About the Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso

Breed Standard, Breed History, Characteristics & Grooming


Lhasa Apso Breed Standard

Pre 1987 Kennel Club, London


GENERAL APPEARANCE - The Lhasa Apso should give the appearance of a well balanced, solid dog.

CHARACTERISTICS - Gay, assertive, but chary of strangers.

TEMPERAMENT - (Refer Characteristics)

HEAD AND SKULL - Heavy head furnishings with good fall over the eyes, good whiskers and beard.  Skull moderately narrow, falling away behind the eyes in a marked degree; not quite flat, but not domed or apple shaped.  Straight foreface, with medium stop.  Nose black.  Muzzle about 3.8 cm (1 1/2 ins) long, but not square; the length from tip of nose to be roughly one-third the total length from nose to back of skull.

EYES - Dark.  Medium sized eyes to be frontally placed, not large or full, or small and sunk.  No white showing at base or top of eye.

EARS - Pendant, heavily feathered.  Dark tips an asset.

MOUTH - Upper incisors should close just inside the lower, i.e. a reverse scissor bite.  Incisors should be nearly in a straight line.  Full dentition is desirable.

NECK - Strong, well covered with a dense mane which is more pronounced in dogs than in bitches.

FOREQUARTERS - Shoulder should be well laid back.  Forelegs straight, heavily furnished with hair.

BODY -  The length from point of shoulders to point of buttocks greater than height at withers.  Well ribbed up.  Level topline.  Strong loin.  Well balanced and compact.

HINDQUARTERS - Well developed with good muscle.  Good angulation.  Heavily furnished.  The hocks when viewed from behind should be parallel and not too close together.

FEET - Round and cat-like, with good pads.  Well feathered.

TAIL - High set, carried well over back and not like a pot-hook.  There is often a kink at the end.  Well feathered.

GAIT/MOVEMENT - Free and jaunty in movement.

COAT - Top coat heavy, straight and hard, not woolly or silky, of good length.  Dense undercoat.

COLOUR - Golden, sandy, honey, dark grizzle, slate, smoke, parti-colour, black, white or brown. 

SIZE - Ideal height: 25.4 cm (10ins) at shoulder for dogs; bitches slightly smaller.

FAULTS - Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

NOTE - Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.


Non-Sporting Group     A.N.K.C.  ©   January 1998

Last Updated: 8/8/01


The Lhasa Apso has an exotic origin. For more than 800 years (some sources say as long as 2,000 years), this small but hearty dog has been an important part of the religious and spiritual history of Tibet, a mysterious land in the Himalayan Mountains, 16,000 feet above sea level, to the west of China  and north of India. The breed was developed and nurtured by the Dalai Lamas, or spiritual leaders of the Buddhist religion, and by members of the aristocracy. The dogs were considered holy, and to be presented with one was to be blessed with good fortune. The breed was unknown outside of Tibet until the 16th century when trade began with the Manchu Dynasty of China.
With Tibet's geographic isolation, its people historically have been isolated and, therefore, chary of strangers. For this reason, the dogs have adapted the same characteristic of being cautious of newcomers until they are sure all is well. This trait, in combination with their excellent hearing, made them excellent sentinel dogs, willing to bark a warning when strangers approach, allowing the Tibetans to release their giant Tibetan mastiffs to fend off unwelcome visitors.
Geography also explains the coat of the Lhasa Apso. Temperatures can be well below freezing with ice and snow. The coat acts as insulation, and the hair falls over the eyes to act as a shield against the sun's glare off the snow. The hair between the pads protects the feet. The Tibetans did not groom their Lhasas; the coats were thick and unruly and sometimes even corded.
Lhasa is the capital of Tibet, hence part of the name. "Apso" has several interpretations. One is any long-haired dog. Another interpretation is that the word is a derivation of abso, which means bark sentinel, or rapso, which means goatlike.
In Tibet, the dogs are called Seng Kyi, or lion dogs, because of their resemblance to the symbolic lion of Lamaist Buddhism. One myth describes a Lhasa turning into a lion to protect its master, while another claims that if a Buddhist monk leads an exemplary life, he will be reincarnated as a Lhasa Apso, since the dogs are so highly revered.
In 1901 the breed was first brought to England and became a registered breed, the Lhasa Terrier, in 1902. The breed almost died out during World War I and lost its championship status. However, peaceful culture no longer exists in that exotic country, and recent visitors to Tibet have reported as few as 30 Lhasa Apsos may still exist there.


Lhasas should be "gay and assertive, chary of strangers." They can be very stubborn dogs. Some people perceive this as a lack of intelligence, but that is not the case. They are very bright and clown-like. In general, Lhasas are very eager to please, although some are aloof and haughty. They need to be trained with positive reinforcement — lots of praise and rewards. Harsh training and disciplinary measures will not win over a Lhasa. This is a dog of great dignity and style.
The dogs should be ideally 10 inches at the withers for dogs, bitches slightly smaller. The coat can be any color, including gold, parti-colors, grizzles and brindles, and should be heavy, straight, hard and very dense. The texture should not be woolly or silky. The head should have heavy "head furnishings," and the ears should be heavily feathered.
 The shape of the head should be with a narrow skull, falling away behind the eyes in a marked degree, not flat, but not domed or apple-shaped, with a straight foreface of fair length. The nose should be black, and the length from tip of nose to eye should be roughly one-third of the total length from nose to back of skull. The eyes are dark brown, neither very large and full, nor very small and sunk.
 The Lhasa's feet should be round and catlike, and well-feathered. The tail, also well-feathered, should be carried well over the back, and there may be a kink in the end of the tail. A "low carriage of stern" (tail) is considered a fault in the breed.


Lhasas require a great deal of grooming if you plan to keep them in coat. The puppy needs to learn to lie still on its side and stand still at a very early age so that grooming won't be such a task later. A reputable breeder will be able to show you the proper equipment and shampoos and conditioners to use on your Lhasa, and probably will have your puppy accustomed to grooming posture. A short "puppy clip" is also an option. He or she will also be able to advise you if this breed is the correct breed for your life-style. Lhasas may not be the right choice for a busy household where grooming may be difficult, or for children who wish to play rough. If this is the breed for you, the Lhasa will become a cherished friend and companion for many years!


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Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Email : [email protected]


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