A History of the Tibetan Mastiff in the United Kingdom
The history of the breed in the UK goes well back into the 19th century, in fact to a time when discovery of other lands was occupying the time and resources of many an English gentleman. One area which was proving fascinating to British naturalists was the Himalayan region. It was during this period that the first of the TMs reached our shores. Two were sent as a gift to King William the Fourth in 1834. Not being particularly interested in animals, the King sent these dogs to live at the Royal menagerie at the Tower of London. Here they were put on show to the general public.
At about this time the new Zoological Gardens in London's Regent's Park were being stocked and the animals in the Menagerie were either sent to the Zoo or shipped off to new homes elsewhere. It is not known what happened to the two TMs there but, intriguingly, some of the animals were bought by an American showman and shipped to New York. Since there is no evidence that the TMs were sent to the Zoo, maybe they were among the animals shipped to the US?
These dogs were called Tibetan Mastiffs and thus appear to have been the first dogs of the breed called by that name.
In 1847, Lord Hardinge, the Governor General of India, sent a very fine specimen of a TM to Queen Victoria. This dog, called Bhout, seems to have become a favourite of the Queen but little more is known about him.
At this time, the famous naturalist, Joseph Dalton Hooker was exploring northern India, including spending time in Sikkim, from where, it is possible that originally he sent the dog to Lord Hardinge.
In 1875 there is a record of a TM being shown by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward the Seventh) at the Crystal Palace Dog Show. This could not have been by the Prince himself as he was in India at that time. It is not known where this dog came from but in 1876, following that visit to India by the Prince, one of the best known TMs was seen in this country and at dog shows. This dog was 'Siring' acknowledged as a great example of the breed and beloved by his royal owner. There was also another dog, about which little is known. It is quite likely that these dogs were offered in Tribute to the Prince of Wales, son of the by then, Empress of India, Queen Victoria.
Although nothing is known with any degree of certainty, the next TMs to be seen in this country were imported by a livestock dealer named Jamrach in the 1890s. At about this time, the Emperor of Germany was given a TM which dog might also have come from the same dealer. A litter of puppies was born in Berlin Zoo at roughly this time.These dogs were not regarded as very typical, presumably by comparing them with Siring, who was. Even so, one was shown in 1895. It is likely that one of these dogs ended his days at the home of a Mr H.C.Brookes. Dsamu, as the dog was known, died in 1907 at about 14 years of age. He was 24” tall and weighed 100lbs.
Following the Younghusband Expedition to Tibet in 1904/05 a number of dogs were sent, or brought back, to England. The most well known of these was Bhotean, imported by a Major Dougall. He had been acquired in Lhasa and was said to be the finest example of the breed ever to have left Tibet. He enjoyed a successful show career and took a First Prize at the Crystal Palace Show in 1906 where he was judged to be the finest foreign dog. This same Major Dougall also is said to have exhibited another TM, called Lhassa, at the Birmingham National Show in 1905.
In 1906 following another visit to India, the King, Edward VII, was given another TM. There is a well known photo of this dog after it had been shorn of all its coat whilst in the Red Sea and suffering from the heat. The dog was sent to live in the Zoo but died shortly thereafter.
We are grateful to Wendy Connett for the following information: there was a litter of four puppies being kept at London Zoo in 1912. A Mr Will Halley seems later to have aquired one of these puppies, but it was savage with everyone except him.
In 1928 Colonel and Mrs Bailey imported five TMs into England. The best of these was Tomtru who was a village dog. Another was Rakpa who was later sent to the Edinburgh Zoo and yet another was Gyandru who also later lived in Edinburgh. In 1932 Mrs Bailey returned to Kashmir and their dogs were sent to London Zoo (actually Whipsnade) to be cared for by a Mr Bates. Here they were bred although Tomtru was by then, an old dog and died shortly afterwards.
The first litter to be born was to Rakpa and Gyandru. Other litters followed, one in 1933 producing the well known Tonya. The dogs bred at the Zoo often went on to become well known at dog shows and many times won high awards.
Few dogs were imported at that time but one, Gyamdruk was imported by Col. Duncan and became immortalised as “Tomu from Tibet.” He was mated to Tonya and they produced a litter of eight puppies.
A number of litters were born to the dogs living in England in the 1930s and litters continued to be bred by Mr Bates until the 1940s. The Second World War and trouble in Tibet had meant that no new imports came here and in the early 1950s Mr Bates decided that he would no longer breed from the dogs living at Whipsnade Zoo. No one else was breeding TMs by then either, and by 1957 all known TMs in the UK had died out.
It was not until 1982 that TMs were once again seen in the UK. Two had died in quarantine and two had remained here for a while after undergoing quarantine on their way to Australia. These dogs - Ausables Tudorhill Dalai and one called Ausables Tudorhill Lama, were bred by the Nashes in the US – Dalai was shown at LKA in 1982 , winning Best Unclassified and a place in the Group and thus qualified for Crufts in 1983.
Mrs Pauline Brigden later imported two bitches in whelp to the same dog, into the UK from the USA. The two bitches were the famous Ausables Apache Ann and Ausables Black Magic: again both bred by the Nashes, the sire was Angmo Rajkumari von Chattang, otherwise known as “The Dutchman”. Apache Ann whelped her litter in November 1982 and Black Magic in January 1983. There were eleven puppies in total but only four of them went on to make their mark on the resumed history of the breed in this country. These four – Qassaba Ausables Gyapon (Anna); Qassaba Ausables Malenki (Rupert); Qassaba Ausables Krishna (Toes) and Qassaba Ausable Rakpa (Rio) can be found in the majority of pedigrees of dogs bred in the UK since 1982, along with the names of three of the four TMs imported from France in 1985 from the well known Tour Chandos kennel. These dogs, Althan, (Major) Assam (Kaneeka) and Akbar (Barni) de la Tour Chandos all played an immensely important role in the revival of the breed here.
Two of Black Magic's puppies were exported to Australia, but one of them (the dog) was injured during the journey and was put to sleep on arrival.
Another import to make her mark was Migoe, who was from Nepal. Migoe and Barni together made a very strong impact on the breed.
Judicious breeding, using combinations of these dogs and later imports, has resulted in the re-establishment of the breed in this country.