9 Dog Breeds with a Royal History
Most dog breeds were bred to do dirty work: exterminating vermin, guarding homes or flocks against predators and intruders, or chasing down high stamina prey animals. Other dogs got to live the cushy life, serving as companion animals to royalty. These dogs were lucky enough to find their way into royal courts, palaces, and even the sleeves of aristocrats! Keep reading to learn the stories of some of these pampered pets!
The Pekingese originated in ancient China where only the Imperial family was permitted to own them. These dogs were treated as royalty, and common folk were required to bow to any Pekingese they passed. The dogs were so highly regarded that the penalty for harming or stealing one from the royal palace was the death penalty.
Coton de Tulear
It is believed that the Coton de Tulear's ancestors, Tenerife dogs, were brought to Madagascar on Pirate ships. There are many rumors about the breed's history on the island, with one claiming that a shipwreck washed a few small white dogs onto the island where they lived a feral lifestyle until they were taken in by royals. Regardless, the Coton de Tulear found its way to becoming a popular companion breed to Malagasy royalty and were not permitted to be owned by commoners. In fact, the aristocrats were also very reluctant to let the dogs leave the island, causing the breed to exist in isolation from the rest of the world until the 1970's.
Some historians believe that the Japanese Chin's ancestors were gifted to Japanese royalty by by rulers of Korea during the 8th century. Others believe that they were gifted to the Empress of Japan during the 6th or 7th century. The Japanese Chin was owned exclusively by Japanese royalty as a companion animal, and each noble house would breed their dogs to their own standard.
The Neapolitan Mastiff has its place in royal history, but not necessarily as a pet. The predecessors to the Neapolitan Mastiff were kept by King Porus and employed as war dogs in the war against Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great was so impressed with these dogs that he brought some back to Greece with him. The Roman Emperor Paolo Emilio then brought some of these dogs back to Rome with him after a military campaign, where they were then used as fighting dogs in the Colosseum.
The Papillon has made appearances in many portraits of royal and merchant class families, painted by some of the most world-renowned artists including Rembrandt, Watteau, Gonzales Coques, Fragonard, Paolo Veronese, and Mignard. The earliest Papillons were called "Dwarf Spaniels", as during Renaissance times, it was a sign of status to possess miniature versions of popular breeds. The Papillon was popular across much of Europe and was the favorite breed of Marie Antoinette.
The Shih Tzu originated in the palaces of Chinese emperors as early as 800 BCE. Shih Tzu were considered property of the royal court and anyone found with one outside of the palace could face the death penalty.
The existence of the Leonberger is all thanks to Heinrich Essig, a 19th century German politician and entrepreneur. He wanted to create a breed that would make a regal pet for European royalty. After crossing multiple large breeds, Essig has perfected the Leonberger. He succeeded in attracting the attention of royalty, with his dogs finding their way into the palaces of royalty and celebrities such as Garibaldi, the Prince of Wales, King Umberto of Italy, Tsar Alexander II, Napoleon III, and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. At one point, Empress Elisabeth of Austria was caring for 7 Leonbergers.
Pugs originated in ancient China as companion animals for the ruling families and members of the imperial court. For centuries, pugs only ever left China if they were given as gifts by Chinese nobles. In the 16th century, they started moving west, and eventually became popular in European courts. The pug even became the mascot of Holland's House of Orange after the Prince of Orange's pug saved his life by alerting him of Spanish attackers.
The Maltese is believed to have been brought to the island of Malta by Phoenicians, most likely during the fourth century BCE. They were popular amongst Romans during the 4th and 5th centuries and became a status symbol and fashion statement with aristocrats of the Roman Empire. Women would sometimes have the dog displayed in their sleeves or bosom.