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Tibetan Dog Breeds – What Are The Dogs Linked To Tibetan Buddhists?

Tibetan Kyi Apso
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Tibet is a remote and mainly Buddhist territory known as the roof of the world. Today, we are not here to talk about the autonomy of Tibet or its relation to China. We are here to talk about Tibetan dog breeds. Some might say these dogs should fall into the group of Chinese dog breeds.

After all, China considers Tibet to be part of its country. But the dog breeds we will talk about today, all originate from the region of Tibet. They have a deep history with Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. He was the one who taught a path to Nirvana, freedom from ignorance, rebirth, craving, and suffering. You can say these Tibetan dog breeds helped him on his path.

Let’s check them out.

Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso

This dog breed got its name from the capital city of Tibet, Lhasa. Apso is a word in the Tibetan language. Some experts debate to this day about the exact origin of the name.

Speaking about the history of the puppy, Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet in the early 20th century. At that time, some Tibetan dogs were brought to the United Kingdom by military men returning from the Indian subcontinent.

The original Lhasa was actually a gift from Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama to C. Suydam Cutting, arriving in the United States in 1933. At the time, the puppy was only registered in England. But by 1935, the American Kennel Club officially accepted the breed.

This small dog stands at 10 inches, with females slightly less. Their coat can come in black color, brown color, dark grizzle, honey, golden, and more.

Lhasa Apso is thick and heavy, with a hard straight outer coat and a medium under-coat.

Tibetan Kyi Apso

Tibetan Kyi Apso

Tibetan Kyi Apso is a medium to large dog breed originating from Tibet and the Himalayas. It is a breed that was bred to be a livestock guardian dog. Many consider the puppy to be ancient dog breed and related to the Tibetan Mastiff puppy.

Compared to the Mastiff, the Kyi Apso has a lighter and shaggier appearance. There are no excessive facial wrinkles.

It is an athletic breed, with a distinctive rolling, bouncy trot, and deep resonant bark. Considered an independent and highly intelligent dog, the Kyi Apso is a challenging puppy for first time owners. Stubborn and territorial, it might be wary of strangers.

Its traditional range in Tibet is on the Tibetan Plateau near Mount Kailash. Historians believe it diverged from the Tibetan Mastiff as a distinct, bearded variety.

The breed was unknown to the western world before 1937 when the 13th Dalai Lama was photographed by Mrs. Eric Bailey, wife of a British diplomat.

The breed club was formed in the 1990s when six specimens were smuggled out of Tibet and into the United States.

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff

The pride and glory of Tibet, the Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog. This Tibetan dog breed has a double coat that is medium to long, which helps the dog breed survive in the climate. The variety of colors includes solid black, black and tan, shades of red, and more.

While the Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog, and many consider it lazy, it can run up to a speed of 20mph over short distances.

Europeans assigned the term mastiff to the dog when they first came to Tibet. The name refers to nearly all large breed dogs in the West world.

Some might call it Tibetan mountain dog, or Himalayan mountain dog. Considered a primitive breed, the Tibetan mastiff is the most famous among Tibetan dog breeds.

The dog managed to survive for many years because of its canine pack behavior. It is one of the few primitive dog breeds that retains a single estrus per year instead of two.

The Tibetan Mastiff is a flock guard dog in Tibet. In the west, it retains all of the usual livestock guardian traits and tactics like barking and scent-marking perimeters to prevent predators.

Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel

This small dog originating in Tibet is not a spaniel by the original meaning of the term. It differs from other spaniels. And unlike the true spaniel, which is a gun dog, the Tibetan spaniel is a companion dog.

The name was given because of its resemblance to lap dog variations of the hunting spaniel, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

When you look at its appearance, the Tibetan spaniel has a domed head that is small in comparison to its body. Add in the short blunt muzzle, face free of wrinkles, and you have an appearance of a Spaniel.

This puppy can come in different colors, be it solid, shaded, or multi-colored variations. Some of the popular colors are red, fawn, gold, white, cream, black, and parti. There are often white markings on the feet of the puppy.

This spaniel dog is a social breed. They crave attention and contact with their humans. And they are protective of their family. Following early socialization, this puppy is aloof with strangers.

Tibetan Terrier

Tibetan terrier

Historically looking, the Tibetan Terrier was kept as a good luck charm and mascot. He was also a herding dog, watch dog, and companion dog at one point.

The Tibetan name for this puppy is Tsang Apso, translating to shaggy or bearded dog. Some travelers to the province of Tsang call it Dokhi Apso or outdoor bearded dog.

The Tibetan Terrier was introduced to the Western world thanks to Dr. Agnes Greig of England, who brought the first one in 1922. She was given a gold and white female puppy after operating on a patient in Tibet. Agnes started her kennel after acquiring a second male and began to breed Tibetan terriers.

The first litter was born in 1924. She registered them as Lhasa Terriers. It wasn’t until 1930 when the Kennel Club of India changed the breed’s name to Tibetan terrier.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is the most famous dog originating from Tibet that is common in the United States. According to the American Kennel Club, the dog is among the 30 most popular breeds. It was bred from the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso.

Famous for its short snout and large round eyes, the Shih Tzu is one of the most common breeds. It is a sturdy little dog who has become quite popular on social media sites like Instagram. The underbite is a breed standard and noticeable feature.

The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese language word for “Lion”. This lion dog was bred to resemble the lion. Pekingese is also called Lion dog in Chinese.

Associated with Buddhism and Buddhist mythology, the Shih Tzu has been a friendly companion for many centuries.

Shih Poo

Shih Poo

Speaking of Tibetan dog breeds, we have to mention some mixed breeds. Yes, there are mixed breeds of Tibetan dogs as well.

The Shih Poo, for example, is a cross between Shih Tzu and toy poodle. Why? Because probably people in the West were not happy with the size of the small Shih Tzu. So, they wanted something smaller, and probably a lap dog that doesn’t shed.

The Shih Poo has a moderate amount of energy. The puppy enjoys playing and walking with its owners.



This rare breed is a mix between Cocker Spaniel and Tibetan terrier. They are rare and relatively unknown dogs.

But in the past few years, their popularity is on the rise because of their gentle and kind nature. Basically, you get a dog with a ton of energy, but with the gentle loving nature of a Spaniel.

And because it is an adaptable dog, you can get one for your apartment living.

Tibetan Spaltese

Tibetan Spaltese

We finish off the list of Tibetan dog breeds with a mix between Maltese and Tibetan Spaniel.

This little dog is full of energy and personality. Amazing for families with small children and other pets, the Tibetan Spaltese is a social animal that loves to be around people and animals.

At the same time, it is a highly intelligent and easy-to-train puppy. Simply put, it is an ideal dog for families and novice dog owners.

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