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The Dog of Royalty – Japanese Chin

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin, classified as a toy breed, is well known for its distinct royal heritage–the Japanese Chin is considered to be “the dog” of Japanese royalty and it has a long history of being owned and kept as royal pets in Japan.

A brief history of the Japanese Chin

Japanese_ChinThe exact origin of the Japanese Chin is unknown. However, it is believed that the Japanese Chin actually originated from China, possibly as a sole breed which eventually branched out into the Chinese Pekingese breed and the Japanese Chin. Early Japanese records indicate that the early Japanese Chin may have started out as companion dogs of Buddhist Monks who eventually gifted dogs to traveling dignitaries–who, in turn, gifted the majestic looking pets to Japanese royalty. It is known that once the Japanese Chin assumed its place as the dog of royalty, peasants were not allowed to own the dogs and they become a prized privilege. The Japanese Chin remained an isolated breed until the mid-19th century, with the isolationist policy of Japan was ended and trade between Japan and the Western world began again. Commodore Matthew Perry took several pairs of Japanese Chins with him when returning from Japan, however, only one pair of the dogs–given to his daughter, Caroline Perry Belmont, survived. As trade with Japan and the West continued, Japanese Chins began to find their way out of Japan into North America, England, and even China.


The Japanese Chin is a small toy breed, with most adult dogs reaching only eight to 11 inches in height. Healthy adult Japanese Chins typically weigh between 7 and 15 lbs., with the males of the breed typically weighing more than the females. The breed typically comes in combinations of black and white and red and white, although coat variations in cream, tan and mahogany can also occur. Their most distinctive features are their large, wide set eyes, their even facial markings, and their long, smooth coat.

Personality wise, the Japanese Chin is considered to be an intelligent, independent dog that is sometimes referred to as “cat-like.” The Japanese Chin is a companion dog who, when socialized at an early age, can be excellent pets for families–although they, like many dogs in the toy category, do not enjoy rough handling that is common with children.

Although the Japanese Chin has a long and silky coat, it is relatively low-maintenance and owners typically only need to brush or comb their coat twice a week. The breed is prone to breathing and heart problems due to its flattened face, and it is recommend that any types of temperature extremes–such as living in an extremely hot or extremely cold environment–should be avoided.

Did you know? Trivia

  • In Japan, the breed is divided into two categories–“Inu,” considered to be ‘common’ dogs, and “Chin,” which are considered to be royalty because of their heritage.
  • There are visual records of breeds which highly resemble the Japanese Chin found in ancient Chinese temples and pottery.
  • The breed was known to the Western world as the Japanese Spaniel until 1977.