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Black Shih Tzu: Pictures, Facts & History (With Pictures)

Cheryl Regan

By Cheryl Regan

black shih tzu

As cute and cuddly as they may look, Shih Tzus have an ancient, noble, and spiritual history that goes back over a thousand years.

These adorable miniature dogs come in a variety of colors and color mixes, including brindle, blue, gold, red, silver, and black. Shih Tzus that are one solid color are rare, but this just makes them all the more special!

In this article, we’ll be focusing on the stunning all-black Shih Tzu. To be considered black, a Shih Tzu must have no other colors on its coat. Its entire body, nose, lips, and paws should be black. Keep reading for some amazing facts about these “little lions!”

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The Earliest Records of the Black Shih Tzu in History

Looking at the cute ball of fur, you probably wouldn’t associate its heritage with some of the highest places on Earth, but that’s exactly where Shih Tzus originate from.

Over a thousand years ago, when Tibet was a sovereign nation, these dogs were bred to resemble miniature lions.

It is believed that the first of these early “Tibetan lion dogs” were probably sent to China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-65) as a tribute from the Grand Lama of Tibet1.

The Chinese bred these lion dogs with Pekingese or Pugs to create the beautiful dogs we see today.

As for their name, “Shih Tzu” is Mandarin for “little lion”. In Buddhist mythology, the Buddha of wisdom was accompanied by a small “lion dog”. In times of danger, the small dog transformed into a courageous lion that protected him. To this day, Buddhists consider Shih Tzus to be blessed.

shih tzu
Image Credit: Lato Pictures, Shutterstock

How the Black Shih Tzu Gained Popularity

The ancestry of modern Shih Tzus can be traced to Dowager Empress Cixi’s world-renowned breeding program for Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu. During this time, the Empress did not allow these dogs to be exported, but the palace eunuchs bred them in a wide variety of colors. After she died in 1908, the kennel and the breeding program fell apart. It is believed that Shih Tzus were nearly wiped out during the Communist revolution.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that the first Shih Tzus were imported to England. Amazingly, today’s population of Shih Tzus are all descendants of 14 dogs—seven males and seven females, all imported into England from China. A breeding program brought them back from the edge of extinction, and soon after these beautiful dogs were exported to the rest of Europe.

Shih Tzus were introduced into the United States in the 1950s by soldiers who brought them home from Europe after World War II.

Formal Recognition of the Black Shih Tzu

When the first Shih Tzus arrived in England, they were categorized by the Kennel Club as an “Apsos”. It wasn’t until 1935 that a standard for the breed was written by the Shih Tzu Club, recategorizing the dogs as Shih Tzu. A few years later, on May 7th, 1940, the Kennel Club (of the UK) formally recognized the breed.

In 1969, the American Kennel Club recognized the Shih Tzu as a breed in the Toy Group of dogs.

According to an article released by the American Kennel Club in 2021, the Shih Tzu was the 22nd most popular dog breed in the United States at that time.

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Top 5 Unique Facts About the Black Shih Tzu

1. Loved by Emperors and Celebrities Alike

Shih Tzus spent centuries as companions and lapdogs to emperors, enjoying freedom in vast palaces, and no doubt, plenty of attention as well. But even in recent times, glamorous celebrities, such as Nicole Richie, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce are known to have chosen the equally glamorous Shih Tzu as pets.

2. Not Just a Pretty Face – Shih Tzus Are Athletic

It can be easy to look at a Shih Tzu’s lustrous flowing coat, only to underestimate its physical abilities. Despite their tiny stature, these dogs are incredibly athletic. Watching these majestic dogs zip through an agility course will bring a smile to anyone’s face.

3. A Dog With Many Names

The breed is known as “Shih Tzu”, which translates to “little lion”. A lesser-known name for this breed is “chrysanthemum-faced dogs”. The fur on a Shih Tzu’s face grows in every direction—away from the center—in much the same way the petals of chrysanthemums do.

4. Guardians of the Temple of Buddha

Chinese imperial lions are often found guarding the entrance of important buildings—usually in pairs. These lions are known as Fu dogs, and it has been suggested that these statues represent the mythical lionized forms of Shih Tzus, as described in Buddhist legend.

5. Shih Tzus Are Happy But Stubborn

“Fu” or “Foo” means “happiness” in Manchurian, and if it is true that Foo dogs are representations of the Shih Tzu, then the name is apt! These dogs are lovable, playful, and excitable—but they’re also stubborn!

That said, with patience and persistence, these adorable dogs are trainable.

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Does the Black Shih Tzu Make a Good Pet?

Shih Tzus are quite adaptable, in that they will happily play with all members of the family, or they can be just as content as a companion to just one person—as long as they get plenty of attention.

They have long, luxurious coats that need a lot of maintenance. It’s also important to remember that their thick coats are there to keep them warm in the snowy Himalayas, which means that they tend to overheat in hot environments.

Shih Tzus do not demand a lot of daily exercises—about 40 minutes to an hour per day, split into two sessions, should be enough. For this reason, they may be an ideal pet for those living in an apartment—provided there are plenty of toys for them to play with.

Finally, Shih Tzus generally embrace their existence as a lapdog, and will quite happily spend most of the day cuddling.

With all of that said, Shih Tzus make great pets for those looking for a dog breed that doesn’t require an active lifestyle, and those who are happy to give their pup plenty of attention.

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Shih Tzus are lovable and playful dogs that come in a variety of coat colors and patterns. Solid black is one of the rarer coat colors, while it is more common to get black Shih Tzus with white patches.

From their beginnings in the Himalayan mountains to crossing the globe by way of Emperors’ Palaces, and from Buddhist legends and mythology to surviving the Communist revolution and coming back from the brink of extinction—Shih Tzus have a fascinating history!

Featured Image Credit: Toloubaev Stanislav, Shutterstock

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