All Dog Breeds >>History of Pekingese
The breed originated in China in antiquity, in the city of Peking. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog, one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf. For centuries, they could be owned only by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. During the Second Opium War, in 1860, the Forbidden City was occupied by a contingent of British and French troops. The Emperor Xianfeng had fled with all of his court to Chengde. However, an elderly aunt of the emperor remained. When the ‘foreign devils’ (Europeans) entered, she committed suicide. She was found with her five Pekingese mourning her passing.
They were removed by the Allies before the palace was burnt to the ground. Lord John Hay took a pair, later called ‘Schloff’, and ‘Hytien’ and gave them to his sister, the Duchess of Wellington, wife of Henry Wellesley, 3rd Duke of Wellington. Sir George Fitzroy took another pair, and gave them to his cousins, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. Lieutenant Dunne presented the fifth Pekingese to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who named it Looty.
The Empress Dowager Cixi presented Pekingese to several Americans, including John Pierpont Morgan and Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, who named it Manchu. The first Pekingese in Ireland was introduced by Dr. Heuston. He established smallpox vaccination clinics in China. The effect was dramatic. In gratitude, the Chinese minister, Li Hung Chang presented him with a pair of Pekingese. They were named Chang and Lady Li. Dr. Heuston founded the Greystones kennel.
Around the turn of the century, Pekingese dogs became popular in Western countries. They were owned by such arbiters of fashion as Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, and Elsie de Wolfe, popular American interior decorator.