The Shantung Terrier: What Is It?

Part travelogue, part memoir, part travelogue, and part political viewpoint, the 600 page book, “Intimate China: The Chinese as I Have Seen Them” would today raise eyebrows. The narrative shared by Mrs. (Alicia) Archibald Little of when she arrived in China as a new bride in 1887 was a “no holds barred” view of this country and its people by this prolific writer and campaigner for women’s rights. Chapters covered a range of topics from superstitions and caves, to weddings and (warning- disturbing photo at next link) footbinding, which she vehemently opposed. 

In Chongqing where she and her husband lived, she was viewed as an oddity. Women did not go out in public, and Little often travelled around China dressed as a man to avoid attracting attention which could end badly. Still, Mrs. Little did her best to challenge the expectations of local inhabitants.  Her account of what she saw in daily life spared no detail, and was written from the perspective of a 19th century woman. She could be regarded, however, as an early feminist; For several years, she was the leading campaigner in Europe against binding feet, and even founded the Tien Tsu Hui, or Natural Foot Society. She lectured and delivered her talks with x-rays of the deformed feet, and shocked her audiences with accounts of women killing themselves during wars because they knew that they couldn’t run to save themselves.  Today, some would say her memoirs expressed British cultural superiority. Our interest in the book is her mention of “Jack,” her Shantung Terrier, a breed we had to investigate at length to ultimately learn what it was.

We found another reference to the Shantung Terrier in a book about dogs of Japan, as well the mention that, “Westerners no longer referred to any breed of dog as “Shantung Terriers” as these canines were probably related to dogs that became standardized as the Tibetan Terriers.  In the book, “Travels on Horseback in Mantchu Tartary,” by George Fleming, the author also mentions the Shangtun Terrier as “equal to the finest Skye terrier, to which it bears a very striking, if not complete resemblance. He later mentions their ” long soft bluish-white hair that conceals their bodies and almost obscures their eyes {and that] the Chinese call them ‘Silken-Haired dogs.’

What the heck was the Shangtun Terrier?

Ultimately, our research suggests that the name, “Shantung Terrier” was used to refer to both the Tibetan Terrier and Lhasa Apso. Based on the photo seen here of  Alicia Little’s “Jack,” what do you think he was?

However, we conclude by going full circle back to Alicia Little and Jack. She wrote, “Jack, our faithful friend, and constant companion during nine years of travel, a beautiful long-haired terrier from Shantung, he too lies in a little grave, though his lustrous, intelligent eyes haunt me still. Let no one lightly enter on a Chinese dog as companion – they make themselves too much beloved, become too completely members of the family.”

Of that, we suspect, no owner of either the Tibetan Terrier or Lhasa Apso could disagree.

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