They may have been popular in China for centuries but were the dog of choice in the Ming Dynasty from 1368 -1644 A.D.
It was only in the mid-nineteenth century that Shih Tzus were considered purebred, when the Dalai Lama presented two purely bred dogs to Empress Tzu Hsi.
Tzu Hsi was the Chinese Dowager Empress and played a large role in breeding Shih Tzus. She supervised a major breeding programme for them while she lived, but when she died in 1908 the programme died with her.
After the first half of the 20th century, only 14 purebred Shih Tzus remained — seven males and seven females. They were used to rebuild the breed, and every purebred Shi Tzu alive today can be traced back to these 14 dogs.
Both the American Kennel Club and United Kingdom Kennel Club recognize the Shih Tzu, and breed standards have been set in place since 1938.