10 Fuzzy-Faced Facts About Shih Tzus - Pet Hub USA

10 Fuzzy-Faced Facts About Shih Tzus

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Loved for their sweet expressions and big dark eyes, the Shih Tzu has delighted people for thousands of years. Here are 10 facts about these toy-sized, ancient beauties with long-haired coats of many colors.

10. Their Mix Is a Mystery

Fancy Shih Tzu

What mix of dogs created the Shih Tzu is unclear. The main theory is a mix of Pekingese and Lhasa Apso. DNA analysis showed that Shih Tzus are an ancient breed with close genetic ties to wolves. A 2007 cluster analysis found that Shih Tzus are about 30% ancient. There remains contention whether the breed is Tibetan or Chinese.

9. The Origin of Their Name

Panning Shot of a Running Shih Tzu
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels

The name “Shih Tzu” in Mandarin directly translates to “little lion.” Lions are considered sacred in Buddhism and symbolize strength, bravery, and royalty. In contemporary Mandarin, the Shih Tzu is known as the “Xi Shi dog.” Xi Shi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China. Some call Shih Tzu the Tibetan lion dog.

8. China Originally Hoarded Shih Tzus

brown and white shih tzu puppy
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Shih Tzus were highly prized in China. For centuries, the Chinese refused to sell, trade, or even give them away. It wasn’t until sometime between the 1920s and 1930s that the dogs were imported into England and Norway. After World War II, members of the US military brought the first dogs to the US in the mid-1950s.

7. Shih Tzus Are Celebrity and Top 20 Favorites

Marnie the Shih Tzu
Photo via @MarnietheDog on Instagram

Celebrities love Shih Tzus. Famous owners include Beyoncé, Colin Farrell, Bill Gates, Mariah Carey, and Nicole Richie. In modern times, the Shih Tzu has been among the most popular breeds worldwide. In Israel in 2019, they were ranked #1. And in 2012 they were 11th in popularity in the US. The AKC ranked them #20 in the US in 2023.

6. Chinese Nobility Ysed Shih Tzus to Keep Warm

Shih Tzu - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

Shih Tzus, whether from Tibet or China, are built for cold. During the chilly winter months, Chinese noblewomen used Shih Tzus to keep warm. The dogs would be trained to lie on their feet and keep their toes warm. They also carried them inside their royal robes or slept with them to stay warm in bed.

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5. Shih Tzus Originated in Tibet


Although Shih Tzus became hugely popular, hoarded, and prized by the royal family in China, the dogs didn’t originate there. It’s believed that the Chinese royal family originally received Shih Tzus as gifts from Tibetan monks. Shih Tzus are shown in ancient Chinese tapestries that are over 2000 years old.

4. Shih Tzus Nearly Became Extinct

white and brown shih tzu puppy
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

During the Chinese communist revolution that lasted 22 years (1927-1949), the Shih Tzu breed nearly went extinct. The main cause was the death of Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. She had supervised the world’s largest breeding program of Shih Tzus. Every Shih Tzu in the world today can be traced back to the 14 dogs that survived the regime change.

3. Shih Tzus Differ in the US and UK

Shih Tzu

The major purebred dog pedigree registry in the US is the American Kennel Club (AKC), founded in 1884; while for the UK it is the UK Kennel Club, founded in 1873. What these two organizations consider breed standards for the Shih Tzu differs. Shih Tzus in America tend to have larger eyes, and larger, rounder heads.

Read More: The 10 Best Dog Breeds for Retirees

2. Having a Shih Tzu in China Carried the Death Sentence

Shih Tzu wearing a harness yapping

During the Chinese Ming and Manchu Dynasties, the royal families hoarded Shih Tzus to the extreme. All Shih Tzus were considered the exclusive property of the royal court. No common person was allowed to possess one. Any common person who was caught in possession of a Shih Tzu was sentenced to death.

Read More: 10 Most Wolf-Like Dog Breeds

1. Buddhist Mythology About Shih Tzus

white and brown shih tzu
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

According to legend, Buddha came to Earth and brought a small lion dog along. The dog accompanied him everywhere. This lion dog could transform into a lion and carry Buddha on its back. The dog also transformed into a lion to protect Buddha and scare away robbers who intended to kill him.

Read More: Beyond Dog Years: 10 Breeds That Defy Aging with Longevity

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