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The Lion Dog – Pekingese

Pekingese

The Pekingese, classified in the toy group, is well known for its ancient heritage, association with Chinese royalty, and its regal appearance. The Pekingese is also sometimes referred to as the Pekingese Lion-Dog or Lion-Dog, especially among Chinese breeders and owners. The Pekingese is believed to resemble Chinese guardian lions, symbolic lions–usually in the form of statues–that were placed in front of homes, temples and palaces to protect those living inside.

A brief history of the Pekingese

PekingneseThe Pekingese is one of the oldest dog breeds that still exist in the world. It is estimated to be at least 2000 years old. DNA analysis on modern Pekingese can still find traces of their genetic divergence from wolves, which is what separated wild dogs from domesticated dogs thousands of years ago. It is unknown how the breed developed, however, they were exclusively owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace–in other words, Chinese royalty–for many centuries. The breed was developed there both as a companion animal to royalty and as a guard dog for the palace. The first Pekingese known to be sent from China were the five surviving Pekingese of an aunt of the Emperor Xianfeng, who fled the Old Summer Palace in Beijing during the Second Opium War. The aunt was found in her apartments by British and French troops–she had committed suicide rather than surrender, and her five companion Pekingese dogs were found mourning her body. The dogs were removed from the palace by the troops before the palace was burnt down. Two of these dogs were given to the Duchess of Wellington; one was eventually presented to Queen Victoria of England. In the late 19th century, the Empress Dowager Cixi gifted Pekingese to several Western personalities, including J.P Morgan. An Irish doctor by the name of Heuston, who established smallpox vaccination clinics in China during the late 19th century, was gifted with a pair of Pekingese by the prominent minister Li Hongzhang.

Characteristics

The Pekingese is known for its distinctive flat face, its large and round eyes, and its short, bowed legs. Their short, rolling gait is believed to have been developed in the breed as a way to keep the dogs, which existed as court companions, from wandering too far in the palace grounds. Modern Pekingese are known to have either long or short coats. Both types of coats come in many different color combinations, including gold, red, black, cream, white, tan, and even slate grey. Many Pekingese have ‘mask’ markings on their faces. The Pekingese is a small dog, typically reaching only about 6 to 9 inches in height at the shoulders and weighing, in a healthy adult, about 7 to 14 lbs.

Personality wise, Pekingese are considered regal dogs that possess a sense of self-importance, dignity and intelligence. They are generally good natured and affectionate, especially towards family members, although they may be wary of strangers due to their nature as a guard companion dog. They require relatively little exercise and do well in apartments and other small home environments. Their long undercoats require at least one long brushing session per week, and care should be taken to avoid coat matting.

Did you know? Trivia

  • At least up until the 19th century, stealing a pure Imperial Pekingese from the palace was a crime punishable by death.
  • Common nicknames for the Pekingese include Sun Dogs, Lion Dogs, and Sleeve Dogs–they were called Sleeve Dogs because they were carried by people in the Imperial Palace, who wore court robes with large sleeves.

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