PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: December 2, 2008

Surprisingly stocky and muscular for its size, the Pekingese is a toy dog breed which originated in China over 1000 years ago. The breed has hardly changed over that time and still remains a happy, lovable, and cute lapdog -- perfect for apartment tenants or people in search of a small dog.

Physical Characteristics

The Pekingese has a slightly long, pear-shaped build with heavy forequarters and light hindquarters. Its unhurried and dignified gait appears much like a slightly rolling trot. Its undercoat is thick, while its outercoat is coarse, long and straight, standing away from the dog's body and forming a mane around the shoulder area. This lion-like appearance and bold expression lends itself to the Pekingese's Chinese origins.

Personality and Temperament

Though it may not always be demonstrative, the independent (and sometimes stubborn) Pekingese is actually quite loving. It enjoys playing games, but may not be active enough to satisfy lively children. Some dogs have a tendency to stay away from strangers, while others are bold. The Pekingese is simply not a typical woman’s lapdog, unafraid of defending itself and getting into a skirmish.


The Pekingese enjoys leisurely walks outside, but is just as happy having a romp indoors. Heat prostration can be fatal for this breed, so in warmer climates, the dog should be kept in well ventilated, air-conditioned rooms. In cooler climates, it can be allowed to roam outdoors, but should be brought back in the house to sleep at night. The Pekingese is a perfect apartment dog.

To avoid matting, its coat should be combed every week. The Pekingese's nose wrinkles, meanwhile, should be cleaned daily in order to prevent infection. The Pekingese also has a tendency to snore because of its flat nose.


The Pekingese, which has an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years, is prone to minor health problems like elongated soft palate, patellar luxation, stenotic nares, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), trichiasis, corneal abrasions, disticiasis, and skin fold dermatitis. It also known to suffer from urolithiasis occasionally. This breed does not tolerate heat or anesthesia well. Additionally, Pekingese pups are often delivered by cesarean section.

History and Background

To learn of the Pekingese, you must first know of the legend of the lion and the marmoset. According to folklore, in order for the lion to wed his lady-love, he begged the patron saint of the animals, Ah Chu, to reduce him to the size of a pigmy, while still retaining his great lion heart and character. It is then said that the offspring of this union was the dog of Fu Lin, or the Lion Dog of China.

Traceable back to the Tang Dynasty of the 8th century, the Lion Dog, now referred to as the Pekingese, were bred by palace eunuchs and treated like royal members of the family -- even having palace servants tend to their every need -- until 1000 A.D. (The smaller Pekingese were known as sleeve dogs, as they could be taken around in the large sleeves of their Chinese owners.)

Pekingese breeding continued during the Tao Kuang period (1821-1851), after which British looters plundered the imperial summer palace in 1860, bringing with them five royal Lion Dogs to England.

One of these Pekingese dogs was gifted to Queen Victoria, thereby increasing the demand for the breed and insuring its place in British society. For several decades, ownership of a Pekingese dog was a sign of privilege and wealth. The American Kennel Club registered the Pekingese in 1906. Today, its popularity has neither waned nor faltered, remaining an excellent choice for show dog fancier and purebred connoisseurs alike.

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