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Happy Lunar New Year | The History of Chinese Dog & Cat Breeds

Happy Lunar New Year | The History of Chinese Dog & Cat Breeds

Tuesday 1st February marked 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 2022 is the year of the Tiger. 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 and cat breeds to celebrate our four-legged friends this Lunar New Year...



Image via

Li Hua / Dragon Li 

One of only 2 cat breeds native to China, Li Hua cats can be traced very far back. According to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a study of cats living 5,300 years ago in the Chinese village of Quanhucun provides the earliest known evidence of a relationship between 'domesticated' cats and people - pre-dating even the ancient Egyptians! These early cats may have been the ancestors of the Li Hua. The cats are found throughout China and have been mentioned in historical texts and artwork. These cats are recognised as one of the earliest domesticated breeds that began in China. The name Li Hua Mao translates to fox flower cat, in reference to its wild appearance and flower-patterned coat. These cats were ratters, and they also were great companions to humans.


Image via 101DogBreeds 

Chinese Chongqing Dog 

The Chinese Chongqing dog originated in the Chongqing and Sichuan regions of China many hundreds of years ago, with some claiming they are over 2,000 years old. Indeed, Chinese art work from the time of the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) depicts dogs that bear close physical resemblance to the modern Chinese Chongqing dog. They were considered successful hunters, and used to guard livestock and acted as watchdogs on rural farms. There are very few Chongqing dogs left in China, or indeed the rest of the world, in fact they are now thought to be as rare as the Giant Panda. 


Image via thecoolcatsclub 


The sumxu was a long-haired, lop-eared type of cat, now considered extinct, thats is if it ever actually existed. Very little is known about this breed, and there are even suggestions that this breed was fictional. The descriptions we have of the sumxu are based on reports from travellers of a live specimen reportedly taken to Hamburg by a sailor, and on a taxidermy specimen exhibited in Germany. The cats were supposedly valued as pets in China. Also known as the Chinese lop-eared cat, the last reported sighting of such a breed was in 1938. The name sumxu was originally used for the yellow-throated marten, but a series of mistranslations caused the name to be applied to the possibly mythical cat or cat-like animal.


Image via Tiago Vasconcelos

Chinese Shar-Pei 

Dogs like the Shar-Pei breed have existed in southern China for centuries, perhaps as far back as the Han Dynasty around 200 B.C. Early Shar-Pei were all-around farm and working dogs. They guarded property and livestock, hunted game, and herded flocks. The Shar-Pei, with their purplish tongue, shared with only one other breed, the Chow Chow, and their wrinkly skin were thought to frighten away evil spirits. In the early 1950's, many Shar-Pei's (along with all dogs) were tragically culled and so their numbers dwindled. However, in 1973, the breeds popularity grew exponentially across the globe, especially in the US and Europe and their numbers quickly soared! 

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