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Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso has been bred in Tibetan monasteries for 2000 years. The dogs were regarded as good luck talismans that kept evil away, and were never sold but given as gifts to those the lamas held in high esteem. In its country of origin the breed was esteemed as companion and watch dogs. It is said that the Tibetan Mastiff stood guard outside the homes and monasteries while the little Lhasa gave warning of any intruder that might have slipped indoors. They were trained to be warning dogs and taught to distinguish between residents and strangers.

By nature these dogs are especially well equipped for the job. They possess a keen sense of hearing, an innate intelligence, and, although they are an obedience-type dog, are independent of mind. For these reasons they continue to make excellent house dogs.

Some claim that the name Lhasa Apso is derived from Rapso, meaning shabby or fluffy mouth. When the dogs coat is long and unkempt he resembles a small Tibetan goat. Other opinion holds that the name comes from Apso Seng Kye, which means Barking Lion Sentinel Dog, and that the breed symbolizes the mythical snow lion, (white with a blue mane) the protector of Buddha. Legend has it that Lamas who failed to reach Nirvana were reincarnated as Lhasa Apsos.

Lhasas are also known as “Jelly Bean Dogs” as they come in a variety of colors. All colors are accepted equally, white, parti-colored, black, golden, sandy, honey, dark grey, grizzle, brown, and blue.


Lhasa Apsos were known in England as early as the 1890s. Mrs. McLaren Morrison saw the breed in Darjeeling, India and brought some with her on her return to England. World War 1 decimated the breed and they lost their right to be issued Challenge Certificates.

In 1928 Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Eric Bailey returned from service in Tibet. Due to his friendship with the Dalai Lama, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Bailey exchanged gifts with the Dalai Lama and was presented with a gift of two dogs. In all he received seven dogs.

First called the Lhasa Terrier, the breed name was changed to Lhasa Apso after the formation of the Tibetan Breeds Association in Britain in 1934. In that same year breeding on that continent got off to a good start with stock imported from the Dalai Lama.


The first Lhasa Apsos registered with the American kennel club were the Canadian imports Tarzan of Kokonor and Empress of Kokonor, who were descendants of what were probably some of the breed’s first imports into Canada. Miss Margaret Torrible, Victoria, British Columbia, imported Taikoo and Dinkie in 1933. Taikoo and Dinkie were bred together and produced Chang Daw and Ching Ming, who when bred together produced Empress. A repeat litter of Taikoo and Dinkie produced Tarzan. We do not have the necessary information to determine how much Miss Torrible’s breeding program influenced the modern Canadian Lhasa Apso. Although Lhasa Apsos were imported into Canada a few years before they came to the United States, the vastness of Canada tended to polarize the Canadian breeders. The breeders from the western provinces did not readily exchange stock with breeders from the eastern or central provinces and vice versa. They often found American breeders nearer to them from which to obtain and sometimes exchange stock. The Abbotsford line of Georgia and James Roberts was founded in British Columbia in 1954. In the next twenty-seven years the Abbotsford breeding program became very successful. A Register of Merit kennel, the Abbotsford name appears in the pedigrees of many of the top Lhasa Apso kennels both in Canada and in the United States.

The first Canadian registrations were recorded in 1934 under the breed name Lhasa Terrier and classified in the Terrier Group. Subsequently the name was changed to the present one, and in January 1974, the Lhasa Apso was reclassified, and is now regarded as a member of the Non-Sporting Group in Canada (as it is in the United States).