Tibetan Spaniels in Warrenton, VA
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History of the Breed

The origin of the Tibetan Spaniel goes far back in time -- to the Buddhist monks in Tibet, who bred them as watchdogs and to keep as companions.  For over 2,000 years this little dog has been cherished by the Tibetan monks who used them to guard their monasteries.  They would perch high on the walls and, with their keen eyesight, would bark to announce the arrival of strangers.  There are also stories that these dogs were used to turn prayer wheels, but that is probably unlikely.

Palkhor Monastery

Palkhor Monastery built in 1418

The actual origins of this ancient breed are lost in the mists of time.  Centuries ago dogs, including the Shih Tzu, the Havanese Chin and the Pekingese, were traded between Tibet and China and both of these breeds may have contributed to the Tibbie's development.

As well as the monks breeding Tibetan Spaniels, the villages in the countryside also bred their own bloodlines.  These could often vary significantly in size and type, and the smaller puppies were usually given as gifts to the monasteries.

These smaller dogs were then used in the monastery breeding programs. The dogs bred in villages closer to the Chinese borders tended to have shorter muzzles, and the monks' use of these dogs led to the characteristic short muzzles in the modern Tibetan Spaniel.

The Tibetan Spaniels were first brought to Europe by missionaries in the fifteenth century and, although the first examples of the breed were introduced to Great Britain in the 1890s, the breed was not strongly represented there until after the second World War.