Every dog likes to be king of the castle, but some breeds have been favorites of royalty for hundreds of years with a rich tradition of sitting beside the throne. Here are six breeds known for their association with kings, queens, emperors, and pharaohs.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
With a name like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, it’s no surprise that this breed has a royal history. They were part of European court life as early as the fifteenth century and were bred to be lap dogs, earning the nickname comforter spaniels. However, they also had to be athletic enough to keep up with trotting horses while out hunting. During Tudor times, they were popular with aristocratic ladies, who used them as flea catchers and hot water bottles, as well as companions. As their name implies, the Cavalier was championed by King Charles I as well as Charles II and Mary Queen of Scots.
Today’s regal Cavalier is an adaptable little dog from the Toy Group, ready to cuddle on the couch or jump into an agility competition. Their popularity is no doubt due to their happy, even temper and sweet expression. They have a gentle nature and get along well with children and other dogs.
The Shih Tzu (pronounced sheed-zoo) has a fuzzy early history, but they are probably of Tibetan origin. Lion-like dogs were sent to the Chinese imperial court from Tibet centuries ago, and in turn, imperial breeders likely used these dogs to develop the Shih Tzu. In fact, Shih Tzu means “lion dog.” These little pups were pampered by emperors and their families for hundreds of years and were prized as lap warmers. They were held in such high esteem that emperors would present expensive gifts to breeders who produced the most loving and attractive dogs.
Modern Shih Tzus are small yet solid members of the Toy Group. Their beautiful and impressive coat requires extra grooming time, but they are so adorable that it’s worth it. Because they were bred to spend their days inside the royal palace, they consider it their job to sit in your lap and look cute.
With their majestic appearance, it’s easy to believe the incredibly strong Great Pyrenees has a royal past. However, for centuries they were working dogs for peasant shepherds in the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern Europe. It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that French nobility discovered this impressive dog, and they were adopted as guardians for the Chateau of Lourdes. They were considered equal to two men for guarding the chateaux.
Great Pyrenees, members of the Working Group, are incredibly calm guardians with imposing size. Although they are patient and kind with both the flock and their family, they will instinctively protect their home, making them outstanding watchdogs. Due to their heritage, these gorgeous white dogs have an independent spirit.
The Pekingese is another breed associated with the emperors of ancient China, and their history dates back to 200 BC. The distinctive size of the dogs and special markings on their fur were their most valued characteristics. Some dogs were bred as small as four to five pounds, and were known as “sleeve size” because they could be hidden in the large sleeves of traditional clothing, serving as surprise guard dogs. The emperors closely protected their best specimens of the breed. Anyone caught smuggling one out of a palace was punished with death.
These members of the Toy Group are renowned for their regal dignity, intelligence, and distinctive rolling gait. They are good-natured and affectionate, but think for themselves, although they are easy to train. They don’t tolerate heat well and have modest exercise requirements.
One of the oldest breeds in the world, the Saluki was a hunting hound to royalty for thousands of years. A visual record of the breed in tomb paintings and sculptures dates back to 2100 BC. They served as honored companions to Egyptian nobility and were even mummified like the pharaohs.
Salukis are slender and graceful with an independent yet loyal spirit. These sighthounds are speedy sprinters that love nothing more than giving chase, so a sport like lure coursing suits them perfectly. But after a vigorous run, these intelligent dogs are content to curl up on the couch for a nap.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
You can’t think of modern royalty without thinking of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Queen Elizabeth II of England’s favorite breed. The queen received her first Pembroke Welsh Corgi in 1933 when she was a young girl. His name was Dookie, and he was a gift to both Elizabeth and her sister from their father, soon to become King George VI. Ever since Dookie, there have been Corgis living in Buckingham Palace, and over the years, the queen has owned more than 30 of them.
The short and lively Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a robust, athletic herding dog. They make for affectionate companions, and despite their size are fearless and independent. After all, they were developed to move cattle. With their big dog bark, they make excellent watchdogs, and their smart, playful nature makes them a pleasure to own.