The Pekingese is one of the best lap dogs you'll find—probably because they were bred to be professional lap dogs for Chinese royalty. Here are more interesting facts about the Pekingese:
1. According to Legend, They Are Part Lion
The Pekingese has also been called the Lion Dog, and there is a legend that the Pekingese was the product of a love affair between a lion and a marmoset (a tiny species of monkey). According to the story, the lion approached the patron saint of animals, Ah Chu, and asked to be shrunk so that he could be with his beloved marmoset. Integral to the lion's request, though, was that he retain his lion heart and character, even as he shrunk. This is why the Pekingese is so brave and bold.
2. They Go Back to the 8th Century
Records show that the Pekingese was around as early as the 8th century, during the Tang Dynasty in imperial China. Chinese royalty adored and pampered their Pekingese, and breeders wanted Pekingese attributes to conform to Buddhist teachings and art. They would refer to books with illustrations of the most admired Pekingese.
3. They Were Tiny Guard Dogs
Believe it or not, Pekingese were actually little guard dogs for the Chinese royalty. They were bred to be small enough to fit inside the huge sleeves of ancient Chinese garments. The Pekingese would pop out of the sleeve and start barking to scare off any threats. Although these dogs are small, they can have a ferocious attitude.
4. If You Stole a Pekingese, You'd Be Executed
Seriously, in Imperial China, stealing a Pekingese was an offense punishable by death. That's how highly regarded these dogs were.
5. The British Got Away With Stealing Some Pekingese
At the end of the second Opium War between China and Britain, British forces raided, looted, and then burned the Chinese imperial palace. The Brits took five Pekingese as loot and brought them back to England. One, named Looty, was given to Queen Victoria, who loved the little dog so much she had a portrait of her painted.
6. They Were Gifted to Important Americans
The last empress of China, T'zu, gave Pekes to some high-profile Americans who visited China, including Alice Roosevelt (daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt) and J.P. Morgan. This is how the Pekingese became popular in the United States.
7. A Pekingese Survived the Sinking of the Titanic
There were 12 dogs on the Titanic and only two survived, one of which was a Pekingese named Sun Yat-sen. Sun Yat-sen belonged to Henry and Myra Harper of the Harper & Row publishing family.
8. Many Celebrities Have Owned Them
Pekes are great lap dogs and loving companions, so naturally many celebrities have owned them. Shirley Temple had a Pekingese named Ching Ching that she was frequently photographed with. Elizabeth Taylor loved her Pekingese so much that she chartered a yacht to take her dogs to London with her. Joan Rivers, Betty White, and even Princess Diana's grandmother have all owned Pekingese, as well.
9. They Are Named for the Former Name of China's Capital
So where does the name Pekingese come from? The capital of China, Beijing, used to commonly be referred to as Peking.
Want to learn more about the Pekingese? Check out our video below!