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What’s the Difference Between the Pekingese and the Japanese Chin?

Know your dogs! Frequently confused breeds. Get the low down on the differences between these similar-looking dogs.

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Photographs by Mary Bloom

Pekingese dog

Mary Bloom/American Kennel Club

The Pekingese

The Pekingese is a well-balanced, compact dog of Chinese origin with a heavy front and lighter hindquarters. They are small dogs but are not to be considered delicate or dainty. Their image is lion-like, implying courage, dignity, boldness, and self-esteem. They can be any colour. Chinese art throughout the ages, starting with the Tang dynasty of the 8th century, abounds with images of the Pekingese, who gets his name from the ancient city of Peking, now called Beijing. Pekingese were held sacred in ancient China and could only be owned by royalty. At that time, the punishment for stealing a Pekingese was death. Pekingese possess a regal dignity, intelligence, and self-importance, making them good natured, opinionated, and affectionate family companions.

  • Toy Group; AKC recognized in 1906
  • Weighs less than 14 pounds
  • Watchdog, canine companion

Japanese chin

Mary Bloom/American Kennel Club

The Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin’s origin and development in its native land of China is wrapped in royalty and adoration. They were bred for the sole purpose of accompanying the ladies of the Imperial Palace and warming the laps of Chinese aristocracy. There are illustrations on ancient pottery and embroideries that are centuries old, and evidence suggests that one could not purchase a Chin—they were kept in the hands of the nobility and frequently given as gifts of esteem to diplomats and to foreigners who rendered some outstanding service to Japan. The Japanese Chin is a bright, alert, and playful breed.

  • Toy Group; AKC recognized in 1888
  • Ranging from 8 to 11 inches tall (typically 4 to 15 pounds)
  • Companion dog
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