Shih Tzus are one of the most popular and beloved dog breeds in the world. They are known for their long, silky coats, their friendly and affectionate personalities, and their adorable faces. But did you know that these cute and cuddly companions are also closely related to wolves? In fact, according to NBC News, Shih Tzus share several physical and behavioral traits with wolves, such as their short snouts, round eyes, and thick fur. They are also highly sociable and loyal to their owners, just like wolves are to their pack members. But how did this surprising connection come about? And what does it mean for Shih Tzu owners and lovers? In this article, we will explore the fascinating history and evolution of Shih Tzus, and reveal how much of the fierce apex predator really remains in our loveable fuzz balls.
The origin of Shih Tzus: from wolves to royal pets
Shih Tzus are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, where they were bred by Tibetan monks as gifts for Chinese emperors. The name “Shih Tzu” means “lion dog” in Chinese, and they were valued for their resemblance to the mythical lion that symbolized Buddhism. Shih Tzus were kept as royal pets in the Forbidden City, where they enjoyed a luxurious life of pampering and protection. They were also considered sacred animals, and anyone who harmed or stole them could face severe punishment or even death.
Shih Tzus are part of a group of dog breeds that have “ancient origins”, meaning that they have more wolf DNA than other dogs. This is because they split from wolves more than 100,000 years ago, before most other dog breeds were domesticated. This means that Shih Tzus predate settlements, farming, and large societies by tens of thousands of years. They are also genetically closer to wolves than any other dog breed, according to Medium. However, this does not mean that they are the closest relatives to wolves, because there is no such thing. All dogs are equally related to wolves, regardless of their appearance or size.
The evolution of Shih Tzus: from lion dogs to lap dogs
Shih Tzus have undergone many changes over the centuries, both in their appearance and their temperament. They have adapted to different environments, cultures, and human preferences. They have also been influenced by other dog breeds, such as Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, and Maltese. Some of these changes are due to natural selection, while others are due to artificial selection or selective breeding by humans.
One of the most significant changes in Shih Tzus is their size. Shih Tzus are much smaller than wolves, and even smaller than their ancient ancestors. This is because of a genetic mutation that emerged in wolves before they were domesticated, which affects the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) gene. This gene controls 15 percent of body size variation across dogs, and it has two forms: a small allele and a large allele. The small allele is associated with small body size, while the large allele is associated with large body size. Shih Tzus have two copies of the small allele, which makes them one of the smallest dog breeds in the world.
Another change in Shih Tzus is their coat. Shih Tzus have long, flowing hair that can reach up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length. This is very different from wolves, which have short, coarse fur that sheds seasonally. Shih Tzus’ coat is also very diverse in color and pattern, ranging from solid black to white with brown spots. This is because of a variety of genes that regulate coat color and texture in dogs. Some of these genes are inherited from wolves, while others are unique to dogs or specific breeds. Shih Tzus’ coat is mainly influenced by human preference and breeding standards, as it has no practical function for survival or adaptation.
A third change in Shih Tzus is their personality. Shih Tzus are very friendly, playful, and affectionate dogs that love human attention and companionship. They are also very intelligent, trainable, and adaptable to different situations. These traits are very different from wolves, which are wary, independent, and aggressive animals that live in hierarchical packs and hunt for their food. Shih Tzus’ personality is also influenced by human preference and breeding standards, as it makes them more suitable as pets and companions. However, some of their wolf-like behaviors still remain, such as howling, digging, and marking their territory.
The implications of Shih Tzus’ wolf connection: from health to behavior
Shih Tzus’ close relationship to wolves has some implications for their health, behavior, and care. As owners and lovers of Shih Tzus, it is important to be aware of these implications and how to deal with them.
One implication is that Shih Tzus may be prone to some health issues that are common in wolves or ancient dog breeds. These include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, eye problems, dental problems, and allergies. These health issues may be caused by genetic factors, environmental factors, or both. To prevent or treat these health issues, it is important to provide Shih Tzus with regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, proper grooming, and adequate exercise.
Another implication is that Shih Tzus may exhibit some behaviors that are typical of wolves or ancient dog breeds. These include barking, howling, digging, chewing, chasing, guarding, and being territorial. These behaviors may be caused by instinct, boredom, anxiety, or lack of training. To manage these behaviors, it is important to provide Shih Tzus with mental stimulation, socialization, positive reinforcement, and clear boundaries.
A third implication is that Shih Tzus may have some special needs that are related to their wolf or ancient dog ancestry. These include having a strong bond with their owners, being part of a family or pack, and having a sense of security and belonging. These needs may be fulfilled by providing Shih Tzus with love, attention, affection, and respect.
Conclusion: Shih Tzus are more than meets the eye
Shih Tzus are amazing dogs that have a rich and fascinating history. They are closely related to wolves, but they have also evolved into unique and diverse creatures that have captured the hearts of millions of people around the world. They have many physical and behavioral traits that reflect their wolf connection, but they also have many traits that make them ideal pets and companions. They have some health issues, behaviors, and needs that are influenced by their wolf or ancient dog ancestry, but they can also be prevented or managed with proper care and understanding. Shih Tzus are more than meets the eye. They are loyal friends, loving family members, and adorable fur balls that deserve our appreciation and admiration.