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Lhasa Apso
Country of origin Tibet

The Lhasa Apso (lha-sah ap-so) is a non-sporting dog breed originating in Tibet. It was bred as an interior sentinel in the Buddhist monasteries, who alerted the monks to any intruders who entered. Lhasa is the capital city of Tibet and apso is a word in the Tibetan language meaning "bearded," so Lhasa Apso simply means "long-haired Tibetan dog." These can vary according to regions and types.

A Lhasa in a teddy trim.
A one year old female Lhasa with short length hair and a slight underbite.

Male Lhasa Apsos should ideally be 10.75 inches at the withers and weigh about 14-18 pounds, 6–8 kg. The females are slightly smaller, and weigh between 12-14 pounds, 5–7 kg. The breed standard requires dark brown eyes and a black nose, although liver coloured lhasas have a brown nose. The texture of the coat is heavy, straight, hard, neither woolly nor silky, and very dense. Colors include white, golden, rust and parti-colored with various shadings. Lhasas can be with or without dark tips at the end of ears and beard. The tail should be carried well over the dog's back. The breed standard currently used by the American Kennel Club was approved on July 11, 1978.[1] Lhasas can change color as they get older, starting with a dark brown coat which gradually turns lighter.



Having been bred as an indoor monastery sentinel dog by Tibetan Buddhist monks, Lhasa Apsos are alert with a keen sense of hearing with a rich, sonorous bark that belies their size. The ideal Lhasa temperament is to be wary of strangers while being loyal to those closest to them. They rank 68th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of fair working/obedience intelligence.[citation needed] Lhasa Apsos are independent as well as companion dogs who want to please their owners. Unique personality characteristics of Lhasa Apsos have gained them a reputation as being a very emotive breed that in some cases prove themselves to be completely fearless. Lhasa Apsos often show happiness by rubbing their head on their owners, rolling around, or sitting on their owner's feet.[2]

A Lhasa Apso responds to exercise and discipline with a calm assertive energy. These dogs require socialization with dogs and other people early as puppies and throughout their lives. They require patience but in return can be quite comical, entertaining and caring companions. They aim to please their owners and enjoy training. While their personality belies their size, they need a home that is mindful that there is a small quiet dog in the house to prevent injury. They enjoy vantage points in the house where they can view all that is going on.[citation needed]

The Lhasa Apso is a loyal dog, who while not be a traditional lapdog, is a steadfast sweet, happy, active, assertive, adventurous little companion dog whose only desire is to be with and protect their owners.[citation needed]

Female Lhasa Apso, seven years old in a pet clip.

If properly trained early as soon as they are a puppy, the Lhasa Apso will come to appreciate bathing, hair combing and clipping, but they generally do not enjoy bathing or swimming as this is not part of their breed traits.

The Lhasa Apso is a long-lived breed, with some living in good health into their early 20s. There are few health problems specific to the breed. Their vision may deteriorate with age but they are not sight-oriented dogs and they endure blindness with few noticeable changes in behavior. They


The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet, perhaps as long ago as 800 B.C., which makes it one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world. Recent research* has shown the Lhasa as one of the breeds most closely related to the ancestral wolf. (Others are Akita, Shiba Inu, Shar-Pei, Chow, Basenji, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Saluki, Afghan, Pekinese, Shih Tzu, and Samoyed.)[3]

Referred to in Tibet as Apso Seng Kyi, best translated as "Bearded Lion Dog," the Lhasa's primary function was that of a household sentinel, guarding the homes of Tibetan nobility and Buddhist monasteries, particularly in or near the sacred city of Lhasa. The large Tibetan Mastiffs guarded the monasteries' entrances, but the keen hearing and sharp bark of the Lhasa Apso served to warn residents if an intruder happened to get past the exterior guards. These little guardians were highly prized. It was believed that the bodies of the Lhasa Apsos could be entered by souls of deceased lamas while they awaited reincarnation into a new body. Lhasas in Tibet were never sold. The only way a person could get one was as a gift.[4]

The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet, where they were bred as sentinels for palaces and monasteries. In the early 1900s, a few of the breed were brought by military men returning from the Indian subcontinent to England, where the breed was referred to as "Lhasa Terriers".[5] Lhasa Apsos would alert outdoor dogs, such as the Tibetan Mastiff of any danger they perceived their owners, Tibetan Lamas, may be in with their keen sense of hearing and deep bark. In this sense, Lhasa Apsos are used to working with larger dogs and may relate to them more than small "yappy" dogs. [6]

The original American pair of Lhasas was a gift from Thubten Gyatso, 13th Dalai Lama to C. Suydam Cutting, arriving in the United States in 1933. Mr. Cutting had traveled in Tibet and met the Dalai Lama there.[7] At this time, there was only one Lhasa Apso registered in England.[8] The breed was called first the Apso Lhasa Terrier, then the Lhasa Apso. The American Kennel Club officially accepted the breed in 1935 in the Terrier Group, and in 1959 transferred the breed to the Non-Sporting Group.[9] In the UK, they are placed in the Utility Group. Certain characteristics which are part of the breed type evolved as a result of geographical and climatic environment - the high altitudes, the dry windy climate, the dusty terrain, the short hot summer and the long bitterly cold winter of the Himalaya region. Among these are head features, the coat, eye-fall, the musculation and body structure, the general hardness and longevity of the breed.[10]

After China reannexed Tibet in 1951, the Chinese government has, according to some sources, caused the killing of many Lhasa Apsos by disbanding the monasteries that they guarded (or, allegedly, because it saw them as a bourgeois luxury)[11], and exterminated Lhasa's large population of unregistered stray Apsos because of hygienic concerns.[12]

Recently, DNA Analysis has identified the Lhasa Apso as one of the 14 most ancient dog breeds, verifying that lap dogs and companion dogs were among the first dogs bred by humans.[13] [14]"

Currently, there is worldwide concern that it is necessary to breed some of the original Tibetan Lhasa Apsos into the Western bred line which is now 60-years old, to maintain the Tibetan authenticity of the breed. The two lines now differ in some ways which is a concern to breeders who want to properly preserve the breed.


Like most mammals, all dogs slough off dander. Since dander and many other allergens become trapped in hair, and shed hairs are light enough to spend considerable time airborne indoors before settling to the floor to be removed during housecleaning (an activity which can, ironically, help them stay airborne), shedding of the coat is a typical way in which house-pets spread their allergens in a domestic environment.[citation needed]

Coming from the extremely cold weather of the Himalayas, the Apso has a double coat: only the undercoat, which is soft, will shed out once a year, the outer coat, consisting of coarse outer guard hairs, does not shed. Many owners do not show their dogs's full coat and tend to keep their Lhasa Apsos in a "puppy clip." People with allergies can co-exist with the low-shedding breeds of dogs, including the Lhasa Apso, when they are properly cared for.[citation needed]


An 8 week old male Lhasa Apso puppy.
  • The Brazilian comic series Monica's Gang features a green-colored Lhasa Apso named Fluffy which belongs to Jimmy Five.
  • In the animated series Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Peter's Aunt May owns a lhasa apso named Ms. Lion.
  • Known to suffer from Sebaceous Adenitis - Sebaceous Adenitis is a hereditary skin disease that occurs primarily in Standard Poodles, but has also been reported in a number of other breeds, including the Lhasa Apso.
  • Known to suffer from the genetic disease Progressive Retinal Atrophy which can render them blind. Ethical, responsible breeders will have their breeding dogs checked yearly (CERF'd) by a canine ophthalmologist to check that they are not developing the disease, which is heritable in offspring.
  • Lhasa Apso has also appeared in at least one episode of the Simpsons. In the episode Three Gays of the Condo, Homer Simpson moved in with a couple of gay men. Homer started to act like a gay man and got a Lhasa Apso.
  • In "The L Word", Helena is assured by her wealthy mother that she was going to leave her inheritance to her, not to her Lhasa Apsos.
  • Lhasa Apso are said to bring luck, hence the saying "Lucky Lhasa".[15]".
  • Singer Arturo Paz owns a Lhasa Apso named Coco, seen on Tiger Beat.
  • Actress/Singer-Songwriter Keke Palmer has a Lhasa Apso named Rusty, seen in a picture on MTV Cribs.
  • A Lhasa Apso is both a major character and a plot device in the Newbery Award-winning 1948 children's novel, Daughter of the Mountains, by Louise Rankin (ISBN 978-0140363357).
  • Singer Gwen Stefani had a Lhasa Apso dog called Lamb/Meggan


  1. ^ American Kennel Club breed standard
  2. ^ Dog & Kennel by Rick Beauchamp
  3. ^ Joslyn's Lhasa Apsos: [1]
  4. ^ Joslyn's Lhasa Apsos: [2]
  5. ^ Clark, Anne Rogers; Andrew H. Brace (1995). The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. Howell Book House. pp. 294. ISBN 0-87605-624-9. 
  6. ^ Joslyn's Lhasa Apsos: [3]
  7. ^ Lhasa Apsos, by Stephen Wehrmann, Barrons Educational Service Publisher, 2002, ISBN 0764119583
  8. ^ New York Magazine, Dog of the Year, by Leslie Aldige, pgs 32-34, 22 July 1968
  9. ^ American Kennel Club: "Lhasa Apso History"
  10. ^ Lhasa Apso Breed Type - Frances Sefton
  11. ^ Dog & Kennel: [4]
  12. ^ Tibetans upset at China's move to rid Lhasa of its revered dogs Daily Telegraph 20 Sep 2002
  13. ^ Ostrander, Elaine A. (September-October 2007). "Genetics and the Shape of Dogs; Studying the new sequence of the canine genome shows how tiny genetic changes can create enormous variation within a single species". American Scientist (online). pp. also see chart page 4. Retrieved 09/22 2008. 
  14. ^ Science: Search query on article
  15. ^ Origins of the Lhasa Apso (by the Hon Mrs Eric Bailey)

External links


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|Male Lhasa Apso puppy, age 8 weeks]]

The Lhasa Apso is a small breed of dog. It originated in Lhasa, Tibet, which it is named after. Male Lhasas generally weigh about 14 to 18 pounds, and female Lhasas weigh 12 to 14 pounds. Lhasas have developed a thick coat due to the fact that they were bred in Tibet, which can get very cold. Their fur comes in many different colors, and they usually have dark brown eyes and a black nose. Lhasas generally live long lives, some surviving into their twenties. Lhasa Apsos do tend to develop some sort of arthritis in their legs, which is due to the fact they are excitable, energetic dogs. As they grow older they may weaken in their legs.

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