The Shih Tzu is an adorable little dog that can be found in households throughout the world. With a luxuriously long coat, cute ears, and a dainty gait, it is hard to resist the companionship of a Shih Tzu, young or old. The name Shih Tzu means little lion in Mandarin. The name was likely given to this breed as a nod to the Tibetan Buddhist god of learning, as it’s said that the god traveled with a small dog that could turn into a real lion when necessary.1
The Shih Tzu is an old breed with a rich yet muddled background. We know that the Shih Tzu was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969, but what was this dog initially bred for?2 As a general answer, Shih Tzus were bred as company dogs for royalty! Let’s dive into the details below!
The Shih Tzu Hails From China
Historical information and documented records point to the existence of Shih Tzus in China as early as 1,000 B.C. Documents show that countries such as Turkey and Greece offered toy dog breeds to the Tibetans and Chinese as gifts before 624 A.D., and those dogs are thought to be the descendants of the Shih Tzus. It is believed that they were developed in Tibet, and the Tibetan lamas wanted toy dogs that resembled little lions.
The Shih Tzu is known as being the oldest and smallest dog breed to have existed in Tibet. Imperial rulers bred Shih Tzus, called holy dogs, and would not initially sell or trade them to other countries. Finally, after the dogs were allowed to be traded to other countries, they became popular household dogs worldwide.
Shih Tzus Were Bred for Royalty
Unlike other dog breeds, the Shih Tzu was not bred for hunting, showing, or competing. Instead, they were produced by and for Chinese royalty. They were assigned to posts at the temples, where they would “guard” against unwanted visitors and evil spirits. Royals in China would keep the dogs as companions and take them everywhere they went.
When China started trading with other countries, they first refused to trade their revered Shih Tzus. Eventually, the dogs became so popular that the general public in China started to raise them, at which point, China began trading them with other countries. Today, Shih Tzus compete in dog shows and competitions.
Why Are Shih Tzus Bred Today?
There is no other reason that Shih Tzus are bred today other than to satisfy the demand of pet owners. These dogs are fun-loving, family-oriented, intelligent, loyal, and curious, which makes them excellent family pets for households of all types. They are charming dogs that enjoy making new friends and playing with kids.
Their adventurous side demands daily walks and occasional adventures in the car and at the park. They have extremely long, luxurious hair that can be styled in various ways. Many owners even put bows in their Shih Tzu’s hair!
The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed that was restricted to royals in China but is now popular worldwide. They’re remarkable pets and can adapt to living in small apartments or large houses. These gorgeous dogs require more grooming maintenance than many other dog breeds, but the efforts are well worth it.