The Lhasa Apso is a non-sporting dog breed originating in Tibet. It was bred as an interior sentinel in the Buddhist monasteries, who alerted the monks to any intruders who entered. Lhasa is the capital city of Tibet and apso is a word in the Tibetan language meaning "bearded," so Lhasa Apso simply means "long-haired Tibetan dog." Male Lhasa Apsos should ideally be 10.75 inches at the withers and weigh about 14-18 pounds, 6–8 kg. The females are slightly smaller, and weigh between 12-14 pounds, 5–7 kg. The breed standard requires dark brown eyes and a black nose, although liver colored lhasas have a brown nose. The texture of the coat is heavy, straight, hard, neither woolly nor silky, and very dense. They come in a wide variety of colors including black, white, gold, red and parti-colored with various shadings. Lhasas can be with or without dark tips at the end of ears and beard. The tail should be carried well over the dog's back. The breed standard currently used by the American Kennel Club was approved on July 11, 1978. Lhasas can change color as they get older, starting with a dark brown coat which gradually turns lighter. The Lhasa Apso is known to suffer from a few health problems. For example, it is known to suffer from sebaceous adenitis - a hereditary skin disease that occurs primarily in Standard Poodles, but has also been reported in a number of other breeds, including the Lhasa Apso. They are also known to suffer from the genetic disease progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which can render them blind. They also suffer from other eye diseases like cherry eye and keratoconjunctivitis sicca ("KCS" or dry eye syndrome). Ethical, responsible breeders will have their breeding dogs checked yearly (CERF'd) by a canine ophthalmologist to check that they are not developing the disease, which is heritable in offspring.
The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet, where they were bred as sentinels for palaces and monasteries. In the early 1900s, a few of the breed were brought by military men returning from the Indian subcontinent to England, where the breed was referred to as "Lhasa Terriers". Lhasa Apsos would alert outdoor dogs, such as the Tibetan Mastiff, of any danger they perceived their owners, Tibetan Lamas, may be in with their keen sense of hearing and deep bark. In this sense, Lhasa Apsos are used to working with larger dogs and may relate to them more than small "yappy" dogs.the original American pair of Lhasas was a gift from Thubten Gyatso, 13th Dalai Lama to C. Suydam Cutting, arriving in the United States in 1933. Mr. Cutting had traveled in Tibet and met the Dalai Lama there.
At this time, there was only one Lhasa Apso registered in England. The breed was called first the Apso Lhasa Terrier, then the Lhasa Apso. The American Kennel Club officially accepted the breed in 1935 in the Terrier Group, and in 1959 transferred the breed to the Non-Sporting Group.
In the UK, they are placed in the Utility Group. Certain characteristics which are part of the breed type evolved as a result of geographical and climatic environment - the high altitudes, the dry windy climate, the dusty terrain, the short hot summer and the long bitterly cold winter of the Himalaya region. Among these are head features, the coat, eye-fall, the musculation and body structure, the general hardness and longevity of the breed.
Recently, DNA Analysis has identified the Lhasa Apso as one of the 14 most ancient dog breeds, verifying that lap dogs and companion dogs were among the first dogs bred by humans.’Currently, there is worldwide concern that it is necessary to breed some of the original Tibetan Lhasa Apsos into the Western bred line which is now 60 years old, to maintain the Tibetan authenticity of the breed. The two lines now differ in some ways which is a concern to breeders who want to properly preserve the breed.
The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet, perhaps as long ago as 800 B.C., which makes it one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world. Recent research has shown the Lhasa as one of the breeds most closely related to the ancestral wolf. (Others are Akita, Shiba Inu, Shar-Pei, Chow, Basenji, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Saluki, Afghan, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Samoyed.)
Referred to in Tibet as Apso Seng Kyi, best translated as "Bearded Lion Dog," the Lhasa's primary function was that of a household sentinel, guarding the homes of Tibetan nobility and Buddhist monasteries, particularly in or near the sacred city of Lhasa. The large Tibetan Mastiffs guarded the monasteries' entrances, but the keen hearing and sharp bark of the Lhasa Apso served to warn residents by acting like a burglar alarm if an intruder happened to get past the exterior guards. These little guardians were highly prized. It was believed that the bodies of the Lhasa Apsos could be entered by souls of deceased lamas while they awaited reincarnation into a new body. Lhasas in Tibet were never sold. The only way a person could get one was as a gift.