The South Western

Tibetan Spaniel Club 


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 All About The Tibetan Spaniel

For Health matters click here

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Introduction and Character

The Tibetan Spaniel is small, alert, bright and extremely intelligent. Originating from the 'Roof of The World' which is Tibet, they come with many characteristics of that country and it's peoples - they like to be higher than anything else (backs of settees, window sills etc) and they are basically happy, inquisitive, friendly and charming.

They are large dogs in a small dog's body, and turn into Tibetan Mastiffs at a moment's notice, and will warn you very loudly and persistently when anyone or anything approaches.

Tibetan Spaniels thrive on human companionship - as soon as you sit down in your favourite chair, you will be covered in as many Tibbies as you have! Existing owners will vouch that this is not a 'go lay down in your basket' dog, though highly intelligent, they have not yet mastered the English language! They are in fact very much a cross between a dog, a cat and a monkey.*

A Short History of the Breed

To help us understand some of the inherited characteristics of this charming breed, it might be helpful to first uncover a few basic facts about Tibet, it's religion and it's peoples.

To most of us, when Tibet is mentioned, Mount Everest comes to mind; called 'Chomolungma' by the Tibetan People, it's closest meaning in English is 'Mother Goddess of The World'.

Tibet is a vast isolated wilderness covering some 1 1/2 million square miles. Most of it is high altitude plateaux with thin air, rugged rocks and near desert, and seas of ice and snow; while lower down it boast green fertile valleys.

This then is the varied and difficult terrain that Tibetan breeds of dogs had to survive in. To add to this, let us take a brief  look at the history and religion of Tibet.

'This centre of Heaven

This core of the Earth

This heart of the World

Fenced round with Snow'

Before the 7th Century Tibet's history is sparse, being mainly legend and handed down stories. The legend of how the Tibetan race came into being is a fascinating one; A union between a  macaque and an ogress produces six monkeys, which inturn, after availing themselves of the fruits and grains of the country, produce more monkeys, which gradually become the Tibetan people.

Originally, Tibet consisted of nomadic tribes with no written language, and with a penchant for warring, with neighbours, and with other tribes. They followed a very primitive religion known as 'Bon', which used animal sacrifices to apease gods and spirits. Despite this they were not backward, and developed agriculture based on stock breeding and grain production. Apparently discovery of the their staple grain 'gingke' was partly due to the dog!

Written history begins around AD 640 under King Songsten Gampo who succeeded in unifying most of Tibet and introduced many forward thinking and modern ideas into everyday life.

In AD 641, the Chinese Princess Wen Chung arrived in Tibet for her marriage to the King, and brought with her a new religion; Buddhism.

'On the fifteenth day of the first month,

When the Princess consents to come to Tibet,

No one is afraid of the vast sandbars,

And there are a hundred steeds to meet you.

No one is afarid of the snow-capped mountains,

and there are a hundred Dzos to greet you.

No one is afraid of the surging rivers,

And there are a hundred cowhide boats to welcome you.'

From here on in, the new religion was adopted and gradually fused with the old to emerge as the distinctive form of Tibetan Buddhisn known today.

The Tibetans developed into a peace loving nation in which 1 in 3 men were priests, and Monasteries were prolific! The fifth Dalai Llama was made the Supreme Monarch of all Tibet, and as the country became more self reliant and secretive, it's borders were closed to all foreigners untill about 1645.

This remoteness, political isolation, inaccesiblity and a religion that forbade the killing of animals together with the great distances between villages and the lonliness of nomadic life placed a great importance on dogs in the lives of the Tibetan people.

The history of the Tibetan and some of the smaller Chinese and Japanese breeds are all very much part of the various sects of Buddhism. Indeed, in the Buddhist religion, unlike Christianity, the dog is given equal status on a spiritual level, and credited with having some kind of soul.

In the Buddhist cycle of life (Karma), a persons spirit is commonly passed to the dog and vice versa, and so the dog holds a special place in Tibetan's lives.

 Many centuries before the birth of Christianity small Tibetan Spaniel type dogs were treasured pets among the Upper classes, and no doubt formed part of the tributes paid to the Emperors of China by the ruling dynasties of Lhasa.

A Lama, or monk, would have been a very proud owner of one of these little dogs, valued for their intelligence, companionship and also practical services like warning of approaching strangers from a high lookout on monastery walls.

It is said this is why today's Tibbies like to sit on the back of your sofa and tell you when everyone is passing by!

This practice, and the famed 'silk route' passing through when borders were open undoubtedly contributed to the spread of dogs around Asia, and it is thought that the little Tibetan dogs became ancestors of the Pekingese and other toy breeds.

You can perhaps see why the previous description of their character * has some validity.

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The Breed Standard

Reproduced with kind permission of The Kennel Club

 (unauthorised reproduction of text and images prohibited)

A BREED STANDARD is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. 


GENERAL APPEARANCE  Small, active and alert. Well balanced in general outline, slightly longer in body than height at the withers.

CHARACTERISTICS  Gay and assertive, highly intelligent, aloof with strangers.

TEMPERAMENT  Alert, loyal but independent.

HEAD AND SKULL  Small in proportion to body, carried proudly. masculine in dogs but free from coarseness. Skull slightly domed, moderate width and length. Stop slight but defined. Medium length of muzzle blunt with cushioning, free from wrinkle. Chin showing some depth and width. Nose: black preferred.

EYES  Dark brown, oval, bright and expressive, medium size set well apart but forward looking. Rims black.

EARS  Medium size, pendant, well feathered in adults set fairly high. Slight lift from the skull desirable but must not fly. Large, heavy low set ears untypical.

MOUTH  Slightly undershot. Teeth evenly placed and lower jaw wide between the canine teeth. Full dentition desirable. Teeth and tongue not showing when mouth closed.

NECK  Moderately short, strong and well set on. Covered with a mane or 'shawl' of longer hair, more pronounced in dogs than bitches.

FOREQUARTERS  Moderate bone. Forelegs slightly bowed but firm at shoulders. Shoulder well laid.

BODY  Slightly longer from withers to root of tail than the height at the withers, good spring of rib. Level back.

HINDQUARTERS   Well made and strong, hocks well let down, straight when viewed from behind. Moderate turn of stifle.

FEET  Hare foot. Small and neat with feathering between the toes. Round cat-feet undesirable.

TAIL  Set high, richly plumed and carried in a gay curl over the back when moving (not to be penalised for dropping tail when standing).

GAIT/MOVEMENT  Quick moving, straight, free, positive.

COAT  Top coat silky in texture, smooth on face and front of legs, of moderate length on body, but lying rather flat. Undercoat fine and dense. Ears and forelegs niceley featherd, tail and buttocks well furnished with longer hair. Not overcoated, bitches tend to carry less coat and mane than dogs.

COLOURS  All colours and mixture of colours permissable.

SIZE  height about 25.4cm (10 in) Ideal weight 4.1 to 6.8 kg (9-15lb)

FAULTS  Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

NOTE  Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles descended into the scrotum.


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HEALTH click here for the Health page

The Tibetan Spaniel is a generally a healthy and long lived breed, often requiring a minimum of fuss and veterinary attention.