5 fascinating Chinese dog breeds

As well as their handsome and regal appearances, Chinese breeds are often accompanied by fascinating ancestry. In honour of Chinese New Year, we’ve put together a list of 5 dog breeds that originated in China, and some facts you may not have known about them.


Name: Chow Chow

Origin: Northern China

Known for: Their blue-black tongue and dense double coat that gives it a ruff or mane-like appearance

Originally bred as: A general-purpose working dog for herding, hunting and guarding

Did You Know:

  • In Chinese, the breed is referred to as Songshi Quan which means “puffy-lion dog”
  • The coat of a Chow Chow can vary between cream, fawn, red and blue
  • Elvis Presley once had a Chow Chow named Getlow

Shar Pei

Origin: China

Known for: Their distinctive deep wrinkles and their blue-black tongue

Originally bred as: A Chinese farm, hunting and fighting dog

Did You Know:

  • The Shar Pei was named as one of the world’s rarest dog breeds by Time Magazine and the Guinness World Records in 1978
  • The breed was not recognised by the American Kennel Club until 1992
  • The population of the breed declined during the Communist Revolution and they soon faced extinction. Hong Kong businessman Matgo Law wrote a letter to the editor of the American magazine, DOGS, to appeal to the world to save the breed


Name: Shih Tzushihtzu

Origin: China (Although believed by some to have originated in Tibet, then developed in China)

Known for: A short muzzle, dark eyes and a friendly demeanour

Originally bred as: Companions for the royal family of China

Did You Know:

  • When it comes to training, the Shih Tzu is prone to stubbornness!
  • Shih Tzus are also often known as the Chinese Lion Dog or the Chrysanthemum Dog
  • The Shih Tzu was described by composer James Mumsford as “…a dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal and a dash of teddy bear.”

Pekingese (Peking Lion Dog)

Origin: Western China

Known for: Their abundance of fur

Originally bred as: Companions of the imperial family of China

Did You Know:

  • The Pekingese breed was favoured as a lap dog by the royalty of the Chinese Imperial court
  • It’s name refers to the city of Peking (now Beijing), home to the Forbidden City imperial palace
  • The Pekingese were also proud companions of the Chinese Buddhist monks



Name: Chinese Crested Dog

Origin: China (Also believed to originate from Africa and Great Britain)

Known for: Their soft, humanlike skin and the tufts of fur on their paws, tails and head

Originally bred as: loyal companions for bed-ridden sick patients

Did You Know:

  • The name of the breed comes from their use on Chinese ships to get rid of any rats lurking in the cargo. However, they’re believed to have originated in Africa and have been referenced as the African Hairless Terrier in many 19th Century texts
  • The Chinese crested can vary from the Powder Puff (with fur) and the Hairless (without fur), both of which are born in the same litter.
  • A hairless Chinese Crested dog called Sam was the winner of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest for 2 years in a row
  • Chinese Crested dogs have appeared as characters in film and TV including: 102 Dalmatians, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Ugly Betty and Hotel for Dogs

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