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Two year old Kyi-Leo

The Kyi-Leo (pronounced “ki” as in “kite”) is a small yet sturdy rare dog breed. It was first introduced in the 1950s in the San Francisco Bay area by the accidental crossing of a Maltese and a Lhasa Apso. This produced an attractive yet distinct type of dog that quickly caught the attention of a few individuals. The most notable of these individuals was Mrs. Harriet Linn who acquired several of these dogs in 1965 and later acquired several more from the San Jose kennel in 1969; from then on she began to seriously breed them. In 1972 there was enough interest among owners and breeders to come together and formally recognize this breed. It was at this meeting that they formally decided on calling it a Kyi-Leo. The name comes from the Tibetan and Latin languages. “Kyi” is the Tibetan word for dog; this acknowledges the Lhasa Apso breed which first came from Tibet. “Leo” is the Latin word for Lion; this acknowledges the Maltese which is also known as the “Maltese Lion dog”. Since then the Kyi-Leo breed has slowly spread throughout the United States, especially on the western seaboard, and has recently become accepted by the American Rare Breed Association as a legitimate breed.



As a newborn, the Kyi-Leo fits within the palm of a human hand. Fully grown, it reaches 8-12 inches in height and 9-14 lb in weight. The Kyi-Leo has a long silky coat, most commonly black and white but sometimes gold and white, which tends to grow to long yet attractive lengths (never quite reaching past the floor) if tended properly. Its hair also grows on its short-snout face and short tail, which will curl up over its back when excited. It has small yet delicate legs that are prone to damage if dropped; but the Kyi-Leo can be very agile and quick, able to stand on its hind feet and make fast and passionate sprints. It is also naturally capable of swimming short distances, though it is not particularly fond of water. The Kyi-Leo does not have much jumping spring in its legs, and tends to only clear two to three feet high jumps. Like most dogs, it has a strong sense of smell and an acute sense of hearing. The Kyi-Leo also has notable similarities, in body size, shape, and hair, to the Shih Tzu dog breed.


The Kyi-Leo is notable for being temperate in personality – calm, obedient, usually quiet, not easily provoked, and quickly forgiving. It is usually very playful and active around trusted humans or animals, but tends to stay cautious and alert around strangers. Its acute hearing makes it a decent watchdog, but it will most likely revert to hiding when push comes to shove. It is not ferocious in the least and can become easily scared of assertive animals, even confident cats or unruly squirrels. However, the Kyi-Leo is rather intuitive in that if it senses its owner trusts someone, it will quickly warm up to that stranger. Logical intelligence is not particularly high in the Kyi-Leo breed, but unique and sometimes quirky/stubborn personalities can cover this fact. It ideally lives in indoor settings and can be very patient when left alone for long hours at a time. However, it quickly becomes excited when someone arrives home and will likely demand attention as payment for its patience. The Kyi-Leo very much enjoys being touched and petted but can become rather resistant to tickling or aggressive handling. When provoked it can put on a facade of ferociousness but is not easily capable of hurting a human.

Notable Health Issues

  • Because of its small size, the Kyi-Leo has delicate legs and a delicate spine. A slipped patella or back pains, due to a lot of jumping or aggressive handling, are notable among Kyi-Leos.
  • Because of its thick hair and Tibetan ancestry, the Kyi-Leo adapts best to colder climates and loves romping through the snow. Yet in hotter climates the Kyi-Leo can become dehydrated quickly and will seek cooler tile or linoleum surfaces to rest on. Keeping a clean supply of cool fresh water available for the Kyi-Leo is very important. Cutting its hair short during hot summers is also a big help.
  • Food intake is also an issue, as the Kyi-Leo can easily become overweight due to its small frame. A general rule is that if you can at least feel its rib cage then it is within the right weight range. If not, then its obesity may lead to other health problems.
  • The intake of human food, especially meat, is generally discouraged for the Kyi-Leo since its stomach cannot easily handle it. Kyi-Leos have been prone to pancreatitis, noticeable by excessive vomiting and a tender abdomen, which greatly limits the types of food they can eat. Most generic dog-food with a good source of protein is the best choice for Kyi-Leos. Forcing the Kyi-Leo to become accustomed to a dog-food only diet will increase its health and energy in the long-run.
  • Bad breath is common among Kyi-Leos. Brushing its teeth regularly and taking it in for a cleaning at the vet is a good idea. Tasty breath buster treats are also a temporary relief.
  • The Kyi-Leo tends to take care of its own exercise needs indoors, but it may excessively sleep if it rarely socializes. A daily walk is thus very healthy for a Kyi-Leo. Walking it around the block and then playfully encouraging it to sprint around the house fulfills its exercise needs, as well as a mile-long walk at a steady pace (for grown Kyi-Leos).
  • The Kyi-Leo can react frantically to loud high pitch noises, such as smoke alarms, prolonged whistling, the reverberation of pianos or loud subwoofers.
  • The expected lifespan of a Kyi-Leo is 12–14 years.

In popular culture


  • "Dog Day Afternoon Helps Poor Pooches." Times - Picayune. New Orleans. 30 Mar 2000: C1.
  • Green, Randy. "Filas and Tatras: Check Out These Rare Breeds." Seattle Times 29 Jun 1997: H5.
  • Hunt, Karyn. "Dog breeders bare their canines over standards. // PETS:Two owners of the Kyi-Leo breed, a mix of Maltese and Lhasa apso, are at odds over its qualifications." Orange County Register. 23 Nov 1997: A11.

See also

External links



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