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10 Amazing Lhasa Apso Facts That You Need to Know

The Lhasa apso is a Chinese dog breed that originates from the mountainous region of Tibet. Lhasas are known for their shaggy coats and their alert yet playful temperaments. However, there’s probably a lot more to these amazing dogs than you already know.

Like, did you know that the Lhasa Apso was believed to be a crucial part of the Buddhist reincarnation process? Or have you heard about what happened to the Lhasa Apso that spent 8 years on doggie death row? If you’re curious why these dogs are often called the “Jellybean dog,” then stick around.

In today’s article, we’re counting down the 10 most interesting Lhasa Apso facts that you probably never heard of. And that all starts right now, on The Smart Canine – the only show that explores the most interesting stories and facts behind dogs.

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10. The Lhasa Apso name is perfect for the breed. 

Understanding foreign words in a breed’s name can often tell us a lot about the breed. For example, “griffon” loosely refers to a “wiry-coated dog.” While “braque” is a French term that refers to general “pointer dogs.” But what exactly does “Lhasa Apso” mean?

Well, for starters, Lhasa is the capital of Tibet, and is believed to be the birthplace of the Lhasa Apso. On the other hand, “Apso” is a Tibetan word that means “bearded” or “long-haired” dog.

So when you put two and two together, the name of the Lhasa Apso would literally translate to bearded or long-haired dog from Lhasa. It’s quite literally the perfect name for these dogs.

9. Lhasa Apsos are often called the “Jellybean dog” for this very reason. 

While the breed name of the Lhasa Apso is perfect, these dogs are no stranger to interesting nicknames. However, the one that really sticks out is the “Jellybean dog.” And no, it’s not because they’re small and sweet.

Rather, it’s because this breed comes in a rainbow of colors. In fact, there are at least 9 different colors that the Lhasa Apso possess the genetics for. And when these colors combine and interact, the result is a wide array of beautiful and stunning coat colors.

There’s the apricot, golden, grizzle, charcoal and so much more. According to the AKC, there are 13 recognized colors, with 7 colors of markings – giving you plenty of options for coat colors to choose from.

8. The people of Tibet associate the Lhasa Apso with this Tibetan mythical beast. 

There’s an old Tibetan saying that goes: “If the snow-lion stays in the mountains, it’s a snow-lion; if it comes down to the valleys, it becomes a dog.” The snow lion is a celestial animal that’s become the emblem of Tibet.

It represents the snowy mountain ranges of the region, while also symbolizing “power” and “strength.” On the other hand, the “dog” in the saying refers to none other than the Lhasa Apso. In fact, the breed’s Tibetan name can loosely be translated to “bearded lion dog.”

Because the snow lion is such a sacred animal to the people of Tibet, this living representation in the form of the Lhasa Apso has unsurprisingly found much popularity. They were, and still are, a fan-favorite among the Tibetan nobility. 

Lhasa Apsos are frequently brought into Buddhist temples and surrounding communities, where the people treat them with the utmost respect. As they should. 

7. Monks counted on the Lhasa Apso to watch over monasteries hundreds of years ago.

Don’t be fooled by the petite size and shaggy coat of the Lhasa Apso. They’re alert dogs with few things able to get by their keen sense of surrounding. After all, the snow lion was believed to be a protector of Tibet. So, it would only make sense for these dogs to do the same.

For hundreds of years, Tibetan monks depended on the Lhasa Apso to watch over their monasteries from potential predators and unwanted strangers. They were sentinel dogs that often patrolled the outside of monasteries.

With their sharp sense of hearing, the Lhasa Apso will look out for anything and anyone that approaches the monasteries. The second they spot something, they’ll be sure to let the whole community know with their sharp barks.

But of course, there’s little these dogs can do to protect their community. As such, Lhasa Apsos often works in tandem with the much larger Tibetan Mastiff to ward off intruders.

6. In the past, Lhasa Apsos were never sold – only gifted.

In the past, there were some dog breeds that were so sacred to their people that they were never sold – only gifted. For example, Shih Tzus were actually illegal to own for those that didn’t have nobility status.

Similarly, the Lhasa Apsos were rarely sold in the past because they were considered to be sacred temple dogs. It’s believed that the Dalai Lama often gifted the Lhasa Apso to the Chinese Emperors hundreds of years ago. In fact, this is how these dogs made it to the United States too.

According to historians, a traveler named Charles Cutting visited Tibet with his wife in the 1930s. Eventually, the couple returned back to America, though with two Lhasa Apsos as gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama. So if you own a Lhasa Apso in America today, there’s a good chance your dog actually came from this couple.

5. They tend to live long and robust lives. 

Despite being small and at times, looking fragile, the Lhasa Apso is actually a very robust and healthy dog breed. In fact, did you know that out of all dog breeds, the Lhasa Apso has one of the longest life spans ever? On average, these dogs can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years!

They’re joined by the Shih Tzu, Maltese, Chihuahua, Jack Russell Terrier, and Toy Poodle, as the only small breeds capable of living such a long life.

And another fun fact. The longest living Lhasa Apso lived to be 29 years old! For reference, the oldest living dog ever recorded was an Australian Cattle dog that lived 29 years and 160 days.

4. The Lhasa Apso has the feet of a cat. 

No, this isn’t an insult to the Lhasa Apso. And yes, there are some dogs that do have “cat feet,” including the Lhasa Apso. But what’s the difference between a cat and a dog’s foot?

Dog breeds said to have “cat feet” have paws that are rounder and more compact than regular dog feet. They also have a short third bone and their toes are slightly arched. The construction of this cat-like paw does have some benefits for your dog.

For example, the compactness provides extra support for the feet, while doubling as excellent shields for debris. These cat feet also give the Lhasa Apso a better grip, especially on slick or wet surfaces. Plus, the design of these feet is more efficient, as it requires less energy for the dog to lift his feet.

Lhasa Apsos are not the only breed to have cat feet, though. There are around 20 breed standards that specify “cat-like” feet, including the Doberman Pinscher, Akita Inu, Bichon Frise, and many more.

3. One heroic Lhasa Apso saved his owner’s life and was given the PDSA “Bravery Award.” 

In 2015, one Lhasa Apso named Morgan, became the life-saving hero for his owner. Morgan was living with his owners, John and Mary. They were a senior couple settled in Liverpool in the UK. 

When the 70 year old John was gardening one day, he stumbled off a ladder and fell unconscious. The only one that noticed was of course, Morgan the Lhasa Apso. So what did Morgan do? He did what Lhasas do best – bark and alert.

For the next several minutes, Morgan barked like a mad dog in an attempt to get help. In fact, he wouldn’t stop until someone came. Eventually this got the attention of Mary, who called an ambulance and rushed John to the hospital. 

Mary admits that if it weren’t for Morgan, who knows how long it would have been before she went out to check. Morgan was eventually awarded with the “Bravery Award” by the PDSA and invited to the ceremony. 

2. Tibetans believe that people are often reborn as an Lhasa Apso before reincarnating as a human.

Lhasa Apsos are associated with the celestial snow lions, brought into Buddhist temples, and only gifted. It’s obvious they’re sacred animals to the people of Tibet. But have you ever wondered, why?

Tibetan Buddhists believe in the reincarnation process, where when a person or animal dies, their souls are reborn as a new person or animal. However, it’s not as simple as that. There are stages of reincarnation before being given the chance to be born as a human.

And it’s believed that the soul is often reborn as a dog, right before reincarnating as a human. This is especially true with souls of a high lama, who are often reborn as Lhasa Apsos before their human stage. So with this in mind, it makes a lot of sense why Lhasa Apsos were treated with so much respect and dignity in Tibet.

1. One Lhasa Apso holds the world record for longest time on death row.

Yes, you read that right. If just being on death row isn’t enough for a dog, one Lhasa Apso has been on death row for the longest ever. According to the Seattle Weekly, a Lhasa Apso named “Word” set the world record by being on death row for 8 years after several appeals.

Apparently the dog bit a woman at Capitol Hill, and according to the court ruling, the city could properly take away vicious animals and “dispose” of them if necessary. 

What’s more, was that it was never proven that “Word” was the dog that actually bit the woman. As ridiculous as this whole situation may be, there is very little information on what actually happened to the Lhasa Apso in the end.


So what was your favorite Lhasa Apso fact? Did we miss any that deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!

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More Happawness

Monday 28th of February 2022

This is great article. It provides more information helpful

More Happawness

Monday 24th of January 2022

Are they easy to nourish? and do need anything to feed them ?