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Black Shih Tzu: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

Black shih tzu puppy sitting in grass

Black Shih Tzu: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

If you are considering getting a Shih Tzu to your family, you must first decide what color you want your new pup to be. Black Shih Tzus are an eye-catching color option, but just one of many available for these cute-as-a-button toy dogs.

Read on to learn more about the Black Shih Tzu and to find more adorable pictures that might help you decide on a color for your new dog.

Breed Overview


8–11 inches


9–16 pounds


10–16 years



Suitable for:

Families with children or other animals


Perky, happy, friendly, affectionate, outgoing, loyal

Black is one of the many officially recognized color variations for Shih Tzus, alongside liver, red, silver, blue, brindle, and gold. Black is considered one of the rarest colors for this breed, especially if the entire coat is black. Most Black Shih Tzus have shades of blue, chocolate, or white on them somewhere.

Black Shih Tzu Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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The Earliest Records of Black Shih Tzus in History

The ancestry of Shih Tzus is obscure, but most people believe the breed originated in Tibet. It’s thought that Shih Tzus were developed by monks who would offer them as gifts to the emperors of China.

Shih Tzus were favored by Chinese royals and were so cherished that the Chinese people would not sell, trade, or give them away. The breed’s name in traditional Chinese literally translates to “lion dog.” The Shih Tzu’s lion-like facial features were highly sought after amongst royals as Buddha was said to have come to Earth on a lion’s back carrying a small lion dog.

When Dowager Empress Cixi came into power during the 1860s, she was gifted a breeding pair of Shih Tzus. These dogs went on to become the foundation of her pure line. However, when Cixi died in the early 1900s, the dogs she kept weren’t seen as important anymore. The new Emperor and Empress weren’t interested in her line, so the breeding ceased, and many of the Shih Tzus were given as gifts to English and Dutch noblemen and women.

Shih Tzus made their way to the United States after World War II when returning military personnel brought the dogs back home with them.

shih tzu puppy black color walk in nature
Image By: Photobox.ks, Shutterstock

How Black Shih Tzus Gained Popularity

Though Shih Tzus were well known amongst Chinese royalty, they weren’t introduced outside the palace walls until the later 1920s. It wasn’t until the breed came to England that its popularity began to soar. The first breeding pair was exported to England in 1930, and two decades later, the breed took North America by storm.

After the Shih Tzus introduction to America post-war, Shih Tzus became one of the most popular toy breeds in the United Kingdom and America.

Formal Recognition of Black Shih Tzus

In 1930, the first Shih Tzus were imported into England and classified as “Apsos.” This is because the breed was born from pairing Pekingese dogs with the Lhasa Apso.

The Shih Tzu Club of England was created in 1934. The club wrote the first European standard for the breed in the mid-1930s. The UK Kennel Club officially recognized Shih Tzus in 1940. It wasn’t until 1969 that the American Kennel Club (AKC) formally recognized the breed.

Today, the Shih Tzu is now recognized by all the kennel clubs in the English-speaking world.

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Top 4 Unique Facts About Black Shih Tzus

1. Fourteen dogs saved the Shih Tzu from extinction

During the first portion of the 20th century, the Shih Tzu population dwindled to dangerously low numbers. This severe reduction in the breed’s population may be due in part to the passing of Dowager Empress Cixi. When she passed away, her successors had no interest in continuing her very successful breeding program.

It took the efforts of a handful of determined breeders and 14 dogs to rebuild the breed. It’s believed that these seven female and seven male dogs are the foundation of all modern Shih Tzus.

2. Shih Tzus are sometimes called “chrysanthemum-faced dogs”

This endearing nickname comes from the way the Shih Tzus hair grows. The fur on its muzzle grows upwards and outwards, giving them a unique and distinctly flowery-looking face. The nickname was coined by Lady Brownrigg, the first person to import a Shih Tzu to England.

3. Shih Tzus are hypoallergenic (kind of)

While no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, the Shih Tzu is generally considered one of a few handfuls of breeds that you can keep if you have pet allergies. This is because the breed doesn’t shed much, but their skin and saliva still contain the allergens that can cause issues for owners with allergies.

4. Shih Tzus were bred to serve royalty

The breed was initially bred to alert monarchs of unwanted incoming visitors. As time went on, however, it was discovered that their affectionate personalities made them perfect companion animals instead.

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Do Black Shih Tzus Make a Good Pet?

Like all other colors of Shih Tzus, Black Shih Tzus make fantastic pets. The breed is renowned for its perky, happy-go-lucky, and outgoing temperaments. They get along with almost everyone and are known to be affectionate with kids of all ages.

Because it is a small breed, Shih Tzus can live happily in apartments or homes without huge backyards. However, you will still need to take it for walks daily to burn off some energy.

Potential Shih Tzu owners should know that this isn’t a dog you want to leave to its own devices for long periods. They need attention and affection from their humans to stay happy.

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Final Thoughts

Black Shih Tzus are fantastic pets with a very unique and interesting history. You should count yourself lucky if you find a black chrysanthemum-faced dog, as they’re one of the rarest colors available for the breed. Aside from their dark, full-color coat, they share the same characteristics as any other Shih Tzu.

Featured Image Credit: Brian Muck, Shutterstock

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