How do you pick between a Lhasa and a Shih Tzu?!
Well, from a distance these two breeds are very hard to tell apart – however, you’re more likely to confuse a Havanese with a Shih Tzu than the Lhasa – despite them being from completely different continents. However, today’s Fun Fact Friday is all about the two Tibetan breeds!
Both come from Asia and have a shared bloodline. And as to why they are usually confused, the Lhasa is a parent breed to the Shih Tzu! Lhasa Apsos (which are named after Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, keep that stored away in your memory for the next pub quiz!) are an ancient breed with their history dating back to 800 A.D., and were eventually bred several hundred years later with more toy like dogs such as the Pekingese to achieve the smaller, and more suited to companion life breed – the Shih Tzu. This means that they do have very similar shape, coat, outline, grooming requirement and temperament, however the Shih Tzu is somewhat diluted with a more family oriented personality from its other ancestors.
Both of these long haired breeds have dense double coats – however the Lhasa’s heavier locks are flat, straight and tend to be parted in the centre. This was to suit their lifestyles up in the harsher climate, colder atmosphere and higher altitudes of the Tibetan monasteries. In contrast, the Shih Tzu’s coat is more flowy, and is prone to some curls and waves. Their coat colours are quite variable and can be anything between gold and white, black, black and tan, red, white, or cream, but the Shih Tzu can be any of those colours PLUS brindle and white, silver and white, blue and white …well, you get the picture!
Among the show rings, an easy way to tell them apart is that Shih Tzus usually sport a rather adorable top knot on their head to keep their hair out of their eyes, and the Lhasas are usually groomed with twin pigtails!
The Lhasa is also slighter larger, about one to two inches bigger than the Shih Tzu. They are adapted well to extreme conditions, with a robust body, which houses considerable lung capacity for taking in as much oxygen up in the thinner air as they could, and a longer muzzle to help warm up the cold air in the high altitudes. Their almond eyes were likely an adaptation to restrict the light let into their pupils as they were navigating the bright, white, snow capped Himalayan mountains.
These dogs have amazing hearing capabilities too, they were able to alert the Dalai Lamas to any intruders or threats and were often accompanied by buddies helping them to defend their home! Tibetan Terriers and Tibetan Mastiffs were usually part of their family unit providing protection up in the mountain temples! This job did pave the way for the Lhasa to have a bit more of a wary disposition towards strangers, but that did not stop them from being a very sacred and cherished breed. According to the Buddhist religion, a dog comes right before a human in the reincarnation process, and the souls of the lamas/priests were frequently reborn as Lhasa Apsos just before their human life! They were also often given as gifts, and considered a sign of good fortune which was why the Dalai Lama once gave the Emperor of China a selection of his dogs!
The Shih Tzu, was developed by the very same Chinese royalty in the 16th century and were fondly referred to as “Lion Dogs” which is the translation for the breed’s name! Tang Dynasty era art depicts Shih Tzu like dogs as early as 618-907 A.D. They have much wider craniums than the Lhasa, and much larger and rounder eyes. Their temperament based on the Pekingese’s fondness for their humans is less reserved than the Lhasa, and more oriented around their family – out of the two breeds, these are the ones you would most likely find on your lap or warming your bed! But that has not stopped the modern Lhasa from abandoning their role as guardian, and being just as frequently caught snuggling up to their humans