The indigenous population of large Tibetan guard dogs has a relatively diverse native variety embedded throughout the territory, and a well-defined type which has been standardised by most Tibetans.


Tibet has a canine population which is fairly vast given its relatively limited gene pool, the nature of which has never really been understood by foreign observers, even though it has been the subject of debate since the 19th century. The ambiguous two-part name Tibetan Mastiff, coined in England in the 19th century and subsequently used indiscriminately to identify any guard dog from all quarters of the country, in and outside of its historic borders, has helped to fuel this misunderstanding considerably.  The inaccurate term for the Tibetan expression do khyi (literally ‘tied dog’ so generically guard dog), resulting from an incorrect interpretation that circulated in 1937, became a premise that was never questioned, similar to other misunderstandings and errors.

This persistent and ingrained misunderstanding is essentially the result of not examining the historic documentation available or consulting the indigenous population, relying instead on individual leanings and, in more recent times, so-called Chinese experts whose ethnicity was not Tibetan. In reality these experts understood the nature of Tibetan dogs even less than Western observers and were, among other things, key players in dividing the so-called Tibetan Mastiff breed into non-existent geographical sub-varieties. To some extent this legitimised the model presuming that any large dog seen in Tibet, viewed basically as a geographical area and not as a strictly ethnic region, was the same breed. The importance of dominant ethnicity in continuity of dog type, especially where morphological selection is affected by multi-level factors that include deep-rooted religious beliefs, is a completely foreign concept to anyone interested in writing about the subject. 

The incomprehension and standardisation of Tibetan dogs, the creation of local varieties and the search for a better type based on supposed empirical aesthetics, has encouraged widespread cross-breeding among breeders, or favoured types that influence observers by alluding to more primitive features due to phenotypic traits that are completely foreign to the motives behind traditional Tibetan selection. 

Our initial research followed this mainly phenomenalistic approach, which can be summarised as the concept of an ideal dog but with an indistinguishable profile. Only the gradual awareness of the inherent prejudice in the cultural legacy that was passed down caused us to stop, shifting the target of our travels from Tibet to the dusty archives of various Western capitals. The outcome of the research will be explored in depth within the context of the BDTS, but it can be summarised as a solely apparent diversification of dogs in Tibet, because this itself has a significantly narrow scope. Understanding the existence of one reference model in the ethnic Tibetan region which does not concern the entire geographical Tibetan area, also led to identifying the precise location where this dominant form was mainly concentrated until the first half of the last century, but where it is no longer present today. Added to this is a place that is completely extraneous to the locations of non-existent geographical varieties invented by one Chinese author, subsequently reiterated in the country’s paraliterature and amplified by the echo of the unbridled digital misinformation that encompasses and afflicts these ancient dog breeds.

The recurring idea of a landrace i.e. a type of canine that transpires semi-spontaneously as a result of sexual isolation, does not apply to dogs of Tibetan ethnicity because they were subjected to significant selection pressures, at least in the period between the emergence of Buddhism in Tibet in the 7th century and the first half of the 20th century. Up until that point, the relative variability of indigenous guard dogs was mainly due to hybridity, in some cases involuntary, given that the country had a sizeable population of stray dogs and travelling packs, but more often it was specifically targeted at achieving a single variety.

The Tibetan ethnic group, however much it prevailed, never constituted the sole inhabitants of Tibetan territories. There were other populations in the peripheral regions of historic Tibet, both in the West and Northeast, who bred fairly large guard dogs without the constraints generally set by traditional Tibetan selection. In this case the use of the term landrace, or native variety, seems proportionate in the main. The landrace embedded throughout Tibetan territory probably has origins prior to the breed which has been standardised and pursued by most Tibetans.  The relationship between the two macro groups, which have never really been separate, is probably ancestral. The presence of other types of dogs in the area, in the form of current varieties and ‘ghost populations’, makes the reality somewhat intricate however. 

For these reasons, although simplified considerably for this context but to be examined further with the help of documentary sources, choosing imported specimens has begun to regard native Tibetan guard dogs, and the characteristics which are common to them, and helps maintain a crucial focus on the Tibetan breed in itself. Especially given that our aim is to explore the nature of these animals rather than realise breeding ambitions.




A young alpha female

A very young, physically primitive specimen, born and living freely, has developed remarkable survival and self-care skills. a young alpha female It may well seem

Reproduction in 2022

After resuming activities in 2021, we also felt it appropriate to proceed with preserving the genetic heritage of some specimens in our organisation in 2022,