The Pekingese is a breed of toy dog originating from China, whose name translates in to English as the Lion dog. For years the Pekingese could only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace.
In 1860, during the Second Opium war, the Old Summer Palace in Beijing was occupied by British and French troops, the Xianfeng emperor and all of his court had fled to Chengde. Only an elderly aunt of the emperor remained, however when the British and French troops entered the Palace she committed suicide, leaving behind her five Pekingese, they were removed by the troops and the Palace was burnt to the ground.
Sir George Fitzroy took two of the dogs, which he gave to his cousins, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. Another two were taken by Lord John Hay who passed them onto his sister the Duchess of Wellington, who named them Schloff and Hytien. The fifth and final dog was claimed by Lieutenant Dunne who presented it to Queen Victoria, this dog was given the name, Looty.
Later the Empress Dowager Cixi presented Pekingese dogs to several Americans, including John Pierpont Morgan and Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, who named it Manchu.
By the early 1900s the Pekingese had become really popular in Western countries, they were owned by some of the high society at that time, including Alexandra of Denmark (wife of Edward VII) and Elsie de Wolfe (a popular American actress and interior designer).
Modern breeders and dog show judges tend to prefer the long haired over the more traditional Spaniel like coat. The Pekingese dogs most obvious characteristics are its flat face and large eyes, the Pekingese have a muscular durable body which is low to the ground, and an unusual rolling gait, which may have been deliberately developed by breeding to stop it wandering far from the court.
All modern breed standards allow for a variety of colours and combinations, the majority of Pekingese are Gold, Red or Sable, though Cream, Black, White, Tan and Slate Grey have appeared in the breed.
On average a Pekingese dog will live to be 11.5 to 12.5 years of age, the leading cause of death, like many toy dog breeds is trauma. Neurological and cardiovascular problems are other common causes, though if diagnosed early, these can be treated with medication, then a normal life is possible. A heart murmur is potentially a sign of problems, this should be diagnosed by a Cardiologist, often this problem doesn’t surface until middle age, so it is very difficult to diagnose in a puppy.
Other common problems include eye issues and breathing problems, which are a result of its tiny skull and flattened face. The Pekingese should not be kept outside, flattened faces and noses can cause breathing problems which make it difficult for them to regulate their body temperatures in hot or cold weather. They have long backs relative to their legs which makes them vulnerable to back injuries, care should be taken when picking them up to give adequate support to the back.