Meet the Breed: Peke-itude

Revered around the world for millennia, the Pekingese’s brazen spirit makes this toy dog hard to ignore.

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With its expressive eyes, flattened face and beautiful coat, the Pekingese is one of the most recognizable and popular dogs in the world. It’s often dismissed as an animated stuffed toy rather than a real dog, but owners of the breed know different. “They have a strength of character and an opinion about everything,” says Betty Claire Peacock. “I try to convince mine that everything I want is their idea.”

Eastern origins
Mention of a small, short-muzzled dog can be found in Chinese historical texts as far back as 200 B.C., and it’s likely that all of the Chinese toy dogs, such as the Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu and Tibetan Spaniel, were developed from those early dogs.

Chinese mythology asserts the Pekingese is the result of a cross between a lion and a small monkey known as a marmoset. A popular image in Chinese art for centuries, Foo Dogs (or Fu Dogs) resemble lions (considered sacred by Buddhists) and were regarded as ancient protectors that guarded Buddhist temples. Foo Dog images resembling Pekingese were found in all kinds of artwork, particularly during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.), and are still popular today.

The Pekingese takes its name from the city of Peking, now known as Beijing. Through the centuries, only royalty were allowed to own them, and stealing a Pekingese was punishable by death. Very small Pekes with aggressive temperaments were highly valued and kept in the large sleeves of the courtiers. They served as guard dogs whose sudden appearance and snarling demeanor to an unfriendly stranger was literally a surprise from up one’s sleeve.

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