What is an Imperial / Teacup Shih Tzu? Do They Actually Exist?
By Connie Limon
I did not create the "labels" Imperial or "Teacup." These words were already set in stone before I ever came on board. I picked up the terms only because potential customers were asking me for "Imperial Size" or "Teacup Size." I RARELY get a request for a "Standard" size shih tzu as defined by the American Kennel Club. Since these words of Imperial Shih Tzu and Teacup Shih Tzu were so common to describe a particular size of shih tzu and I was seeing these are the terms people place in search engines boxes looking for the size THEY WANT in a shih tzu, I began using the terms as well mainly to be able to communicate with potential customers in their own language.
The smaller size shih tzu are NOT smaller just because they are UNHEALTHY. This is a downright myth or lie being spread by those who are in favor of only one size shih tzu, which they say, is the only size shih tzu that should be on the market. And the ill-will I have heard from this group of people against these little guys is almost unreal, as if these smaller size shih tzus should not have the same rights as the "standard" size, maybe not even the "right to live" if this side of the poll had its ultimate way about things. And......as if people who have these little guys for sale command a higher price, that this is proof the breeder is doing something outrageously WRONG. Well........like I said.......RARELY does anyone ask me for a "standard" size shih tzu. There is a huge market of individuals and families who prefer these smaller sizes including me. I like all the sizes, but the smaller ones are my favorite. They are like little tiny treasures, almost always sweeter than the bigger guys. To me, they are like a rare exquisite jewel in the midst of all kinds of other jewels. They do require more work on the part of the breeder. Often, to keep them going at first because they are so small they have to be hand-fed and fed extra supplements like Nutri-cal daily. For these reasons of being that tiny treasured, exquisite jewel, rare and unique from all the rest, and because of the all extra labor involved in raising them, they command a higher price.
And.......I still say, from all I have read.......the smaller size shih tzu.......most likely the under 6 pounds, the 7 and 8 pounders were the very first shih tzu to ever be brought into this world by the Chinese Emporess Dowager in the Imperial Palace of China. The bigger sizes were rejected by these early day breedings conducted in the Palace. They were often sold to the peasants in the streets. The smaller ones were kept under careful guard, were the ones actually very much pampered that slept on satin pillows in the palace, that were owned by the elite and wealthy of that period of time, were given as gifts to the diplomats that visited the Imperial Palace as the most ultimate gift of all to ever receive from the Princess. They were the shih tzu that was highly reverened and cherished. These little under the table dogs were sometimes so small the Chinese could carry them in their sleeves. Try getting a 9 to 16 lb. dog in your sleeve? Won't work no matter how big that sleeve is. We owe all our bloodlines to these early breeders. The Princess was mean and ruthless and was known to have little regard for anyone else but her shih tzu. She was burned out several times and eventually I suppose when all the chips were down, she felt beaten, and was found to have committed suicide with all her little shih tzu around her. So the legends of the shih tzu are steeped in mysterious myths and stories that it is no wonder there is still so much controversy about them and......it is about these little guys the most it seems. They seem to be the most mysterious of all - another reason why they command a higher price tag. They are EXQUISITE LITTLE CREATURES.
They actually do belong recognized in a class all their own. I hope to see The American Kennel Club someday do just that. New breeds are being created everyday. I don't know why this group of people against the little guys try to make such a fuss over them not being appropriate to be anything but a PET and they imply any breeder having them are doing something outrageously wrong to the breed. I wonder do people carry on the same about Teacup Poodles? These little under 6 pounders would be so cute in the showring and in fact, I have a picture of one who was 6 pounds who won a championship (one of my shih tzu books). They belong in a class all their own. Name them Imperials. Name them Teacups. Do away with the Teacup name. Don't matter to me on that.
At first very few people got hold of these little guys. Why? Because they were one of a kind - like a very precious jewel in the midst of all kinds of other jewels.
I also think that because so many other people were able to get hold of the bigger sizes in those days is where these bigger sizes now came from. They went out all over to other countries - but not the tiny treasures of the Imperial Palace. They were the secret of that period of time. They are still fairly rare, fairly scarce. Anything that can be produced in vast numbers is always "cheaper." I remember when VCR's and Microwaves first came out, they were so expensive I thought I could never own one. But then......they started being manufactured by the millions, which brought the prices down, and many other people could afford them.
Right now, these little guys are still fairly scarce, which makes their value go up also. And they are many times just as healthy as the bigger guys.
I wonder don't these people who are against the little guys know that even humans come in all sizes and shapes......what if suddenly there was some kind of a stamp put on humans and if every person was not the weight of 170 pounds and 6 foot tall, they were deemed INAPPROPRIATE to be alive.......There are big people and little people and I am so grateful because I am one of the little people standing about 5 feet 2 inches tall. My weight has gone up through the years, so I might qualify as a person based on weight.......
I cherish the smaller sizes. All of mine have been extra joy to have around!!!! I don't in-breed them or have some kind of special formula to create them. Size is created by genes of the bloodlines. And yes, you could call the smallest in the crew a runt just the same. Personally though, I like the word "teacup" better. I think it more closely describes them and is a cuter term. If I were breeding Police Dogs, or Alaskan Working Dogs, I would call the smallest one in the crew, the runt. But I choose to call the smallest shih tzu - teacups and imperials. In my mind, that simply means a certain size. Rather than saying, I want a dog 6 pounds or under. A person can say I want a Teacup, and I know the size they are asking me for.