Pekingese (pēˌkĭnēzˈ) [key], breed of small toy dog developed over many centuries in China. It stands from 6 to 9 in. (15.3–22.9 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs from 6 to 14 lb (2.7–6.4 kg). The long, straight, soft coat forms a ruff around the neck and fringes of feathery hair on the ears, legs, and tail. It may be any color. The Pekingese is believed to have existed in its present form as early as the 8th cent., when it was kept as a palace dog by the Chinese emperors. For centuries its breeding was closely guarded by the court; the punishment for stealing a Pekingese was death. When the imperial palace at Beijing was invaded by the British in 1860, several of these royal dogs were taken and subsequently introduced into the West. Today the Pekingese is a very popular companion and house pet. See dog.