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The Lhasa Apso is an adorable lap dog that loves to spend time with their family. Many are accustomed to being pampered, perhaps because they are considered sacred in their country of origin. Learn more about the Lhasa Apso.

They’re an Ancient Breed

The Lhasa Apso has a long history in his country of origin, Tibet. They have existed at least since the year 800 A.D., and for centuries they lived in isolation with Tibetan Buddhists in the Himalayan Mountains.

Their Western Name Comes From the Tibetan Capital

Lhasa is actually the capital of Tibet. Why the word “apso” is included in the breed’s name is less clear. It could just be a misspelling of the word “abso,” which is part of the breed’s original Tibetan name, “Abso Seng Kye.” There is also a theory that “apso” is derived from the Tibetan word for goat, “rapso,” so-named because the dog’s coat is woolly and goat-like.

Their Tibetan Name Means “Bark Lion Sentinel Dog”

In Tibet, the Lhasa Apso goes by his original name, Abso Seng Kye, which means Bark Lion Sentinel Dog. Lhasas guarded Tibetan dwellings from the inside — while Mastiffs guarded outside — and would bark to alert the humans of any potential intruders. The Lhasa Apso was also associated with the mythical Snow Lion, which Tibetans believe to be a guardian of their country.

They’re a Sacred Part of Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and they believe that in the stages of reincarnation, a dog often comes right before a human. According to their religion, the souls of lamas, or priests, are frequently reborn as Lhasa Apsos just before they are reborn as humans.

They Were Highly Prized Gifts

Lhasa Apsos were often given as gifts in Tibet. If you received a Lhasa as a gift, you could consider it a sign of good fortune. The spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, even gave Lhasa Apsos to the emperor of China many centuries ago (this is the predominant theory of how the Shih Tzu breed came about). Though they were often gifted, Lhasa Apsos were hardly ever sold.

They’re One of Three Tibetan Breeds in the Non-Sporting Group

The Lhasa Apso isn’t the only Non-Sporting dog breed that originates from Tibet, though the other breeds’ names give them away a bit easier than the Lhasa. The Tibetan Terrier and Tibetan Spaniel also come from Tibet.

They Came to the U.S. as Gifts From the Dalai Lama

The first Lhasas to come to the United States were also gifts from the Dalai Lama. A well-connected traveler, named Charles Suydam Cutting, visited Tibet in the 1930s with his wife, and they returned to the United States with two Lhasa Apsos from the 13th Dalai Lama. The Cuttings would go on to import more dogs and establish the breed in the U.S.

They Have Long Lifespans

Although the average lifespan of a Lhasa Apso is 12-to-15 years old, many can live to their late teens, and some beyond 20. In fact, the oldest Lhasa Apso lived to be 29 years old.

They Were Originally in the Terrier Group

The Lhaso Apso was AKC-recognized in 1935, and they were initially part of the Terrier Group. Later, in 1959, they were reassigned to the Non-Sporting Group, where they remain today.

Many Celebrities Have Lhasa Apsos

Lhasa Apsos are very popular as family pets, and many 20th and 21st century celebs have owned them, including Liberace, Elizabeth Taylor, Kurt Vonnegut, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Lynch, and Gwen Stefani.
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