The breed originated in China in antiquity, in the city of Peking, most likely from Asian wolves. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog, one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf. They became the special pets of the Chinese Emperors, and these likenesses were found in art of all kinds - screens, vases, pottery, and
These dogs are also called Dogs of Foo (or Fu) by the Chinese, and how much they are revered can be seen in the number of Chinese artworks depicting them.
In 1860, when Allied troops occupied Peking, five dogs were found in a secluded corner of the Summer Palace beside their attendants, who had committed suicide rather than be captured. Admiral Lord John Hay and another naval officer each took two. The fifth was taken by General Dunne, who later presented her to Queen Victoria, who christened her
Looty's portrait by a distinguished painter still hangs in Windsor Castle. The two little Pekes who found their home with the Duchess of Richmond were given the prefix "Goodwood" and were the foundation of the breed in England.
Looty, (left) the first Pekingese dog in Britain, brought by Captain Dunne, 99th Regiment, from Yuanming Yuan, the Summer Palace near Beijing, as a gift for Queen Victoria in April 1861,
is photographed having a rest on a chair. The Royal Collection © 2009, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Alexandra (left) pictured in a carriage with one of her favourite dogs, 1910. The Royal Collection © 2007 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.