Information about the Shih Tzu

A Shih Tzu is a dog breed of dog weighing 4-7.25 kilograms (8.8-16.0 lb) with long silky hair. The breed originated in China, and is the closest known descendant of the prehistoric Chinese wolf, the “Senji”. Shih Tzu were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969. The name is both singular and plural.

The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese word shi-zi ?? rendered according to the Wade-Giles system of romanization, in use when the breed was first introduced in America. Its Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is approximately SHIRR-ts?. The name translates as “lion”, so named because this kind of dog was bred to resemble “the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art,” such as the Chinese guardian lions (see also the Pekingese breed, called “lion dog” in Chinese). The Shih Tzu is also often known as the “Xi Shi quan”, based on the name of Xi Shi, regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China, and, less often, the Chrysanthemum Dog, a nickname coined in England in the 1930s. The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog, but whether or not the breed should be referred to as a Tibetan or Chinese breed is a source of argument, the absolute answer to which “may never be known”.

A small dog with a short muzzle and large, dark eyes. With a soft and long double coat, the Shih Tzu stands no more than 26.7 cm at the withers and with an ideal weight of 4.5 to 7.3 kg (10 to 16 lbs). Drop ears are covered with long fur, and the heavily furred tail is carried curled over the back. The coat may be of any color, although a blaze of white on the forehead and tail-tip is frequently seen. The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than tall, and dogs ideally should carry themselves “with distinctly arrogant carriage.” A very noticeable feature is the underbite, which is required in the breed standard.

The traditional long, silky coat that reaches the floor requires daily brushing to avoid tangles. Because of their long coat and fast growing hair, regular grooming is necessary which may be a costly expense and should be considered when looking at this breed. Often the coat is clipped short to simplify care, in a “puppy clip”. For conformation showing, the coat must be left in its natural state, although trimming for neatness around the feet and anus is allowed.

DNA analysis placed the ancestors of today’s Shih Tzu breed in the group of “ancient” breeds indicating “close genetic relationship to wolves”. Ludvic von Schulmuth studied the skeletal remains of dogs found in human settlements as long as ten thousand years ago.Another branch coming down from the “Kitchen Midden Dog” gave rise to the Papillon and Long-haired Chihuahua and yet another “Kitchen Midden Dog” branch to the Pug and Shih Tzu.

There are various theories of the origins of today’s breed. Theories relate that it stemmed from a cross between Pekingese and a Tibetan dog called the Lhasa Apso. Dogs during ancient times were selectively bred and seen in Chinese paintings. The first dogs of the breed were imported into Europe (England and Norway) in 1930, and were classified by the Kennel Club as “Apsos”. The first European standard for the breed was written in England in 1935 by the Shih Tzu Club, and the dogs were recategorised as Shih Tzu. The breed spread throughout Europe, and was brought to the United States after World War II, when returning members of the US military brought back dogs from Europe. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 in the Toy Group. The breed is now recognised by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world. It is also recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale for international competition in Companion and Toy Dog Group, Section 5, Tibetan breeds.