Kailasa Lhasa Apsos - Western Australia



Elizabeth Emery (Gyalwa Lhasa Apsos)

The isolated country of Tibet has produced several breeds of dogs, of which only four are known in the West. One of the most popular is undoubtedly the Lhasa Apso, a small, long-coated breed now found all over the world.

The origin of the breed is well hidden by the passage of time and the lack of written history-some fanciers claim that the breed was known in 800BC, but evidence of this is slim.

The term ‘Apso’ seems to have been used in Tibet to refer to a number of dogs-the little book ‘A Brief Account of Tibetan Dogs’ by the Apso Committee, India, mentions large and small apsos, and five classes of apso-two of which are included in the mastiff breeds! However, in the West the term usually refers only to the Lhasa Apso.

The word ‘apso’ has been translated as hairy one, goat like (from rapso), covered with hair all over, and hairy beard. All these suit the Lhasa, but could equally refer to any coated dog. In Tibet the breed was known as Apso Seng Kyi-Bark Sentinel Dog.

The reference to a lion is due to the breed’s supposed resemblance to a lion, but it should be remembered that the lion of the Tibetan art and religion was not the gold African lion, but the mythical white snow lion.

The name lion dog may also be connected with Buddha’s power over the lion, which could diminish and ‘become like unto a dog…’ (Dogs of China and Japan in Art and Religion; V W Collier, Heinemann, 1921). The Lhasa certainly resembles the stylized lion appearing in Tibetan art but was not considered sacred in any way.

Lhasa is , of course, the capital city of Tibet and also its religious centre. As many of the original dogs to leave Tibet came from Lhasa, generally as gifts from the Dalai Lama or monasteries, it was logical to attach the name of the city when naming the breed for Westerners.


The Lhasa Apso has a unique character, and this must be due to the character of the Tibetan people. They are said to be suspicious of strangers – hardly surprising in that harsh country, brave, cheerful, strong and friendly once strangers have proven themselves no threat. Most Lhasa Apsos share these characteristics.

The villages and monasteries were guarded from the outside by large mastiffs, which were chained along the walls; as an extra precaution there were also 'alarm' dogs on the inside which were adept at differentiating between friend and stranger, and which would sound the alarm, presumably in case the sleeping mastiffs did not wake up!

Exactly when the first Lhasa Apsos were taken to England is not certain; in Frances Sefton’s book, ‘The Lhasa Apsos’, there is reproduced a sketch by Beatrix Potter showing a small, longhaired dog which closely resembles an Apso. This sketch was done in 1885. However, the first date on record for the breed in England is 1901, when Miss Marjorie Wild received her first Apso from the Honourable Mrs McLaren Morrison, who had brought some dogs back from Darjeeling.

At this time the breed was known as the Lhasa Terrier and was shown in two size classes- 10inch and 14inch. By 1908 the breed was increased to the stage where they were issued Challenge Certificates, but after World War 1 numbers decreased drastically.

Apso photographed in Tibet by Lt Col.Bailey

It was not until 1928 that the breed started the uphill climb to popularity once again. This year saw the return of Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs Eric Bailey from India with five descendants of their original stock obtained in 1922 plus a male. These dogs were Taktru, Droma, Tsitru, Pema, Litsi and the male,Lhasa.

Several other families brought back specimens of the breed after their tours of duty in the Asian countries, but little is known of these.

Six Lhasa Apso Tibet 1928

Six Lhasa Apso imported from Tibet by the Baileys in 1928; Lhasa(grey and white), and the golds, Taktru,Droma,Tsitru, Pema and Litsi (left to right)

Lhasas reappeared in the show ring in 1929 at a member’s show . In 1933 the first class of them was held at WELKS . A dog owned by Lady Freda Valentine , Changtru, is said to have caused a sensation when exhibited at this year’s shows.

In 1934 a Tibetan Breeds Association was formed by Colonel and Mrs Bailey, to further the progress of the breed, and in the same year the English Kennel Club approved the breed’s standard . Miss Marjorie Wild’s Satru , sired by Lhasa ex Litsi , was one of the top winning dogs of the 1930’s, and with his sister, Sona, formed an unbeatable brace.

In 1930 Miss E M Hutchins brought a male long coated dog from China for his owners, Sir Douglas and Lady Brownrigg. When the Brownriggs returned from China themselves the following year they brought a bitch , Shu Ssa, and her litter. There were some fundamental differences between these dogs and those of the Baileys, but they were shown together until 1934, when the Brownrigg’s dogs were classified as Shih Tzu.

With the coming of World War II, many kennels were wiped out, but a few managed to carry on . One of these was Mrs Florence Dudman, Ramblersholt, who lived in the country. Miss Hervey-Cecil, Furzyhurst, also kept a breeding nucleus throughout the war years. A few isolated dogs also stayed alive, but numbers were very few after the war.

Following the war, fanciers were keen to start up again, but fresh blood was badly needed. In the early fifties, a pair of Lhasa Apsos was boarded with Miss Beryl Harding while their owners, Colonel and Mrs Irwin, went abroad. Miss Harding was allowed to breed the pair, Dzongpen and Mingzong of Madamswood, and keep all of the litter except the pick. In this litter were two bitches who were to have a great influence on the breed-Brackenbury Lhotse and Brackenbury Nuptse. Miss Harding kept Brackenbury Lhotse, and from her descend many of the present-day English lhasas. Brackenbury Lhotse was mated to Conquistador Kismet to produce Brackenbury Min-nee, dam of the famous English Champion Brackenbury Gunga Din of Verles. Gunga Din’s sire was Jigmey Tharkay of Rungit, A Tibetan import, owned by Mrs Jill Henderson. He was imported to improve the breed, which he did, but unfortunately his owners left England only three years later, taking him with them. When Brackenbury Lhotse was mated to Jigmey Tharkay, she produced Eng Ch Brackenbury Chigi-Gyemo.

Ch Brackenbury Gunga Din of Verles

Eng Ch Brackenbury Gunga Din of Verles.

In 1958 Mrs Daphne Hesketh-Williams was given Ch Brackenbury Gunga Din of Verles by her husband, and this dog proved one of the most influential sires ever on the English scene. He not only sired a number of top class Lhasas, but also won well in the breed ring, being the first Lhasa to become a champion after Challenge Certificates were restored post-war. He won the first five CC’s on offer in 1965, and won his sixth CC in 1967 at Crufts, where he also won best of breed.

Among Gunga Din’s progeny were Eng Ch Pontac Adham Tarhib, Eng Ch Verles Yangdup of Cheska, Eng Ch Cotsvale Brackenbury Kan-ri, Eng Ch Verles Nying-Chem-Po, Eng Ch Verles Keepa and Eng Ch Willowcroft Kala from Hardacre. Gunga Din died in 1974, at nearly 16 years of age.

Brackenbury Nuptse is of particular interest to Australian fanciers as she was the dam of one of the early imports, Aust Ch Ramblersholt Da Norbu.


Another influential import to England was Hamilton Dewatas, brought from the USA by Mrs Bailey. He was the sire of Brackenbury Kyi, Brackenbury Kalu of Verles and Hardacre Ang Tharkay, among others.

A bitch, D’ang of Windermere, was imported from Nepal and proved to be a useful brood bitch. Around this time, Mrs Frances Sefton obtained a bitch from Sherpa Tensing, Jeri of Cheska. However, imports were few and the quality of the English Lhasas was due to careful breeding by the enthusiasts.

Since those early days the breed has grown remarkably in England. By 1957 there were enough breed fanciers to break away from the Tibetan Breeds Association and form a breed club. In 1969, the Lhasa Apso Club held its first open show, judged by Monsieur Andre Cluny. There were 91 entries and BIS was Eng Ch Tayung of Coburg, bred by Mr and Mrs J Mason and owned by Mrs F Sefton.

Ch Tayung of Coburg

First breed show in Britain, March 1969, was won by Ch Tayung of Coburg.

Eng Ch Verles Tom Tru was the first Apso in England to win BIS at an all breeds show; he was followed by his son Eng Ch Hardacre Hitchcock who won many bests in show.

The first Apso to take a championship show was Eng Ch Cheska Alexander of Sternroc, who is also the only Apso at the time to have won best in group at Crufts (1974). His daughter, Eng Ch Piplaurie Isa Silvergilt of Hardacre was the second to win an all breeds championship show.

Among the imports that followed to England then were Saluq Shaggy Wonder Ulan (Belgium), Saluq Annapurna Quapito (France), Licos Ting La of Cheska (USA), Am/Can Ch Hardacre Kinderlands Bhu Sun (USA) and Eng Ch Orlanes Intrepid (USA). The last undoubtedly the most influential.

The first major importers of Lhasa Apsos into the United States were, of course, Mr and Mrs Suydam Cutting. Between 1930 and 1940 the Cuttings received three Lhasa Apsos from the 13th Dalai Lama. After the death of the Dalai Lama the Regent sent them a pair of golden Apsos and in 1950 the 14th Dalai Lama sent the last pair.

The Cuttings dogs were kept and bred at Hamilton Farms under the care of James Anderson and Fred Huyler. The Hamilton prefix quickly became known and these dogs were a strong force in the USA.

Ch Hamilton Tatsienlu

Am Ch Hamilton Tatsienlu bred by the Cuttings: Hamilton Yangchen x Hamilton Nova.

Other early imports to the States included Ramblersholt Le Pon, Ramblersholt Shahnaz and Chumpa of Furzyhurst from England, Ming Tai and Tai Ho from China and some from Canada. Unfortunately some Shih Tzu were also imported as Lhasa Apsos.

The breed was recognised and its standard approved by the American Kennel Club in 1935.

The breed gained popularity far more quickly than in many other countries; their exotic appearance and lovable natures had great appeal, and by 1977 there were 28 regional breed clubs through the USA and Hawaii, while annual registrations put them in the top twenty breeds.

Among the greatest American kennels were Karma (Mrs Dorothy Cohen), Americal (Mrs Marie Stillman, Licos (Mrs Grace Licos), Norbulingka (Mrs Marcy) , Tabu (Norman and Carolyn Herbel), Potala (Mrs Keke Blumberg), Everglo(Mrs Gloria Fowler) and Orlane(Mrs Joan Kendall Lohmann).

It was an American Lhasa Apso which was the first anywhere to win BIS , and in 1957 Am Ch Hamilton Torma won the Twin Cities KC championship show. Soon Apsos were no strangers to best in group and best in show awards.

Interest in the Lhasa Apso is widely spread throughout the world and their popularity has grown from these early days. The breed’s easy adaption to a wide range of climates is one of their great advantages as, given reasonable care, they are equally at home in hot, dry climates or those of cold and snow.

Acknowledgement to the excellent reference source; The Lhasa Apso : F Sefton 1970

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