Initial interest in the Shih Tzu in England commenced in 1930. Several shaggy dogs were imported from China by General Sir Douglas and Lady Brownrigg. Although classed as "Apsos", it was quite obvious to the initiated, when they made their appearance in the show ring, that they were a similar but different breed. Although their shaggy coats resembled that of the Lhasa Apso, their noses were much shorter and so were their legs, while their skulls were considerably wider. Also, the Brownriggs' dogs were smaller and more compact with faces like "chrysanthemums".
In 1933 a few Shih Tzu were shown at the Cheltenham show, and the following year, the Kennel Club permitted the Apso and Lion Dog Club to change its name to Shih Tzu (Tibetan Lion Dog) Club. Soon after this, the club ruled that the dogs from China were not Apsos, but were Shih Tzu. By 1935 the Tibetan Lion Dog part was omitted and The Shih Tzu Club of England was born under the Presidency of the Countess of Essex, with Lady Brownrigg serving as Secretary.
During the next four years the club thrived and grew strong until the outbreak of war in September 1939. World War II seriously curtailed all purebred dog activity in Britain for ten years and, although the Shih Tzu breed was granted separate register on May 7 1940, and became eligible for Challenge Certificates, none were awarded until 1949.
The first English champion was Lady Brownrigg's Ch Ta Chi of Taishan. Other Shih Tzu owned by the Brownriggs were Hibou, Shu Ssa, Yangtse and Tzu Hsi. They acquired their first pair when the General was stationed in Peking. Hibou was a dog, and Shu Ssa was a bitch. Shu Sa had her first litter by Hibou in China and her second litter, also by Hibou, when she was in quarantine upon their return to England. Yangtse was born in this second litter and Tzu Hsi was whelped sometime later.
Hibou and Shu Ssa, along with another Shih Tzu dog imported from China by Miss Madeleine Hutchins, Lung-Fu Sssu, to Ireland became the foundation stock of present Shih Tzu and the well known Taishan strain, and may be found at the beginning of almost every extended pedigree. Later imports were bred back to the original strain to consolidate type.
Other imported dogs which were successfully bred from are: Tashi of Chouette, a bitch brought to England by the Earl of Essex in 1938, Choo-Coo, a dog presented to Her Majesty the Queen Mother 1933, and three bitches imported by Gen. Telfer Smollett: Ming, 1939, Ishuh Tzu, 1948 and Hsing-Erh, 1952.
From 1930 to the end of 1955, nearly 700 Shih Tzu were registered with the Kennel Club. The breed was exported to America, Canada, Australia and many countries in Europe where they were shown and bred.
Championship status was granted in 1940, when most of the Shih Tzu in England were conforming to the original type. By 1956 thirteen dogs held the championship title. These were:
Ch Ta Chi of Taishan (b)
Ch Pa-Ko of Taishan (b)
Ch Yu Mo Chuang of Boydon (d)
Ch Choo-Ling (d)
Ch Sing-Tzu of Shebo (b)
Ch Shebo Tsemo of Lhakang (d)
Ch Mao-Mao of Lhakang (b)
Ch Tensing of Lhakang (d)
Ch Ling-Fu of Shuanghsi (b)
Ch Hong of Hungjao (d)
Ch Maya Wong of Lhakang (b)
Ch Wang-Poo of Taishan (d)
Ch Yi Ting Mo of Antarctica (d)
Audrey Dadds, in her charming book, The Shih Tzu, gives Lady Brownrigg credit for naming the Shih Tzu the "Chrysanthemum" dog. Almost thirty years after she brought her first pair, she described Shu Ssa as follows:
She was white with a black patch on her side, root of tail and head. This had a white topknot or applemark. Her hair was not as long as it became, but it stuck up all around her face, and with her large eyes she looked like a fluffy baby owl or perhaps a chrysanthemum!" A most appropriate and descriptive name for the Shih Tzu breed.
Another person who was captivated by the charm of the Shih Tzu was Mrs Audrey Fowler. During the winter of 1936-37 she went to China and on route there she tried to obtain one. She made many expeditions to weird quarters of Hong Kong and Shanghai where she met many rickshaw boys saying with their usual cheerful smile, "We find you little doggie!" But they never did.
When she arrived in Peking, she met the Comtesse d'Anjou, and there in the courtyard of her house in Legation Street were her dream dogs-small honey-and-gold-coloured shaggy dogs. The Comtesse had only one golden and white female puppy of the right age to undertake the strenuous journey back to England, but finally she was able to find a second dog, a little honey-coloured bitch from another breeder. She brought these two Shih Tzu back to England with her in 1937 and was one of the last fanciers to have seen the breed in China. She treasures the registration cards from the Peking Kennel Club of her first two Shih Tzu - Nui Sand and Fu Tzu.
In England Mrs Fowler was one of the few breeders to breed for a clear, deep gold, and she exported some of the first Shih Tzu to the United States. Both Margaret Murdock, one of the earliest breeders in America, and Mary Frothingham bought their original breeding and show stock from Mrs Fowler.
We know of two other Shih Tzu that came out of China in 1949. A British couple, who were fleeing from China just before the advance of the Red Army, took with them a lovely camel-coloured dog with a luxuriant coat, called Wuffles, and Mai-Ting, a black and white bitch. Mai Ting was bred to Wuffles and a single black and white puppy was whelped in October 1950. A couple of years later, Wuffles was tragically killed by a truck.
The last recorded Shih Tzu to leave China was a bitch, Hsi-Li-Ya. imported to England by a Mr Dobson in 1952. None of these dogs contributed much, if anything, that we know of to the Shih Tzu breed.
Article taken from "The Joy of Owing a Shih Tzu" by Ann Seranne