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Pekingese Movement

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Pekingese Movement       


Presented by the Education Committee:


Carol Kniebusch Noe, Chair

Patty Metzger

David Fitzpatrick

Dr. Steve Keating



Correct movement or gait in the Pekingese is a subject often discussed among breeders, exhibitors and judges.  It goes without saying that correct movement implies correct bone angulation and shoulder layback. 


I gathered these quotes of present and past breeders several years ago and am printing them in this article along with a response letter from Michael Hill who has been active in the breed for many years. 


To begin with, the Imperial Majesty, Tzu Hsi, Empress of China stated in her Pearls on The Imperial Pekingese, “Let its forelegs be bent so that it shall not desire to wander far, or leave the Imperial precincts……Let its feet be tufted with plentiful hair that its footfall may be soundless……” 

The American Standard of 1995 allotted 10 points to gait….”The gait is unhurried and dignified with a slight roll over the shoulders.  The rolling gait is caused by the bowed front legs and heavier, wider forequarters pivoting on the tapered waist and the lighter, straight parallel hindquarters.  The rolling motion is smooth and effortless and is as free as possible from bouncing, prancing or jarring.”  A further explanation states, “Action---slight roll in front over the shoulders and rib cage.  Heavy front swivels on a small narrow waist.  Very little, if any, bounce over loins, as hind legs should cause slight propulsion rather than drive.  Bounce over front is also incorrect and is generally associated with straight Terrier like motion in forelegs.  Exhibits must be moved slowly enough to gait properly.”


Movement had been in the early English standard but appeared to be dropped when it was revised in the late forties.  It was added again in the 1970’s and was described as, “Gait:  slow dignified rolling gait.  Typical movement not to be confused with a roll caused by slackness of shoulders.”  To quote R. William Taylor in an article, R. William Taylor Discusses The Revised Standard, “While trying to explain the rolling gait of the forequarters, it completely ignores the hind action which does not roll.  To describe the action of a Pekingese I believe the reasons should be given just why the Pekingese has such a distinctive movement.  His shape of body, together with bowed front legs and narrow hindquarters are just those reasons.  A better description of gait would read: ‘Fore action: slow dignified rolling gait caused by body being heavy in front and lighter in hindquarters with forelegs being bowed and hindquarters being close and parallel.  The typical rolling action not to be confused with a roll caused by slackness of shoulders which will not flow freely.  Hind action:  close, steady and free.  Soundness essential.”


The Perfect Pekingese (1912) by Mrs. Loftus Allen and L.P.C. Astley discusses action as “free, though of a ‘weaving’ character in front, but behind as straight as possible with not inclination at the hocks to incline either outwards or inwards.  In short a Pekingese should be able to gallop very fast indeed for its size and weight, and though moving freely and gracefully, should by no means have the same type of action as a terrier or hound.  In action as in almost any other point the Pekingese should be ‘characteristic’ and show a distinct individuality.”


 The Popular Pekingese (1923) by J.A. Vlasto describes action as, “the rolling walk of a sailor….due to the dog’s body being heavy in front and light behind, so that his centre of gravity comes much nearer to the head than in the normal dog, while, at the same time, the fact that the hind legs are closely set and the forelegs wide apart imparts at each step a sort of lurching or rolling movement towards the unsupported side.  Narrow-chested dogs never roll properly---they run or trot.  Another factor which has much influence in producing this typical gait is the slope of the shoulder…If the shoulder be straight, i.e. upright, the weight of the forepart of the body (relatively great in the Pekingese) is thrown straight upon the forelegs and this weight is directed almost vertically downwards.  If the shoulder be sloping it forms an angle with the foreleg, which latter receives the weight of the body indirectly owing to the intervention of the angle, thus introducing a sort of spring leverage between the body and the ground.  It is easy to understand how this spring mechanism helps to accentuate the swinging roll which distinguishes the true Pekingese gait.  In straight-shouldered specimens, where the spring is deficient, the gait is either waddling or else propping, depending on whether the forelegs are much or little bowed.”


 The Pekingese Dog  (1932) by Mrs. Ashton Cross speaks of judging the Pekingese.  “Then comes he test for action and deportment.  The dog should trot freely and soundly, tail up, head back, straight to and from the judge, and should then stand with a slack lead so that his weight is on his legs firmly, without wavering or knuckling over.  Particular attention must be paid to soundness in a breed like Pekingese, where bowed legs are correct, if grave physical defects are not to creep in unobserved.  A dog should be suspected if he breaks into a canter or prances about all the time, and one who will not----perhaps ---cannot stand more than a moment without shifting his position, also one whose handler cuts across at an angle instead of taking his charge straight up and down, who lifts him at the turn, or keeps him permanently on a tight lead.”


The Pekingese Manual (1957) by George Bindley Davidson describes action as, “Fearless, free and strong, with a ‘slight’ roll.  When it is too exaggerated one can rest assured that the dog is ‘out at the shoulder.’  When the dog is set firmly at the shoulder as he should, and the bowed forearms are correct, then he will naturally give a ‘slight rolling’ gait.  Being heavy in front, with a tapering waist, this is quite understandable.  Remember always a dog that ‘moves right’ is usually ‘built right.’  Some dogs are very short in back, as well as thick and low to the ground.  When these gain too much weight, they usually tend to go ‘down in pasterns.’  This is most unfortunate, as I have had to put down some lovely dogs when the competition was keen for this very reason.”

Jean Eisenman of Jamestown Pekingese wrote in the Pekingese Parade, June 1964, “I should describe his movement as being free, his head being thrown back very slightly so that his chest is thrust out like the prow of a ship.  This gives his action great dignity and majesty.”


Hilda Lomas writes in Our Dogs which was reprinted in the Pekingese Parade, December, 1965, “It is not easy to breed the correct front and at the same time the more lightly bones and close set normal hind legs.  It is the transferring of weight from these close moving neat actioned hind legs over the more widely separated and grotesquely formed front legs which produce the rolling gait peculiar to this breed.  The length or shortness of body neither produces nor eliminates this roll as is often supposed.”


Harry Pearson in an article, The Pekingese---A Point of View writes, “Tight shoulder muscles with the upper arm at front sloping down and backwards (this backwards slope is essential for the rolling gait}, wide deep chest making the elbows wide apart, heavy bone and the unusual extremely forward centre of balance: these are the points that in the correct combination cause the Pekingese to roll at the front as he propels himself forward.  As he rolls from side to side at the front taking short forward steps his rear legs should have a delightful scissors action.  That is as the left rear leg moves forward it goes almost in front of the right rear leg.  Then the right leg goes in front of the left leg and the rear pad prints if seen in the snow would be in an almost straight line.  The rear feet crossing in this manner give rise to the scissor action then.  The bottoms of the rear pads should be seen quite clearly from behind as the dog goes forward and as he sways from side to side ---truly swaggerpants.  This scissor action is brought about by the wide rolling front of the dog and the short level connecting back which causes a swaying rear end which virtually come to a point as one back foot goes in front of the other.  It produces, in line with the standard great dignity and quality of movement.  If for a moment we think of occasions that qualify for the words dignity and quality we might consider ceremonial occasions, processions of state, military gun carriage parades,---all done slowly and in a dignified manner.  There is nothing dignified in seeing a Pekingese flying around the ring or pulling constantly to the right or left on a tight lead, or sitting on his rear end being dragged ‘unceremoniously’ along the floor by the handler or jumping and frisking like a spring lamb.”


  Letter from Michael Hill:


“The references to movement I read with much interest.  The opportunity to compare the quotations, one after another, dating from 1912 through to the present did emphasize that the basics have not altered over the years.  Very reassuring!  I am as interested in correct movement as much as most, more than some, and less than others!  In conjunction with movement it is important to emphasize the distinct breed virtues that contribute to this movement; the heavy chest slung between well boned, bowed front legs with the body shape tapering to lighter narrower hind quarters.


Of the two references, I find those of Mr. R. William Taylor and Mrs. Jean Eisenman the most pleasing.  Over the years I’ve been active in the breed, and the half dozen countries in which I’ve observed representatives of the breed, there have been less than a handful of Pekes that I have felt correctly reflected the correct breed movement, associated with (obviously) the correct body shape and structure plus carriage and posture.  Foremost in my mind’s eye is one, Eng. CH St. Aubrey Carnival Music of Eastfield.  A compact, heavy, pleasant sized dog; masculine in outlook and carriage.  Self confident in his firm, sturdy, free movement, exhibiting  the rolling gait in a clean and unencumbered manner.


Referencing again the quotations, I do have some misgivings on Mr. Pearson’s views, in particular his consideration towards the hind action.  Mr. Pearson, in his observations provides implication of one rear leg being placed virtually in front of the other.  Giving thought to this, in concert with the statements on the swaying ‘from side to side – truly swaggerpants,” alluding to the view from the rear; I cannot reconcile this with statements of breed standards and breed authorities concerning soundness and close, steady free action behind.  Of course, at speed feet move closer together to varying degrees in all breeds, but at a normal, expect, show ring gait I consider a Pekingese viewed from behind moves close, firm and the legs remain parallel.  This follows Mr. Taylor’s statements.


An important point not too often spoken of, although illustrated in correct diagrams, is having the correct layback of shoulder.  This adds to the structural soundness of the forequarters, a structure to correctly support the chest and allows for the freedom of the front assembly to support the roll in a healthy manner.  Without the correct layback of shoulder, amongst other things, the exhibit has restricted reach in the front to tends to ‘bobble’ along bouncing from side to side.”


In conclusion, I hope this presentation of present and past opinions will stimulate some discussion as you observe Pekingese in and out of the ring.