Back to the future!
by Dorothy Kendall, Orlane Lhasa Apsos

I’ve been asked to comment on the recent commentaries proclaiming a “NEW” revelation in our little Lhasas … the pure Hamilton Line being the only “true” source of the “correct” Lhasa Apso; and the rest of us who don’t have “pure” breeding stock maintaining the unfortunate inability to avail ourselves of this “truth”.

Sorry, been there, done that! This controversy has been around since the first Lhasas were imported into England and the USA … and has been kept alive as a source of amusement to various and sundry people, and as a platform to distinguish certain breeders who have nothing else of substance to offer. It’s the same old song, sung to a different tune, but the lyrics are the same … “I have Pure Hamilton bloodlines; my dogs have long backs; hence, long backed Lhasas are the correct type.” Or perhaps, “I have Pure Hamilton bloodlines, my dogs temperaments are not very good; thus, bad temperaments are to be desirable in this breed.”

Sound familiar? Frankly, this should be dismissed as nonsense, and replying to such statements is a waste of your time and mine … but, once again, I will give my opinion, for what it’s worth.

I love Lhasas, and have owned them since the early 1960’s; they are a wonderful breed, and have given me much joy and pleasure over the years, and will continue to do so. I think most of us feel the same way, at least those of us that have been working with the breed for any length of time. This is a long-term love affair, and one not easily eradicated … they are like our “children”, and we tend to rush to their defense at any provocation.

There’s no need for this defense … our little dogs present themselves honestly, why can’t we do the same? Sixty years down from those original imports, some of us look at the past through rose-colored glasses, seeing things in an entirely different light from what they were. We deplore the “Westernization” of the Breed, and long for the “good old days” when Lhasas were perfect, unblemished, and true to “type”. But - my question, is this really true?

First of all, what is “true to type”? Our Standard does not describe what a “dog” looks like, but how a Lhasa differs from general canine type … and we would suggest that the origins of the Breed would in many ways determine its bodily structure and type. My friend, Dr. Catherine Marley (Kai-La-Sha Lhasas) has written a wonderful article on the Lhasa, “Made In Tibet”, that explains many of the points of structure that developed naturally in that harsh Tibetan climate and terrain. Cathy has Lhasas from the Everglo and Licos lines, NOT pure Hamilton, and while we disagree on many points of “correct” type, we respect one another’s opinions. This is as it should be, there’s plenty of room for differing opinions in our Standard, without attacking one another with false claims or exaggerated comments.

I would not want to go back to those old types of Lhasas, riddled with health problems, many with nasty or vicious temperaments, no matter how closely one thinks they conformed to the Standard. I competed with many of them in the Sixties, and they were not smaller - nor did they gait better - and that’s not to say that they didn’t have some good qualifications, as well. In any event, I used some of these bloodlines in my breeding program. The fact is, most of us have used those dogs that we felt could improve our lines, regardless of bloodlines.
I can’t help but remember the many criticisms leveled at Ch. Everglo’s Spark of Gold, the founding sire of the Orlane Lhasa Apsos … most of them by people who had never had their hands on the dog! There was a perception of what this dog was, and it bore little relation to his actual structure; rather fostered and encouraged by those that had lost to him in the ring! Since I have never had a perfect dog, I can only marvel at those breeders who have obviously been much luckier than I!

Lhasa breeders show what they have; this does not mean they think their dogs are “perfect”, but they are one more step in their breeding program. I’m sure there are things we would all change in our little dogs, and by breeding and selection, we attempt to do this. This does not mean these dogs should be attacked as “failures”, or suggesting that other bloodlines are far superior!

One must ask why has this controversy been kept alive for so long … there’s an old saying: “Follow the Money Trail!” We see much of this talk of “keeping the old lines from becoming extinct” as a purely altruistic motive … but I sometimes wonder about that. There will always be those who claim to have something “unique” or “special”, thereby rendering themselves far superior to the rest of us; but regarding the Lhasa Apso, is this really valid? I think not. There is no one particular line that is far superior to any other, including my own … there are faults and problems in each, and it’s up to each of us as Breeders to continue to work for breed improvement with whatever lines can be of use to us. May we all be successful, and true to the Lhasas that we love.