Breed Spotlight: Pekingese

by on November 29th, 2011 at 7:00 am


The Pekinese, or “peke” as they are commonly referred to, is one of the oldest dogs breeds still around.  According to Chinese legend, a lion fell in love with a monkey, and in order to be with each other, the lion asked Buddha to shrink him to the size of a monkey, but let him keep his lion-like character. From their offspring, the Pekingese was born.

Originating in China, as far back as 2000 years ago, Pekingese were once a dog for royalty only. In fact, they were so sacred that punishment for stealing one was death!  They got their name from the city of Peking, now know known as Beijing. Pekinese were common companions for the emperor; the smallest were carried in his sleeve, giving them the nickname ‘sleeve dog’. It was not until the 19th century that Pekingese made their way West. In 1860, during the second Opium war, British allies invaded the summer palace and took 5 Pekingese before burning it to the ground. These dogs were brought back to England as spoils of war, and one of these Pekingese was giving to Queen Victoria, who named it Looty.


The Pekingese is a short, stout dog, averaging around 14 pounds. Any Pekinese weighing less than 6 pounds is considered a sleeve dog. Pekingese have a heavier stocky front and smaller hind quarters, with a muscular build. Their faces are flat, with short snouts and bulging eyes. Their coats are thick and long, with hair extending from their ears, tails, and legs. They were originally bred to look like little lions, which is why many appear to have a mane.


The Pekingese are a proud dog, and can be highly protective of their owner. They think they are much bigger than they really are, which can lead to troubles with other dogs. It takes a lot to train one due to their stubborn nature. So, if you are considering one, make sure you have the time and patience or your peke can be more than you bargained for. They make great apartment dogs because they do not need to be walked often; a Pekinese will be just as content in a mansion or a small apartment.


The average lifespan of a Pekingese is 10-12 years. They suffer from many health issues due to their short legs, flat faces and budging eyes. They are prone to eye problems such as glaucoma and eye trauma, back problems, skin allergies, and of course, breathing problems. These dogs can be very expensive to treat as they age. However, if taken care of properly, many of these health issues can be avoided.

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