Those huge, black eyes and short muzzle will make any heart melt! Being cute is a way of life for this little charmer, but there is an incredibly rich history behind this breed!
1. They have many names
The name 'Shih Tzu' originally meant 狮子, which translates to 'lion dog'. This is in reference to their lion-like features and the Buddhist mythology in which Buddha rode to Earth on a lion's back (more on this story below!). However, in modern Chinese, they are called Xi Shi (西施) dogs; Xi Shi was considered one of the most beautiful women in ancient China. This name was adopted to avoid any confusion that stems from referring to the breed as a lion.
They are also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog and the Tibetan Lion Dog.
2. They are an ancient breed
Just like the Shiba Inu, their history goes way back. The Shih Tzu has been around for thousands of years. Chinese paintings dating back to 500 C.E. depict dogs resembling the Shih Tzu.
3. They are closely related to wolves?!
Surprisingly, the Shih Tzu is more closely related to wolves than some other fiercer-looking breeds. DNA analysis have concluded that some Asian breeds including the Shih Tzu are some of the oldest and most closely related to wolf ancestors.
4. China or Tibet?
Because of their ancient history, it is not exactly sure where they originated from and there are many theories to it. Some say that the breed originated in China, hence the name 'Lion Dog' in 800 B.C. This was supported with ancient Chinese paintings with dogs resembling the Shih Tzu.
Another common theory is that it originated in the Tibetan Plateau and then developed in China. Buddhist monks bred lion-like dogs which were referred to as 'holy dogs'. The Dalai Lama gave such dogs to Chinese emperors in the late 17th Century and these Shih Tzu predecessors were bred with Chinese dogs to obtain Shih Tzu pups with shorter snouts.
5. They almost went extinct
The Shih Tzu nearly went extinct when the Communist Party took over China. Thanks to some dedicated breeders, they protected the breed and rebuilt the entire line with just seven males and seven females that survived.
6. There's a story behind their markings
Many Shih Tzus have a white spot on the forehead endearingly known as the 'Star of Buddha'. Legend has it that Buddha traveled with a Shih Tzu-looking canine companion. When a group of robbers tried to attack Buddha, the dog transformed into a fierce lion and chased them off. Buddha was so grateful that he kissed the dog on the forehead, leaving a white spot. The markings on a Shih Tzu's back are also said to symbolise the saddle that Buddha used to ride the dog-turned-lion.
7. They were once royalty
Shih Tzus were bred to be companion dogs. Just like the Poodles, they were pampered and loved by royalty in China. Their thick fur acted as radiators and their owners would use them to keep beds warm. They were even carried around like accessories tucked in large robe sleeves!
8. They come in 14 different colours
According to the American Kennel Club, they have 14 colours and 3 different markings. These colours include various shades of gold, white, brown, and black. Other colours include black mask gold, black and white, solid black, solid liver, liver and white, brindle, white, red and white, and grey and white.
Such big facts for a little dog! Shih Tzus may come in all kinds of colours and patterns, but they are all adorable and loving companions!
Like our content or have any suggestions on what you'd like to see on our future blogposts? Leave a comment or simply let us know through any of our communication channels via the icons below! :D
Just a fun-loving team who loves art and also pets <3