History of The Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso, bred and honored by the Dalai Lama, is one of the oldest of the three breeds of dogs from Tibet.
Please join us on a small journey as we unravel the fascinating history of the incredible Lhasa Apso.
There are references to the Lhasa Apso breed in art and literature going back at least two thousand years. They were given to monks and nobility in China to protect and guard.
For many generations it was not possible to get a Lhasa Apso unless given as a gift by the Dalai Lama!
They were valued both as a good luck symbol and as a sacred animal in the Buddhist religion.
Many holy men believed that the spirits of monks who did not reach Nirvana were reincarnated into the bodies of Lhasa Apso dogs.
The strong watchful and protective nature of the Lhasa Apso, combined with their beautiful coats and loyal nature, make them a true companion dog and loving pet.
THE TIBET CONNECTION
The Lhasa Apso breed originated over two thousand years ago in the high, mountainous country of Tibet.
These small sized dogs were bred and kept in the Potala, the palace and monastery of the Dalai Lama, as well as surrounding monasteries. The dogs were kept exclusively for nobility and holy men. Lhasa Apsos were prized for their temperament, beautiful coats, and their loyal and loving disposition.
The Lhasa Apso was not only prized as a companion dog but also as a watchdog.
The nobility valued the small dogs for their intelligence and regarded them not just as pets but more importantly as protectors and watchers for their castles and homes. They were also valued as a good luck talisman to keep evil away from the home. When the nobleman or holy man died, it was believed that his soul entered the body of the Lhasa Apso if it was not destined for Nirvana.
The Dalai Lama and other holy men carefully managed the Lhasa Apso breed, and it was not possible to buy a Lhasa Apso dog in Tibet, rather they had to be received as a gift from the Dalai Lama.
This ritual began as early as 1583 in the Manchurian Dynasty and was honored up to the early 1900’s. The dogs were sent as a blessing from the Dalai Lama to the Emperors of China and other nobility.
Lhasa Apso dogs were never given as individual dogs. The Dalai Lama presented pairs of dogs to visiting foreign diplomats and leaders. These dogs were then taken around the world and their popularity grew.
Lhasa Apsos are seen as a sacred blessing and are believed to bring luck and good fortune to the owner.
The first Lhasa Apso pair was seen in Britain in the 1920’s and the first pair in the United States was in 1935. Australia records the first Lhasa Apsos arriving in the 1960’s.
Most historians agree that the first part of the name, Lhasa, comes from the area of the Potala, near the sacred city of Lhasa.
The second part of the name, Apso, is a bit less clear. One group believes that the name is actually a misinterpretation of the word “raspo” that means goat-like. The coat of the Apso, if not groomed, begins to look like the hair found on Tibetan goats. Another group believes that the term Apso comes from the term “Abso Seng kye” that translates into “Barking Lion Sentinel Dog”.
Since the long hair of the breed does closely resemble the mane of the lion, and the strong protective instinct is there, it may be that the Apso is simply a mispronunciation of “Abso”.
Lhasa Apso dogs also have the distinctly lionish habit of pawing the ground with their front feet and taking a square stance when feeling threatened. They truly do resemble little lions and are excellent watchdogs and guardians.
The Manjuri Buddha, the God of Learning, is often presented in art and literature in the company of a Lhasa Apso, which changes into a lion when danger threatens the Manjuri Buddha.
That's all on the amazing history of the Lhasa Apso.
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