by Dorothy Kendall, Orlane Lhasa Apsos
No. 1 – Acknowledging a division amongst
Lhasa breeders.During the early 1950’s and 1960's, Lhasa breeders
hurled charges and counter-charges against one another relating to the
integrity of their unique bloodlines … resulting in damaged relationships,
angry confrontations, and a solidification of position on the issue.
Sixty years later, it seems little has changed!
No. 2 – What has caused this division?
When the first Lhasas from England were imported into this country,
a great hue and cry rose from the already established Lhasa breeders
who said the imports were really Shih Tzus. These established American
breeders based this theory strictly on the basis of the British registrations,
rather than the dogs themselves. Despite this, AKC’s John Neff
allowed those dogs to be accepted into the registry as Lhasa Apsos.
Whether or not he should have done this is a moot*
point – it was done, it won’t be changed, and those imports
were absorbed into the general Lhasa population. 1)
No. 3 – Has this division harmed the
Breed? There is no doubt in my mind that a great deal of animosity has
been deliberately created – first among breeders in the United
States, and now worldwide. Whenever a group of people set themselves
apart as having the only correct bloodlines (the purists), they are
falling into a dangerous trap. Their own research has proven that two
of the original dogs used in their bloodlines are behind the original
English imports. If they then try to establish that only their Lhasas
are correct according to the Standard for the Breed, they must fall
back on several old standards written in the early 1900’s, or
change the current Standard. This ostracizes all those many breeders
striving to breed what they perceive as correct type as outlined in
the currently accepted Standard, regardless of bloodlines.
If consistent winning in the ring is not a criterion
of excellence, then we as American breeders must base our ideas of what
constitutes quality on the American Standard and its interpretation.
Our current Standard is short, and does not define a "dog",
but rather those characteristics that differentiate the Lhasa Apso from
other purebred dogs. This Standard was arrived at by consensus of the
parent club (The American Lhasa Apso Club) and its members.
The English Lhasa Apso Standard has already been changed
considerably from the American Standard, and is currently accepted by
the FCI. Now we have a proponent to change the FCI Standard. It would
seem the "purists" do not welcome our American exports overseas!
(This may be one way to avoid competition, and keep the status quo.)
No. 4 – What keeps this argument going?Since
those early American breeders had established their bloodlines on imports
from Tibet and some of the same dogs behind the English imports, why
was there so much hostility and vilification towards the new dogs and
their owners? Most of us can understand the basic premise of "pure
breeding" and why any dilution of bloodlines that could seriously
impair the quality of the breed would be unwarranted.
I think this can be answered rather easily by understanding
the necessity felt by many for "control", and the advantage
of having been "there" first without much competition. If
the new dogs had not been competitive, I doubt any more complaints would
have been heard from all those concerned. Competition being what it
is, the "generic" show dog seemed to catch the judges eye
early on – consider the two dogs that competed with great success
in the 70’s; BIS Ch. Karma Frosty Knight O’ Everglo and
BIS Ch. Kyi-Chu Friar Tuck. These two were quite dissimilar in type,
with Frosty being from the "pure" lines, and Tuck being the
Both dogs won Best in Shows - both dogs were handled
competently - one was big, one was smaller - one had a coat "to
the standard", the other had a voluminous, thick coat - but both
showed with great enthusiasm, they were great showdogs. Would you consider
them "generic" by any means? One dog was much closer to the
standard than the other, but because of the judges perception of the
handler, the lesser dog did morewinning. How do we combat this? We don't
- we just have to continue showing dogs that are true to the standard.
Things have changed since those early days –
the bitter anger and hostility of those first early breeders has been
reborn into a cold hard logic based on "Breed Type". The idea
of a breeding program striving for any "improvement" has been
struck down, and replaced with regression rather than progression. Some
of the early dogs from both backgrounds have been defamed and cast as
"villains" by those considering themselves "authorities"2).
No. 5 – What would result by dividing
the breed into two registries?First, who would determine which criteria
upon which to base the division? One proponent of this division, when
asked the question "What criteria are you using to split the breed?"
answered "Head, eyes, bite, neck, body, front, rear, angulation,
coat, size and movement." Well, I guess that’s pretty inclusive,
Neck, front, rear, angulation and movement are all
related to structure, not type. These are generic qualities not addressed
in our current Standard, assuming that "dog people" understand
how these relate to normal canine structure. The length of neck, for
instance, depends on placement and angles of the shoulder – and
while length of body depends on pelvic placement and structure, the
Standard calls for more length than height.
considering type, however, we are dealing with a look, rather than bone
structure. Consider the two Cocker Spaniels shown today – the
English Cocker and the American Cocker.
(Which are the English Cockers, and which the American?
3 of each.)
The original English Cocker today remains quite similar
to its early foundations in the US. The American version is somewhat
different, but as you can see from the photos of American and English
Cockers, much of the difference is how the dogs are posed and groomed.
The American Cocker has a heavier coat, and slightly different head
type. Is this what we want to do with the Lhasa Apso?
The "Original Lhasa" would derive its type
from some of the old Standards and articles on the breed, such as quoted
"like a Skye with a Scotch Terrier head"
"The terrier type (though all Tibetan dogs have
the tail curling strongly over the back), strongly resembles the Skye
Terrier.""In size they vary but smaller are considered the
"The size varies a good deal, but the really small
ones, though up to recently rarely bred in this country are most valued
on their own and fetch long prices in the East.""Tommo, which
is so like his imported and much lamented dam (which died when giving
birth to her second litter), is, I think, the most typical Lhasa in
this country, with his short legs, immense paws, heavy coat, lovely
shape, and massive head. "
"I do not know if the Indian Kennel Club's decision
to separate the Lhasa Terriers into two distinct breeds, calling the
1415 inch dog the Tibetan Terrier, and the 8 inch dog the Lhasa
Terrier, will have any bearing on the Lhasa breed in this country or
affect our Lhasa classification in any way."
This sounds very interesting to me … a long,
low Terrier-type smaller-the-better dog (with a massive head) about
8-10 inches or so in height! Yes, I can live with that – it conflicts
in no way with our present American Standard!
But I have come to know the "purists" over
time, and their next step would be to qualify these descriptions to
bring their Standard closer to the American Standard! They want it both
ways, you see – and it’s hard to argue logic with them.
Next, who would make the division, and how would it
be managed? As we can see, poor specimens could fit in either category.
Would it be like the Beagles, where if a dog grows over 12", he
could be shown in the larger size Beagle ring? Or could a puppy from
parents registered as an American Lhasa only be shown in the American
Lhasa class, in any country?
Certainly these are questions to think about, and discuss
rationally without hyperbole and emotional rantings.
*Adj. Subject to debate; arguable: a moot question.
a. Law. Without legal significance, through having been previously decided
b. Of no practical importance; irrelevant.
1) Even though these imports brought in much needed
diversity, excellent health and temperament, they were immediately categorized
as mongrels by the purists.
2) How does one become an "authority" on
the Lhasa Apso?
Frankly, I would question that designation if only based on longevity
in the breed. Many of these so-called authorities have only bred one
specific line of dogs; much less other breeds, and cannot consider themselves
authorities on the entire breed. Others that have done extensive research
have done so mainly with the idea of proving their own specific ideas,
rather than an unbiased look at the various bloodlines.
The Hamilton Farms in New Jersey certainly did not stamp any particular
"type" on the dogs they bred and exhibited; Dorothy Cohen
who bought out the Hamilton Farms Lhasa Apsos looked for a particular
"type" that appealed to her, and not necessarily that of the