History of the Lhasa apso

Drekong Monastery, Tibet.  Tibet is original home of the Tibetan Lhasa apso, a sturdy and hearty small breed dog with a big personality.

Located between India and China, the isolated region called Tibet (also referred to as “The Roof of the World”) sits on the largest and highest plateau on Earth. This plateau has an average elevation of 16,000 feet.

Surrounded by the Kunlun and Himalayan Mountains on three sides and by China on the fourth, Tibet receives only 10 inches of rain annually. Tibet‘s climate varies little seasonally with temperatures ranging from 18 degrees Fahrenheit to 45 degrees Fahrenheit on average. The capital of Tibet is Lhasa which means “holy land“. Tibetans practice Buddhism also known as Lamaism. Tibet is also the birthplace of the Lhasa apso.

It is not surprising that such a unique little dog come from such a unique little place. The Lhasa apso is called “Abso Seng Kye” or “Bark Lion Sentinel Dog” in the sacred city of Lhasa. In the lamaseries and in the villages surrounding Lhasa, the Lhasa apso was raised as the sentinel of the home, watching for any stranger that might try to enter unnoticed. Four breeds have originated in Tibet: the Tibetan Terrier 14-17 inches tall and 18-30 lbs., the Tibetan Spaniel 10 inches tall and 9-15 lbs., the Lhasa apso 10-11inches tall and 13-15 lbs. and the Tibetan Mastiff 25-28 inches tall and 140-170 lbs.

The Lhasa apso breed was developed by the monks of Tibet in the solitude of their monasteries. Bred to provide an alarm for the monks should unwelcome visitors breach the sanctity of the monastery, the Lhasa apsos’ guardedness made him an indispensable companion. The monks bred the Lhasa apso to be short and compact in stature with a well muscled body. Even the stance of a Lhasa apso is representative of a sturdy, well-built little dog. The Lhasa apso has weatherproof hair and is one of a few breeds that do not continuously shed (however, twice a year it will eliminate any undercoat that is unnecessary). Its hair will protect the eyes from wind and sun as well as insulating the Lhasa apso from harsh weather.

The Lhasa apso was often considered a holy dog and given as a gift to visitors. It was believed that a Lhasa apso was the bearer of good luck and prosperity and would bring these blessings upon the family.

The Lhasa apso was first introduced into England in 1901 and gained popularity immediately. Never before had the Lhasa apso been taken outside of its little Tibetan countryside. The Lhasa apso was recognized by the Kennel Club of England in 1902, although, at that time, was referred to as the Lhasa Terrier (an inappropriate description because a Lhasa apso is not a burrower or hunter of rodents or vermin).

The Lhasa apso was introduced to the United States sometime in the early 1930’s. In 1935 the Lhasa apso was recognized by the American Kennel Club but still listed as a Lhasa Terrier. In 1944 the American Kennel Club changed the name to the Lhasa apso. In 1959 the Lhasa apso was finally removed from the terrier group and placed in the more appropriate non-sporting group where it has remained since. During the same year the American Lhasa Apso Club was also developed. They have been instrumental in preserving the breed and helping to keep the standard as close to the original as possible.

Lhasa apso: a vigorous, energetic, personable, intelligent, little dog with more heart than the average dog. They are courageous, and totally devoted to their family. The Lhasa apso can live in an apartment or on a 300 acre ranch. It also can befriend a child with asthma that may never experience the joy of owning a pet. Lhasa apsos are intelligent and require a firm but gentle master. Lhasa apsos do prefer living by their own rules but are extremely sensitive and enjoy pleasing their masters. Praise will go much farther than force or tough verbal correction as a Lhasa apso can become stubborn if to much authority is applied.

Lhasa apsos have been almost entirely obliterated from Tibet by the wars that have ravaged this tiny/peaceful little place all in an attempt to subdue it’s people. China now claims the very origin of the dog, despite the fact that it was developed completely in Tibet. The very preservation of the Lhasa apso is now up to our careful breeding programs, thoughtful placements and genuine desire to see this breed never become extinct! They are truly unique and wonderful in oh so many ways!