10 Chinese Dog Breeds

Learn about these Chinese dog breeds with fascinating histories

shar pei dog

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From fluffy lap dogs, to wrinkly-faced guard dogs, the country of China has produced some seriously unique dog breeds over the last several centuries. Often kept as royal companions or as hunting and guard dogs, many of these pooches have had long, varied histories, spanning thousands of years.

Learn about well-known Chinese dogs, like the Shar Pei, and lesser-known breeds, such as Xiasi Quan in this round-up of 10 popular dog breeds that hail from China.

  • 01 of 10

    Pugs

    A Pug dog looking up at the camera.

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    Pugs are one of the most popular breeds for families, due to their sweet, friendly demeanors, but they're one of the world's oldest breeds, too. It's believed that the pug originated in China, sometime around 400 B.C., and were often kept as companions to Buddhist monks living in Tibet. Although some think pugs are related to the Pekingese, another dog hailing from China, others believe they were ancestors to bulldogs and mastiffs.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 13 inches

    Weight: 14 to 18 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact, but sturdy and active dog with a round head, wrinkly face, short nose, and curly tail; short, smooth coats that typically come in fawn or black

  • 02 of 10

    Pekingese

    A Pekingese dog looking into the camera.

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    Referred to as "Pekes," "lion dogs," or "sun dogs," Pekingese were originally kept as companion pets to Chinese royalty—and were often fodder for Chinese folklore. In fact, one story says that Pekingese were actually created when Buddha shrunk a lion down to the size of a small dog. In realty, Pekingese were most likely the result of breeding a larger dog with toy-sized dogs in China, but they remained a favorite—and much looked-after—pet among Chinese royalty for thousands of years.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 6 to 9 inches

    Weight: Up to 14 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact, stocky toy dog with a flat face and a long, thick double coat that requires regular maintenance; most recognizable by lion-like manes; coats can come in gold, sable, or red, but can also be grey, black, tan, and cream

  • 03 of 10

    Shih Tzus

    Shih tzu dog lying on a newspaper
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    The Shih Tzu, a small toy dog with a playful personality, is named for its lion-like appearance—"Shih Tzu" literally comes from the word "lion" in Chinese. Like the Pekingese and pugs, Shih Tzus were treasured by Chinese nobility for centuries and were crowned the noble dog of China. Although the Shih Tzu can be traced back to ancient dog breeds, fascinatingly, they're more closely related to wolves than other dog breeds—despite their lap dog looks.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 11 inches

    Weight: 9 to 16 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Surprisingly sturdy toy dog with a flattened face and a long, double coat that comes in numerous color variations

  • 04 of 10

    Shar-Peis

    Shar-Pei runs near canal water.

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    Known for their distinctive, wrinkled faces, petite ears, and blue-black tongues, Shar-Peis are a very unique and very rare breed with roots in ancient China. In fact, it's commonly believed that Shar-Peis were originally bred as hunting and guard dogs a whopping 2,000 years ago. Sadly, during China's communist revolution in the mid-1900s, Shar-Pei populations became so low that the breed as almost extinct. Sometime during the 1970s, a Chinese Shar-Pei enthusiast rallied American breeders to propagate the breed and numbers rose once again.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 18 to 20 inches

    Weight: 45 to 60 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact, medium-sized dog known for distinctive appearance; wrinkled faces with loose skin; a blue-black tongue' small, round eyes; and very small, triangular ears; coats are very short and bristly, coming in black, brown, cream, and blue

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Chow Chow

    An adult Chow Chow sitting outdoors.

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    Chow Chows are one of the most ancient Chinese dog breeds, dating back to times as early as 206 B.C., and were originally employed as hunting and guard dogs. Like the Shar-Pei, Chow Chows have a very distinctive appearance: Their faces are somewhat bear-like with deep facial folds and a blue-black tongue.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 20 inches

    Weight: 40 to 70 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized, non-sporting dog; compactly built with a lion-like mane, wrinkled face, and blue-black tongue; coats can be rough or smooth, and come in brown, black, red, and cream color variations

  • 06 of 10

    Chinese Crested

    A Chinese Crested dog outdoors.

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    Because the Chinese Crested has extremely early origins, no one is exactly sure when or how the breed was developed. It's assumed that hairless dogs from Africa were brought to China and bred with smaller, toy-sized dogs to give the Crested its unique, hairless appearance. It is well-known, however, that Chinese Crested dogs were brought aboard Chinese trading vessels to hunt vermin.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 11 to 13 inches

    Weight: 8 to 12 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small, delicate, hairless dog with tufts of long, silky hair around the face, tail, and ankles

  • 07 of 10

    Xiasi Quan

    A Xiasi Quan dog outdoors

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    The Xiasi Quan, also known as the Xiasi, is a lean, muscular hunting dog that originated in the Guizhou Providence in China, sometime around 1080. Although the breed is typically used for hunting or guarding, those living in the Guizhou Providence believe owning a Xiasi dog can bring wealth to the family.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 20 inches

    Weight: 22 to 60 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Strong, muscular hunting dog with padded paws, powerful legs, and a large face with pointed ears; coat is short, wiry, and white in color

  • 08 of 10

    Kunming Wolfdog

    A Kunming Wolfdog resting indoors.

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    A wolf-like dog, the Kunming wolfdog are relatives of the old German Shepherds introduced to China in the 1950s. Like German Shepherds, Kunming wolfdogs are often trained as military assistance dogs, as well as fire and search-and-rescue dogs. They're also popular pets among families all over China.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 25 to 27 inches

    Weight: 65 to 85 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Strong, powerful, and athletic, standing taller in the back than their German Shepherd relatives; long tails and a long, double coat that comes in black, brown, rust, cream, and other color variations

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Japanese Chin

    A Japanese Chin dog smiling.

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    Despite its name, it's commonly believed that the Japanese Chin actually originated in China. Known for their cat-like behaviors and calm, affectionate behaviors, the Japanese Chin became extremely popular among Japanese nobility an estimated 1,000 years ago. Later, when Japan began to trade with other countries, the Japanese Chin was a common gift to naval officers, or were sold to traders and sailors.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 11 inches

    Weight: 4 to 9 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small, delicate breed with a large, round head, short snout, and dark, round eyes; coats are long and silky, coming in black and white, lemon and white, sable and white, black, and other color variations

  • 10 of 10

    Formosan Mountain Dog (or Tuguo)

    A Formosan Mountain Dog outdoors.

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    Also known as the Taiwan dog, the Formosan Mountain dog is a small- to medium-sized dog with origins in Taiwan. Although Formosan Mountain dogs were considered wild, they're kept as hunting dogs, guard dogs, rescue dogs, and family dogs today.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 16 inches

    Weight: 25 to 40 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular, small- to medium-sized dog with a broad, round head, a flat nasal bridge, and sickle-shaped tail; coats are short and smooth, coming in black, fawn, brindle, white, and combinations of these colors