When exploring the different dog breeds, it may come as a surprise to learn the specific origin of a dog. Throughout Chinese history, dogs have been bred to hunt, herd, and even just look pretty next to Chinese Royalty. These dogs have been adored and appreciated for centuries and for good reason.
China is responsible for the introduction of many breeds that we all know and love today so we have done our research and composed a list of the most popular Chinese Dog Breeds. Beneath each breed is all of the information you will need about their history as well as their personality, to help you get to know them a little more.
Small Chinese Dog Breeds
Whether you’re looking for a new companion or just curious to know more about Asian dog breeds, we’ll kickstart this list with our small Chinese dogs. You may be surprised to learn what breeds originate from China and the history that comes with them.
There’s a lot to say about this breed of pup. The Shih Tzu has been a popular family companion and lap dog for decades due to its loveable and playful personality. Many pet owners have chosen this dog breed on an account of how quickly they adapt and learn in their environments. These pooches are happy in a small or large home as long as there is a lap to warm and toys to play with.
It may surprise you to learn that the Shih Tzu is said to be an ancient Chinese dog breed and was treasured by nobles. They were firmly kept secret, behind palace walls, before they were finally introduced to the rest of the world in the 20th century. Within a matter of years, the Shih Tzu was recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club and became a popular choice of dog for many households in the US and the UK.
- Shih Tzus live between 10-18 years and are generally healthy dogs.
- Shih Tzus belong in the Toy Group breed.
- Shih Tzus are also known as ‘Lion Dogs’ due to their association with a Buddhist Deity.
- Surprisingly, this small dog is said to be closely related to the wolf.
- The Shih Tzu is not to be confused with the Chinese Imperial dog, also known as the Imperial Shih Tzu, as they are considered a separate Chinese breed altogether.
These Chinese dogs are known to be intelligent, loyal, and sensitive. They are a people-orientated dog breed and can happily live in most home environments whether they are large or small, city or rural. Tibetan Terriers are a perfect balance of docile and energetic as they can easily take you a jog around the block or cuddle up to you on the sofa.
Much like the Lhasa Apso, this Chinese dog breed was developed to guard and was often found in Buddhist Monasteries people watching and patrolling the area. Their heritage makes them the perfect watchdog and loyal companion as they will constantly keep an eye on their surroundings.
A high intelligence will also mean that they are easy to train and adapt well to different settings and people. Given an appropriate amount of time and effort they can be perfect family dogs and will play affectionately with children and other animals.
- These dogs can live up to 16 years old
- A Tibetan Terrier isn’t actually a Terrier. They are a non-sporting dog breed and were nonchalantly pinned with the Terrier name.
- The Terrier was also known as the ‘Holy Dog of Tibet’ thanks to its protection of the monasteries.
Amongst all of the popular ancient Chinese dog breeds are the much-loved Pekingese. These toy-sized dogs were, like the Shih Tzu, said to be bred by Chinese Royalty but were brought to the UK during the 19th Century after the Opium Wars. These dogs were later introduced and recognized in the US in the late 1800s-early 1900s.
These highly-regarded pups are loyal and have affectionate personalities. Whilst they love people, they can also be cautious of strangers, as well as other animals, and maintain an alert and watchful presence. They are not the easiest dog to train, although good leadership and tutoring will result in a valued member of the family.
- This breed can live up to the age of 14 in good health
- They were recognized by the AKC in 1906
- Pekingese dogs prefer the comfort of a lap as opposed to chasing other dogs around a yard
- According to Chinese history, stealing a Pekingese was punishable by death.
- A Pekingese was one of three dogs who survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Chinese Crested Dog
Unlike other Chinese dog breeds, there are two types of Chinese Crested dogs that can come from the same litter. There is the hypoallergenic hairless variety, having only tufts of hair on their heads, tails, and ankles. However, there is also the ‘Powderpuff’ known for its ultra-soft and silky coat.
“Great things come in small packages” is a saying that comes to mind when owning a Chinese Crested. Both types of Chinese Crested dog have the same temperament. They are extremely playful, fun-loving, and adore their human companions. They are also intelligent dogs who are keen to learn and impress their owners
- Chinese Crested dogs usually live between 13 and 18 years
- They are classed as Toy dogs
- Like other Chinese breeds, these dogs were bred with purpose as they were used to hunt vermin. They were particularly favored by Chinese sailors to hunt mice on ships.
The history surrounding the Japanese Chin is still hugely speculated. Most historians believe that the breed originated in China, with some arguing that it could potentially come from Korea however the introduction of the Chin to Japan was the reason behind its increasing popularity.
This Chinese dog breed is quiet and adaptable making them the perfect pet for almost any home. In addition to this, they are enormously loving dogs who crave for and thrive on affection from others, human or otherwise.
- This breed usually lives between 10-12 years
- The Japanese Chin is thought to be closely related to Tibetan Spaniels
- These dogs are known to have an attitude similar to cats as they can sometimes be independent and fastidious.
This small breed is also appropriately known as the “bearded lion dog” and has been around for over a thousand years. Amongst other Chinese dogs, Lhasa Apsos were known to guard and protect Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas. These friendly and confident dogs are often described as “comical” by owners due to their expressive nature and floor-length coats. They can be somewhat difficult to train however it is not impossible thanks to their cordial personalities.
- These dogs can live anywhere between 12-15 years
- As entertaining as the Lhasa Apso can be to families, they do not warm quickly to strange as it is in their nature to be cautious of new or unfamiliar people
Additional Fun Fact:
- Apso translates to “longhaired dog” and Lhasa is the name of Tibet’s sacred city
- They are known as good fortune dogs due to their affiliation with the Dalai Lama
Chinese Medium-Sized Dog Breeds
As we make our way through the sizes you may notice a difference in the temperament and personality of these Chinese dogs. Small dogs were often affiliated with Royalty with their ancient breeders often being praised and gifted for their stock. They were also bred to guard but larger breeds were favored due to their size and build. Medium-sized or large-sized dogs were often bred specifically for jobs such as hunting or guarding.
These Chinese dog breeds are not well-known for having big-hearted personalities but that doesn’t mean they won’t make great pets. If you’re looking for a dog that won’t demand cuddles and attention 24/7 these pooches may even suit you better.
Formosan Mountain Dog/Taiwan Dog
This particular pooch is one of the oldest and most primitive dog breeds in the world going back 10,000 to 20,000 years. Far from royalty, these dogs were mostly wild until domesticated and used as effective hunting and search and rescue dogs.
Also kept as guard dogs throughout their existence, the Formosan Mountain dog has been bred to produce versatile and loyal family dogs. This Chinese dog breed is easily trained but early socialization is necessary as their protective nature can make them cautious of strangers.
- Formosan Mountain dogs have a life expectancy of 9-13 years
- Descended from South Asian hunting dogs from the mountains of Taiwan.
- Over the years, the Formosan Moutain dog has been bred with other breeds such as German Shepherds, Akitas, and Pitbulls.
The Chinese Chongqing is another interesting dog breed. They are a fiercely loyal and protective companion to have in your home and have a huge soft spot for children. However, its safeguarding nature will mean that strangers will not initially be welcomed.
This is another Chinese dog breed that dates all the way back to the Han Dynasty in ancient China. Records imply that this breed has been around for well over 2000 years and was used as a guarding and hunting dog. They have a distinctive appearance with a short coat, muscular build, and a rigid tail that resembles a bamboo stick.
- This Chinese dog breed has a life expectancy of between 10-13 years
- Chongqing dogs are also known as Bamboo Ratters and East Sichuan Hunting dogs.
- The Chinese Chongqing is sadly a very rare breed due to exposure to disease in 2003 and slaughter prior to the 1980s which massively reduced their numbers.
Large Chinese Dog Breeds
Large dog breeds can be a handful let alone those that originate from hard-working backgrounds. As mentioned above, medium and large-sized dogs were often bred for the purposes of working. These roles included hunting, fighting, rescuing, and guarding.
Most can be difficult to bring up however if appropriate and strict training is provided, they can mature into loyal, trustworthy, and loving family pets. Some of these Chinese breeds are highly intelligent and confident in nature which all adds to their charm.
We thought it best to begin this list with one of the most popular dog breeds known for its immensely fluffy coat. Chow Chows are believed to have originated from China, dating back to 206BC. Their bear-like coat and serious features, coupled with their protective nature, made them excellent guard dogs.
Most Chinese dogs on the list so far have been notorious cuddle bugs or play pals, whereas Chow Chows have a reputation for being independent, aristocratic dogs. They are not the most playful or affectionate dogs to exist compared to other dog breeds but they do appreciate the time spent with their families. They certainly won’t refuse a run around in the garden or a particularly shrill squeaky toy.
- This breed usually live between 8-12 years
- They can show immense loyalty to owners with a great ability to adapt if needed.
- Like Shar-Pei dogs, this breed has a blueish, black tongue.
The Chinese Shar-Pei breed is said to date back to the Han Dynasty which goes back 2000 years. Although, along with other dog breeds from China, the Shar-Peis numbers rapidly decreased after the establishment of The Republic of China which saw their horrific slaughter after 1949 in the Mainlands.
Fortunately, the Shar-Pei breed was saved from extinction during the 1970s after an appeal to the US. American dog lovers rescued the Chinese breed and we now know them as the loveable, protective, and intelligent companion dogs we couldn’t live without.
- The Shar-Pei usually lives between 8-12 years
- Shar-Peis are well known for their deep wrinkles caused by loose skin around their shoulders, neck, and head.
- The Shar-Pei is one of the oldest Chinese dog breeds.
- By giving Shar-Pei a strict training regime, owners will avoid aggressive or dominant behavior in maturity.
Tibetan Mastiffs are another famous and popular dog breed. This Chinese breed has a thick double coat and deep chest, complete with a muscular and powerful build that would make intruders rethink their life choices. The Tibetan Mastiff is a born and bred guard dog said to be inhabited by the soul of a Monk who has not been reincarnated.
Although watchful and loyal, the Tibetan Mastiff isn’t the most affectionate of the many Chinese breeds however persistent training and early socialization will adapt them into patient and well-behaved fur friends.
- Tibetan Mastiffs live between 10-12 years
- This is another breed that originates from ancient China
- These Mastiffs were known for protecting and guarding the Himalayas
Kunming Wolf Dog
This dog breed is often called the Chinese German Shepherd on account of its uncanny resemblance to the other breed. These athletic dogs were bred originally during the 1950s with the purpose of fighting as well as searching and rescuing. Given their nature and prowess they are working dogs best suited to the needs of police and military work.
Kunming Wolfdogs have a lot of stamina and energy so this combination may not be suited for family homes. They have been known as family pets although some find it difficult to meet their physical needs and mental stimulation demands. However, if provided with firm training these dogs can be excellent companions as they love to please their owners but they are not suited for first-time pet parents
- Kunming Wolf dogs can live between 12-14 years
- They are known to have dominant tendencies and will try to assert their role above others in the household.
- They are also known as Chinese Wolfdogs
Other Popular Chinese Dogs To Consider:
Did you know that pugs also originate from China? Other dogs breeds you may want to take into account are listed below.
- Tibetan Spaniel
- Xiasi Dog
One Last Note
Chinese dog breeds are distinctly diverse in appearance and have some unique characteristics. To add to this, they have some of the strongest personalities such as the exceptionally playful Chinese royal dog: the Shih Tzu, and the aloof bear-like Chow Chow. Almost every dog we researched was well known and considered a popular breed to own so it’s safe to say that you can’t go wrong with these loveable pooches.
If you own one of these breeds already, hopefully, our article has provided you with information that you may not have been aware of in the past along with details regarding other Asian dog breeds.
Although if you were considering getting yourself one of the breeds listed above, with luck, we’ve provided enough background to assist you in your decision in finding your new best friend.