History of the Tibetan Lhasa


The Apso,
a Tibetan breed, could well have existed as far back as 800 BC. Tibetan historians have said that records in Tibet did not begin until 639 AD, so it is quite impossible to substantiate this claim. However, it is believed to be one of the oldest recognised breeds in the world. The Apso is known today as the Lhasa Apso, but when it first reached the West it was classified as a Lhasa Terrier. Some recent research abroad has shown the Apso to be one of the breeds of dog most closely related to the ancestral wolf - DNA research is currently being carried out independently here in the UK to substantiate this.



Tibet,
is commonly referred to as ‘THE ROOF OF THE WORLD’. It is situated on the highest plateau where the average elevation is 16,000ft. The climate in this remote location is as harsh and unforgiving as any found on earth - conditions can range from 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to below zero in winter. It is located between India and China, surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains on three sides and China on the fourth. Tibet is a Buddhist country, the monasteries of which can be found perched on the mountainside.


Potala Palace perched upon Marpo Ri Hill 130 meters above the Lhasa valley.
The Palace rises for a further 170 meters.

The Apso,
thrived in the Dalai Lama’s Palace, within the many monasteries in or near Lhasa, and in the homes of the ancestral Tibetans. At this time these shaggy-coated Tibetan dogs were considered a talisman and were never sold - they were considered sacred gifts and given to the Manchu Emperors of China, members of the Imperial families and other high-ranking nobles with the blessing of the Dalai Lama. From the beginning of the Manchu Dynasty in 1583, and as recently as 1908, it was custom to present pairings of Apso dogs as they were thought to bring the recipients good luck and prosperity. It was a great honour to receive such a gift as the Buddhist people believed the Apso to be reincarnations of monks. Today they can be found in homes of different faiths all around the world, but they are still much cherished and loved by the Tibetans - and they can be found wandering around Buddhist Monasteries across the globe.

The Name Apso,
is believed to be a corruption of the Tibetan word ‘Rapso’, which translates to ‘goat-like’, and it is easy to understand where the name came from when you look at the terrain and altitude they had to cope with. Over the years they developed a compact, well muscled body; to preserve body heat they sported a waterproof coat, which also insulated them against the harsh weather conditions, with a good hair fall over the eyes to shield them from the wind and bright sunlight; and their relatively short legs gave them the agility to cope with the uneven, rocky terrain.

The Apso Role,
in life was (and still is!) a very important one, for they were developed by the monks as ‘sentinels’ and they were relied upon to give a warning bark if there was an intruder on the grounds. These guardians were also affectionately called ‘Apso Seng Kye’ which translates to ‘Bark Sentinel Lion Dog’. Being bred for generations as these sentinel watchdogs, they developed into keen, intelligent, affectionate, loyal and devoted pets, too. They were also referred to as the ‘Talisman Dog’ or ‘Sheng Trou’. Sheng is the Tibetan word for Lion, which would explain why they were also referred to as the ‘Lion Dog of Tibet`

The Tibetan Flag,
is composed of two white and green sacred lions with a yellow sun and snow-covered mountain, set on a background of red and blue rays. The relationship of the ‘Lion Dog’ to a true Lion is obviously symbolic. Buddhist theology tells us that this small pet dog could be transformed into a Lion should the need arise, and then used by the Manjuri Buddha to escape danger. It does not take much imagination to identify the Apso with the Lion, due to their similar habits when confronted by danger or an unwelcome intruder - pawing of the ground, assuming a sturdy stance, barking and in all respects looking like a small Lion. Some historians have said that the Lion carvings in oriental art could well have been modelled on the Apso, as it appeared many years ago, but this can be left to your imagination.

The First Apso's,
we are told, arrived in the UK as early as 1854; but it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that they were recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club, originally classified as Lhasa Terriers. The breed became almost extinct around the time of the First World War, and an outbreak of hardpad and distemper in the late 1940s all but wiped them out; however, a band of dedicated breeders managed to get the breed back on its feet and the modern-day Apso achieved championship status in 1965 (having reached the qualifying number of 150 registrations), since when its numbers have gone from strength to strength.


What Can We Tell You About this Little Dog?
Once you share your life with an Apso you will find that each one is an individual. Here are some generalised attributes of the Apso’s temperament.


Alert,
The Apso was originally bred as an interior watchdog. They have very keen hearing and will bark if there is an intruder or a visitor. Sometimes they will bark even though there is nothing to see; they can be vocal, but are not usually yappy. They can learn very quickly how to get your attention, especially if they want to go out into the garden to patrol the boundaries, or even if they think they are being ignored.

Smart,
They are thinkers and planners, smart enough to show you how smart they are! They remember people, places and events; they even understand what you are saying to them, and so smart you will find they even train you! Some of them love to talk to you and can carry on a good conversation; and what a sense of humour - you would swear they were grinning after they had pulled a prank on you! They even have to have the last word when you tell them off.

Suspicious of Strangers,
Apsos were originally bred to be suspicious or wary of strangers. Our Kennel Club breed Standard states: ‘Alert, steady but some what aloof with strangers’. Some will weigh up a stranger before accepting them as a friend and will not take too kindly to over-familiarity at first. The correct way to greet an Apso is to let them come to you. Of course, as most modern-day, ‘Western’ Apsos have not read the Standard; they are more likely to rush to get the attention before anyone else.

Independent,
Apsos can be rather independent, and sometimes very stubborn. When you ask them to ‘Come’ to you they often tend to do it in their own good time, or look at you with a regal face only to say: ‘Who? Me? Come to you? Whatever for?’ However, the temptation of a tasty snack often works - bribery/reward usually gets the better of them. You will find they are quite happy being with other Apsos; but if you have only one, you will find they are not far behind you with one of their favourite toys in tow.

Sensitive,
Apsos do not take kindly to strict discipline and are best trained using a reward system or clicker training. As with all dogs, some discipline is required, but you must get the balance right. Training classes, whether it be ringcraft or obedience, will keep you (and your dog) on the correct path. If you harshly correct an Apso, you may expect some future disobedience. However, praise, fun training and rewards, especially yummy ones, should give good results. Apsos are very perceptive, and will be able to tell if you are not well or upset - with a wag of their tail, a kiss and a hug they will try to make things better.

Devotion,
Apsos are very loyal to those they love and to those who return their love. They should make great family pets, content to play with everyone in the family; however, it is common for them to select one member of the family as their favourite.

Playful,
Apsos can be very playful, fun-loving, spirited, happy and sometimes clownish. Yes, they love life and have an exuberant attitude that shows it. Some are rather ‘rough and tumble’, others can be like little princes/ses and rather regal - these expect to be waited on hand and foot, and are, of course, never at fault. Most Apsos retain their exuberance for life and their individual quirky behaviour to the end of their days; but as with us all of us in later years, the spirit can be willing when the body is not.

Children,
Apsos are usually good with children, but as with all dogs care should be taken, especially with very young children. Care should also be taken when matching up an Apso with a family. A young Apso and child may bond so well that they can become inseparable.

Lap Dogs,
Their cute, expressive looks and lovely coats tend to make people think they are lap dogs. Yes, they do like to sit on your lap, but often prefer a chair by the window to investigate the world around them. They like to be around you, but do not necessarily like being held for long periods, preferring to do their own thing. And make no mistake; the Apso who looks asleep will always have one ear to the ground and one eye open - ‘always on duty’!