This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Non-Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland, Non-Sporting Division.
In some quarters an impression prevails that the Japanese spaniel is quite a modern introduction. This is, however, not so; and at one of our very earliest dog shows - that held in the Holborn Horse Repository in 1862 - a class was provided for Japanese, which at that time were oftener called pugs than spaniels. There were then nine entries; and Mr. C. Keller, Camberwell, won first prize with a black and white dog called Caro.
The Japanese themselves claim great antiquity for these little dogs, going so far as to be rivals with the Maltese in that respect, and declaring that our own toy spaniels were originally produced from the Japanese. But, as I have had to say repeatedly, the origins of the varieties of the dog cannot be traced. We have them and so should be contented.
These little dogs are now called and identified as Japanese spaniels because they are supposed to have originally been brought from Japan. From what I have been told, and from what I have read, I believe them to be equally indigenous to the northern and other parts of China. In the Field over twenty years ago there was an excellent article on the dogs of China, in which the writer states that there is the "Pekin pug, remarkable for its diminutive size, sometimes so small as to be carried in the sleeves of a Chinese coat. Hence they are called sleeve dogs. Some resemble the old-fashioned short-bow-legged pugs, which may have been originally introduced into Europe from China by the Portuguese, and hence called Portuguese or Spanish pugs. These dogs are generally smooth skinned. There are other kinds, resembling Scotch Skye terriers, which might, in some exaggerated instances, be considered equally handsome in their extreme ugliness, in having their faces concealed by long hair, and a line of division running along the back, the hair on each side reaching to the ground. All these kinds are remarkable for the shortness of their nose, giving rise to the supposition that it was the result of mechanical interference with the proper growth of the head, as in the case of the artificially produced distortion of the feet of the Chinese women, but such is not the case, as all who have seen the little puppies of the species can testify. ...
These small dogs were originally derived from Corea, and are continually imported from that country into China, where, especially in the north, they are much valued, where they are to be found in the houses of the wealthy".
The above, as being written by an authority on Chinese dogs, I think well worth reproducing, but whether admirers of the Japanese dogs will recognise much resemblance to their favourites in the dogs described, is a matter for them to determine. In 1870 a black and white Japanese spaniel, such as we have now, was entered at a Crystal Palace dog show by Mr. P. Gordon. It was called a Mandarin pug, and said to be one of the four taken at the sacking of the Summer Palace at Pekin. This little dog was about twelve years old when shown in England.
In their native country the "Japs" are called "sleeve dogs," because it is, or was, the fashion for the Japanese swell of the period to carry his little toy dog about with him hidden in one of the sleeves of his flowing garment. Thus the smaller the dogs the better, and specimens not more than three pounds weight are cherished exceedingly. It is said that to keep the dogs as minute as possible, it is customary when young to give them a liquor called "saki," which retards their growth. Such an idea is quite as fallacious as is the belief at one time common with us, that our diminutive toys were made so by potions of gin given at stated periods. Elsewhere I have alluded to a similar system which was said to be carried out with the Maltese dogs.
There appears to be a little difference of opinion here as to what size a Japanese spaniel ought to be, and I consider that a specimen 61b. weight or so is quite small enough for anything. When smaller dogs are produced they are delicate and sickly, uncertain breeders, and for these reasons are not desirable, and those judges who would give a prize to a very diminutive specimen, which, so far as locomotion is concerned, is as a dwarf at a penny show compared with a full-grown man, are certainly not going the right way towards perpetuating the breed in this country. Still, where one of the most diminutive creatures is as perfect and active as the larger specimens, the latter must on the occasion take, as it were, a back seat.
On the subject of size, Mr. C. F. Grindrod, of Malvern, wrote to a weekly paper not long ago: -
"Japanese spaniels are of almost any size from even under 41b. weight to over 2olb. Specimens are fairly healthy from 61b. or 71b., but usually much more so from 81b. to I2lb. Where, however, the weight is reduced to 41b., of which we have had several examples at late shows, it means the product of breeder's tricks, which it is wrong to encourage.
"These tiny specimens, again, have not got the points of the larger ones, though they are undeniably very pretty - also undeniably useless, except for the shows. No possessor of a female specimen of these attenuated Toys dare run the risk of breeding from it - a sufficient proof of nature gone wrong.
"Apart from this, I maintain that the true charms of the species, the admitted points, are lost in these tiny examples. To take one point alone, no one ever saw a grand head in a very small-bred Jap; and this, according to the Toy Spaniel Club's description (from which, by the way, at least as regards colour, a native of Japan would hardly recognise his own breed), ought to rank first of all, yet counts very little with most judges.
"To the only defensive argument raised by the ladies for diminutive Japs, that Toys should be as small as possible, I reply that health should count before a fad, and I also ask, 'How about King and Prince Charles, some of the best of which have weighed from 12lb. to 2olb., and which are probably own cousins to the Japs?'