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History of the Tibetan Mastiff: Defender of Ancient Monasteries

The history of the Tibetan Mastiff is extensive. About 5000–6000 years ago, in the highlands of Tibet, China, these enormous dogs first appeared. At that time, the Tibetan Mastiff could defeat lions and tigers due to its exceptional strength and violent personality.
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But don’t be duped by this friendly group: Tibet’s huge guard dog has been around for thousands of years, and its only purpose has been to defend the family, flock, herd, and house (or tent). While some members of the species may be as amiable as the four members of Feltenstein’s pack, the breed as a whole is renowned for being distant and fiercely protective. In reality, the spectacular Pasha, the fifth TM in Feltenstein’s residence, was restrained when I was there. According to Feltenstein, “not all TMs will be cordial to outsiders, and not all will accept a stranger inside their house.”

One of the Most Ancient Dogs

Tibet remained unknown to outsiders until the early 1800s, and few Westerners were permitted to see its isolated magnificence. Similarly, nothing was known about the canines in the nation. Although there are no reliable genetic records for the breed, many people believe it to be the original stock from which the majority of today’s huge working breeds evolved. Since they were chained at the entrances of the residences and temples they guarded, the TM is known in Tibet as the Do-Kyi, which translates to “tied dog.”

A huge dog was present in China approximately 1100 B.C., according to early writings. The TM is believed to have developed into the animal that is so highly valued by the people of the high Himalayan Mountains and plains of Central Asia over the following centuries as a result of the TM remaining uninfluenced by Western breeds due to Tibet’s isolation (and later because of its borders being closed to the Western world).

Since the beginning of time, Tibetan nomads have been breeding Tibetan Mastiffs, which they have entrusted to senior lamas to defend Tibet’s important monasteries. Buddhists in Tibet believe Tibetan Mastiffs contain the souls of nuns and monks who did not enter the celestial paradise of Shambhala. Many experts believe Tibetan Mastiffs to be the fundamental stock from which the majority of contemporary big working breeds have evolved, including all mastiff or Molosser breeds and all mountain dog breeds.

The Traveling Tibetan Mastiff

They were recorded by authors like Marco Polo in the thirteenth century, who stated that they were as huge as a miniature donkey, and dazzled Western visitors to Tibet with their good looks and dedication to preserving their family and property. A “big dog from Tibet” with the name of “Siring” was given to Queen Victoria by the Viceroy of India. The “big dog from Tibet” was given the name “Tibetan Mastiff” for the first time in The Kennel Club’s initial categorization.

The missionary and explorer Robert Ekvall spoke on the link between TMs and the nomadic pastoralists of ages before in his article “The Role of the Dog in Tibetan Nomadic Society”:

“[The dogs] serve to provide solitude and social distance in circumstances when both are thought to be necessary. … No tent is without at least two [dogs], and rich or powerful folks may have twenty or more. The Tibetan nomads’ dogs play a part in establishing and maintaining widespread, fluctuating danger zones around the tents and across the whole encampment. Their most distinguishing feature is a very loud baying bark that sounds more like a foghorn than any other animal’s cries.

The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) imported two more in 1874, and they were shown at the Alexandra Palace Show in December 1875. The Hon. Colonel and Mrs. Bailey brought four TMs into the country in 1928 that they had acquired when the colonel was a political officer in Nepal and Tibet. The Tibetan Breeds Association was founded by Mrs. Bailey in 1931, and the Kennel Club later approved the first breed standard. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale used it as well (FCI).

TMs in the U.S.

Nobody knows when the first Tibetan Mastiff arrived in the country, but the first importation to be recorded took place in 1958 when the Nepalese foreign ministry delivered a pair to President Eisenhower as a gift. Given that they were meant to be Tibetan Terriers, they must have created quite a stir within the White House. According to rumors, they were transported to a farm in the Midwest and vanished without a trace..

Ann Rohrer, who founded the American Tibetan Mastiff Association, was employed by the American government in Nepal’s capital city of Katmandu in 1966. Her longstanding passion with Tibetan breeds led her to give TM Jumla’s Kalu of Jumla a home. More TMs were brought into the USA from Nepal and India starting around 1970. These few foundation dogs and Kalu were bred by devoted fanciers all around the nation. The 1990s saw a focus on extending options to enhance breed type without compromising health or structure as well as importing new breeding stock.

Tibetan Mastiffs Today

As a guard dog by nature, the Tibetan Mastiff has developed a tight bond with humans through the years, giving the canine an almost supernatural awareness of people. According to Allen, “They connect to humans in a way that other breeds do not.” They are so likable and possess such strong bonds.

A temperament of controlled strength, initiative, and fearlessness, tempered with patience, loyalty, and kindness, has been formed through generations of working as a guardian of yak and sheep, demanding always a protector and not a murderer. According to Feltenstein, “They are not dogs who will hunt someone down.” “All they want is for you to go. They put up this amazing show, you leave, and they just go back asleep.

The Tibetan Mastiff is still employed as a guard dog in Tibet today. It may be fastened to the doors of a monastery or house or staked in the middle of a nomad camp. The Tibetan Mastiff was not used in Tibet to protect cattle and is not fit for such a role. Tibetan Mastiffs originated in a region of Tibet called the Chang Tang Plateau, which has an average elevation of 16,000 feet, and have evolved through thousands of years to be able to tolerate very cold weather, high heights, and snow. This breed does not thrive in hot, muggy weather.

Michael Hogan

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