Get to Know the Japanese Chin: Rare Gem of the East


He’s one of the most ancient of lapdogs, and he takes his job seriously — when he’s not clowning around. Part court jester, part love bug, the Chin is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to being an ideal lapdog.

More interesting things about the Japanese Chin

  • The Japanese Chin may be confused with the English Toy Spaniel, but the Chin is much smaller. It may also be confused with the Papillon and Phalene, but the Chin has a flat face. And it may be confused with the Pekingese or Shih Tzu, as well, but the Chin is more square proportioned and lighter boned.
  • The Chin is a brachycephalic breed, meaning it has a very short nose.
  • The Japanese Chin actually has its roots in China, but it became identified with Japan. They were owned only by Japanese nobility for centuries.
  • Commodore Perry was given seven Japanese Chin when he visited Japan in 1853. Only two survived the trip to America, and these he gave to either President Franklin Pierce or to an admiral to, in turn, take to Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was a great breed fancier and would have helped make the breed popular in Britain. Popular British breeds became popular American breeds.
  • The breed was AKC recognized as the Japanese Spaniel in 1888, making it one of the earliest of the breeds now in the Toy group to be AKC registered. At the time, any small fluffy dog was often called a “spaniel,” despite having no relationship to spaniels.
  • The name was changed to Japanese Chin around 1977. It is still referred to as a spaniel in many other countries. Chin appears to be a Japanese name for many types of lapdogs.
  • The breed first competed at the Westminster dog show in 1877, and has since won the Toy group there twice, most recently in 1997. It has yet to win Best in Show there.
  • The Chin is the 91st most popular AKC breed, down from 71st five years ago.
  • Owners include the Osbournes. Historically prominent owners include Queen Alexandra and Kaiser Wilhelm II’s wife.

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