The Pekingese Paragon: Unraveling the Rich History and Unique Traits of this Ancient Breed

Pekingese book

The Pekingese hails from China; in fact, some say that it owes its survival to the Lamaist form of Buddhism, in which the lion was a dignified symbol of Buddha, sometimes appearing in contracted form. The Foo dogs then bore some resemblance to a lion and were carefully bred to highlight this similarity.

As a matter of fact, the Pekingese eventually came to be known as the lion dog. Widespread breeding programs fell under the watchful eyes of palace eunuchs, with no expense spared at the height of their popularity during the Tang dynasty from A.D. 700 to A.D. 1000. Many of these lion dogs were literally treated like royalty and coddled by personal servants.

Pekingese posing for the camera looking cute

The much smaller Pekingese were known as sleeve dogs since they could be transported in their Chinese owners’ large sleeves. The imperial summer palace was looted by the British in the year 1860. Among the plunder taken were five royal lion dogs, which were exported back to England. One of the lion dogs was given to Queen Victoria.

Because of the lion dog gifted to the Queen and the other four given to other royalty members, the breed became extremely popular among dog enthusiasts. However, their numbers rose slowly; and for decades remained a dog for the wealthiest of owners. Thankfully, the dog became more readily available.

The Pekingese was extremely popular during the 1900s; however, it has since fallen off in numbers. Even though, it remains one of the most competitive show dogs.

Breed Facts

Pekingese laying down on a lazy day

Temperament: This is not a helpless soft lap dog. It is endowed with a courageous character that will not start a fight. However, it will not back down from a fight either. Around strangers, the breed tends to be standoffish. However, this is not a breed-wide trait. Most are outgoing. They’re also very loving and independent, but they’re not overly affectionate. They’re known for their stubbornness; in fact, it is legendary. These dogs are playful around family members but may not be playful enough for young children. Children should be supervised when playing with a Pekingese because these dogs do not tolerate rough handling. Hence, careless children could injure them via rough play.

two Pekingese dogs standing and posing for the camera

Upkeep: The breed make great apartment dogs; they enjoy walks outdoors, but equally enjoy a romp indoors. These dogs are susceptible to heat and can die of heat exposure. If you live in a hot area, make sure that you keep them in air conditioning. Their coats are not easy to maintain; it will mat unless combed at least twice weekly; however, more often is recommended. The wrinkles above the nose should be cleaned daily to avoid infection. Furthermore, the coat around the anus must be checked every day for soiling. Also, Pekingese are notorious snorers.

  • POPULARITY: Somewhat uncommon
  • FAMILY: Oriental
  • ORIGIN: China
  • DATE DEVELOPED: Ancient times
  • CURRENT FUNCTION: Lapdog, Companion
  • OTHER NAMES: Lion dog, Peking Palasthund
  • LIFE EXPECTANCY: 13 – 15 years
  • WEIGHT: Not to exceed 14 pounds
  • HEIGHT: 6 – 9 inches

Color: All colors and patterns are allowable

Group: The Toy Group

Health Problems: Urolithiasis; elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, KCS, patellar luxation, disticiasis, trichiasis, skin fold dermatitis


Energy levelWatchdog ability
Exercise requirementsProtection ability
PlayfulnessGrooming requirements
Affection levelCold tolerance
Friendliness toward dogsHeat tolerance
Friendliness toward other petsFriendliness toward strangers
Ease of training
Pekingese dog romping on the grass in the backyard

This dog is sturdy with a pear-shaped body, heavy forequarters, and lighter hind legs. They’re slightly longer than tall, with a stocky, heavy build. It has a lion-like image. It should indicate courage, boldness, and confidence other than cuteness, gracefulness, or weakness. Its walk is imperial and unhurried, with a slight roll resulting from its wider, heavier forequarters. It has a thick base-coat, and its outer coat is long, bristly, straight, and stands off.

It forms a mane around the shoulders. In fact, the Pekingese must suggest its Chinese roots in its lion-like presence, bold and direct character, and distinguishing expression. The Pekingese is sensitive to anesthesia and does not tolerate heat well. Also, susceptible to corneal abrasions. Puppies must often be delivered by cesarean.

Historical Facts about the Pekingese

Imperial China Connection: The origins of the breed may be traced all the way back to Imperial China. During the Tang and Ming dynasties, The dogs were kept as pets by the Chinese aristocracy, who believed them to have descended from bigger lion-like dogs. They were highly regarded and frequently held a role in the royal court.

The Forbidden City Protectors: Within Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Pekingese were maintained as treasured companions. They were a prestige symbol and a means of protection for the imperial family, and it was claimed that they had been bred to resemble Chinese guardian lions.

Buddhist Temple Origins: According to folklore, Buddhist monks may have played a part in forming the Pekingese breed. One legend claims that the Pekingese originated when a lion and a marmoset fell in love and had a baby. The little, lion-like dogs were developed via selective breeding.

Summer Palace Incident: British and French armies pillaged the Summer Palace in Beijing during the 2nd Opium War in 1860. Several Pekingese dogs were among the stolen relics. Bringing some of these dogs back to England was essential in spreading the breed across the rest of Western Europe.

Survival Through Adversity: During political upheaval in China, the breed was essentially threatened. The dogs’ lives were jeopardized during the 1911 and 1949 Chinese revolutions. Some were slain, while others were smuggled out of the nation to safeguard the breed’s survival.

Western Popularity: The breed acquired popularity in the Western world throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When Queen Victoria developed an interest in the breed, it helped boost its popularity. One of the earliest significant appearances of Pekingese in the United States was in 1893 at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. These events show how the Pekingese breed has evolved from its humble beginnings in China to become a global household name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pekingese hypoallergenic?

The Pekingese is not a hypoallergenic breed of dog. They have a long, thick double coat that sheds often and may be an allergen for some. They are not entirely hypoallergenic, but regular grooming and cleaning may help decrease allergies.

Do Pekingese shed?

This breed of dog does shed. They have a long, thick, double coat that sheds just a little year-round. Maintaining a healthy coat and reducing shedding may be accomplished with regular brushing and grooming.

How much do Pekingese cost?

The cost of a puppy can vary subject to various factors such as the breeder, location, lineage, and breed quality. Pekingese puppies can range from around $500 to $2,000 or more. Show-quality or champion-line Pekingeses may be priced higher. Additionally, it’s essential to consider the ongoing costs of owning a dog, including grooming, food, veterinary care, and other supplies.

How long do Pekingese dogs live?

The typical lifetime of a Pekingese dog is 12–14 years. Some Pekingese dogs have even been known to live to be 15 or older with the right kind of care, food, activity, and regular veterinarian checkups. A Pekingese’s longevity may also be affected by their genes, general health, and way of life.

Are Pekingese smart?

Pekingese are known to be innovative and fast to pick up new skills, but this is not always true. Training may be difficult, however, since they aren’t always eager to please. Training a Pekingese, like any other dog breed, requires positive reinforcement strategies, patience, and persistence.

Are Pekingese high maintenance dogs?

Yes, Pekingese can be considered high-maintenance dogs in several aspects. Here are some reasons why:
1. Grooming Requirements: Pekingese have a long, flowing double coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling. Daily brushing is often recommended to keep their coat in good condition. Additionally, their facial wrinkles and the area around their eyes must be cleaned regularly to prevent infections.
2. Health Concerns: Pekingese are a brachycephalic breed with a short, flat face. This conformation can lead to respiratory issues, dental problems, and eye conditions. Regular veterinary checkups and attention to their overall health are crucial.
3. Training Challenges: Pekingese are known for their independent and sometimes stubborn nature. Training may require patience and consistency. Early socialization is also vital to ensure they get along well with other pets and people.
4. Exercise Needs: While they are not highly high-energy dogs, Pekingese still require daily exercise to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being. Regular walks and playtime are essential, but their short noses mean they can be sensitive to extreme temperatures, so exercise should be moderate.
5. Potential Behavioral Issues: Some Pekingese can be reserved or even aloof with strangers. Proper socialization from an early age is crucial to prevent behavioral problems. They may also be sensitive to changes in their environment or routine.
6. Temperature Sensitivity: Due to their brachycephalic nature, Pekingese are sensitive to heat. They can struggle to regulate their body temperature, making them prone to overheating. Providing a relaxed and shaded environment for them is essential in hot weather.
7. Potential for Injury: Pekingese are small dogs with a delicate build. Care must be taken to prevent them from jumping off high surfaces, as they are susceptible to injuries such as dislocated kneecaps.
While Pekingese make wonderful companions with their affectionate and loyal nature, their specific needs and characteristics require dedicated care from their owners. Prospective Pekingese owners should be prepared to invest time and effort into grooming, training, and overall health maintenance to ensure a happy and healthy relationship with their furry friend.

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