THE SHIH TZU IN BRIEF
by JO ANN WHITE
T he Shih Tzu is a “big dog in a little package.” In the United States, where the breed stan- dard calls for a weight of 9 to 16 pounds, the Shih Tzu is classified as a toy breed, but in many other countries it is in the Non-Sporting or Utility group. What- ever its size, a proper Shih Tzu should be sturdy and well-boned. If you pick it up, it is likely to be deceptively heavy for its size, with heavy bones, good spring of rib and a broad, deep chest. From what we know of the breed’s history, it has always been thus. Th ere is no evidence of a so-called “imperial gene,” and breed historian Vic- tor Joris states that the breed in the royal court was similar in size to what is called for in today’s breed standards. Although the origin of the Shih Tzu is shrouded in mystery, it is probably mostly of Tibetan origin. Along with such breeds as the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier and Tibetan Spaniel, it is one of a group of small, shaggy Oriental breeds classi- fied as “lion dogs” and considered sacred
in Buddhism. Once such dogs were sent as gifts to the ruling Chinese emperors in Beijing they were likely crossed with oth- er Chinese breeds such as the Pekingese, Pug and Japanese Chin. Th e Shih Tzu was developed as a distinctive breed mostly in the court of the Chinese dowager empress Cixi (T’zu Hsi). After Cixi’s death in 1908 breeding became more haphazard. Because the breed was associated with the royal court, it is believed to have become extinct in China after the 1949 Communist revo- lution. Th erefore, all modern Shih Tzu are descended from just seven dogs and seven bitches, three of which were imported into Norway by diplomats stationed in China, a fourth into Sweden and six into Great Britain. Only one of these was actually bred in the royal palace. Th e final founda- tion dog was a black and white Pekingese deliberately crossed with a Shih Tzu in 1952 by a British breeder to reduce size and length of leg and improve pigment. Until 1952 Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apsos were con- sidered the same breed by the AKC and the
Canadian Kennel Club. Th e Shih Tzu did not receive full AKC recognition as a sepa- rate breed until 1969. After that time, its popularity exploded. Th roughout history, the breed’s sole purpose has been to serve as a com- panion dog. Th e wide variety of colors and markings found in Shih Tzu, all of which are to be considered equally, are probably in part the result of court eunuchs breeding the dogs to match the colors of the gowns of the ladies of the court. Shih Tzu temperament has always been friendly and outgoing. A well-bred Shih Tzu rarely meets a person he does not like, or a situation he cannot handle. In fact, he is likely to give a burglar a guided tour! In the show ring, a Shih Tzu should move smoothly and proudly around the ring, with a distinctly arro- gant carriage. Without being raced or strung up, he should naturally hold his head high and his teacup-handle tail (probably wagging) should be curved well over his level topline.
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2014 • 283
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