The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-size breed of dog that originated in Himalayan country of Tibet, an isolated region north of India (now claimed by China). Despite its name, it is not a member of the terrier group. The breed was given its English name by European travelers due to its resemblance to known terrier breeds. The Tibetan name for the breed, Tsang Apso, roughly translates to "shaggy or bearded ("apso") dog, from the province of Tsang". Some old travelers' accounts refer to the dog as Dokhi Apso or "outdoor" Apso, indicating a shaggy or bearded working dog which lives outdoors.
The history of the Tibetan Terrier dates back thousands of years. Tibetan Terriers were kept as good luck charms, mascots, watchdogs, herding dogs, and companions. They were also used to retrieve articles that fell down mountain sides.
Also known as the "Holy Dogs of Tibet," Tibetan Terriers were never sold, only given as gifts by monks to promote good fortune. As such, the early history of the breed is linked to only a handful of foundation dogs. Recent DNA analysis has concluded that the Tibetan Terrier is descended from the most ancient dog breeds.
Due in part to Tibet's geographical isolation, Tibetan Terriers were kept purebred for over 2000 years. Monks and families referred to the ancient breed as "the little people", for they were highly valued as companions who were eager to assist in protecting properties and flocks. Since the dog was considered a bringer of luck, mistreating or selling a Tibetan Terrier was believed to cause bad luck to both family and village alike.
Dr. A.R.H. Greig of England brought the first Tibetan Terrier to Europe in 1922. She was given a gold and white female puppy named "Bunti" after successfully performing an operation on a patient in Tibet. After acquiring a second male, "Rajah," Dr. Greig established a kennel and began to breed them.
The first litter was born in 1924 and were registered as Lhasa Terriers. In 1930, the Kennel Club of India changed the breed's name to Tibetan Terrier. The first Tibetan Terriers in the US were imported in 1956 by Dr. Henry and Mrs. Alice Murphy of Great Falls, Virginia. In 1973, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed, classifying it as part of the non-sporting group.