The image of the jaunty Shih Tzu sailing around the dog show ring with its impossibly long coat flowing in the breeze, those mile long eyelashes batting and that styled to death topknot bouncing is what comes to mind for many of us when we think of the Shih Tzu. A high maintenance, fussy, froo froo, fancy schmancy showdog. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Shih Tzu is an ancient dog of noble lineage with an incredibly pleasant, loving personality. Underneath all the fluff and hairspray beats a loving dog of ancient heritage and a fun family pet. The Shih Tzu is a sweet dog who wants nothing more than to love you and sit in your lap. No topknot required.
DNA analysis has determined today’s Shih Tzu breed is one of the “ancient” breeds indicating “close genetic relationship to wolves”. Ponder that a moment and then we will move on.
The Shih Tzu (which means “lion”) is said to be one of the Tibetan “holy dogs” bred by Tibetan monks. It is easy to see their resemblance to the other Tibetan breeds such as the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel and of course, the Pekingese. The breeding of strong willed miniature dogs fascinated Chinese royalty for centuries. There is precious little written information available today, but there is documentation that small dogs were imported to China from Greece, Turkey and Persia and presented to the Chinese emperors to curry favor, as was the custom.
It is widely believed the Shih Tzu descended from breeding Pekingese and Lhasa Apsos to each other in the 1600s. The resulting dogs were given to the royalty of the Chinese Imperial court where they were crossed with Pugs and Pekingese to create more of the look we know today. They were favored by the Chinese and absolutely none left the country until the 1930s under penalty of death. A pair of Shih Tzu were exported to England where they quickly caught the public eye.
The Chinese Dowager Empress Cixi bred Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu in her world famous kennels. It is said that she attempted to keep the breeds separate, but the actual breeding was conducted by her kennel managers aka the palace eunuchs. They had their own agendas and crossbred the breeds to create smaller and smaller dogs with more unusual markings. She died in 1908 and her vast kennels were closed. A few dedicated individuals strove to maintain the integrity of the three breeds, but the results were limited. After the Communist revolution dogs were virtually outlawed and the breeds disappeared.
Fourteen Shih Tzu in the UK were literally all that was left of the breed in the early to mid 1900s. These scant few dogs were used to recreate the once mighty bloodlines of the Shih Tzu. A handful of other Shih Tzu were brought in and added to these pedigrees, including an “oopsie” with a Pekingese. From this tiny gene pool sprang the breed we know today. After WWII returning military personnel brought the Shih Tzu to the United States and they began to become more and more popular. They were recognized by The Kennel Club in England in 1946 and by the AKC in 1969.
Despite their royal heritage many a Shih Tzu is plagued by having a dry or crusty nose. That is not acceptable for these sweet royal darlings!Shop for Shih Tzu Nose Butter Here
The Oxford English Dictionary, that paragon of how to say stuff right, gives us the correct pronunciation as:
The mark, the ¯, shown above the first “e” (sorry, my website is not showing it properly) is a diacritic mark which means the letter is pronounced as a long vowel, for our purposes here it is a long “E” like “see” or “bee”. This means the Shih is pronounced She. Not so hard, huh? The next syllable is tougher.
To say the dzoo just merge the d into the z of “zoo – (da-zoo).
Get ready, to say this breed’s name emphasize the SHEE and them pop on the dzoo: Sheedzoo. You did it! Ok, gotta say it, there is no “T” in Shih Tzu, though many a child (of all ages) has pronounced this name loudly as SHIT zoo. Nope, no shit, no poo in the Shih Tzu. Shih Tzu is also singular and plural. You say Shih Tzu if you are talking about one or 1001 of these little dogs.
In the Chinese pronunciation the “ds” is pronounced the same as the “ds” at the end of the word “words.” It is Chinese Mandarin, and translates directly to “lion.” That is where the term “lion dog” comes from. The moniker “chrysanthemum dog” and “sheet-sue” are common in America, but are both inaccurate American renditions of the original Chinese.
The name comes from the Chinese word for “lion dog” because this kind of dog was bred to resemble “the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art,” such as the Chinese guardian lions. (The Pekingese breed is also called “lion dog” in Chinese.) “Shih Tzu” is the Wade-Giles romanization of the Chinese characters ??, meaning lion; Wade-Giles romanization was in use when the breed was first introduced in America, but in modern times Pinyin romanization is used, rendering it sh?zi. The Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is approximately shirr-dz?. The Shih Tzu is also known as the “Xi Shi dog” because Xi Shi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China. Shih Tzu were nicknamed the Chrysanthemum Dog in England in the 1930s. –From Wikipedia, so you know it is true…
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