The Lhasa Apso – Breed History

The Lhasa Apso originates in the mountains of Tibet.  There is clear evidence to link the breed to Tibetan monasteries and to the houses of Tibetan nobles, where they were kept as both guard dogs and pets.  In Tibet, the Lhasa Apso was typically given as a gift it was viewed as a bringer of good fortune.  Lhasa Apsos were rarely, if ever, sold.

The Lhasa Apso is thought to have first appeared in the United Kingdom as early as 1854.  However, there was much confusion in the early years between the breeds we now know as the Lhasa Apso and the Tibetan Terrier.  Indeed, at the turn of the 20th Century they were classified as a single breed – known as the Thibetan, Bhutan, Bhuteer or Lhassa Terrier.  Despite this classification there were clearly two different types, based on size and coat.  The first recognisable ‘description’ of the Lhasa Apso, written by Sir Lionel Jacob, was published in 1901 – under the name Lhassa Terrier.  By 1908 the breed had Championship status on the UK show circuit, but with classes separated by size. 

1934 saw the establishment of the Tibetan Breeds Association, with the aim of drawing a distinction between the various Tibetan breeds.  The Association subsequently issued the first Lhasa Apso Standard in the same year.  There were very few ‘true’ Lhasa Apsos at this time.  Just 12 were exhibited at Crufts, and 14 at the Ladies Kennel Association, in 1935, and just 10 were registered with The Kennel Club in that year.

The Lhasa Apso took some time to recover in the post-Second World War years.  New blood was imported, initially from Tibet while this was still possible before the movement of dogs was banned by the Chinese, and later from India and the USA.  By 1956 the breed had grown sufficiently in strength for Lhasa Apso owners to break away from the Tibetan Breeds Association.  The Kennel Club gave approval to the formation of a Lhasa Apso Club on 18 December of that year. 

The Lhasa Apso was renamed in 1959, the name ‘Tibetan Apso’ bringing it into line with the other recognised Tibetan breeds – Mastiff, Spaniel and Terrier.  Championship status was granted by The Kennel Club to the Tibetan Apso in 1965, with 9 sets of Challenge Certificates available in that year.

The name reverted to ‘Lhasa’ Apso in 1970, a year which also saw the formal establishment of the Lhasa Apso Club as it is today.  The Standard was revisited and re-published in 1973, and again some years later (the ‘modern’ standard).

In 1984, Ch Saxonsprings Hackensack became the first Lhasa Apso to win Best In Show at Crufts – a feat that remaind untill 2012 when Ch Zentar Elizabeth claimed the title once again .

Hackensack on Ilkley Moor

Dogs from the Roof of the World an article by the Hon Mrs Eric Bailey