Chindara Pekingese and Pugs - Noel & Denise King - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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  pekingese history 

 

THE LION DOG
OF PEKING

 

The Pekingese are also called Dogs of Foo (or Fu, word for happy in Chinese) by the Chinese, and how much they are revered can be seen in the number of Chinese artworks depicting them. They were considered a guardian spirit as they resembled Chinese lions and considered to be cherished and honored as they possessed powers of protection and magic which they bestow on their masters. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog. For centuries, they could be owned only by the high court members of the Chinese Imperial Palace.

The history of the Pekingese dates back as far as 2000 BC, when the dogs were worshiped in Chinese temples and were a favorite pet of the emperor. In the early 19th century breeding of the Pekingese reached its peak and although pedigrees were not kept, so-called “Imperial Dog Books,” used to illustrate ideal dogs, served as a standard.

The Pekingese was first brought to England after the 1860 Allied occupation of Peking, when five of the dogs were found in the Summer Palace, surrounded by the bodies of their masters who had killed themselves to avoid capture. The unique breed received much attention in England, where one of the five original dogs was presented as a gift to Queen Victoria.

An official standard for the Pekingese was composed in 1898 and the Pekingese Club of England was founded in 1904. The AKC first recognized the breed in 1898, eight years after its first recorded entry into the United States. Although the breed was welcomed with open arms abroad, its fate in China was far more tragic. After the death of Empress Dowager in 1911, Chinese officials began a widespread extermination of the breed to prevent them from falling into “unworthy” hands. Very few Chinese Pekingese escaped the massacre.

Because the Pekingese was believed to have originated from the Buddha, he was a temple dog. As such, he was not a mere toy. He was made small so that he could go after and destroy little demons that might infest the palace or temple. But his heart was big so that he could destroy even the largest and fiercest.

In the early 20th century, the Empress Dowager Cixi presented Pekingese to several Americans, including John Pierpont Morgan and Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, who named it "Manchu". The first Pekingese in Ireland was introduced by Dr. Heuston. He established smallpox vaccination clinics in China. The effect was dramatic. In gratitude, the Chinese minister, Li Hung Chang presented him with a pair of Pekingese. They were named Chang and Lady Li. Dr. Heuston founded the Greystones kennel. Other famous Pekingese include romance novelist Barbara Cartland’s white dog ‘Peke’ and ‘Sun Yat Sen’, pet of Henry Harper from Harper Brothers Publishing, who, along with his owner, survived the Titanic disaster!

Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Dowager Cixi, said of the Pekingese:


Let the Lion Dog be small; let it wear the swelling cape of dignity around its neck; let it display the billowing standard of pomp above its back. 

Let its face be black; let its forefront be shaggy; let its forehead be straight and low. 

Let its eyes be large and luminous; let its ears be set like the sails of war junk; let its nose be like that of the monkey god of the Hindus. 

Let its forelegs be bent; so that it shall not desire to wander far, or leave the Imperial precincts. 

Let its body be shaped like that of a hunting lion spying for its prey. 

Let its feet be tufted with plentiful hair that its footfall may be soundless and for its standard of pomp let it rival the whick of the Tibetans' yak, which is flourished to protect the imperial litter from flying insects. 

Let it be lively that it may afford entertainment by its gambols; let it be timid that it may not involve itself in danger; let it be domestic in its habits that it may live in amity with the other beasts, fishes or birds that find protection in the Imperial Palace. 

And for its colour, let it be that of the lion - a golden sable, to be carried in the sleeve of a yellow robe; or the colour of a red bear, or a black and white bear, or striped like a dragon, so that there may be dogs appropriate to every costume in the Imperial wardrobe. 

Let it venerate its ancestors and deposit offerings in the canine cemetery of the Forbidden City on each new moon. 

Let it comport itself with dignity; let it learn to bite the foreign devils instantly. 

Let it be dainty in its food so that it shall be known as an Imperial dog by its fastidiousness; sharks fins and curlew livers and the breasts of quails, on these may it be fed; and for drink give it the tea that is brewed from the spring buds of the shrub that groweth in the province of Hankow, or the milk of the antelopes that pasture in the Imperial parks. 

Thus shall it preserve its integrity and self-respect; and for the day of sickness let it be anointed with the clarified fat of the legs of a sacred leopard, and give it to drink a throstle's eggshell full of the juice of the custard apple in which has been dissolved three pinches of shredded rhinoceros horn, and apply it to piebald leeches. 

So shall it remain - but if it dies, remember thou too art mortal. 

SLEEVE PEKINGESE

According to the 1948 publication Dogs In Britain, A Description of All Native Breeds and Most Foreign Breeds in Britain by Clifford LB Hubbard, the Sleeve Pekingese is a true miniature of the standard-sized dog, and was also known as the Miniature Pekingese. The name Sleeve Pekingese came from the custom of carrying these small dogs in the capacious sleeves of the robes worn by members of the Chinese Imperial Household. Hubbard indicated that this tradition appeared to be early Italian rather than Chinese, but its adoption by the Chinese Imperial Household led to dogs being bred as small as possible and to practices aimed at stunting their growth: giving puppies rice wine, holding new-borns tightly for hours at a time or putting the puppies into tight-fitting wire mesh waistcoats. These practices were apparently forbidden by the late Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi.

In Hubbard's time, the term Sleeve was applied in Britain to a miniature Pekingese no more than 6-7 pounds in weight, often appearing to be only about 3-4 pounds. Mrs Flander’s Mai Mai weighed only a little over 4 pounds and many other breeders had bred true miniatures of a similar size. He noted that miniatures may appear in a litter bred from full-sized Pekingese and were exhibited in classes for dogs less than 7 pounds at the major dog shows in Britain. In 1946 (when Hubbard wrote his book), the Sleeve Pekingese had a strong following with the most popular colours being cream and white, with white being considered particularly attractive. He illustrated the description with a white Sleeve Pekingese bred by Mrs. Aileen Adam.

PEKE LEGENDS

There are two origination stories for the Pekingese. The first is the most common, The Lion and the Marmoset:

A lion and a marmoset fell in love. But the lion was too large. The lion went to the Buddha and told him of his woes. The Buddha allowed the lion to shrink down to the size of the marmoset. And the Pekingese was the result.

The second, less-common, originating story is The Butterfly Lions:

A lion fell in love with a butterfly. But the butterfly and lion knew the difference in size was too much to overcome. Together they went to see the Buddha, who allowed their size to meet in the middle. From this, the Pekingese came. 

Another legend says that the Peke resulted from the mating of a lion and a monkey, getting its nobleness and coat from the former and its ungainly walk from the latter.

Because the Pekingese was believed to have originated from the Buddha, he was a temple dog. As such, he was not a mere toy. He was made small so that he could go after and destroy little demons that might infest the palace or temple. But his heart was big so that he could destroy even the largest and fiercest. (A book was written from this premise, although the author denies knowledge of the legends: Bride of the Rat God.)

FAMOUS PEKES

  • Bambi - pet of Miss Marjory Warner, upon whom James Herriot based his characters Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki Woo.

  • Chu-Chu - from Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.

  • Fifi the Peke - the girlfriend of Pluto, Mickey Mouse's pet.

  • Buster - pet of Chinese folk historian Onoj Ewalg.

  • Manchu - pet of Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth.

  • Winnie/Wednesday - pet of Bridget Marquardt, Hugh Hefner's girlfriend, as seen on E!'s The Girls Next Door.

  • Sun Yat - owned by Henry Sleeper Harper - Harper Brothers Publishing - was a survivor on the Titanic.

  • Penelope - pet of Philadelphia composer Joseph Hallman.

  • Mocha - pet of New Orleans jazz guitarist and his wife Tyler Braddick Ashley Braddick.

The Pekingese is considered a brachycephalic (flat-nosed) breed and the breed is heat - sensitive. In addition, because of this flat face, the Peke's eyes are very susceptible to injury. These breeds are also known to be challenging when it comes to anaesthetics, due in part to abnormal airways, soft palates, and narrow tracheas. Prior to any surgical procedure, a discussion should be held with your veterinarian regarding anaesthetics. 

INTERESTING LINKS

 

:: Our Pekes :: Peke History :: Breed Standards :: Pekes In Art :: Puppy Enquiries :: Links ::

 

 

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