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The royal life of dogs

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

Here is the history of the ruling families or the history of their favorite breeds. Palace dogs not only entertained their masters, but reflected their high status, luxury, wealth and power. Royal pets led their own court life, having separate chambers and even special feeding rooms.



Dogs have been an important part of the lives of royal families since ancient times. They guard their masters, take part in hunts, participate in ceremonies, comfort and entertain. Rulers like to surround themselves with faithful four-legged dogs, and tracing the history of royal families, it is easy to see that specific dynasties have their favorite breeds.


Ancient Egypt valued dogs extremely highly, especially the saluki breed. It appears in paintings depicting Tutankhamun hunting. It is one of the oldest living breeds of dogs. Saluki can be found on Sumerian tomb carvings from as early as 7,000 BC. "Royal dogs of Egypt" were highly prized by ancient Egyptian royalty for their subtlety, grace, beauty, endurance and speed. Some were even mummified with their masters, indicating the extremely strong bond between rulers and their favorites.


In China, the distinctive little shih tzu was considered the "sacred pet of the palace." Legend had it that the breed was bred by Tibetan monks and given to the emperors of China. It was highly prized because of its lion-like features (the image of Buddha on the lion's back was seen) and was "reserved" only for the imperial court. During the Ming and Manchu dynasties, any unfortunate shih tzu owner outside the palace was threatened with death. In the palaces, these imperial dogs served an unusual role: bed warmers. The world heard about the breed in the late 19th century, when the Dalai Lama presented Empress Tzu Hsi with a pair of exceptional shih tzu. The offspring of the empress's favorites were given to the Dutch and English nobility.


In Europe, the French royal court was ruled by mops, spaniels and Maltese poodles. Clusters of pampered dogs enjoyed unbridled freedom and were not subjected to any training. Instead, they had their own apartments in Versailles, spreading not-so-pleasant scents all around. The French had a special love for the poodle, which came from Germany. Louis XIV - the "Sun King" had his own favorite named Filou. His beloved "sporting dogs": Bonne, Nonne and Ponne lived to see their own self-portraits. The pugs even had their own carnival, known as the Cabinets des Chiens, where the king fed them personally with specially prepared royal pastries. Queen Marie Antoinette and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, on the other hand, owned mops, an ancient breed that originated in China.


In Italy, many dynasties had a taste for the bichon frise breed, which was discovered in 1,300 on Tenerife by Italian sailors. These fluffy quadrupeds immediately won the hearts of Italian royalty, and later became popular in French courts as well. King Henry III became so attached to his pet that he carried him constantly with him in a special basket. The fondness for these adorable little dogs also moved abroad - to the palaces of the Spanish royal family. Bichon frise are the heroes of paintings by Goya, the 18th century court artist.


Several canine breeds have captured the hearts of British rulers over the centuries. Henry VIII and both of his daughters adored King Charles toy spaniels, which originated in the Far East. However, the four-legged dogs owed their name to Charles II, whom they did not leave on one step. The king was even accused of being more interested in his beloved dogs than in the kingdom. Spaniels acted as foot warmers in cold medieval castles or "magnets" for fleas in royal beds. They became known as "comfort dogs." Their popularity has endured for centuries. Queen Victoria's first dog was a King Charles spaniel named Dash. Dogs of this breed were owned by the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. On the other hand, King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, had a taste for large hunting dogs, and was particularly fond of the Labrador Retriever breed. He bred them on royal estates in Sandringham and Balmoral in the early 20th century. Labradors have remained part of the royal family to this day.


Nowadays, the most associated with the British court is Queen Elizabeth II's beloved breed - the famous short-legged Welsh corgi. In 1933, King George VI bought a dog named Dookie for his daughters, and so the breed took aristocratic hearts by storm. To this day, corgis constantly reside at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II owned more than 30 dogs of the breed during her long reign - most of them descendants of Susan, her first female. In the 1980s, the queen was kept company by 13 corgi dogs at one time, which Princess Diana called a "moving carpet." In 2017. Her Majesty owned two corgi dogs named: Holly and Willow, as well as two dorgis, called Candy and Vulcan. The pugs had their own quarters in the palace, called the Corgi Room, where they slept on raised wicker beds. The royal pooches enjoyed an exquisite menu, taken care of by the palace chef. Meals consisted of steak and rabbit fillets and organic chicken with rice. Every day after lunch, Elizabeth II was in the habit of walking around the grounds of Buckingham Palace with her favorites. In 2020, the last of the four-legged friends passed away. The Queen's faithful companions were buried on a hill near Windsor Castle. Each dog received its own tombstone with a name, date of death and individual signature. However, in early 2021, Queen Elizabeth II once again became the owner of the breed when Prince Andrew gave her two puppies. They were named Fergus and Muick.


The life of four-legged pets at the royal courts was certainly not a "dog's life." The pets were adored and pampered by their masters. They accompanied them in their daily lives, offering comfort and entertainment. They took part in ceremonies and hunts. They had their own chambers, and the palace chef prepared refined delicacies for them.

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