The Tibetan Spaniel, or Tibbie, as they are affectionately called, is sometimes described as a large dog in the body of a small dog. Tibbies are active, alert, and eager to please. Most importantly, they love to spend time with their owners. Here are some more interesting facts about the Tibetan Spaniel.
1. They Aren’t Technically Spaniels
Tibetan Spaniels don’t share any common ancestry with the traditional spaniel breeds, most of which were bred to be gun dogs. The misnomer, spaniel, in this case, came from the French word “epagnuel,” which, in the Middle Ages, referred to a companion dog and comforter loved by the woman of royal courts.
2. They Were Bred by Buddhist Monks
Though they are not actually spaniels, Tibetan Spaniels are indeed from Tibet. They continue to live in Tibetan monasteries with monks and lamas (priests). They were referred to as “little lions,” a title of great honor, since lions are considered sacred in Buddhism.
3. Their Tibetan Name Is “Simkhyi”
In Tibet, Tibbies are referred to as “Simkhyi,” which means housedog, room dog, or bedroom dog. This is congruent with the Tibetan Spaniel’s lifestyle of keeping monks and lamas company in their day-to-day lives.
4. They Appear in Ancient Eastern Art
Tibetan Spaniels appear in art dating to 1100 B.C.—making the breed at least 3,000 years old. No one knows for sure exactly how old the breed is. It’s possible that the Tibetan Spaniel could have been the predecessor to the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso.
5. Tibbies Were Historically Given as Gifts
Tibetan Spaniels were never sold, only gifted. Many were given to leaders in China and other Buddhist countries. Some experts believe that Chinese royalty crossed the Tibetan Spaniels they received as gifts with their own Pugs to produce the Pekingese. But others believe that the Tibetan lamas developed the Tibetan Spaniel by crossing the Pekingese they received as gifts from China with their own Lhasa Apsos, another Tibetan breed.
6. They Served as Guardians
Tibetan Spaniels had the important job of being lookouts for the monasteries. They would sit atop the monastery walls and bark whenever there was an approaching intruder. Tibbies in modern homes maintain this instinct, alerting their owners when someone or something approaches.
7. Humans May Be Reincarnated as Tibetan Spaniels
Tibetan Buddhists believe that any human, or even perhaps a Buddha, could be reincarnated as a dog, such as a Tibetan Spaniel. Tibetans believe that dogs have an important purpose in spirituality. Tibbies often help lamas with their spiritual practice, sitting next to them or on their laps while they are meditating.