The Japanese counterpart of the King Charles Spaniel, this little feline-like and oriental-looking dog was a favorite companion among Asian nobleman.
Although slightly similar to the Pekingese, the Japanese Chin is probalby related to the Tibetan Spaniel and even the Pug. However, its true origin remains a matter of controversy. It is widely agreed that these dogs were a lapdog of the nobility, but the route by which they in arrived in Japan remains uncertain.
As all short-nosed dogs from the Orient, it was primarily bred as a companion dog, unlike their European counterparts who were often bred as vermin-controlling working dogs. They may have been a gift from the Chinese or Korean rulers for the Japanese Emperor, or they may have been brought to Japan by Chinese Buddhist monks. Whichever theory we accept as true, it were the Japanese who perfected the breed. Legend has it that they were given sake (rice liquor) to stunt their growth and keep them as tiny as possible. Some say they were kept in hanging cages, much like ornamental birds. Only noblemen and samurai were permitted to keep them.
The Japanese language has only one Kanji 狆 (pronounced "chin") to refer both to a short-nosed dog, such as the Pekinese, Pug and Japanese Chin, and to a lap dog, which seems to indicate that in the Orient all lap dogs were short-nosed. Indeed, Japanese usually distinguish between Inu-dogs (working dogs) and Chin-dogs (lap dogs).
Official records show that an Englishman, Captain Searles, was presented with a Chin dog in 1613. In 1853, Commodore Perry was given several Chin dogs, two of which he offered to Queen Victoria. In 1880, Japanese Chins were sent to Germany at the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
At the beginning of the century three types of Chins were known: the large-sized Kobe Chin with an extremely feathery tail, the medium-sized Yamato Chin with tan patches, and the small-sized Edo Chin. All three types were blended into the present-day Chin.
When the breed arrived in the US it was first known as Japanese Spaniel. Today, the breed is still known by this name in other languages, such as in French, épagneul japonais. In the dog literature of the 1950s the breed usually appears as 'Japanese' (similarly to the Maltese Bichon's name, which was shortened to 'Maltese'). Today, the full breed breed name 'Japanese Chin, is sometimes shortened to 'Chin'. The Japanese Spaniel Club of America was founded in 1912, but the name was changed to the Japanese Chin Club in 1977.
Famous Japanese Chins and famous Chin Owners
Queen Alexandra and Lady Samuelson were early British owners of Japanese Chins. Two of Queen Alexandra's favorite Chins were called Punch and Facey. The were allowed to eat "at the house", while all other royal pets were fed in the kennels. Queen Alexandra also owned some red and white Japanese Chin of which Haru and Togo were the most famous. Kaiserin Auguste Victoria (Kaiser Willem II's wife) was also fond of Japanese Chins.
The Japanese Chin's coat is bi-color black-and-white or red-and-white (with the red ranging from lemon to deep red). Lemon-and-whites have more profuse coats, but they are more difficult to produce. Brindle is also possible, but black-and-white is the most common color combination. The coat is normally long, soft, silky and straight.
Character and Temperament
The Chin has a distinctively oriental look about him, with an aristocratic bearing. His eyes are placed wide apart in the skull, leaving the whites apparent at the inner corners, which tends to give him an endearing look of perpetual astonishment, especially when looking straight ahead.
Other cat-like traits include their ability to jump well and climb adroitly; they have a their preference for resting on high surfaces such as the backs of sofas and chairs. Their great agility allows them to run throughout the house or walk across a coffee table so gracefully that they never break or upset anything.
One of the most adaptable of dog breeds, the Japanese Chin is fussily clean and very easy to housetrain, but requires a lot of affection. This breed is considered one of the most feline of dog breeds: it has an independent temperament and dignified character as well as a cat-like in the way it uses its paws to wash its face.
(Chin, JapChin, Japanese)
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Photos © Eric Isselée (Black and white Japanese Chin); Anna Utekhina (Japanese Chins on red background); Charles Weidig (Chin pup). Original idea, design and development by C. Marien-de Luca. Photo of the Dog Breeds of the World sphere of flags by Mark Stay.
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