For centuries, the Shih Tzu were a well kept secret, but when the Empress opened her Palace to English diplomats, westerners were introduced to her beloved Shih Tzu. Before her death in 1909, it is a matter of record that the Empress gave several Shih Tzu to
British diplomats and their wives. Obviously some of these dogs found their way to
England but it is unclear what happened to them.
Most historians attribute today's Shih Tzu to seven dogs and seven bitches imported from China, and state these dogs comprise the gene pool of all existing Shih Tzu in the west. Although it is quite true that the gene pool is incredibly narrow, we must consider the various accounts of Shih Tzu given to friends of the court and foreign diplomats by the Empress, as well as an undetermined number that were sold by the eunuchs to westerners before and after the death of the Dowager Empress. In addition, returning military during the late 1940's and early 1950's, brought dogs with them when they returned to their homelands, and began breeding programs. These military men and women were not all stationed in the west. Therefore, with these facts in mind, one must surmise the gene
pool is larger than 14 dogs.
A well-known novelist from San Francisco, was born in China to a high ranking official in
the British Foreign Service. He related a story about his mother, who was given two gold and white Shih Tzu puppies around 1915 in Peking. He claims the dogs were brought back to England and bred. He also related stories that his parents told him about the Little Lion Dogs who slept on the feet of Imperial Palace women to keep their bound feet warm.--Editorial comment.
Of the 14 dogs that are thought to be the only dogs imported from China, three became
the foundation of the Taishan Kennel of Lady Brownrigg in England along with eight additional imports to England between 1933-39; three Shih Tzu were imported into
Norway from China in 1932 by Mrs. Henrik Kauffman, including a bitch that many believe
to be the only Shih Tzu bred in the Imperial Palace to reach the western world.
"The Shih Tzu" by Audrey Dodds comments that Monsieur Graefe (Belgian Minster at Teheran, Iran) and his wife had a number of Shih Tzu which they had brought from Peking, their previous post, from 1941 to 1945). These dogs were seen by Alan Roger and Mrs. Sheila Bode, who later became an English breeder. Rogers acquired a white and apricot puppy dog from Peking in 1948. Soon after this, he acquired a grey and white bitch from a Chinese returning to China. The parents of the puppy bitch were brought to Hong Kong by Mr. and Mrs. Harmon-former Counsel General of Peking. It is believed those dogs returned to the U.S.A.
Another account relates that in 1936-37, Mrs. Fowler of Sussex bought two puppy bitches - a gold/white, the other honey colored, in Peking from the Comtesse d'Anjou. The Comtesse d'Anjou brought several Shih Tzu dogs and bitches with her when she returned to France. It would be interesting to know how many Shih Tzu the Comtesse owned, where she acquired them, and why she was "showing' them in Peking!
The AKC approved the Shih Tzu standard in 1969, placing them in the Toy Group. Some of the great early breeders in this country include Jack and Mary Wood - Mariljac Kennels imported Int. Ch. Bjorneholm Pif who exerted great influence on pedigrees and style throughout the U.S. The Reverend D. Allan and Margaret Easton of Chumulari Kennels bought a son of Pif, whelped in the U.S., who became the famous Am. and Can. Ch Chumulari Ying Ying - the gold and white dog who won BIS at the first show held after breed recognition.
Other great kennels include Bom Shu Kennels owned by Jean Gadberry; Si Kiang Kennels owned by Ingrid Colwell; Mar Del Kennels owned by Margaret and Harry Edel; Char Nick Kennels owned by Louis and Florence Sanfilippo; Shang T'ou Shih Tzu owned by Eleanore Eldredge; Emperor Kennels owned by Dr. and Mrs. Edel. Witch's Wood, Hillside Acres, and the list goes on.
From the first day of formal AKC recognition in 1969, the Shih Tzu catapulted from a relatively unknown breed to one of the most glamorous and popular of all the canine companion dogs.