Country of Origin: Tibet
Height: Males 10–11.5 inches, females slightly smaller
Weight: approximately 13–18 lb
Coat: Double coat with “good length,” straight, hard, heavy, dense outercoat and dense undercoat; whiskers and beard
Colors: all colors and combinations acceptable
Other Names: Abso Seng Kye; Tibetan Apso
Registries (With Group): AKC (Non-Sporting); UKC (Companion)
ORIGIN AND HISTORY
The dog breeds of the Far East have an ancient history, and so it is for the Lhasa Apso. Small, shaggy dogs were known in Tibet as far back as 8000 BCE. They were often presented as gifts to visiting dignitaries and as tokens of good luck, believed to bring peace and prosperity to homes in which they lived. As these little dogs began to spread around the world, they became increasingly popular.
When Tibet converted to Buddhism in the 7th century CE, breeders of the small dogs wanted to fix a type to resemble the lion. A symbol of Tibetan royalty even before Buddhism, the lion also represented the power of Buddha, so it was natural that the people wanted a leonine-colored and shaped dog. Lhasas—“lion dogs”—became fixtures inside the homes of Tibetan nobility and in lamas’ monasteries. It is likely Lhasas, with their sharp bark and fine hearing, were used as sentinels to alert their owners to a stranger’s approach. They were also beloved companions and friends.
Lhasa dogs began to appear in the West around the turn of the century, brought back by British explorers, emissaries, and other travelers to Tibet. There was much confusion at first, with shaggy dogs from the Orient in a variety of sizes being called “Lhasa Terriers.” It was only later that authorities distinguished between the leggier and longer-headed Tibetan Terrier and the smaller Lhasa Apso. The Lhasa gained a firm foothold in the United States in the 1930s and has been popular ever since.
Today’s Lhasa Apso is true to his long and distinguished past of serving as a spirited and highly regarded companion. In his heart, he believes that he is the special one in the household, the one whom others should respect and even defer to. He is friendly and assertive, with a unique ability to distinguish friend from foe and letting those he loves know when he is bothered by someone. Lhasas can be somewhat territorial with other dogs and pets and aren’t always tolerant of children who are too rough around them. Socialization from puppyhood is critical to help a Lhasa learn to get along with everyone. When he does, he is the affectionate and self-possessed ruler of the roost.
- Exercise: Although the Lhasa Apso is small, he’s not delicate or toy-like—this sturdy companion will gladly accompany his family on regular outings or even extended walks.
- Grooming: Lhasa Apsos who compete in the show ring need daily attention to their coats to keep them dirt- and mat-free. People who don’t show their Lhasas typically keep the coats clipped for ease of grooming. Any Lhasa should be brushed regularly to keep the fur from tangling.
- Life Span: The average life span of the Lhasa Apso is up to 18 years.
- Training: Lhasa Apsos are used to being spoiled, as they have been for many centuries. This doesn’t mean they won’t do what their owner asks, but it does incline them to do things when they are ready, not necessarily when their owner is. Fortunately, they are devoted companions and when trained with rewards that motivate them, they are quick and able learners. Socialization is critical for this breed.
Excerpt from World Atlas of Dog Breeds, 6th Edition. © 2009 TFH Publications, Inc.