8 Dog Breeds From China

China is home to many breeds, including many popular dogs, like Pugs and Chow Chows. It also hosts some lesser-known breeds, like the Xiasi.

Mar 9, 2024byThalia Oosthuizen
dog breeds from china

Many popular dog breeds come from China. Some of these canines date back thousands of years, as evidenced in artwork and skeletal remains. Others are a bit more recent.

These dogs were traditionally kept for one of two main reasons: companionship or protection––or both! Although there are many different breeds, they tend to have something in common: they resemble lions! That’s because these are symbols of protection in Chinese culture. So, let’s meet some of these lovable pals.

1. Pugs

Fawn Colored Pug on Lead in House
Image credit: Pexels

Pugs are an extremely popular breed globally, and they are adored by many pet owners. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), they rank 35th out of the registered 201 dog breeds.

Their tiny stature and adorable demeanour contribute to how popular they’ve become. It’s believed this ancient dog breed was bred around 400 BCE as a canine companion for royals and elites but weren’t introduced worldwide until the 17th century.

Pugs are often likened to other brachycephalic breeds, like bulldogs and a few terriers. Their unique face, however, is the ultimate representation of that lion-like expression that is so culturally significant, making them a historically fantastic companion.

2. Shih Tzus

Shih Tzu Dog Running Through Park
Image credit: Pexels

This small toy-sized breed is adorable and understandably incredibly popular. Shih Tzus are affectionate with their owners yet do love their independence. Now, the name itself is enough to prove their Chinese descent. Shih Tzu directly translates to “little lion” in Mandarin.

It’s believed Shih Tzus were bred from the Pekingese, another Chinese breed. There are some incredible similarities between these breeds to back this up, such as their tiny stature, soft, long coats, and squishy little faces.

3. Chinese Imperial

Chinese Imperial Dog Lying on Bed
Image credit: Spot Pet Insurance

Chinese Imperials are happy-go-lucky tiny adventurers with booming little personalities. They are trusting and lively little dogs who are always up for playing and cuddling. Oh, and who could forget the adorable hairstyles they are always sporting?

Opinions are divided over where this dog originates. Some believe they are miniature Shih Tzus, and others believe they have a special gene that sets them apart. Regardless of how it originated, the name suggests that this breed was reserved for Chinese royalty.

4. Chow Chow

Chow Chow Dog Standing on Sidewalk
Image credit: Pexels

Ahh, the lovingly goofy Chow Chow! These bear-like fluff balls are loved for exactly that: their soft and cloud-like appearance, making them the perfect snuggle dog. Despite their soft look, they’re incredibly muscular and tough. Chow Chows are believed to have originated in China from indigenous dogs.

A Chow Chow’s genetic makeup is similar to that of a Shar-Pei. In fact, they’re pretty close relatives. One of the primary differences between these breeds is that the Chow Chow originated in the colder areas of China, while the Shar-Pei originates from the warmer parts.

5. Pekingese

Pekingese Dog Sitting on Patio
Image credit: Pexels

When do we ever see this breed not poking its tongue out, huh? This breed is incredibly loved, particularly in Chinese culture. Pekingese dogs are often referred to as “lion dogs” or “sun dogs,” originally kept as companions by royalty. Their name refers to the Forbidden City in Peking (Beijing).

As we mentioned, the Pekingese breed was essentially the starting point of the loveable Shih Tzus. However, Pekingese dogs tend to be of a heavier build and a little more outgoing. Pekingese dogs, like certain Shih Tzus, have that long, lavish coat that we all adore.

6. Xiasi

Xiasi Dog Standing in Field in Mountains
Image credit: Wikipedia

You may be unfamiliar with this breed, but now’s the time to learn about these lean and adorable dogs. Xiasis are named after a province in China and have been bred and loved by humans for thousands of years. Historically, they were often kept as it was believed they would bring wealth to the family.

These dogs have shorter, more wiry coats than many Chinese breeds, which are smooth and fluffy. Because they were bred as hunting dogs, they require a high level of mental and physical stimulus to keep them entertained.

7. Chinese Crested

The Chinese Crested has one of the oldest histories of any dog on this list, making it a little tricky to track their exact origin. They’re incredibly unique as they have an almost completely hairless body, with crested hair all over their head and paws (although some do have fur; they’re called “powderpuffs.”). For those who can appreciate how unique they are, the Chinese Crested makes for a great canine companion.

They do look quite different from other Chinese dog breeds, lacking the smushed face and soft fluffy coat. Per the AKC, some theories suggest they lack similar characteristics because they evolved from African hairless dogs.

8. Shar-Pei

Shar Pei Dog Sitting in Yard near Tree
Image credit: Pexels

Shar-Peis are a rarer dog breed, easily defined by their wrinkly skin, triangular eyes, and dark blue tongue. This breed is known to be so loyal and trusting of family, but they can be a little standoffish around strangers. It makes sense; after all, they were originally bred as property guardians.

As we touched on before, there are some direct links between the genetics of Shar-Peis and Chow Chows. Despite their many similarities to Chow Chows, they’re still pretty uncommon. In fact, the breed was nearly extinct in the mid-1900s before being reintroduced in the 1970s. Nonetheless, they are regarded as quite rare to have as pets.

Chinese Dog Breeds Make Great Pets

Tan Shar Pei Dog Being Rubbed by Owner
Image credit: Pexels

As we can see, Chinese culture is full of an extensive breeding history for dogs. From the loyal Shih Tzu to the ever-protective Shar-Pei, there’s a great selection of breeds that originated from China.

They truly come in all shapes and sizes, but more often than not, they are linked by that classic smushed look, giving them a likeness to the symbolic lion in Chinese culture. If you are looking for never-ending loyalty and companionship, Chinese breeds may just be the right type of dog for you.

Thalia Oosthuizen
byThalia Oosthuizen

Thalia has been a freelance writer for over a decade and a dog (and animal) lover for over 30 years. She grew up on a farm where, at one stage, she had 15 dogs. She currently has one dog, Avery - an adorable pavement special with an extra toe on each foot, and two rescue cats - Boris and Mango. In her spare time, Thalia enjoys running, cycling, swimming, and reading