Fun Facts About Pekingese Dogs
Tricki Woo was immortalized by All Creatures Great and Small author James Herriot. If you’ve fallen in love with the squishy face that is the Pekingese, you’ll want to know more. Learn some fascinating facts about the breed including its historic roles as fashion accessory and guard dog, famous owners, and record for Best in Show trophies!
You Can Color-Coordinate Them
Tricki’s lineage originated in ancient Peking, China (hence Pekingese) where the breed’s purpose was to accessorize stylish nobility. On any given day, dogs were selected by color (fawn, cream or black) to sit on emperors’ and courtiers’ laps and match their clothing. Pekes could only be owned by Chinese royals; the best were held in such esteem that anyone looking to harm or steal one received harsh punishment—even the death sentence.
Pekes are Lion-Hearted
Pekingese were bred to resemble the “foo dog,” a mythical guardian lion in China. Beyond looks, the dogs’ ferocity was also valued by those in the Imperial City. Smaller four-to-five-pound Pekingese served as miniature guard dogs that were hidden in the large, flowing sleeves of their owners—serving quite a shock when they shot out, snarling and yapping! These protective traits are still evident in today’s Pekes, which are typically vocal about intruders or other perceived dangers. Those of the breed weighing less than six pounds are still called “Sleeves.”
The Brits Pilfered Them
British soldiers invading China’s Imperial Summer Palace during the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s were surprised to encounter these unfamiliar dogs. The troops looted everything in sight, including five little Pekingese. The dogs were brought back to the UK; one given to Queen Victoria was aptly renamed ‘Looty.’ With the Queen’s endorsement, the breed became quite popular across Britain and eventually the United States.
Celebs Love Them
Some well-known stars have owned these cute canines over the years. After filming the 1936 movie Stowaway, Shirley Temple was given the Pekingese that had been her character’s pet ‘Mr. Woo’. Rudolph Valentino was a committed dog man, owning a few small Pekes along with—in ascending size—a Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, German Shepherd, Great Dane, and Irish Wolfhound! Joan Rivers had Max, a companion she summed up as “aloof”.
Much like Tricki Woo, Pekes owned by the famous often have unconventional names. Jayne Mansfield brought ‘Powder Puff’ to press interviews; Carole Lombard adored her ‘Pushface’, historical romance author Dame Barbara Cartland’s pure white pup was called ‘Twi-Twi’, and Richard Burton brought home a one-eyed Peke named ‘E’en So’ to Elizabeth Taylor. (Burton told Psychology Today that their many dogs always responded to his wife, not so much to him. He claimed E’en So was a rescue, when in fact, the dog had been fully trained to follow commands spoken in Welsh—a language Burton was fluent in.)
They Already Know They're Best in Show
A Peke has nabbed the Best in Show nod five times at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, ‘Wasabi’ being the most recent in 2021. The five wins ties with the Standard Poodle, though the Wire Fox Terrier breed has the record at 15 Best in Shows to date.
Pekingese Are Surprisingly Heavy!
Pekingese might look fluffy and little but lift one and you may be amazed at how heavy it is. The breed has an unexpectedly compact and muscular body beneath its fur. The head is large in proportion to the body, making it weightier upfront with a lighter hindquarter. Healthy adult Pekes grow to between six and nine inches tall and should weigh between seven and 14 pounds. Like Tricki however, this breed is highly motivated by food and can become overweight from lack of exercise.
No Surprise: They’re Pretty High Maintenance
More than many breeds, these little dogs need special attention and care to keep them healthy and happy. Pekes have a “high maintenance” coat requiring especially regular brushing. Their independent, stubborn nature often demands training to achieve their cooperation. And like many dogs bred for centuries, Pekingese can suffer from hereditary problems. For this breed, that can mean eye or heart problems and breathing difficulties due to their flattened face. As Siegfried Farnon might tell us, find a veterinarian before you need one—and consult with one before bringing a Pekingese or any new pet home.