Tibetan spaniel

The Tibetan spaniel is a breed of assertive, small, intelligent dogs originating over 2,500 years ago in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. They share ancestry with the Pekingese, Japanese Chin, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier and Pug.

This breed is not a spaniel; in the original meaning of the term; its breeding and role differs from other spaniels and spaniels are gun dogs. The spaniel name may have been given due to its resemblance to the bred-down lapdog versions of the hunting spaniels, such as the Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Tibetan spaniel
Tibetansk spaniel
Other namesSimkhyi
Common nicknamesTibbie
Weight 9 to 15 lb (4.1 to 6.8 kg)
Height 10 in (25 cm)
Color All dog colours
Classification / standards
FCI Group 9, Section 5 Tibetan breeds #231 standard
AKC Non-sporting standard
ANKC Group 1 (Toys) standard
CKC Group 6 - Non-Sporting Dogs standard
KC (UK) Utility standard
NZKC Non-sporting standard
UKC Companion Breeds standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)



Parti-colored Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel has a domed head that is small, in comparison to its body. It has a short blunt muzzle, free of wrinkles. Their teeth occlude in either an underbite or an end-to-end bite. The nose is black. The eyes are medium in size, set wide apart and are oval in shape. The Tibetan Spaniel does not have extra skin around the eyes; this helps to distinguish the breed from the Pekingese. The ears hang down either side of the head to cheek level and are feathered with a v shape. The neck is covered in a mane of hair, which is more noticeable in the male of the breed. The Tibetan Spaniel's front legs are a little bowed and the feet are "hare-like". This dog has a great feathered tail that is set high and is carried over their back. The coat is a silky double coat lying flat and is short and smooth on the face and leg fronts; it is medium in length on the body; it has feathering on the ears, toes and tail.

Tibetan Spaniels come in all colours and be solid, shaded and multi-coloured. Colours that are seen are red, fawn, gold, white, cream, black and tan, and parti. Often there are white markings on the feet. By AKC breed standard,[2] this breed grows to about 10 in (25 cm) at the shoulder, and the weight is 9–15 lb (4.1–6.8 kg). Slightly larger Tibetan Spaniels can often be found outside the show ring.

Tibetan Spaniel in appearance
Up close view of a Tibetan Spaniel


Extremely intelligent, the Tibetan Spaniel is one of the most cat-like dog breeds. They will climb on the sofa, table, dresser, etc., to see what is going on outside. At the same time, they are highly affectionate and will often greet their owners by jumping into their lap and licking their face.[3]

Tibetan Spaniels are a social breed that needs regular contact with their humans. They do not respond well to being left alone for long periods of time. Having been developed as a companion dog by Tibetan monks they are emotional and empathetic to the needs of their owners.

It is important to socialize Tibetan Spaniels at an early age to a variety of people and situations. They are protective of their family. Even after socialization, they are typically aloof with strangers. If startled or uneasy, a Tibetan Spaniel will express their distrust with loud alarm barking.

While utterly devoted to their family members, Tibetan Spaniels are fiercely independent with a tendency to wander off and explore rather than come when called. This quality - assertive, independent, and alert - is the standard temperament required by both the AKC and FCI breed standards.[4]



1899 tibetan spaniels
Photograph of Tibetan Spaniels - 1899

Small monastery dogs, thought to be early representatives of the Tibetan Spaniel, loyally trailed behind their Lama masters and came to be regarded as "little Lions" owing to their resemblance to the Chinese guardian lions that gave them great value and prestige. The practice of sending the dogs as gifts to the palaces of China and other Buddhist countries grew significantly, and more "lion dogs" were presented back to Tibet, continuing until as late as 1908. As a result of exchanges of Tibetan Spaniels between palaces and monasteries, the breed is likely to have common ancestors with Oriental breeds such as the Japanese Chin and the Pekingese.

Not only was the Tibetan Spaniel prized as a pet and companion, but it was also a useful member of Tibetan monastic life. The little dogs would sit on the monastery walls, keeping watch over the countryside. Their keen eyesight and ability to see great distances made them excellent watchdogs. They would alarm bark to alert the monks and the Tibetan Mastiffs below. In addition to functioning as lookouts, the Tibetan Spaniels were trained to spin the monk's prayer wheels. They also slept with the monks at night to provide warmth.[5]

Village-bred Tibetan Spaniels varied greatly in size and type, and the smaller puppies were usually given as gifts to the monasteries. In turn, these smaller dogs used in the monastery breeding programs were probably combined with the more elegant Tibetan Spaniel-type dogs brought from China. Those bred closer to the Chinese borders were characterized by shorter snouts.

Western World

Tibetan Spaniels were being bred in the United Kingdom by the 1890s. The first authenticated reference we find to Tibetan Spaniels in the United States is a litter born out of two imported dogs from a Tibetan monastery in 1965. In January 1971, the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was formed with 14 charter members. An open secondary registry was maintained. After a period in the Miscellaneous classes, the Tibetan Spaniel was accepted for AKC registration and became eligible to compete as a Non-Sporting breed, effective January 1, 1984. The breed was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1987 and placed in Group 9 Companion and Toy Dogs, Section 5 : Tibetan breeds.[6]

Genetic History

Professor Ludvic von Schulmuth studied the origins of skeletal remains of dogs in human settlements as old as ten thousand years. The Professor created a genealogical tree of Tibetan dogs. It shows that the Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog, a small scavenger, evolved into the Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog which then evolved into the Tibetan Spaniel, Pekingese, and Japanese Chin. Intermixing of the Tibetan Spaniel with the Tibetan breeds Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu resulted in both the latter breeds birthing the occasional "Prapso", a pup with a shedding coat closely resembling the Tibetan Spaniel.


The Tibetan Spaniel is a generally healthy dog with a life expectancy of 13–16 years.[7]

Progressive retinal atrophy

Chimo Jet
Tibetan Spaniel with cat

Progressive retinal atrophy is a genetic disease that can occur in the breed. The disease is an inherited form of blindness in dogs that has in two forms: generalized PRA and central PRA. Generalized PRA is primarily a photoreceptor disease and is the form found in Tibetan Spaniels. The clinical signs have been observed between 1½ and 4 years, but as late at seven years. The disease is painless and affected dogs become completely blind. Currently there is no treatment, but affected dogs generally adapt well to their progressive blindness.

The earliest clinical sign of progressive retinal atrophy is "night blindness." The dog cannot see well in a dimly lit room or at dusk. The dog will show a reluctance to move from a lighted area into darker surroundings. The night blindness develops progressively into complete blindness. The British institution Animal Health Trust (AHT) devoted intensive research for PRA in Tibetan Spaniels, isolating the responsible gene. The mutation was identified by Louise Downs, as part of her PhD studies. A DNA test based on this mutation became available July 8, 2013.

Responsible breeders are working hard to eliminate PRA within the breed. Currently, the International Tibetan Spaniel Working Party[8] collects health data including PRA history.

Portosystemic shunt

Tibbie(Bu t'chu)
Tibetan Spaniel in the Snow

A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver, one of the body's filters, so that it is not cleansed. This rare condition in Tibetan Spaniels is often referred to as a "liver shunt".

Most shunts cause recognizable symptoms by the time a dog is a young adult but are occasionally diagnosed only later in life. Since the severity of the condition can vary widely depending on how much blood flow is diverted past the liver it is possible for a lot of variation in clinical signs and time of onset. Often, this condition is recognized after a puppy fails to grow, allowing early diagnosis. Signs of portosystemic shunts include poor weight gain, sensitivity to sedatives (especially diazepam), depression, pushing the head against a solid object, seizures, weakness, salivation, vomiting, poor appetite, increased drinking and urinating, balance problems and frequent urinary tract disease or early onset of bladder stones. A dramatic increase of these signs after eating is a strong supportive sign of a portosystemic shunt.

Other issues

Like many breeds of dog, Tibetan Spaniels are susceptible to allergies. They can also experience cherry eye, a prolapsed third eyelid. Additionally, the shape of a Tibetan Spaniel's face makes it prone to a common cosmetic condition called weeping eye.

See also


  1. ^ "FCI-Standard N° 231 / 11. 05. 1998 / GB Tibetan Spaniel". Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Archived from the original on 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  2. ^ "AKC Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard".
  3. ^ "Why the Tibetan Spaniel May Not be the Right Breed for You". Archived from the original on 2013-07-23.
  4. ^ "FCI Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard". Archived from the original on 2013-11-01.
  5. ^ The Tibetan Spaniel - A Complete Anthology of the Dog. Vintage Dog Books. 2010. p. 20. ISBN 1445526735.
  6. ^ Group 9, Section 5 Archived 2008-08-23 at the Wayback Machine., Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  7. ^ "Individual Breed Results for Purebred Dog Health Survey".
  8. ^ "International Tibetan Spaniel Working Party". Archived from the original on 2013-08-01.
  • Miccio, Susan W. The Tibetan Spaniel: A Gift From The Roof of the World, OTR Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-940269-12-0

External links

American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. In addition to maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official forming of the AKC, the National Dog Show and the AKC National Championship sponsored by Royal Canin, formerly the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Unlike most other countries' kennels clubs, the AKC is not part of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization).

Canadian Kennel Club

The Canadian Kennel Club (or CKC) is the national kennel club of Canada. The Canadian Kennel Club maintains breed registries services for all purebred dogs it officially recognizes and provides governance for all CKC approved dog conformation shows, dog trials and canine events.

Cephalic index

The cephalic index or cranial index is the ratio of the maximum width (bipareital diameter or BPD, side to side) of the head of an organism (human or animal) multiplied by 100 divided by its maximum length (occipitofrontal diameter or OFD, front to back). The index is also used to categorize animals, especially dogs and cats.

Companion dog

A companion dog is a dog that does not work, providing only companionship as a pet, rather than usefulness by doing specific tasks. Many of the toy dog breeds are used only for the pleasure of their company, not as workers. Any dog can be a companion dog, and many working types such as retrievers are enjoyed primarily for their friendly nature as a family pet, as are mixed breed dogs. The American Kennel Club also offers a Companion dog title for judged dog obedience competitions.

Francesca Simon

Francesca Isabella Simon (born February 23, 1955) is an American author who resides in London. She is most famous for writing the Horrid Henry series of children's books.

She is the daughter of screenwriter, director and playwright Mayo Simon.

Humphry Wakefield

Sir Edward Humphry Tyrrell Wakefield, 2nd Baronet FRGS, (born 11 July 1936) is an English baronet and expert on antiques and architecture.

Wakefield has made his career a study of antique furniture and historic restoration. He worked for Christie's of London, and subsequently became director and chairman of antique-dealing firms. In 1982 he bought Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, from the Grey family, of Northumberland, the family of his third wife Catherine, daughter of Lady Mary Grey. He has since restored the ruined castle to a habitable state to house his wide collection of antiquities, from his own collection and those of his relations.

Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin (Japanese: 狆, chin), also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is a dog acknowledged for its importance to Japanese nobility. It is also known for its strabismus of the eyes. Being both a lap dog and a companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.

List of Tibetan dog breeds

The following is a list of dog breeds from Tibet:

Lhasa Apso

Tibetan kyi apso

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Terrier

Shih Tzu

Paws and Whiskers

Paws and Whiskers is a 2014 fundraising anthology for the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, featuring some of the best children's stories about cats and dogs of all time, selected by multi-award-winning and best-selling children's author Jacqueline Wilson, with illustrations by Nick Sharratt. Published 13 February 2014 by Doubleday Children's, the book includes a new story by Wilson, Leonie's Pet Cat, as well as extracts from such classics as The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.Also called Battersea Cats and Dogs Anthology before publication, the book is under licence from "Battersea Dogs' Home Ltd.", with royalties from book sales going to support the registered charity. Although dogs appear before cats in the name of this animal welfare organisation, the anthology has the section with excerpts from Cat Stories first, and Dog Stories last, with the special Pets' Corner section in the middle, featuring new stories by notable children's authors about their pets.The cover art includes illustrations of pets. "That's Shanti on the cover, in the bottom right hand corner", said Francesca Simon, who wrote the story about her Tibetan Spaniel.

Progressive retinal atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dogs and, more rarely, cats. Similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans, it is characterized by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. The condition in nearly all breeds is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, with the exception of the Siberian Husky (inherited as an X chromosome linked trait) and the Bullmastiff (inherited as an autosomal dominant trait). There is no treatment.

Richard Jasek

Richard Jasek (born 1964/1965) is a Czechoslovakia-born Australian television producer, writer and director. Jasek was born and raised Prague until his family fled the communist regime and settled in Brisbane. Jasek chose to become a filmmaker after he discovered his father's camera. He would later enrol at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Jasek made a short production for SBS Television and travelled to the United Kingdom to work for The National Film School as a guest lecturer. Upon his return to Australia, Jasek began working in television and he is best known for his work with dramas A Country Practice, City Homicide and McLeod's Daughters. In October 2011, it was announced that Jasek had taken over the role of executive producer of Neighbours.


A spaniel is a type of gun dog. Spaniels were especially bred to flush game out of denser brush. By the late 17th century, spaniels had been specialized into water and land breeds. The extinct English Water Spaniel was used to retrieve water fowl shot down with arrows. Land spaniels were setting spaniels—those that crept forward and pointed their game, allowing hunters to ensnare them with nets, and springing spaniels—those that sprang pheasants and partridges for hunting with falcons, and rabbits for hunting with greyhounds. During the 17th century, the role of the spaniel dramatically changed as Englishmen began hunting with flintlocks for wing shooting. Charles Goodall and Julia Gasow (1984) write that spaniels were "transformed from untrained, wild beaters, to smooth, polished gun dogs."

The word “spaniel” would seem to be derived from the medieval French espaigneul—“Spanish”—modern French, espagnol.

The Intelligence of Dogs

The Intelligence of Dogs is a book on dog intelligence by Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Published in 1994, the book explains Coren's theories about the differences in intelligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006.Coren defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog's ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, fetching, guarding, or supplying companionship. Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog's ability to solve problems on its own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog's ability to learn from humans.

Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large Tibetan dog breed (Canis lupus familiaris) (Tibetan: དོ་ཁྱི, Chinese: 藏獒; Pinyin: Zàng áo) in the mastiff family. Originating with the nomadic cultures of Tibet, China, India, Mongolia and Nepal, it is used by local tribes of Tibetans to protect sheep from wolves, leopards, bears, large mustelids, and tigers.

Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-size breed of dog that originated in Tibet. Despite its name, it is not a member of the terrier group. The breed was given its English name by European travelers due to its resemblance to known terrier breeds. The Tibetan name for the breed, Tsang Apso, roughly translates to "shaggy or bearded ("apso") dog, from the province of Tsang". Some old travelers' accounts refer to the dog as Dokhi Apso or "outdoor" Apso, indicating a shaggy or bearded working dog which lives outdoors.

Tibetan kyi apso

The Tibetan Kyi Apso, also known as the Apso Do-Kyi or (in Western countries) the Tibetan collie, is a rare Tibetan breed of livestock guardian dog. In Tibet, the Pashmina of this breed is occasionally saved and used to weave small carpets.

Toy dog

Toy dog traditionally refers to a very small dog or a grouping of small and very small breeds of dog. A toy dog may be of any of various dog types. Types of dogs referred to as toy dogs may include Spaniels, Pinschers and Terriers that have been bred down in size. Not all toy dogs are lapdogs, although that is an important and ancient type of toy dog.

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