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17 Chinese Dog Breeds: Ancient & Unique Dogs (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

chowchow in china

China is a vast country that has produced several adorable dogs over the years. While the Chow Chow and Shih Tzu are the most popular Chinese dog breeds, there is a wide variety of others as well.

In this article, we’ll cover all of the Chinese dog breeds currently in existence. If you’re considering adopting a Chinese dog for whatever reason, this article has you covered.

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The 17 Chinese Dog Breeds

1. Pekingese

A Pekingese dog smiling
Image Credit: Olga Aniven, Shutterstock

These small dogs hail from the 8th century when members of the Tang Dynasty fell in love with these adorable dogs. In fact, they passed a law that made it illegal to own one unless you were royal. At the time, the capital of China was Peking, which explains where these dogs got their name.

Today, this Chinese dog breed is known for being charming and affectionate. They form tight bonds with their favorite people but are also entirely independent. However, they are not particularly fond of children and do not like to roughhouse.

2. Shar-Pei

Shar Pei
Image Credit: Vasiliy Khimenko, Shutterstock

The Chinese Shar-Pei weighs up to 60 pounds, putting them firmly in the “large” category. These strong guardians are renowned for their loyalty, and they have quite a bit of intelligence to boot as well.

They do not make particularly useful dogs for new owners. They can be challenging at times due to their independence, guarding instincts, and intelligence. They are a bit too stubborn and smart for their own good. Early socialization and training are essential.

Furthermore, these dogs aren’t friendly either. They enjoy spending time with their family but can be quite aloof with strangers.

3. Bone Mouth Dog

Technically, the Bone Mouth Dog isn’t its breed. Instead, it is a variation of the Shar-Pei. However, the American Kennel Club does not recognize this potential variation. Still, this “bone-mouthed” Shar-Pei is quite popular in China itself.

The difference between the two variants seems to be a matter of geological location. It appears that the “Meat Mouth” Shar-Pei that the AKC recognizes is mostly a product of American breeding. The Bone Mouthed dog is likely closer to the original Shar-Pei and is the variety that primarily exists in China today.

They act very similarly to the Shar-Pei, but they have far less skin around their face and muzzle.

4. Pug

Pug dog playing with plastic bubble in the box_ezzolo_shutterstock
Image Credit: Ezzolo, Shutterstock

Pugs are exceedingly popular in the United States. They make excellent house dogs and get along with practically everyone. They do well in apartments and the countryside. They are fun-loving and very affectionate.

However, these dogs have a significant downside—their plethora of health problems. They are likely one of the unhealthiest breeds currently in existence. Their squished snouts make it difficult for them to breathe normally, which can cause plenty of problems by itself. Their curly tails can also cause back problems of all sorts.

If you’re looking at getting a pug, you might also like: Best Puppy Food for Pugs

5. Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel dog breed
Image Credit: ilyessuti, Pixabay

The Tibetan Spaniel is somewhat rare outside of China. However, it is one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world. They were initially bred to act as alert dogs around Tibetan monasteries, and they keep many of these barking instincts today.

These dogs come in many different color combinations. They are not technically Spaniels, and are more related to Pugs and other Chinese dog breeds.

These dogs take quite well to training and are a decent choice for first-time dog owners. They can be quite yappy, however, so they may not be the best choice for apartments.

6. Chow Chow

chow chow
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

One of the most well-known Chinese dogs is Chow-Chow. This lumbering beast is famous in both China and America. They can reach up to 70 pounds, making them one of the most massive dogs on this list.

Chows are well-known for being clean (of all things). They are easy to house-train and have very little doggy odor. They often clean themselves like a cat.

These dogs are not particularly aggressive, but they can be somewhat protective and “dignified.” Early socialization is essential to ensure they are used to other people and animals. They are not the friendliest of dogs and tend to be aloof toward strangers.

7. Shih Tzu

teacup shih tzu
Image Credit: Shutterstock | Victoria Kovelina

The Shih Tzu is also one of the most popular dogs on this list. Their long coat and squished snout make them unmistakable. They are quite smaller and weigh between 9 to 16 pounds. Their coat comes in many different colors, but they do require a lot of grooming. You’ll need to brush them daily to keep their coat soft and clean.

Shih Tzus are incredibly affectionate and gentle with children. They are perfectly content staying inside on the couch all day, though they should get a bit of exercise to prevent obesity.

8. Tibetan Mastiff

brown tibetan mastiff
Image Credit: Liliya Kulianionak, Shutterstock

This dog is huge. Males can weigh up to 150 pounds and stand at 26 inches at the shoulder. This Chinese dog breed is not made for apartment living.

Despite their massive appearance, these dogs are quite mellow and calm. They are very friendly and loyal to their family and are often described as very devoted. However, they can be a bit territorial with strangers. Early socialization is required to overcome some of their territorial, guarding instincts—preferably before they get too large.

Like most Chinese dogs, this mastiff also has the unmistakable “lion’s mane.”

9. Chinese Crested

Chinese Crested dog in wind
Image Credit: Pxfuel

The Chinese Crested comes in two different varieties: hairless and haired. This is somewhat misleading, though.  The hairless variety does have quite a bit of hair on its head, and the haired variety has a bald face. So, neither of them fully lives up to their name.

Both dogs are playful and affectionate. They require a bit more exercise than most smaller dogs and do best in an active family.

The hairless variety can be useful for those with allergies. However, they are not entirely hypoallergenic—as can be said for every dog.

10. Chongqing Dog

Image Credit: Kat_marinina, Shutterstock

This is a breed you don’t see too often. This is one of the rarest dog breeds in the world, so the odds of finding one to adopt are incredibly slim. They aren’t even fully recognized by the American Kennel Club, though they do have their conservatory program.

The Chongqing dog is said to have existed since the Han dynasty, which was more than 2,000 years ago. They were bred to be watchdogs and hunting dogs, making them quite versatile. They were the common man’s dog.

These dogs are quite outgoing and confident. They love to play and have fun in general. Their prey drive is very strong, so they will chase other animals and occasionally run off because of this. They make great family dogs and are known for being gentle with children.

11. Kunming Wolfdog

Kunming wolfdog
Image Credit: Bandersnatch, Shutterstock

This wolfdog looks a lot like a German Shepherd. It has the same basic head shape and athletic build. One unique thing about this dog is that it fluffs up when it is alerted, similar to a feline. These dogs are also not recognized by the AKC because they are quite rare.

As you might imagine, this dog shares ancestry with the German Shepherd. However, it was developed and originated in China. They are trained for many of the same jobs as German Shepherds, including military and police work.

This breed is difficult to find in the United States.

 12. Formosan Mountain Dog

white Formosan Mountain Dog
Image Credit: Wirestock Images, Shutterstock

This breed originates from a small island called Formosa Island in Taiwan. Here, they are quite common. They roam the streets and the countryside, as well as being pets to many different families. They are local stars and well-adapted to their island.

Because they are only located on one island, it can be challenging to find them elsewhere. They are not a popular breed in the USA and are not recognized by the American Kennel Club.

These dogs are very energetic and loyal. They do best in active families and often spend their days regularly on the go. They are also quite intelligent, which allows them to learn commands very quickly. They are used occasionally as guard dogs, but they do not have the same territorial instincts as some other breeds.

The Formosan Mountain Dog is a generally new, domesticated breed. They spent much of their history in the wild. Because of this, early socialization is vital.

13. Xiasi Quan

This dog is known by a couple of different names, including “Bai Long Quan.” It originates from the Guizhou Province in China, which is in the south.

It is very dissimilar to other Chinese dogs. It has a lean build and a wiry white coat. There is no “lion’s mane,” like that typically seen on most Chinese dogs.

The Xiasi Quan was bred to be a hunting dog, so it has a very high prey drive. It is quite alert and intelligent, with keen senses to match. They are quite easy to train and not particularly stubborn. They get along well with other dogs, though they may consider smaller animals prey.

14. Japanese Chin

japanese chin with tongue out
Image Credit: Marshall Reyher, Shutterstock

I know what you’re thinking. How can the Japanese Chin be Chinese, but the history of this dog is quite complicated. Historians and breed experts don’t really know where this dog came from. Many claim that it is a product of China despite its common name. It may have come from Tibetan monasteries, like many other dogs on this list, or it could have been a favorite breed of Chinese emperors.

Eventually, though, the breed ended up in Japan, where Japanese nobles cultivated it. So, it is really both Chinese and Japanese.

This breed is most suitable as a lap dog, making them an excellent choice for apartment living. They don’t require much exercise and are fine sitting on the couch most of the day. They are affectionate and not particularly troublesome. We recommend them for first-time owners.

15. Lhasa Apso

black & white lhasa apso
Image Credit: Peakpx

The Lhasa Apso is similar to the Shih Tzu, except its muzzle is a bit more pronounced. They’ve been around for thousands of years and originated in the Himalayas, where they functioned as alert dogs at monasteries.

They are short, but also quite sturdy. Their coat can reach the floor and requires quite a bit of grooming to keep them clean and tangle-free. Like other Tibetan breeds, their tail curls over their back.

These dogs are very intelligent—sometimes a little too much for their own good. They can be stubborn and willful when they want to be. They aren’t particularly friendly with strangers, though they are affectionate with their family members.

16. Tibetan Terrier

Tibetan Terrier
Image Credit: manfredxy, Shutterstock

This dog is very similar to the Lhasa Apso, except it is slightly taller. Despite its name, it is not considered a Terrier. Instead, it is in the non-sporting group.

Like many Tibetan dogs, this canine was bred to be a watchdog for monasteries. They have very long coats that require regular grooming. They can get up to 30 pounds and are often considered “medium-sized” dogs. The Tibetan terrier has unique, flat feet, which help it navigate deep snow in the mountainous terrain they were bred in.

This dog breed can be quite energetic. They prefer to be outdoors and doing something. Because of this, they fit best in active families.

17. Tibetan Kyi Apso

This rare breed guards livestock in Tibet. Occasionally, their hair is shaved and used to make rugs—that’s how hairy they are. They often weigh just under 100 pounds and have incredibly long coats. As you can imagine, that’s plenty of hair for a rug. They are lighter and more athletic than the Tibetan Mastiff but are otherwise quite similar.

They have powerful pack instincts, which likely contributed to their survival in the harsh, mountainous terrain of their homeland. They are considered a “primitive” breed and retain many original instincts.

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Final Thoughts

There are plenty of pure-bred Chinese dogs, and because of their popularity, dozens, maybe hundreds, of mixed-breeds too. If you’re interested in welcoming a Chinese breed dog into your home, you may be in need of a list of 100+ Chinese Dog Names.

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