In Japan, there are “Inu” dogs and there are “Chin.” To the Japanese, the Chin are royalty, descending from lapdogs of the Chinese aristocracy. While the exact origin of the Japanese Chin is obscured by time, it certainly is a very old toy breed, as reflected in drawings on ancient pottery and in artifacts from ancient Chinese temples. Different theories abound as to when the Chin came to Japan, including: 1) that Zen Buddhists brought the dogs from China in the 6th century A.D.; 2) that a Korean prince brought a pair as a gift for the Japanese Emperor in the 8th century A.D.; 3) that a Chinese emperor personally presented a pair to the Japanese royal family between the 7th and 10th centuries; and 4) that the Chin was taken to Japan on trading ships from the West. Whichever story is accurate (if any), the parti-colored breed was named the Japanese Chin to distinguish it from its close relative, the Pekingese. Some authors think that the name “Chin” means “of China.” Another school of thought suggests that “Chin” means “cat-like.”
In the 1600s, Japan isolated itself from Westerners, with the exception of a Dutch trading post, until the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed in the mid-1850s. The Japanese gave a number of their prized little Chins to the expeditionary forces that opened their country. Those that survived the voyage to the United States or to England became part of the foundation of the breed for the rest of the world. The Japanese Chin rapidly gained favor with European royalty as exotic pets, and its popularity quickly grew in North America as well. Dedicated breeders world-wide carefully maintained the breed during war, disease, famine and natural disaster.
The first Japanese Chin was brought to America in 1882 and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888, as a Japanese Spaniel. The Japanese Spaniel Club of America was founded in 1912. Both the parent club and the AKC officially changed the breed name to the Japanese Chin in 1977.
The average life span of the Japanese Chin is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts, heart murmurs, patellar luxation, atlantoaxial subluxation, distichiasis and refractory corneal ulceration.