Tomorrow marks the most important date in the Chinese calendar - Spring Festival - or as it is more commonly known, Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year marks the transition between zodiac signs and 2021 is the year of the Ox. Chinese New Year celebrations typically last for 16 days and include memorial ceremonies, lantern festivals, family dinners and much more. Chinese New Year has more than 4,000 years of history and is the longest holiday of the year in the Chinese calendar. To celebrate this incredible holiday, we wanted to take a look at some of the most fascinating Chinese dog breeds to celebrate our four-legged friends this Lunar New Year. Because for us, every year is year of the dog!
Pugs are one of the most popular breeds of the last few years, with their popularity growing massively around 2014. They often have a sweet, friendly temperament, and a distinctive facial structure. But did you know that they're one of the world's oldest breeds? It's believed that the pug originated in China, sometime around 400 B.C, and were often kept as companions to Buddhist monks living in Tibet. Although some think pugs are related to the Pekingese, another dog hailing from China, others believe they were ancestors to bulldogs and mastiffs. Dating back to the Han Dynasty, pugs were considered prized by the Emperors of China and lived in luxurious accommodations, sometimes even being guarded by soldiers. Pugs are one of three types of short-nosed dogs that are known to have been bred by the Chinese, the lion dog, the Pekingese, and the Lo-sze, which was the name for the ancient pug. Some think that the famous Foo Dogs of China are representations of the ancient Pug.
Image by Madhurima Handa
Often referred to as Pekes, lion dogs, or sun dogs, Pekingese were originally kept as companion pets to Chinese royalty. They were also often the subject of Chinese folklore. In fact, one story says that Pekingese were actually created when Buddha shrunk a lion down to the size of a small dog. In realty, Pekingese were most likely the result of breeding a larger dog with toy-sized dogs in China, but they remained a favourite and much pampered pet among Chinese royalty for thousands of years. DNA evidence suggests they are one of the oldest dog breeds. The Pekingese is believed to have existed in China for as long as 2,000 years and was named after the capital city of Peking (now Beijing). The Pekingese was closely guarded and never allowed to leave the palace let alone the country, but he came to the attention of the Western world as a result of the Opium War in 1860. The dogs became prizes of war and were taken to England where they were presented to the royal family.
Known for their distinctive, wrinkled faces, small ears, and blue-black tongues, Shar-Peis are a very unique and rare breed with roots in ancient China. In fact, it's commonly believed that Shar-Peis were originally bred as hunting and guard dogs. Some historians believe the Shar-Pei is an ancient breed, though there is no definitive evidence to prove this. Statues that look a lot like the Shar-Pei have been dated to the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.) Sadly, during China's revolution in the mid-1900s, Shar-Pei populations became so low that the breed was almost extinct. A few Shar-Peis, however, were bred in Hong Kong and Taiwan. If not for the efforts of one man, Matgo Law, of Down-Homes Kennels in Hong Kong, the Shar-Pei might be extinct.
4) Chinese Crested
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Because the Chinese Crested has extremely early origins, no one is exactly sure when or how the breed was developed. It's assumed that hairless dogs were brought to China and bred with smaller, toy-sized dogs to give the Crested its unique, hairless appearance. In fact, Chinese Crested dogs don't really come from China at all. They evolved from African or Mexican (no one is certain which) hairless dogs who were reduced in size by the Chinese. The Chinese Crested is believed to have accompanied Chinese sailors on board their ships as early as 1530, hunting vermin during and between times of plague. The Chinese apparently viewed the Chinese Crested as having magical healing powers and so they were also kept by Chinese emperors. By the middle of the 19th century, Chinese Cresteds began to appear in numerous European paintings and prints. In China, the breed has now become rare.
Do you own any of these breeds? Let us know in the comments below! If you'd like to see some appropriately festive photos featuring Hiro, take a look at our 2018 lookbook for our Year of the Dog collection here.