History and Development

The Pekingese is an oriental breed and consequently much of its history is steeped in the mystery that surrounds the Hast. An ancient breed, the Pekingese appears in many early Chinese paintings, usually at play. One painting dates back to 1720, but long before this the symbolic Fo Dogs and Kylins were popular as works of art and these greatly resemble the Pekingese. The different breeds from the East must all have a common origin with the Pekingese. Paintings as far back as 900 A.D. show a rather short-haired, pug-faced dog, as well as longer-haired breeds, rather like the Shih Tzu. There was also the spaniel type, which was higher on leg and of lighter build and much more dainty. Probably inter-breeding between all types gave the Chinese the compact little Pekingese which became such a firm favorite at the Chinese Court.

Succeeding dynasties favored the Pekingese in varying degrees. Out of favor in the Ming Dynasty, they were still bred and cared for by the court but were not granted the high honors of the previous Mongol reign. With the advent of the Manchus in 1644, the dogs again became treasured possessions and were especially favored by the Empress Tsu Hai.

Pekingese were little known in China, except in Peking itself, and were never seen outside the precincts of the Palace. The punishment meted out to anyone removing them from their royal home was usually death. Consequently few ever passed beyond the Palace walls. In 1860, in retribution for offensive action taken against them by the Emperor, certain western nations, including Great Britain and America, marched on the Imperial Palace causing the Court to flee. Most of the “lion dogs” were taken, but five were inadvertently left behind and fell into the hands of the British officers, and thus found their way back to England. None of the five weighed more than 6 lbs. indicating that the original Pekingese were quite small.

Interest in the breed grew rapidly in England and great pains were taken to import this fascinating new breed from its homeland. In 1893, Mr. Loftus Allen imported Pekin Peter and he was shown at Chester in 1894. the first time a Pekingese was exhibited in the British show ring. Peking Prince and Pekin Princess, both blacks, followed in 1896 and the Pekin strain was created. The Duke of Richmond had earlier started the Goodwood kennel which accounted for some of the best of the early specimens. In 1896, the famous Ah Cum and Mimosa were imported directly from the Imperial Palace by Mrs. T. Douglas Murray and the Palace strain was established.

The Pekingese was at first catered for by the Japanese Spaniel Club and in 1898 the Standard 01 Points was drawn up. 1901 saw the founding of the Pekingese Club in Britain. Its aim was to breed a small compact dog under 10 lbs., adhering to the type of specimen found in the Imperial Palace. No weight limit was adopted, but the founders of the breakaway Pekin Palace Dog Association stipulated that only dogs of a maximum weight of 10 lbs. could be exhibited at shows run by the Association and many trophies even to this day have a 10 lbs. weight limit. However the Pekin Palace Association had to relinquish the weight limit as the Kennel Club would not allocate Challenge Certificates with weight restrictions. The Pekingese Club of America was founded in 1909. Its Standard is much the same as that adopted in Great Britain save that, at present, there is a weight limit of 14 lbs. This is no doubt due to the fear that the breed would become large, and a copy of the Standard of the breed in America in 1913 showed that anything up to 18 lbs. was acceptable. Few champions made up today in Britain weigh over 10 lbs. In America, size is generally larger, with weight anywhere up to 2 or 3 lbs. more in a number of specimens.

Although now virtually extinct in China, the Pekingese has elsewhere been extremely popular for many years. Much is owed to the ingenuity of the breeders in England that the breed has reached the pinnacle of perfection recognized the world over. While a few Pekingese were imported directly into the U.S.A. from China, it was stock from Great Britain that was the basis of the breed in that country. The aforementioned Goodwood, Palace and Pekin Kennels established the breed in England. Several kennels were founded on the bloodlines of Goodwood Lo and Goodwood Chum, the first Pekingese champions, which became world famous; the Manchus, the Broadoaks, Sutherland Avenue, Nanking, the Burderops and the most famous of all, the Alderbournes, still in existence today.

Pekingese: Color

The prospective owner can choose from red and fawn brindles in varying shades, to pure whites and glistening blacks, the latter often with tan and white markings. There are also particotors, as well as clear reds, creams and fawns. Black masks are desirable although not a necessity while shadings or markings around the eyes, called spectacles, often lend character to the expression and outlook.

Pekingese: Care

Despite its flowing coat, the Pekingese is not a difficult dog to care for. A careful brushing with a wire pin brush, followed by a pure bristle ensures a coat free from mats and tangles. Knots occurring behind the cars, under the elbows and the skirling can be combed out with a steel comb. Naturally, a brushing once a day is advisable, but a weekly “going over” is really a necessity to keep the dog in good condition. A Pekingese seldom needs a bath; only when it begins to shed its hair when, for the interest of removing all dead hair quickly, a bath would be advisable. In between, a good grooming lotion sprayed or brushed into the coat is all that is needed to keep a dog’s coat lustrous and sweet-smelling. Occasionally, a fine talc powder should be sprinkled into the coat so that it absorbs any dirt or grime; this is then brushed out. Black Pekingese only require the occasional bath and coat dressing.

The most important features to care for are the face and eves. The wrinkle should be well wiped so that no dirt accumulates in the folds cither below the eyes or on top of die nose Eyes should be washed with an eye lotion and care should be taken that no hair touches the eyeball itself.

The Pekingese needs no cutting of hair apart possibly from removing it from under the pads of the feet. This, in all probability, will wear down itself if the dog is given sufficient road exercise but, it not, then cutting away will prevent the hair from knotting and causing further discomfort.

Pekingese: Character

Stout-hearted, the Pekingese has the courage or a lion with boldness, self-esteem and independence. Ibis latter quality is t\ pica! of the breed and should any person desire cloying devotion or servility, then the Pekingese is not for him. It has great determination and should it once think that it can get the better of you. then it will lend always to want its own way, which may lead to crankiness if it cannot get it, and the reputation it occasionally earns of being bad-tempered. But it treated with firmness and understanding, the Pekingese will soon realize who is the master and respect your every wish. Slightly stubborn, it displays almost human qualities of intelligence and is a faithful companion.


The Standard of the breed requires a massive broad skull, very flat and wide between the cars. These ears are heart-shaped and should be well feathered and set neither too high nor too low. The nose is black with broad open nostrils; the muzzle short and very broad and the jaw undershot, but the teeth should never show. The mouth is level. Eyes should be dark, large, round and lustrous, giving the breed its quaintness and its oriental outlook.

The head is the most important feature of the breed. Shape, firmness of body and sound, well-constructed legs are essential to achieve the typical rolling action that is also such a distinctive characteristic. The body is lion or pear-shaped, very heavy in front with well-sprung ribs tapering away to lighter hindquarters. The front legs are heavily boned and well bowed, tight at shoulders. Pasterns are strong and feel, which arc large, should turn outwards. The hindquarters are lighter but firm with well-let-down hocks. It is this build that produces the rolling gait which should be free-flowing and a delight for everybody to see. The tail should be high-set and carried well over the back, the plumage covering the back and falling to one side or the other. The coat is a Pekingese’s crowning glory. It is a double coat, a thick soft undercoat beneath a straight, rather coarse-textured, standoffish outer coat. The fringing on tail, ears, legs and skirtings should be long and profuse, softer in texture but never silky. The mane should be profuse over the shoulders, forming a ruff around the front of the neck.

The great beauty and delightful temperament of the Pekingese appeals to pet owners and breeders alike. It is not an easy breed to produce to perfection. It is extraordinarily difficult to combine type with balance and quality, keeping the essential characteristics and combining all this with soundness of limb.

Selections from the book: “The World encyclopedia of Dogs” (1971)