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th Century. These dogs were adored by the royal family and were considered prized possessions, often given as gifts to other nobles or foreign dignitaries. Their history as royal dogs is rich, and it is interesting to delve further into the details, including their breeding, grooming, and the many roles that they played in the Chinese court.

The Emperor’s Adored Breed

During the Tang Dynasty, the Shih Tzu breed had already gained the adoration of emperors for their royal looks and unique personality. The breed was chosen to be companions of the Chinese royalty, mainly due to their cute appearance and lovable personality. The Shih Tzu dogs were highly regarded and kept heavily guarded in the palace as symbols of royalty.

Having a Shih Tzu in the palace symbolized wealth and power. They were highly cherished and elevated to the status of family members. These furry companions were given the due respect and attention they deserved by the palace staff. Chinese emperors were known for their fondness for canines, but the Shih Tzu was the most beloved among them.

The Shih Tzu dogs had the privilege of being served exquisitely prepared meals by palace chefs, slept on silk pillows, and adorned with luxury accessories, such as collars made of precious stones. They were carefully groomed by the palace staff and received royal treatments like haircuts, shampoo baths, and massages. Strongly associated with Chinese culture and royalty, the Shih Tzu was deemed worthy of such treatments.

The Shih Tzu was held in high regard for its ability to keep the Chinese royals company, and even act as their protectors. These small, but mighty dogs were trained to protect their owners while in the palace grounds, alerting them to any potential danger.

The Shih Tzu breed holds a special significance in Chinese culture due to its association with royalty. Even today, they are revered as royal companions due to their affectionate nature and aristocratic aura. To learn more about famous Chinese emperors and their love for Shih Tzus, check out this interesting article on famous-emperors-shih-tzu.

Forbidden to Leave the Palace

During the Ming Dynasty, Shih Tzu were the beloved dogs of the Chinese royals. Due to their popularity, they were strictly forbidden to leave the palace walls, and anyone caught trying to smuggle one out faced severe punishment. This added to their mystique and allure. The royals went to great lengths to ensure that their Shih Tzu were well-cared for and groomed to perfection. In fact, the grooming of the Shih Tzu was taken so seriously that they had their own dedicated palace attendants.

The Significance of Shih Tzu in Chinese Culture

The significance of the Shih Tzu in Chinese Culture goes beyond just being royal pets. These dogs were believed to bring good luck and represented prosperity, and possessing them was seen as a sign of status and wealth. They were also thought to resemble the lion, a powerful symbol in Chinese culture, without the ferocity. This is why the breed’s name, “Shih Tzu,” means “lion” in Mandarin.

Royalty Breeding of Shih Tzu

Due to their popularity and significance, the breeding of Shih Tzu was taken very seriously. The finest specimens were carefully selected for breeding in order to produce dogs that adhered to strict breed standards. This selective breeding, coupled with the dogs’ strict confinement within the palace walls, helped to ensure their purity and quality.

Royal Grooming of Shih Tzu

The grooming of Shih Tzu was also taken very seriously. The attendants assigned to care for the Shih Tzu went to great lengths to keep them clean and well-coifed. Their long, silky hair was brushed daily and styled into a topknot to keep it out of their eyes. Their coats were bathed in rice water to keep them soft and shiny, and their paw pads were massaged to keep them soft and pliable. This level of care and attention is still evident today in the grooming of Shih Tzu as companion dogs.

To learn more about the history of Shih Tzu as royal dogs, visit our article on Shih Tzu Royals.

Shih Tzu vs Lion

Legend has that the Shih Tzu was bred to resemble a lion – the symbol of Buddha’s glory. This was to honor the god and to acquire merit. The Shih Tzu was supposed to represent the lion that Buddha rode on. Imagine the shock and surprise when a Shih Tzu’s lion mane was shaved off! Despite its small size, this breed had a royal and intimidating aura around it.

The Shih Tzu’s resemblance to a lion was not just symbolic. These dogs were often chosen to guard palaces and temples. The Chinese bred these dogs with the sole purpose of scaring away intruders. Their physical strength, combined with their lion-like appearance, did the job very well. This was especially true when the pooches were on guard duty at night. The intruders would mistake a Shih Tzu for a real lion in the dark, which worked in the dog’s favor.

It is fascinating to note that the Shih Tzu’s reputation as a lion dog was so widespread that it even made its way to Europe. In many artworks from the Baroque era, Shih Tzus were shown dressed as lions!

Despite their fierce appearance, Shih Tzus are definitely gentle lap dogs. They were bred to be loved and admired by their owners, especially those in the upper echelons of society. To this day, they retain their regal status, being one of the most beloved breeds in the world.

If you want to learn more about the Shih Tzu’s significance in Chinese culture, check out our article on The Significance of Shih Tzu in Chinese Culture. Or, if you’re interested in the royals love for Shih Tzus, read about Shih Tzu Royal Breeding and Shih Tzu Royal Grooming.

Decline and Resurrection

During the Qing Dynasty, Shih Tzu suffered a significant decline in popularity, nearly to the point of extinction. The downfall of the breed is attributed to two main reasons: the downfall of the imperial family and the reluctance of the Chinese to sell their imperial dogs to foreigners.

The downfalloftheimperial family: As the Qing Dynasty crumbled, the imperial family lost power, and their luxurious lifestyle was no longer sustainable. The imperial family could no longer afford to maintain the royal kennels, and as a result, many of the Shih Tzu were either released or perished due to inadequate care.

The reluctance of the Chinese to sell their imperial dogs to foreigners: It was illegal for the Chinese to sell their imperial dogs to foreigners, which made the task of importing the breed to other countries difficult. However, a few European explorers who traveled to China managed to bring back some Shih Tzu specimens, which helped to revive the breed in the Western world.

The resurrection of Shih Tzu started in England in the early 1900s when a handful of British breeders managed to obtain a few specimens from China. These breeders worked tirelessly to restore the breed to its original glory. Standardizing the breed took some time, but eventually, the Shih Tzu was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1940.

Today, Shih Tzu is a popular breed that is adored by people all over the world for its cute looks, affectionate nature, and calm demeanor. The breed’s history as a royal dog and its association with the imperial court in China has given it a special mystique that has endured throughout the centuries.

Shih Tzu in Europe and America

As the centuries passed, the Shih Tzu’s popularity grew beyond China’s borders. This small and charming dog caught the eye of Westerners, particularly the British, who had established trade relations with China. The arrival of Shih Tzu in Europe and America marked a new chapter in the story of these royal pooches. Let’s delve deeper into the fascinating history of how the Shih Tzu became a renowned breed in Europe and America.

13 Dogs from China to Britain

In the early 20th century, Shih Tzu dogs were introduced to the UK from China. The first 13 dogs that were brought over from China started the Shih Tzu breed in the UK. These dogs were presented as gifts to British Royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II.

Who brought the Shih Tzu dogs to Britain?

A man named Mr. Suydam Cutting, an American businessman and diplomat, brought the dogs to Britain around 1930. He acquired them from Peking, the capital of China. These dogs immediately became popular in Britain, mainly due to their adorable appearance and loving personality.

What was the reaction in Britain when Shih Tzu arrived?

When the Shih Tzu dogs arrived in Britain, it was a time when people were interested in exotic and rare animals. These dogs quickly became popular with the upper classes in Britain. They were considered fashionable and prestigious, leading them to be presented as gifts to royals and celebrities.

How did Shih Tzu become a recognized breed?

The Shih Tzu breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in the UK in 1940. This recognition allowed the breed to be fully appreciated and taken seriously by dog enthusiasts. Today, Shih Tzus are popular all over the world, and they have some of the most dedicated fans of any breed.

To summarize, 13 Shih Tzu dogs were brought to Britain from China in the early 20th century by Mr. Suydam Cutting, an American businessman and diplomat. Their arrival sparked a passion for the breed in Britain, leading to their recognition as a breed by the Kennel Club in 1940. Since then, Shih Tzus have become popular all over the world and are adored for their loving nature and adorable appearance.

Who brought the Shih Tzu dogs to Britain?Mr. Suydam Cutting, an American businessman and diplomat
What was the reaction in Britain when Shih Tzu arrived?Popular with the upper classes in Britain and considered fashionable and prestigious
How did Shih Tzu become a recognized breed?The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in the UK in 1940

Shih Tzu named in honor of Lady Brownrigg

When it comes to the history of Shih Tzu, there is one particular story that stands out. In the early 20th century, a group of Shih Tzu dogs was brought to England from China.

The story goes that one of these dogs was given as a gift to a woman named Lady Brownrigg, who was an avid dog lover and breeder. Lady Brownrigg was so taken with this little dog that she decided to breed it and further develop its breed.

As a result, the Shih Tzu was officially named in honor of Lady Brownrigg’s kennel, “Gaytesbrook”. Interestingly enough, Lady Brownrigg was not the only breeder who played a significant role in the development of the Shih Tzu breed.

Another breeder by the name of Mrs. Hutchins also helped to develop the breed in the early 20th century. In fact, her Kennel Club registration made her the first breeder to officially label the breed as “Shih Tzu”.

Both Lady Brownrigg and Mrs. Hutchins helped to further the development of the breed in Europe, and their efforts would ultimately lead to the breed’s recognition by the American Kennel Club.

To highlight the significance of these breeders in the history of the Shih Tzu, let’s take a closer look at their contributions in the table below:

Lady BrownriggReceived Shih Tzu as a gift and began breeding the breed
Mrs. HutchinsRegistered the breed with the Kennel Club and helped to develop the breed in Europe

These two women were instrumental in helping to develop the Shih Tzu breed and bring it to the rest of the world. Thanks to their efforts, the Shih Tzu is now recognized and beloved around the globe as a popular companion dog.

American Kennel Club Recognition

In the early 1900s, the Shih Tzu breed made its way to America thanks to military servicemen returning from tours in China. It wasn’t until 1969, however, that the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Shih Tzu breed.

The breed quickly gained popularity among American families. Its small size, playful personality and loyalty were all appealing characteristics. The AKC held several dog shows featuring the Shih Tzu breed, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The breed’s popularity continued to grow and by 1990, it was among the top 10 most registered breeds with the AKC. Today, the Shih Tzu breed continues to be a beloved companion dog in the United States and around the world.

Thanks to its AKC recognition, the breed has also been able to participate in various dog competitions such as obedience trials and agility competitions. Shih Tzus have even won awards in these competitions, showing that they are not just adorable lap dogs, but also intelligent and trainable.

The Shih Tzu has come a long way since its origins in ancient China. From being cherished as royal dogs to becoming beloved companions in the United States and other parts of the world, the breed has proven its enduring popularity and adaptability over the centuries.

Shih Tzu as famous companion dogs

Shih Tzu dogs have become famous companion animals and are beloved by many for their charm, loyalty, and playful personalities. They are well-suited for people who live in small apartments or homes, as they are small dogs that do not need a lot of space to be happy. They also do not require a lot of exercise, making them ideal for people who prefer to stay indoors. Let’s take a closer look at why Shih Tzu dogs have become so popular as companions.

One of the reasons that Shih Tzu dogs make great companions is their temperament. They are known for being affectionate and loving towards their owners. They are also very adaptable and can fit into many different lifestyles. This adaptability means that they can be good companions for people who work long hours or who travel frequently, as they are independent enough to be left alone for short periods of time.

Another reason why Shih Tzu dogs have become so popular as companions is their adorable appearance. Their long, flowing coats and big, expressive eyes make them very cute and endearing. Many people are drawn to their playful personalities and enjoy spending time with them.

Shih Tzu dogs are very trainable and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks and behaviors. They are intelligent dogs that like to please their owners, so they are responsive to training. They are also easy to groom because of their long, flowing coats, which require regular brushing and trimming.

It is worth noting that Shih Tzu dogs can be prone to certain health problems due to their small size and short snouts. They are susceptible to respiratory problems and dental issues, so it is important to take good care of their health. Regular visits to the veterinarian, a healthy diet, and proper grooming can help keep them healthy and happy.

Shih Tzu dogs have become famous companions due to their affectionate temperament, adorable appearance, adaptability, and trainability. Their popularity is unlikely to wane anytime soon, as they continue to capture the hearts of dog lovers around the world.

Reasons Shih Tzu Dogs are Famous CompanionsDescription
TemperamentAffectionate, adaptable, and independent
Adorable appearanceLong, flowing coats and big, expressive eyes make them very cute
TrainabilityVery trainable and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks and behaviors
HealthProneness to respiratory problems and dental issues make it important to care for their health

Shih Tzu in Popular Culture

When it comes to popular culture, the Shih Tzu breed has become a star in its own right. With its cute and fluffy appearance, it’s no wonder that these dogs have captured the hearts of many around the world. From art to music and even social media, the Shih Tzu has made its mark in various aspects of cultural expression. Let’s dive deeper into the world of Shih Tzu in popular culture and explore the different ways in which they have become emblematic of pure cuteness and charm.

Shih Tzu in Art and Movies

Shih Tzu have made a significant impact in art and movies over the years, due to their charming and irresistibly cute appearance. Here are some examples of their presence in popular culture:

  • Art: Shih Tzu have been portrayed in various art pieces, both classical and modern. One such work is the “Royal Dog of China” painting by Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian Jesuit missionary who served as a court painter for the Qianlong Emperor in the 18th century. The painting depicts two Shih Tzu dogs lying on a cushion, and it is a testimony to the breed’s connection to the Chinese imperial court. In recent times, Shih Tzu have been featured in contemporary art such as the pop art painting “Shih Tzu Frenzy” by Dean Russo. The painting is a colorful representation of the breed, highlighting its cuteness and playfulness.
  • Movies: Shih Tzus have been cast in a variety of movie roles, from leading characters to sidekicks. One of the most memorable performances was by the Shih Tzu named Smoochie in the 2001 movie “The Royal Tenenbaums”. Smoochie was the beloved pet of the Tenenbaum family and played a significant role in the movie’s plot. Another memorable performance was by the Shih Tzu named Bruiser in the 2001 movie “Legally Blonde”. Bruiser was the pet of the main character Elle Woods and was known for his fashionable outfits and cute demeanor. Shih Tzus have also been cast in animated movies such as “Lady and the Tramp” where they portrayed a trio of mischievous dogs.

Shih Tzu have become a recognizable breed in popular culture, thanks to their unique appearance and charming personalities.

Shih Tzu in Music

The charming Shih Tzu breed has inspired numerous artists in various fields, including music. Let’s take a look at some notable songs and musicians who have been influenced by these lovable dogs.

Shih TzuThe Rocket Summer
Run Around SueDion DiMucci

One of the most famous songs that references Shih Tzu is “Shih Tzu” by The Rocket Summer. The song is a love letter to a girl who owns a Shih Tzu, and it celebrates the breed’s beauty and personality. The song includes the lyrics, “I just wanna be your Shih Tzu, I just wanna lay in your lap.” It’s a sweet and catchy tune that captures the affection that people have for these adorable dogs.

Another song that mentions Shih Tzu is “Run Around Sue” by Dion DiMucci. In the song, the narrator warns other guys about a girl named Sue, who is “the worst girl in town.” He sings, “She walks like a lion, she’s got a Shih Tzu.” The reference is interesting, as it compares Sue’s confident gait to that of a lion, and suggests that her Shih Tzu is a sign of her high status.

Other musicians who have owned or appreciated Shih Tzu include Mariah Carey, who famously owned multiple Shih Tzu dogs and included them in her music videos, and Elvis Presley, who gave a Shih Tzu puppy to his girlfriend Linda Thompson as a gift.

The Shih Tzu’s lovable personality and unique appearance have made them a popular subject in music. From romantic ballads to catchy pop tunes, the breed has inspired a range of songs that celebrate their charm and appeal.

Shih Tzu in Social Media

When it comes to the modern era, social media has acted as a key player in the dissemination of information about the Shih Tzu. With the rise of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, cute and adorable pictures of Shih Tzu puppies and dogs in different poses and settings have taken over the internet.

The demand for Shih Tzu content has led to the creation of dedicated social media accounts for the breed, including Instagram accounts with thousands of followers such as “shih.tzus” and “notorious_shihtzus”. Also, hashtags like #shihtzu, #shihtzusofinstagram, and #shihtzulovers have become particularly popular on social media.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Shih Tzu in social media is their popularity among influencers and celebrities. Famous personalities like Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Miley Cyrus have been known to own Shih Tzus, which has led to an increase in the breed’s visibility on social media.

To provide a better understanding of Shih Tzu’s social media presence, the following table highlights some of the popular Shih Tzu accounts on Instagram:

| Instagram Account | Number of Followers | Description |
| @shihtzus | 47.4k | Over 8k Shih Tzu pictures submitted by followers |
| @notorious_shihtzus | 77.7k | Dedicated to the craziest and most notorious Shih Tzus |
| @shihtzubros | 50.3k | Two Shih Tzu brothers sharing their daily adventures |
| @izzymermaidshihtzus | 102k | Features two Shih Tzu named Izzy and Fiona in human-like poses and settings |
|@shihtzumania | 146k | Features adorable shih tzus pictures shared by fans|

Social media has played a pivotal role in the popularization of Shih Tzus breed. Shih Tzus have found popularity, not only in the field of art, music, and pop culture, but also on popular social media platforms. The breed has been able to leverage the power of social media to showcase their cuteness and character to a wider audience while also cementing their place as one of the most charming and beloved dog breeds in the world.


As we come to the end of this article, it’s clear that the Shih Tzu breed has had a rich history as royal dogs, from their origins in China to their status as adored companions of emperors. Their reign within the palace walls was strictly enforced, and their appearance was often considered divine.

However, the arrival of Western powers marked a decline in the Shih Tzu breed’s popularity, but thanks to dedicated breeders and enthusiasts, they were able to make a comeback both in Europe and the United States.

Today, the Shih Tzu remains a beloved companion dog and a fixture in popular culture, with appearances in art, movies, and even music. They continue to be treasured for their loyal and affectionate personalities, as well as their unique, lion-like appearance.

In conclusion, the Shih Tzu has certainly come a long way since its days within the emperors’ palace walls. It’s fascinating to see how a breed with such a storied past has managed to remain relevant and cherished in modern times. We can only hope that they will continue to bring joy and companionship to countless people for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the lifespan of a Shih Tzu?

The average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is between 10-16 years, although with proper care and a healthy lifestyle, they can live longer.

What is the Shih Tzu’s personality like?

Shih Tzus are known for being affectionate, playful, and outgoing. They thrive on human attention and make great family pets.

Are Shih Tzus hypoallergenic?

While no dog breed can be completely hypoallergenic, Shih Tzus are considered one of the best breeds for allergy sufferers due to their low shedding and low dander production.

Do Shih Tzus require a lot of grooming?

Yes, Shih Tzus do require regular grooming to maintain their long, thick coats. Brushing, bathing, and trimming their hair is essential to keep them healthy and comfortable.

Can Shih Tzus be trained easily?

Shih Tzus can be stubborn at times, but with consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement, they can be trained to follow commands and obey their owners.

Are Shih Tzus good with children?

Yes, Shih Tzus are generally good with children, especially if they are socialized with them from a young age. However, it’s always important to supervise any interactions between dogs and children.

Do Shih Tzus have any health problems?

Like all breeds, Shih Tzus are prone to certain health issues such as eye problems, allergies, and respiratory problems. Regular vet check-ups and proper care can help prevent and treat these issues.

Do Shih Tzus need a lot of exercise?

No, Shih Tzus do not require a lot of exercise. They are a small breed with low energy levels and are content with short walks and indoor playtime.

Are Shih Tzus expensive to buy?

Yes, Shih Tzus are often considered a high-end breed and can be expensive to buy from a reputable breeder. Adoption is always an option, as there are many Shih Tzus looking for loving homes.

Can Shih Tzus be left alone for long periods of time?

No, Shih Tzus are a social breed and require human interaction and attention. Leaving them alone for extended periods of time can lead to separation anxiety and behavior problems.


Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

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