This section is from the book "Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors", by Neville Lytton. Also available from Amazon: Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors: Including The History And Management Of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, And Pomeranians.
I do not believe the present type of Pekingese to be correct, and am assured by a lady who knew the breed well, as kept in China many years ago, that the true Pekingese should not have bent fore-legs. She also told me that the present breed was absurdly too large, the true Pekingese being a tiny dog. Both these statements are borne out by my own researches. The big Pekingese seems to have been a separate variety from the Toy Pekingese (kept by the Emperors of China), which was a very delicately made little dog with short but straight legs. The toes were sometimes turned out, but the legs were not twisted. The crooked legs do not appear to have been introduced until the eighteenth century, and belong to the coarse, common variety shown by Shen Li.1 The small dogs never had them, as far as I can discover.2 The pretty little dog painted by Shen Cheng and which was the Chinese Emperor's own favourite dog, shows the type of Toy Chinese dog as late as the eighteenth century.
I have been quite unable to trace whole red Pekingese dogs and in none of the old paintings is there a black mask. All the dogs are light red or yellow-and-white or black-and-white with very black eye points and noses, but perfectly clear faces. None of the dogs ever had wrinkled faces. The first Chinese dogs approaching whole red are those on the porcelain bowl of the Tao-kwang period (1821), but these are not of the same type as the Shen Cheng dog. These also have straight legs, and are more like a sort of bad Blenheim.
1 The deformity was very likely caused by the bigger and coarser puppies growing too heavy for their legs and thus bending the bone like a fat child that walks too soon.
2Mrs. Ashton Cross in some published notes on the breed says: "Many puppies of great promise are spoiled in the bringing up, e.g., exercise is necessary but it may straighten the legs." Comment is needless.
By the courtesy of Frau Olga Wegener, owner of what is probably the most wonderful collection of Chinese paintings in the world, I have had the extraordinary good luck of being able to reproduce a seventeenth century authentic Chinese painting which is of incalculable value to breeders. It will be seen that the curve of the fore-legs is so subtle as to be hardly a curve at all, no more than in the legs of some Toy Spaniels. Frau Wegener was specially informed by her Chinese authorities that these dogs were not portraits of individuals, but represented the Chinese idea of type. It is quite evident to me that three-fourths of the Pekingese shown in England are thoroughly degenerate. That these are largely manufactured to suit the market is undoubted, and I once received an open advertisement from one of these manufacturers, of a "Toy Spaniel bitch, suitable for breeding Japanese or Pekingese"! I took the trouble to investigate this, and found a curious kind of " Spaniel," which resembled nothing I have ever seen before or ever hope to see again. The owner asked, I think, ten guineas, and assured me that she had had two litters, one of Japs and one of Pekingese, which had sold for enormous sums to exhibitors, each puppy fetching from fifteen guineas upwards.
Needless to say, I felt no inclination for trying to emulate this wonderful performance.
Great stress is always laid on the fact that our best Pekingese originated from five dogs taken, in 1860, from the Summer Palace at Peking, when the Court fled to the interior. It has, however, been ascertained that the Court took with them to Jehal a number of dogs, and it is quite unlikely that they should have left first-class specimens behind. I think we in England have yet to learn what good Chinese Palace dogs are like.
If the Court took the trouble to remove any of their dogs, it is highly improbable that they would have left others unless they did not consider them worth taking. If the theft of one such dog is, as Lady A. G. Lennox says, punishable by death, five perfect dogs would not have been abandoned by the Chinese to be looted. Still, the fact that these dogs came from China is something
The Goodwood strain is, no doubt, one of our best, and it will be remembered that Champion G. Chun is by no means wrinkled in the face - quite the contrary. Neither was Chaon Ching We, presented to Miss Clara Kilbourne in 1902 by the Empress Dowager, nor Miss Deady Keanes's dog at Shanghai, and a reference to the wonderful picture of the ideal Pekingese settles the question of the wrinkles once for all.
The Pekingese should have a bold, rather defiant expression, which accords with his nature. He has none of the sweetness and softness of the Toy Spaniel. He should have immense eyes, set very wide apart, and a broad, well-cushioned muzzle.
I imagine that the present type of Pekingese, as seen commonly in China, is the coarse variety which is so popular in England, and of which there are so many imitations even coarser. I think the mistaken idea we have of type is from the erroneous association of the dog with the grotesque Chinese gargoyles which are often referred to by writers as early Pekingese dogs. These are obviously fancy figures, and one might as well take the horrible Chinese human figures of the same kind, with ghastly, distorted features and twisted limbs, as types of the early Chinaman. In fact, there is even less analogy, as the grotesque figures of dogs 1 (catalogued, by the way, as lions) are purely symbolic, like heraldic emblems. If these "Early Pekingese" are to be taken seriously, we must have them coloured bright green with scarlet stripes instead of our sober reds and fawns!
A very beautiful dog was sent over to the late Lord Lytton by Lord Loch from China. I may say at once that this dog had not got crooked forelegs. He was of a fine golden brown, and his face was not wrinkled, but very pretty and intelligent. The present type of Pekingese is, to my mind, a ridiculous caricature and an obvious fake. Any wrinkled-faced and crooked-legged, long-backed cross seems to pass as a Pekingese, and, though they are not supposed to be too long in body, the present specimens are absurdly too long - quite like Dachshunds, in fact. This is another characteristic of the coarse type.