THE LHASA APSO
IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
The Lhasa Apso has now been known in the Western world for one hundred years.
Its beauty, its intelligence, its behaviour and also the mystery surrounding its
origin, have placed it amongst the breeds in greatest demand.
In the course of time, having become a fashionable dog, it is now paying the
price for it, for the last twenty years or so, the image of the dog we knew has
little by little faded away and been replaced by another type, a most
spectacular one but one which no longer has the charm of the first Lhasas.
After a short history of the breed in the West, we shall examine how this
evolution happened and in what circumstances.
Satroma-a progeny of one of the Lhasa Apsos
brought back from Tibet
In England - At the beginning of the century and on the return of the Youngsband
expedition, the first Tibetan dogs made their appearance. At that time they were
known as ' LhasaTerriers '
Confronted with the impossibility of bringing in new blood, breeders resorted to
English dogs (most likely to Skye-Terriers)
Very soon, the Tibetan type was lost, and in 1928 the Kennel Club entrusted the
direction of the breed to Colonel and Mrs Bailey who were returning from Tibet.
Indeed, the Baileys had just brought home from Tibet a few fine specimens of the
small variety of Apso. These had been brought up exclusively in the jealous
keeping of distinguished families.
In 1934, together with Lady Freda Valentine and certain other enlightened
fanciers, the Baileys established a standard for the breed, basing also on the
description given by Mr Lionel Jacobs in 1902.
The Second World War interrupted the English breeding.
After the war, the English imported a few dogs from India and amongst them 'Jigmey
Tarkey of Rungit' of sherpa Tensing's kennel who gave the famous 'Gunga
Din of Verles' produced by Mrs Harding which was the first post war champion
of the breed.
Bailey´s dogs 1934 and the D'Aoust dogs-original type 1997
In the U.S.A - During his visit to Lhasa in 1934, Suydam Cutting, received five
dogs from the 13th Dalai Lama. This allowed him to create his famous Hamilton
Farm Kennel in New Jersey.
In 1937 he returned to Lhasa with his wife. As the 13th Dalai Lama had died just
before their arrival, the Regent offered them a couple of golden Lhasa-Apsos
together with a letter which specified :
" I am sending you two dogs by way of Kalimpong. Please take great care
when you receive them.
- Dated 7th of the 1st Tibetan month of the Water-Bird year "
I fear that this sentence, both so simple and so full of meaning was read
only at the first degree.
It may be that we failed to understand the spiritual message attached to those
" Take great care of them " was not alluding solely to the material
Indeed, this dog is in the likeness of a country where spiritual primes over
material, where nature fashions beings in accordance with the surroundings,
where men but animals also are saturated with spirituality which confers on them
an aristocratic bearing and expression which no longer exist in present day
Hamilton Kangmar and Puppies 1950
In order to increase their livestock, the Cuttings imported two dogs from China;
they were probably Shi Tzus.
In 1940, seven English Shi-Tzus were imported into the U.S.A. and once again
registered as Lhasa-Apsos by the American Kennel Club. Since then, no
importation of a dog of purely Tibetan origin has been authorized by the A.K.C.
Therefore the American issues cannot pretend to purely Tibetan ascendants.
In Germany - In 1931 and 1939, Dr Schäfer visited Tibet . From his second
journey he brought back some twenty dogs, including some Lhasa Apsos, Terriers,
Mastiffs etc ... which he handed over to the Cologne zoo. At the end of the war,
they were taken to an unknown destination by American soldiers.
In France - In the fifties, Miss Violette Dupont created her famous Annapurna
kennels with Hamilton Kangmar and Xeres, male of authentic origin.
Xeres in a newspaper clip 1951
The other European countries followed suit.
The breed met with enormous success in the United States. Cutting made numerous
adepts, amongst the first ones were :
-Mme Marie Stillman, affix 'Americal'
-Mme Grace Licos, affix 'Licos'
-Mme Dorothy Cohen, affix 'Karma'
The American breeders were the only ones able to continue producing during the
Second World War which had interrupted the development of Lhasa breeding in
They strived for a strict maintainance of the type according to the official
English standard of 1934.
When his wife died, Mr Cutting sold his kennel to Mrs Cohen who was entirely
devoted to producing first rate subjects.
At the end of the seventies, some time before she died, Mrs Cohen realized that
the breed could not be restocked because, after the Chinese invasion, Tibet, had
become inaccessible. She therefore declared : " If you are lucky you can
have a fasimile of Karma but there never would be another Karma."
Whilst Lhasa breeding continued to prosper in the U.S.A. shows began playing an
ever increasing role. In order to make sure of victory, handlers and groomers
staked on the spectacular and in the end imposed to the judges a dog whose
morphology and characteristics where ever more distant from the original type.
All this, considerably influenced the breeders, who thus directed their
production towards this new type of dog.
This led to the fabrication of a competition dog, a kind of a super-dog, like
the super-men, who nowadays reign over sports grounds and the Tour de France
road, or like the Music-Hall super stars.
The Lhasa is not a dog who really appreciates rings, but certain craftly
alliances and more or less disreputable methods, have brought about the desired
results : An arrogant gait, a haughty neck, a large size so as to be more
present on the ring and ever longer fur etc.. All such elements which little by
little turned the dog into a star, a champion of the ring.
Authenticity was abandoned for the benefit of the spectacular.
This type of dog was in the fashion and was in demand on every side. So it
happened that the American breeders became the suppliers of the entire world.
Actual present day Lhasa vs Cocker head
But in this context, where does cynology come in ?? What about respecting the
breed ?? Where is the standard ??
Nevertheless the true value of a dog should be found neither in its grooming nor
in its presentation but in its conformity with the real type (Standard) and in
the respect of its characteristics.
Where is the true Lhasa-Apso, the rustic little dog arriving from the roof of
the world ??
Chi Chi-a true Lhasa Apso
IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE - as the English
are so right in saying
RESULT - Though this may come as a surprise to some of you, the Lhasa Apso is no
longer in the fashion. The ever dicreasing number of subjects presented at the
exhibitions, the drops in births and the lower number of applications, all
verify this fact.
In U.S.A. where the dog's progress was tremendous, more than 22,000 Lhasa Apsos
were registered in 1977, the second after the Poodle in the Non Sporting Group
Now the breed ranks 23rd with 6.800 registrations per year. ( Ref. - A.K.C. )
In the course of the last years, births registered =
1995 1996 1997 1998
------ ------ ------- -------
in France 1255 1197 1099 1036 ( Ref. - S.C.C. )
in Germany 183 159 138 94 ( Ref. - V.D.H. )
The same phenomenon can be observed in Switzerland, Holland and Belgium.
This announced crossing of the desert cannot but be beneficial because it will
allow to correct this excess committed during the last twenty years or so.
For the true Lhasa lovers, this is not a bad thing, quite on the contrary.
This situation obliges us to think things over. May be this was not quite the
way to follow for an asiatic breed, several centuries old, which had been bred
and maintained according to different criteria.
Rimpoche and Tchang Po
The Lhasa Apso is no longer fashionable and will become less and less so, for
as long as the Show-Dog is considered as the model of the breed, who can want to
make a pet of a dog with such a fur, sweeping the pavements like a broom, a dog
which has to be washed every three days, who has to be kept in a cage or fenced
in a lawn for the most fortunate ones, or kept in paper curls or plaits, all for
the sake of that blessed fur. In short a cripple it is hard to imagine.
Even the breeders end by clipping the hair of the dogs they are not showing; So
why all this outrageous seeking for a fur akin to hypertrichosis, often brought
about by products as dangerous as arsenic, strychnine and others?
Such violence against nature as stupid as it is dangerous for the dog, and so in
the end to arrive at the new fashion of cutting its hair?
This, no doubt is the modern vision of the third millennium Lhasa.
All such manipulations are bound to affect the dog's behaviour. Here again, we
can find an explanation to the agressive character which can very often be
observed in today's Lhasa, a dog with character, of course, but not a bad
God always forgives
And where does cynology comes in?
It has been overwhelmed by the spectacle.
All of us, breeders, judges and fanciers, we have all been impressed by the
style and presentation of these sacred show monsters. The standard has strangely
been forgotten for the benefit of glamour and to the prejudice of type and size
(though this was specified in the standard : 10 to 11 inches for the males,
females being smaller) Most of the latter years champions did not comply with
Original dogs at Canine Expo, Paris 1937
Who is to blame ?
For a large part the judges and show organizers.
Why? Because the latter, owing to budgetary constraint require polyvalent judges
who judge several breeds. So we have to watch the heart-breaking spectacle of
the judge, who often does not even speak the language of the country, judging
without interruption the entire ninth group, without devoting even one minute to
each dog and needless to say, without giving any mark, appreciation or motive
for his judgements. (personal experience in a foreign country I.B. )
What does cynology gain from all this?
How many breeders no longer present their dog to such a judge because he does
not like the type of their Lhasa? What does this mean? The judges ought to be
entirely for the breed and should show no preference for one type or another
(large, small etc..) whereas there is only one type,
the Tibetan type according to the standard.
A good knowledge of the history of the breed guarantees the respect of the
standard without taking fashion into account. The 1934 first official standard
stipulated : 'In judging these dogs, breed characteristics are of paramount
The presence on the ring of a poster depicting the standard of the breed would
act as a reminder to the judge and would enable breeders and spectators to a
better understanding of the judgment.
Gothama-Annapurna; Beautiful original Lhasa type
According to Professor Queinnec the improvement of a breed rests on three
1 - A good knowledge of the breed by the breeders
2 - Technical knowledge given by the scientists
3 - The judge's collaboration to reach this end.
On the eve of the year 2 000 the question arises : What should be done? Which
way should be taken?
As for myself, I can only see three possibilities:
1 - Start all over again with authentic Lhasa Apsos, rare but still existing
particularly in Canada and Bhutan.
2 - With the existing stock, resume selection in accordance with the standard,
the aim in view being the original type.
3 - Regenerate the present stock by bringing in some real Lhasa Apsos.
Waiting for promenade (walk)- 3 original type Lhasa Apsos
This third solution seems to be the most reasonable one, but then; it implies
the help of all the official bodies for the registration of these dogs with the
purpose of saving the breed.
An important German breeder has already begun the work of returning to the
origine, basing on those two sources still available. Let us wish her success
and may she be followed and encouraged in her efforts by every real fancier of
Following my previous articles, many judges, fanciers and dog-lovers throughout
the world, contacted me to uphold my fight and tell me how much they shared my
views. Therefore I know that I am not alone and this encourages me to pick up my
pilgrim's stick to enter the new millennium, hoping; always hoping.
Mlle duPont, Yolande de Zarobe and Lady Freda Valentine,
breed pioneers, discuss the future of the Lhasa Apso
Yolande de ZAROBE