A white Lhasa Apso with long hair poses in a natural setting.
A white Lhasa Apso with long hair poses in a natural setting.

Lhasa Apso

avatarJenna Kahn, MBA, VMD

Height9 - 11"
Weight13 - 15 lbs
TypeNon-Sporting
Life Expectancy12 - 14 years
Area of OriginTibet

Energy Level

Playfulness

Friendliness to dogs

Friendliness to strangers

exercise requirements

affection level

friendliness to other pets

watchfulness

Grooming Requirements

Vocality

The Lhasa Apso is an intelligent, independent, and regal companion breed that originated in the Himalayan Mountains thousands of years ago. For centuries, Tibetan monks kept these small, dignified dogs in the Buddhist monasteries near Lhasa, a city considered to be sacred. The term “Apso” translates to “longhaired dog” in Tibetan, but the breed was specifically called “Apso Seng Kye," which means “Hairy Lion Dog” and references their sacred mythological background. Today, these petite, elegant dogs make fantastic family companions in any living situation, including cities and small apartments. They are affectionate with children, but can still hone in on their guardian heritage, protecting family members in the presence of strangers and unknown dogs. A loud, high-pitched bark is characteristic for the breed when alerting their family to something suspicious. When not on alert, the breed is quirky and comical in play, as well as warm and loving to those they consider family.

Energy Level

Playfulness

Friendliness to dogs

Friendliness to strangers

exercise requirements

affection level

friendliness to other pets

watchfulness

Grooming Requirements

Vocality

Where Is the Lhasa Apso From?

Lhasa Apsos were kept in Buddhist monasteries in Tibet for both companionship and protection. Dalai Lamas would occasionally send pairs to royal families in China, as they were thought to bring good luck and success to those who owned them. The breed inspired much folklore, specifically a myth about a flying “Snow Lion” that made nests in the skies and birthed two Apsos: one with wings and one without. The Snow Lion laid the wingless Apso on Tibetan ground, creating the very first Lhasa Apso dog.

It was also thought that deceased monks were brought back as Lhasa Apsos and, likewise, when a Lhasa Apso dog died, they were brought back as a human child. With all the mythology and sanctity surrounding the breed, they were kept very close and isolated to Tibet for many centuries. It wasn’t until the 1930s that an American received a pair as gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama, establishing the breed in the United States for the first time. By 1935, the breed was registered with the American Kennel Club as part of the Terrier Group, but was ultimately transferred to the Non-Sporting Group in the 1950s.

Where Is the Lhasa Apso From?

Lhasa Apsos were kept in Buddhist monasteries in Tibet for both companionship and protection. Dalai Lamas would occasionally send pairs to royal families in China, as they were thought to bring good luck and success to those who owned them. The breed inspired much folklore, specifically a myth about a flying “Snow Lion” that made nests in the skies and birthed two Apsos: one with wings and one without. The Snow Lion laid the wingless Apso on Tibetan ground, creating the very first Lhasa Apso dog.

It was also thought that deceased monks were brought back as Lhasa Apsos and, likewise, when a Lhasa Apso dog died, they were brought back as a human child. With all the mythology and sanctity surrounding the breed, they were kept very close and isolated to Tibet for many centuries. It wasn’t until the 1930s that an American received a pair as gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama, establishing the breed in the United States for the first time. By 1935, the breed was registered with the American Kennel Club as part of the Terrier Group, but was ultimately transferred to the Non-Sporting Group in the 1950s.

Care

What Kind of Diet Does a Lhasa Apso Need?

A diet with higher fat and protein content is recommended for Lhasa Apsos to support their dense coat. However, overfeeding should be avoided, as this breed is prone to gastrointestinal distress.

Caring for a Lhasa Apso

What Kind of Diet Does a Lhasa Apso Need?

How Much Grooming Does a Lhasa Apso Need?

Are Lhasa Apso's Healthy Dogs?

How Much Training Does a Lhasa Apso Need?

How Much Exercise Does a Lhasa Apso Need?

What Kind of Diet Does a Lhasa Apso Need?

A diet with higher fat and protein content is recommended for Lhasa Apsos to support their dense coat. However, overfeeding should be avoided, as this breed is prone to gastrointestinal distress.

What Are the Physical Characteristics of a Lhasa Apso?

The Lhasa Apso is a short, hardy dog with a distinctive long, flowing coat that is commonly parted down the middle from head to tail. They are rectangular in shape, with an upright and curled tail. They average 9 to 11 inches in height and weigh between 13 and 15 pounds.

The Lhasa Apso has a narrow head with brown eyes that are typically surrounded by darkly pigmented fur. Their ears are triangular and hang downward, close to the muzzle.

The Lhasa Apso has a well-balanced body, but they are not especially muscular. Their overall shape is rectangular and, size wise, they are rather petite.

The Lhasa Apso tail is typically curled on the back or dropped over the side.

The breed’s forelimbs are straight, with equal distance from shoulder to elbow and elbow to ground. Their shoulders are set back and feet are rounded, boasting tough, protective pads.

Although tan coloring is most commonly seen in Lhasa Apsos, all variations of coat color are acceptable. Honey, black, white, and red are all possibilities.

The hindlimbs are straight and parallel to the front limbs. Feet are rounded and the entire length of the limbs is well-feathered, exactly like the front limbs.

Lhasa Apso Facts

1

The Lhasa Apso was the first of the three breeds from Tibet to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.

2

Lhasa Apsos are slow to mature, not becoming fully grown until 3 - 4 years of age.

3

The breed is extremely popular with celebrities, including Gwen Stefani, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Other Breeds to Explore

Shih Tzu
Maltese
Yorkshire Terrier

References

  • American Kennel Club. The Complete Dog Book. Random House Digital, Inc., 2006.
  • Morris, Desmond. Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of Over 1,000 Dog Breeds. Trafalgar Square, 2002.
  • 8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Lhasa Apso. American Kennel Club, 2021.

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