Breed of the Week - Lhasa Apso

Having existed in Tibet for thousands of years, this enchanting little dog probably descended from European and Asiatic herding dogs, including the Hungarian Puli and Pumi. Other related breeds include the Tibetan Terrier and Tibetan Spaniel.

Held in high esteem, the dogs were kept in monasteries, giving alarm to the monks when intruders got past the large Tibetan Mastiffs guarding the premises. The dogs were given as gifts and never sold, as the Lhasa Apso was thought to bear the souls of monks who erred in their previous lives. They were also given as tribute gifts for safe passage for the long journey from Tibet to China, a trip by caravan that lasted eight to ten months.

Because exporting the breed was forbidden, it is thought that the dog did not appear in the West (England) until about 1930. The first Lhasa Apso appeared in Britain in 1854, but certainly there was confusion regarding the naming of breeds at this time. Tibetan Terriers and Lhasa Apsos were referred to as Kashmir, Thibetan, Bhuteer, Lhassa Terriers, and even Thibet Poodles. Since there were both Lhasa Apsos and Tibetan Terriers in Britain at the time, variations occurred and some were described as being as large as Russian Poodles while others were as small as Maltese Terriers. Indeed, a close relationship exists between the Lhasa Apso and the Tibetan Spaniel, and it is possible for two full-bred Lhasa Apsos to produce a litter with one or more puppies resembling the Tibetan Spaniel. One characteristic that all the breeds shared was the placement of the tail curling high over the back, a trait shared by many breeds today.

One of the first Lhasa Apsos to leave Tibet was carried on a saddle for miles with an attendant adorned with turquoise. The Hon. Mrs. McLaren imported several to Britain. One of her dogs, Bhutan, was known for begging at dog shows to raise money for the war effort. In 1908, the breed gained championship status in Britain, with two different classes, the second being the Tibetan Terrier. An early champion of the breed, Eng. Ch. Rupso, was stuffed and preserved in the British Museum at Tring. Even today, Rupso is labeled as a “Tibetan Terrier” although he was definitely a Lhasa Apso, measuring slightly less than ten inches at the shoulders.

In 1928, Colonel Bailey, then British Political Officer for Tibet, brought Apsos back to Britain. At the same time, Shih Tzus were being imported to Britain and, again, confusion arose as the breeds are very similar. Differences were noted, especially in the length of the forefaces and the “war of the noses” began. Eventually, breed standards were established for the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel, and Tibetan Mastiff as the Tibetan Breeds Association was formed by the British Kennel Club to represent these breeds.

During World War II, the breed suffered difficult times. There were only ten new puppies registered, and hardpad and distemper killed many Apsos. While bloodlines had dwindled, the descendants from the original Bailey imports managed to survive. Additional Lhasa Apsos were imported from Tibet before China banned the exportation of dogs.
In 1956, the Lhasa Apso Club was formed breaking away from the Tibetan Breeds Association. In 1959, the breed name was changed to Tibetan Apso. However, the name change did not last long, and by 1970 the breed name was again Lhasa Apso. In 1964, the English Kennel Club awarded Challenge Certificate status to the breed.

In the United States, the breed has an interesting history. Suydam Cutting went to Tibet in 1930 and met the Dalai Lama. In 1933 the Dalai Lama sent Mr. Cutting two Lhasa Apsos. He sent two more and another pair in 1950, the last two attaining American champion status. Hamilton Farm in Gladstone, New Jersey was the home of Mr. Cutting, and the breeding was supervised by Fred Huyler and James Anderson. Mr. Huyler later became the first President of the American Lhasa Apso Club. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1935 and included it in the Terrier Group. In 1959, the breed was transferred to the Non-Sporting Group.

A stalwart breed, the Lhasa Apso can withstand extreme temperatures and bright light. The Lhasa Apso is most closely associated with the mythological snow lion, the king of the animals. In Tibetan culture, the snow lion is believed to be so powerful that when it roars seven dragons fall from the sky. Today’s Lhasa Apso possesses the noble quality of the snow lion, and is lively and courageous. The dog has a keen sense of hearing and sharp voice, and makes an excellent watchdog. As a companion animal, the dog is intelligent, affectionate and good with children. Strong-willed and occasionally stubborn, the dog requires firm training.

The Apso makes a good apartment dog and loves to walk. He requires daily de-matting, brushing, and combing. Monthly bathing and regular attention to the eyes is recommended.

This article just touches on the many qualities and attributes of the Lhasa Apso. To learn more, visit the National Parent Club, The American Lhasa Apso Club.

Looking for gifts, jewelry, apparel and home d├ęcor featuring the lively Lhasa Apso? Select the Shop by Breed tab at

written by Laura Baechle


  1. Sorry too disagree Dog....I have 5 Lhasas and they ARE tolerant of Children! And all are bonded to my entire family and my showdog friends! They are disinterested in people they don't know...but never with "their" families!


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