Dogs have been part of Chinese culture for over 7000 years and have been a key part of stories, myths, artwork and archaeological discoveries in this vast and ancient land.
Since they were tamed, they have served as protectors, haulers, herders, hunters, and regal companions throughout China.
They come in a wide range of types, sizes and body types, from the small Chinese Crested dog to the huge and furry Tibetan Mastiff.
They are as distinctive as China’s various regions, which range from the tropical coast to the colder mountain zone.
Let’s discover more about these fascinating breeds.
If you’re considering getting a Chinese dog breed, do consider their lengthy history and what the dogs were bred for. They may be set in their ways because they have been around for a while. But you’ll undoubtedly have a lifelong protector at your side.
Chinese Crested Dog
The Chinese Crested is a lively and graceful member of the toy dog breeds. There are two varieties of Chinese Crested – The Hairless and the Powder Puff. The Hairless Chinese Crested has a fine grained smooth skin that seems warm to the touch. These Chinese Hairless have a crest of hair on their heads, tufted feet and plumed tails.
The origin of this breed is unknown but was said to have been discovered by Chinese traders in Mexico or possibly Africa. Both Hairless and Powder Puff varieties can be found in the same litter and the two Crested varieties are often interbred. The Crested has evolved to be a perfect apartment dog.
The Chinese Crested is a happy and animated dog that needs a lot of personal interaction with its owner. These agile dogs are very good climbers and jumpers and can even grip objects and toys with their paws. The breed loves its owner and family and gets along well with older children and other pets. The Cresteds are very active and inquisitive indoors and need early training while puppies to control these activities.
The ancient mastiff Tugou known as the Chongqing dog has a long history of service as a hunter and watchdog in the Chinese city of Chongqing.
These dogs are highly sought after because of their reputation as stalwart guardians of the home and family. The Chuandong hound is also known as a Chongqing Dog.
The Chongqing Dog is a medium sized dog with a deep red/mahogany (orange) color and a black muzzle.
The Pekingese or Peke has quite a sturdy and strong build for a small toy dog breed. The breed is characterized by a lion-like appearance with a broad chest and straight back. The Peke has a very flat face with a snub nose, and wide set eyes.
The Pekingese or “Lion Dog’ seems to date back to the 9th century in China. Ownership of the Peke was restricted to members of the Chinese Imperial Court and they were considered sacred by the Chinese Tang dynasty.
The Pekingese seems to believe in its royal heritage and is a dignified, regal, confident and stubborn dog. The Peke is fearless, good-tempered and not aggressive. Pekes are fairly quiet and are not particularly fond of children or strangers.
The adorable Chug dog breed, also sometimes known as the Pughuahua, is the cross between a Pug and a Chihuahua. Small and compact but with a big personality, this dog is the perfect pet for those who live in smaller homes or those who simply do not have the space for a larger pup.
The Chug dog was originally bred by combining the sassy nature of the Chihuahua with the goofy nature of the Pug to create an affectionate, friendly and compact dog. As they are a hybrid dog, the Chug is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and therefore does not have a breed standard.
In the 1500s, Dutch traders brought the Pug from China to England and Holland and these pups became a popular dog among aristocracy and royalty. This included William III, Queen Victoria, Josephine Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette. After the Civil War they made their first appearance in the United States.
Few people are familiar with the Manchurian Hairless dog. The hairless Chinese Crested dog is noteworthy for being a “relative” of the more popular hairy Chinese Crested. There are therefore many shared features between the two.
They are affectionate and loyal companions, who love being around family.
Kunming dogs are exceptionally bright, assured, confident, fun, enthusiastic, and inquisitive. They are eager to learn, so you can teach them almost anything.
They are similar in appearance to the German Shepherd but they stand taller in the back.
It is the only working dog breed created in China that has gained recognition on a global scale. Its coat is black and yellow.
The Chinese Kunming Dog, often known as the Kunming Dog, is a working dog breed that was created in Kunming, China, in the 1950s from the crossbreeding of native dogs with Alsatians.
Their coats can be any colour from deep rust to white to light tan, and they have pointed ears, a robust build, and shorter fur that is thick in hue.
In 2007, it gained breed status. In its country of origin, the police and military utilise it often, and it has been exported to many other nations.
They are also known by other names such as Kunming Wolfdog and Chinese Wolfdog.
Tibetan Kyi Apso
Originally from Tibet and the Himalayas, the Tibetan Kyi Apso is a medium- to large-sized breed of livestock guardian dog. The breed was actually unknown to the West, up until it was photographed by Mrs Eric Bailey, the wife of a British diplomat attached to the British Diplomatic Mission in Lhasa. She took a photograph of the dog that belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.
It is believed that this dog has been around since ancient times and that it diverged from the Tibetan Mastiff as a distinct, bearded variety at some point.
The Tibetan Apso dates back at least two thousand years when it was bred in Tibet by holy men and nobles to guard palaces, monasteries, and temples in the holy city of Lhasa.
The Tibetan Apso looks like a lap dog but behaves like the Lion Dog of Tibet. Lhasas are one of the toughest and strongest willed of all the small dog breeds. The Lhasa is an intelligent, very self-confident, and lively dog that dislikes strangers.
The Chow Chow is certainly one of the more exotic dog breeds. The Chow has a leonine appearance and its mouth and tongue are blue to black in color. This proud and serious-looking breed walks with a stiff-legged gait due to the lack of angulation in the rear legs.
Chows are aloof and independent and are reserved and even unfriendly to everybody but their owner. The Chow while totally devoted to its master is not affectionate and is reluctant to play games. Chows are not very good dogs with children and can be very aggressive toward strange animals.
A huge breed of Tibetan dog is the Tibetan Mastiff. Depending on the temperature, its double coat can be medium to lengthy and come in a broad range of hues, including solid black, black and tan, different degrees of red (from pale gold to deep red), bluish-gray (diluted black), and occasionally with white patterns on the neck, chest, and legs.
These canines were initially employed to guard Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and monks from creatures like bears, wolves, and snow leopards.
Southern China is home to the historic medium-sized dog breed known as the Tang Dog.
Tang dogs are native to southern China and have served as devoted gatekeepers there for countless years.
Although they are occasionally employed for hunting and as meat dogs, tang dogs are treasured as companions and watchdogs.
The Tang dog has a dense coat, compact body, and short in height. Tang dogs are always solid-colored, and their hues can range from cream to red to black.
The face has a long, broad nose, long, slightly slanted eyes, and a tongue that is bluish-black in colour.
The breed bears the name of China’s prosperous Tang Dynasty.
Shar Pei (aka Bone Mouth Dog)
The Shar Pei or Chinese Shar-Pei is one of the seven Chinese dog breeds discussed in our article The Year of the Dog. The Shar Pei is an exotic looking medium dog breed with wrinkled skin and a large head with scowling features.
The lineage of the Chinese Shar-Pei can be traced back to the Han Dynasty when they found works of art featuring very similar appearing dogs. Some historians believe the breed was descended from a much larger (now extinct) Tibetan breed and others believe it is related to the Service Dogs of Southern China.
The Shar Pei is serious, calm, dignified, quiet, confident, independent and is devoted to its family. Shar Peis are very clean and easy to house train but because of its independent and strong-willed manner they are difficult to obedience train.
Shaanxi Xian Hound
A uncommon breed of sighthound that originated in China is called the Shanxi Xigou. These magnificent dogs are excellent security dogs, faithful companions, and skilled hunters.
The Shanxi Xigou, often called the Xian Hound, is an ancient breed of dog from China.
Dogs that resemble the Shanxi can be seen in artworks that date back to the Qin Dynasty that are more than 2,500 years old. The Chinese god Zhang Xian, who frequently assumes the form of a dog, is the source of the breed’s name.
The Tibetan Spaniel or Tibbie is an attractive small dog breed that looks a little like a Pekingese but with a less profuse coat and a longer muzzle. The Tibbie has a wide and slightly domed head that is carried high. The muzzle is medium length and wrinkle free and the pendant, feathered ears are set high.
The Tibetan spaniel is misnamed because although it originated in Tibet, it has no real spaniel heritage in its ancestry. Small monastery dogs are thought to be the Tibbies predecessors. These small dogs accompanied the Llamas, turned prayer wheels and performed watch dog duties in the monasteries.
The Tibbie is lively, cheerful, affectionate, alert, very intelligent and thrives on lots of human companionship. Tibetan Spaniels are calm, playful and very good natured and they do well with considerate older children. The Tibbie is very devoted to its family and if properly socialized will get along well with other cats and dogs and family pets. This breed is quite reserved with strangers and may bark when they approach.
A huge dog of the molosser type breed, the Laizhou Hong. The dog has a longer body than it has at the withers. Their skull is robust, proportionate to the rest of the body, and musculoskeletal. Their snout is as long as the top of their head and they have a very prominent skull.
They are also known as The Chinese Red Dog.
The Shih Tzu is a classy-looking and affectionate small dog that will be your devoted companion forever. It has a long flowing and silky double coat that is usually groomed to perfection and its hair is usually pulled back from its face and tied into an elegant topknot, with a little bow.
The exact origin of the Shih Tzu dog breed is uncertain, and whether it was Tibetan or Chinese or maybe a bit of both?. It is believed that it could originally have been a cross between a Tibetan Lhasa Apso dog, and a Chinese Pekingese dog. Some stories say the breed was actually developed by Tibetan Monks and gifted to the Chinese Royal dynasties to be companion dogs.
The Shih Tzu has expressive brown eyes, a black nose, and its coat is long and flowing: its topknot makes it look like a pampered little pooch. The Imperial Shih Tzu, the Tiny Toy Shih Tzu, and the Miniature Shih Tzu are just named for marketing purposes; they are not different breeds of Shih Tzu.
The Tibetan Terrier or TT is a sturdy small- to medium-sized dog with a profuse coat. Tibetan Terriers have a square and powerful build with a fall of hair that covers their dark brown eyes. Although you may not see their eyes, the TT’s have long eyelashes that keep the hair away from their eyes and have very good eyesight.
Tibetan Terriers originated in Tibet almost 2,000 years ago where they were bred and raised as companion dogs for the Lamas in monasteries. TT’s were considered as good luck charms and were called “Little People” by the Tibetans. They were called terriers because of their small size but there is no terrier in their backgrounds.
The TT is good-natured, happy, lively, affectionate and very intelligent. This breed is very athletic and agile and is adept at using its paws to hold toys and open cabinet doors. TT’s can be somewhat stubborn and mischievous and they mature slowly and will need puppy socialization and training longer than many other faster maturing breeds.
Tugou literally translates as “Dirt Dog” in the Chinese language.
They are a diverse group of dogs that are native to China and are still widespread today. The Chinese Pastoral Dog, the Chongqing Dog, the Liangshan Hound, the Taiwan Dog, and the Xiasi Dog are among the recognised breeds and landraces that are categorised as tugou.
The Xiasi Dog, which was historically bred as a hunting and watchdog, is treasured now for bringing riches to the family.
Dogs of the Xiasi breed were long reared by the Miao people in the village of Xiasi, Guizhou Province, China, hence their name.
With little genetic variation and an estimated scarcity of only 270 purebred Xiasi today, the breed is in grave danger.