Looking in my library I found an old text written by the late
Mrs Frances Sefton in mid 70's, Mrs F. Sefton was a Lhasa Apso breeder "Cheska
Kennels" and judge from England and who later lived to Australia.
Frances Sefton was a real Lhasa Apso person with an eye for a
dog...she had the talent to see a dog in all his details and the capability to
express this in word and paper.
Extract from her story:
Keywords: breed type, Lhasa Apso, characteristics, quality, type and expression:
Breed type is a phrase used frequently and if I may say so, somewhat loosely.
What exactly does it mean?
The dictionary defines type as - kind, category, constituents which share
similar characteristics - and - particular group. The word characteristics is
defined as distinguishing quality. The word quality is also frequently used in
critiques and in discussions on a dog individual attributes.
The Lhasa Apso breed type is a product of natural selection and human selection.
Certain characteristics which are part of the breed type
evolved as a result of geographical and climatic environment - the high
attitudes, the dry windy climate, the dusty terrain, the short hot summer and
the long bitterly cold winter of the Himalaya region. Among these are head
features, the coat, eye-fall, the musculation and body structure, the general
hardness and longevity of the breed.
Other characteristics were the result of man's selection for his visual
preferences, such as size, color, the pattern of coat growth, and for function,
such as temperament and sharpness of hearing.
A written description of the breed type....
The written description of type/general appearance is in the breed standard and
is not the same worldwide and accepted by the official kennel clubs, breed clubs
and used by breeders, exhibitors and judges, as a guide!
Breed standards, because they are written by humans, have
imperfections, but they are an attempt to set a word picture of the breed of
dog. Breed standards are not rigid documents, and are revised from time to time,
hopefully to clarify the meaning, but unfortunately often to change it because
the breed has changed by us over the years!
The Lhasa Apso comes from Tibet, but the Tibetans never wrote a breed standard,
the Indians, the British, the Americans who went to Tibet and took home dogs
learned first-hand what the Tibetans wanted in their dogs, and they went home
and wrote down the first standards for our breed. The standard we use today is
intrinsically the same as that was written in 1934 when a group of interested
people sorted out what they realised were four separated breeds - Tibetan
Terrier, Tibetan spaniel, Lhasa Apso and the Chinese cousin the Shih Tzu.
Defining Breed Type from the Standard:
Sentences and phrases which deal specifically with the breed characteristics
suggest ways of recognising visually the breed type. There is only one breed
type. To use the phrase "he is not my type" is misleading. In fact, to be
diplomatic, they should use the usual phrase of English judges in their
critiques - "I preferred the other one"!
The major characteristics of the Lhasa Apso which, put together, give you a dog
that looks like a Lhasa Apso and no other breed involve the following factors:
Head and Expression
The Lhasa Apso is surprisingly normal in construction under the
coat. There are no exaggerations of limb as there are in its associated breeds,
such as the Shih Tzu's shortened limbs and a deep chest, the Tibetan Spaniel's
slightly bowed forelegs, and the Tibetan Terrier's extra length of foreleg and
The Lhasa Apso is a small dog - ideally 10 inches says the standard. Not a
medium size (15-20 inches) not a large dog. There is no weight clause. However
the Lhasa Apso is not flimsy dog, because the standard also makes reference such
as: neck: strong.....strong loin...., hindquarters well developed with good
muscle.... There is also the controversial word "solid" that was added in the
1970 revision. (later compact)
I personally disagreed with its inclusion because of the danger of
misinterpretation, but a dictionary definition is: firm, strong, compact and
that is my interpretation of it. The height then cannot be taken out of the
context for breed type. A height within a range of 9 to 11 inches is acceptable
provided the other attributes are present and is better than a 10 inch dog which
achieves that ideal height by shortened upper arm and deep-slung chest or one
that is shelly and flimsy.
References in the standard to good muscle are too brief in my opinion. In fact
the Lhasa Apso has extraordinarily good muscle. The promise of dense muscle can
be seen even in a baby puppy, and I believe that it is a key to correct type.
Hold a baby puppy up under the chest, then viewing from the rear, lift the
hindquarters by the tail. The pup should tense the muscles and stretch the back.
Of course muscles takes time to develop, and Lhasas are not early maturing
breed. The reason for well-muscled hindquarters is because of the dog's
remarkable agility in leaping, spinning and changing course. The strong muscle
in the loin also is an aid to agility.
The standard uses the word well-balanced and also requires that the length from
point of shoulders to point of buttocks is greater than height at the withers.
In fact this is pretty well the balance of a "normally" constructed dog, but it
is a breed characteristic. When standing free the hind hocks should fall
naturally under the rump, not extended back beyond. I am not going to give
specific measurements, I will just say that when a dog is stood with head up and
tail curled over, it will look shorter in back, and when the same dog moves it
will look a little longer. If it looks long when stacked it'll look even longer
when it moves.
Head carriage and tail carriage contribute to the balance to the dog. Heads are
carried on necks - a good strong neck which is carried on well-laid but not
over-angulated shoulders will give good balance. A neck can look short and
stuffy if the hair over the neck, the dense mane referred to in the standard, is
thick, but the hands will pick the smooth flow. Upright shoulders will give a "ewe"
neck, stuck on upright like a giraffe - it looks long, but it isn't and again
the hands will tell if the eye can't!
The standard says the dog is well ribbed up which means a long rib cage extended
well back. It does not mean a rounded barrel rib cage. The coupling ( loin) is
not long, the length of back is in fact in the rib cage, but the standard also
requires the dog to be compact which means that though the body is longer than
the height, the Lhasa Apso is not long-bodied dog.
Good balance is required at the tail end. the tail is high set, which means that
the Lhasa Apso does not have a "sloping croup" - in other words the angle of the
pelvis is not great. The tail is curled over the back and contributes to the
correct balance of the dog as a whole.
Later, on this website you will find a general article from Frank about
movements of the dog, now we provide you know how about the Lhasa Apso gait;
Frances continue: if I had to pick a controversial characteristic of the Lhasa
Apso it would be the gait,. Furore has raged over the last few years, mainly
about the so-called "Shih-Tzu kick" behind. There are, particularly in the USA
and Asia, many Lhasas with an exaggerated hind action, which is untypical and
which is not, as it claimed to be, good hindquarters drive.
Why do some Lhasa Apsos move with an exaggerated hindquarter kick? in the
extreme case because the shoulder is upright, the pelvis is tipped forward till
it's almost flat. The standard describes free and jaunty in movement and that is
the only reference in the current standard we have to gait! However can deduce
from, the near normal construction of the Lhasa Apso that the natural gait of
the dog is a trot, what you would expect from a dog efficient as the Lhasa.
The trot as for the Lhasa Apso; with a correctly laid shoulder, there will be
sufficient forward reach for the front paw to come down under the dogs nose. The
power is carried through the loin, and propulsion through the hindquarters
carries the body forward efficiently, freely and easily and with true drive.
The rear pads are revealed briefly, in a full coated dog usually seen only as a
curving up of the skirts!
HEAD AND EXPRESSION
In this area the Lhasa is not quite the same as a "normal" canine. The head of
the Lhasa Apso is an intermediate type of head between the short faced and
normal long head. The skull is not broad nor flat. There is a definite occiput.
Confusion often arises over the phrase falling away behind the eyes this means
that there are no bony ridges over the eyes, nor the slight doming of the
Tibetan Spaniel and the zygomatic arch is not prominent as in the Tibetan
In profile the head proportions are one third muzzle to two thirds skull. The
foreface is straight with a medium stop, so that in profile there is no dishing
of the muzzle nor down-face. One particular point which is not in the standard
is the tip of the nose leather; this is quite distinctly pointed and does not
drop at all. If it is flat, or pushed back, it is untypical.
In fact the muzzle has depth, but as the standard says not square. The muzzle
does not taper from the eyes but comes out at the same width from the eyes to
the nose and viewed front on, or felt with the hands, is a vertical rectangle,
which in profile gives the appearance of bluntness or being chopped off.
The ears; are pendant, set about the level with the eyes. On a broad skull they
tend to be higher set! but this must be assessed according to the effect on
Dark eyes; a slightly lighter colour often accompanies some Golds or grey.
Medium in size, set frontally and the best way to describe their shape is to say
they are like almond shape eyes or like human eyes. It's important the eyes are
not prominent or full, not small and deep set. The Lhasa Apso expression is not
soft and soulful, but is watchful though not sharp.
The Bite; The ideal bite is fully described. The true scissor bite, with the
upper incisors fitting closely over the lower,
and set in a curve, is untypical, as it give the wrong expression, with a lack
of underjaw. The so-called reverse scissor bite has a slight flatness of the
centre incisors and this is a very important feature. There is always has been a
great variation in bite and the acceptability of any bite, alignment of teeth or
missing teeth depends very much on its effect on expression. A slightly less
than perfect bite can still provide the correct expression.
It is a characteristic of the Lhasa Apso breed that the coat is all encompassing.
It grows every were on the dog.
The Lhasa Apso has long eye-lashes, These serve to hold the fall of hair over
the eyes away from the eyes. The eye-fall served as a protection in the windy
dusty environment of Tibet. The coat is of good length - this is generally
accepted as being floor-length, though this is not a trimmed breed the coat is
often trimmed to floor length because too much lenght of coat trialing the floor
can impede the free and jaunty movement and it is also for that reason that
excessive length of hair on the feet is also trimmed back.
The coat is a double coat; the outer jacket is hard, but not coarse, more like
human hair. Nowadays most coats are straight but years ago there were a lot of
frizzy coats. There seems to be an increase in the number of soft, fine coats.
Silky texture hair is also not desired.
The undercoat is densest in cold climates and certainly is thinner in hot
weather. The undercoat is fine and soft, but should not be short and
cotton-woolly. In the mature adult it should be quite long perhaps three or four
The texture of the coat is an important characteristic and the standard also
says it is heavy which anyone who has spun it will confirm. If you could weigh a
dog in full coat, then clip it off completely and re-weigh it, you would be
surprised at the difference.
This is an important characteristic. The temperament of the Lhasa Apso is unique.
To know the Lhasa you have to live with them, Gay and assertive, but [chary]
aloof with strangers. The chary or aloof with strangers comes from their
function as an indoor alarm dog. They are extremely sharp of hearing, and adept
at analyzing human character. Lhasas quickly pick up the vibrations in the
atmosphere. They can be gay and assertive not just at home but also in the
showring. Lhasa are very stubborn, wilful, cunning and would rather die than
give in. And they never forget, sensible socialising and being aware of the
normal trauma periods in any dogs development to maturity are especially
important with Lhasa Apsos.
The concern of this characteristic; here the type and the set of tail, - high
set, carried well over the back - .
Well furnished with long hair, the kink, if is there, is right at the tip and is
like a broken-joint. The kink is disappearing from the breed. Fault is a low set
tail, loose gay tails.
Note from the Chairman Frank:
As Breeders we can breed Lhasa Apsos the way we wish. But we have to breed
quality healthy Lhasa Apso dogs as these pups born today will be the foundation
for the future! We must NOT use these dogs as dogshow tools, never forget the
roots of them. For breeding the Lhasa Apso second best is not good enough! Do
not breed with shy or aggressive Lhasas which happen to often these days and not
with unhealthy dogs, not for the show and not for pets!
What we put in we will get out.
By Frank van Tatenhove