In their native Tibet, Lhasa Apsos are known as the "bark lion sentinel dogs." In the Tibetan tongue, that's "Abso seng kye." These small dogs were charged with guarding homes, alerting residents to the presence of strangers. Modern Lhasas still take this job very seriously.
Although most of the information about the Lhasa's origins are lost to history, in Tibet they belonged to the rich and were greatly prized. According to the American Kennel Club, wealthy homes in ancient Tibet usually had a giant mastiff chained at the gate to ward off intruders, but inside the house there was another smaller but feisty canine, the Lhasa Apso, to warn his masters about potential dangers.
Lhasa and Apso
According to an account written by Margaret Hayes in 1933 and published in the American Kennel Gazette, the Lhasa and the Apso were considered two different breeds of dog in their native country. While the Lhasa came in many colors, along with white markings, the Apso was a much rarer honey-colored version. Hayes described the Apso of that era as somewhat larger than the Lhasa. She claimed Apsos were once presented each year by the Dalai Lama to the emperor of China.
These sacred Tibetan dogs reportedly were brought to Great Britain as early as 1854, according to the English Lhasa Apso Club. Sir Lionel Jacob published the first description of the breed for British fanciers in 1901, but called them Lhassa terriers. In 1935, the breed was exhibited at the prestigious Crufts Dog Show. First registered with the AKC in 1935, the Lhasa was originally considered a terrier. In 1959, the classification was changed to the non-sporting group for competition purposes.
Although the Lhasa Apso is now well-established in the West as a companion dog, serious Lhasa Apso breeders are concerned about the genetic diversity of their dogs, as Lhasas outside of their native land descend from a limited gene pool. The American Lhasa Apso Club established a Native Stock Committee, with the goal of importing "region of origin" dogs to increase the breed's genetic diversity while maintaining AKC studbook integrity. Eligible dogs must either come from Tibet or that geographical area or from a country without reciprocal AKC registration.
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Lhasa Apso
- American Kennel Club: Lhasa Apso History
- American Kennel Club: Lhasa Apso - Did You Know?
- American Lhasa Apso Club: Four Breeds of Dogs are in Far-off Tibet
- American Lhasa Apso Club: Dogs from the Roof of the World
- American Lhasa Apso Club: Native Stock Committee
- Lhasa Apso Club: Lhasa Apso
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.