Fun and Fascinating Facts About Pekingese Dogs

Tricki Woo was immortalized by All creatures big 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 fascinating facts about the breed, including its historic roles as a fashion accessory and watchdog, famous owners, and a record for Best in Show trophies!

  1. 1.

    You can coordinate them in color

    Pekingese dogs as depicted in an Imperial Dog Book of China.

    The Tricki line originated in ancient Peking, China (hence Pekingese) where the purpose of the breed was to accessorize elegant nobility. Each day, dogs were selected by color (fawn, cream, or black) to sit on the laps of emperors and courtiers and match their clothes. Beijing could alone belong to the Chinese royal family; the best were held in such esteem that anyone who sought to harm or rob one of them was severely punished, even the death penalty.

  2. 2.

    Beijing has a lion’s heart

    Chinese guardian lion or Foo Dog statue.
    Chinese Guardian Lion or Foo Dog. Qianshan National Park, Anshan, Liaoning Province, China.

    Pekingese were bred to look like the “foo dog”, a mythical guardian lion in China. Beyond looks, dogs ferocity was also enjoyed by those in the Imperial City. Smaller four to five pound Pekingese served as miniature guard dogs that were hidden in their owners’ large, flowing sleeves – causing shock when they tugged, growling and yelping! These protective traits are still evident in today’s Pekes, who typically speak up about intruders or other perceived dangers. Those of the breed weighing less than six pounds are still called “Sleeves.”

  3. 3.

    The British stole them

    Drawing that depicts the looting of the Summer Palace in China by British and French forces in 1860.
    Looting of the Summer Palace by British and French forces during the Second Opium War. Original illustration of British battles on land and sea circa 1880.

    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, including five little Pekingese. The dogs were brought back to the UK; the one given to Queen Victoria was aptly renamed ‘Looty’. With the Queen’s approval, the breed became very popular in Britain and eventually the United States.

  4. 4.

    Celebrities love them

    Lady Barbara Cartland with Twi-Twi.
    Lady Barbara Cartland with Twi-Twi.

    Some well-known stars have owned these adorable dogs over the years. After the filming of the 1936 film Stowaway, Shirley Temple received the Pekingese who had been his character’s pet ‘Mr. Courting’. Rodolphe Valentino was a committed dog man, owning a few little Pekes with – in increasing size – a Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, German Shepherd, Great Dane and Irish Greyhound! Joan Rivers had Max, a companion she called “distant.”

    Much like Tricki Woo, Pekes belonging to the famous often have unconventional names. Jayne Mansfield brought “Powder Puff” to press interviews; Carole Lombard adored her ‘Pushface,’ author of historical romance Dame Barbara CartlandThe pure white pup of was named ‘Twi-Twi’, and Richard Burton brought home a one-eyed Peke named ‘E’en So’ for Elizabeth Taylor. (Burton said psychology today that their many dogs always responded to his wife, not so much to him. He claimed that E’en So was a rescue, when in fact the dog had been perfectly trained to follow commands spoken in Welsh, a language Burton spoke fluently.)

  5. 5.

    They already know they’re the best in the show

    Wasabi the Pekingese sits in the winner's circle at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, June 2021.
    Wasabi the Pekingese sits in the winner’s circle at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, June 2021.

    A Peke has clinched the Best in Show award at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show five times, with ‘Wasabi’ being the most recent in 2021. The five wins are tied with the Standard Poodle, although the Wire Fox Terrier breed has the record at 15 Best in shows to date.

    We joke that a Pekingese really knows how to walk the track. He has a quiet, rolling gait that makes his body sway gently from side to side, conveying self-esteem – that sounds like our Tricki!

  6. 6.

    Pekingese are surprisingly heavy!

    Actor Callum Woodhouse as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small on PBS MASTERPIECE.

    Pekingese may look fluffy and small, but lift one up and you might be amazed at how heavy it is. The breed has a surprisingly compact and muscular body under its fur. The head is large relative to the body, making it heavier up front with a lighter rear end. Adult Pekes are between six and nine inches tall and (apart from Tricki Woo) should weigh between seven and 14 pounds.