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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tibetan Mastiff 藏獒

Tibetan Mastiff's Tibetan name is Tsang Khyi (large mastiff variety) and Do-khyi (generic for the mountain type) meaning 'tied dog', reflects its use as a home guard, much as the old English ban-dog (also meaning tied dog) was a dog tied outside the home as a guardian. 'Bhote Kukur' in Nepali means Tibetan Dog. In Mandarin Chinese, the name is 藏獒 (Zang'Ao), which literally means Tibetan Mastiff or Tibetan big ferocious dog. In Mongolia it is called "bankhar", meaning "guard dog". The molosser type with which the modern Tibetan Mastiff breed is linked was known across the ancient world by many names.

Tibetan Mastiff descended from very early large Tibetan dogs from which many of today's Molossuses are descended. The first known record of a Tibetan mastiff was in 1121 BC, when a dog trained for hunting was given to a Chinese emperor. Marco Polo encountered the large Tibetan dogs in his travels and described them as "tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion." They were used as guard dogs outside the sacred city of Lhasa. In the early 19th century, King George IV owned a pair, and there were enough of the breed in England in 1906 to be shown at the 1906 Crystal Palace show. However, during the war years, the breed lost favor and focus and nearly died out in England. Gaining in popularity worldwide, there are more and more active breeders, although the breed is still considered somewhat uncommon. Initially the breed suffered because of the limited genepool from the original stock, but today's reputable breeders work hard at reducing the genetic problems through selective breeding and the international exchange of new bloodlines.

The Tibetan Mastiff is among the largest breeds. It is found in a heavier mastiff "Tsang Khyi" type and a more moderately sized mountain "Dokhyi" type. Its sturdy bone structure and large, wide head and profuse mane and coat make it appear considerably more massive than other dogs of a similar height. It can reach heights up to 31+ inches (80+cm) at the withers, although the standard for the breed is typically in the 25 to 28 inch (61 to 72 cm) range. History records the largest of the breed weighing over 110 kg but dogs bred in the West are more typically between 100lb (45kg) to 160lb (72kg). The Tibetan Mastiff is considered a primitive breed and is one of the few primitive dog breeds that can retain a single oestrus per year instead of two in a native climate. This characteristic is still found in more primitive canids species like wolf. Since their oestrus usually takes place during late fall, most Tibetan Mastiff puppies are born between December and January.

Like all flock guardian breeds, they are intelligent and stubborn to a fault, so obedience training is recommended (although only mildly successful) since this is a strong-willed, powerful breed. Socialization is also critical with this breed because of their reserved nature with strangers and guarding instincts. They are excellent family dogs.Newspaper reports have suggested that a pair of these Mastiffs have killed tigers while guarding sheep in the highlands of Nepal.

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