IN THE BEGINNING
Glenys Dolphin reminisces about how her mother, Thelma Moran, first got involved with the breed.
I always think it is fascinating to discover how people decide on the breed that will often become their consuming passion in life. In my mothers case it was my father's reminiscences of the little dogs he had seen in Darjeeling during his leave period from Burma during the Second World War.
To start at the beginning, I believe my grandmother and a great aunt had shown Cairn Terriers between the two wars, and my mother as a girl had quite enjoyed the experience. After the second World War she was unable to continue with her chosen career as a physiotherapist due to ill health but her active mind led her to take an interest in and then study genetics, which was then still a burgeoning science.
To put this newly acquired knowledge to practical test she embarked on breeding budgerigars and Peruvian and Abyssinian cavies, then dogs.
The first breed she tried was Poodles. in 1950s they were just becoming popular- I can remember us taking them for walks and people even in cars stopping to enquire about them. However, my mother didn't feel there was quite enough challenge in breeding these and although we had attended several local shows (and I, at the age of six, had been bitten by the show bug ) it was clearly evident that she wanted to give vent to her talents in another breed.
In the early 50s she bought her first Shih Tzu (or Tibetan Lion Dog) Although Teano of Wyndtoi was too small to show seriously, and could not be bred from (for her adult weight was just 6 lb), mum was hooked on Oriental breeds and soon acquired her second Shih Tzu, Mu-Ho; and she became part of the breed history because she was third generation Peke-cross, and in her first litter produced a champion daughter and two sons whose progeny would dominate the ring for many, many years. But that is another story in another breed!
By this time mum had tracked down the breed that my father had seen in India and discovered that they were in fact Lhasa Apsos. Sadly, at this time her health was declining and after a winter when she had nearly died from pleurisy it was decided to move to North Wales where it was hoped that the fresh mountain air would prove beneficial. Thus it was that one January in the mid '50s the Morgan family, 20 cavies, 40 budgerigars,2 Shih Tzus and 4 Poodles arrived in the village of Bwlchgwyn Mum's health began to improve and so did her spirits for our new home was detached with no near neighbours and it had land! The menagerie grew to include rabbits, chickens and pedigree mice; and after a few months a dark grey and white Lhasa Apso bitch called Tara Blue Princess arrived. Mum desire to be involved with Apsos had been fulfilled.
Tara was a CONQUISTADOR of KISMET daughter; the Kismet line was mainly bred in Lancashire and considered by mum to be very important as she classified them to be a genetically long coated line.
Lhasa Apsos fascinated my mother because of the genetic challenges they posed - numerically small in numbers, they were a hardy breed but they did not always throw true bred type, producing smooth-coated and long-coated pups from long- coated parents.
In lines where smooth coats were not thrown, then quite often there were dentition problems - sometimes hardly any teeth in adults, sometimes very slow teethers with adult dentition not being complete until the dog was 2 or 3 years old, with teeth often jumbled.
Mum was however, lucky enough to acquire a foundation bitch with both teeth and coat! But because of where we lived, and the limited travel available, it was essential she buy a stud dog. To this end I remember us travelling overnight by train to London to attend the LKA championship show. Mum was to see a young dog bred by Dr Greig and her mother (Lamleh Tibetan Terriers and Ladkok Lhasa Apsos).
Unfortunately the poor little dog did not measure up to Mum's standard as he had smooth feet and a smooth muzzle! Undeterred in her quest, she contacted Mrs |Florence Dudman of the Ramblersholt prefix. Her line had beautiful heads and expressions, and good long coats, but sometimes they had problems with dentition. Mum decided this was the better route to follow as Tara's line had good dentition but tended to be undershoot.
A few weeks later, on the overnight trains from Southampton to London, London to Liverpool, and Liverpool to Wrexham, came Rablersholt Solo- he had travelled in his box in the guards van all the way and my very anxious mother was on the platform (together with me )to greet him. "Laddie" soon settled into the family and although shy and chary of strangers he was very sweet natured.
Mum studied the foundation pair of Apsos she had managed to acquired, and was pleased that although they came from different sources and bloodlines they were of a similar size and shape, both being about 10" at the withers, and cobby in balance; they had straight fronts but by today's standards they were not that well angulated in the rear quarters; they were well bodied with what she considered sufficient bone, and they had deep chests. But most importantly of all they were totally different in balance to her Shih Tzus. Their heads, in particular, were very different, being narrow in skull with very little stop, the proportions being one third nose to two thirds skull; but they didn't have big heads' Their eyes were small and oval and these combined with just a little bit of chin gave them a wonderful sweetness of expression.
It is perhaps important at this stage to point out that established breeders of both breeds of both Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apsos were not very keen on any one person breeding both breeds simultaneously- both camps' felt there was an inherent risk of cross-breeding, and as the battle of noses' had occurred a mere 20 years earlier (and that at this time both breeds had drastically reduced numbers), it was felt vital to keep both gene pools separate. Luckily, everyone quickly realised that it was the task of keeping and making these breeds totally different that intrigued my mother.
Mum spent hours studying the history and background of the two breeds- she read and talked to a great many people about the history and geography of Tibet. She also studied all the dogs of both breeds she could possibly see, and determined in her opinion where the differences lay and which could be identified, and if possible be accentuated without losing type-to hopefully be incorporated into the wording of the breed standards.
Tara Duly had her first litter of three pups (she always had 3 ). They proved to be very typy, all coated, all with full dentition, and all males! At this stage we did not need a male so she repeated the mating at the next season and this time she was rewarded with a bitch in the trio of pups. GOLDEN HONEY, or "spud" as she was known in the family, proved to be (with her mother) the cornerstone of mum's line. Born a very pale gold and white, by the time she was 2 years old she had become a glorious blue and white. Small with a plump body, a very good front and strong backend, she had an inquisitive temperament, and an ear-piercing bark! Her coat was a wonderful texture-luxuriant, it grew and grew - but it had a wave in it (not a crimp, a definite wave.) She had a definite undershot mouth with six teeth in a straight line, and when she was happy she dropped her bottom lip to smile at you! She also had a funny tail which had a tight twist in it caused by a very obvious kink in the vertebrae (this was known as the Tibetan kink!)
Around this time I can remember arriving home from school to find a special visitor with his dog. It was Dr Davies, a member of the Everest team of 1953, who had brought his lhasa Apso bitch whom he had bred from his import from Nepal (this in turn having been bred by Sherpa Tensing Norgay) to be mated to Laddie. Sadly, this little bitch was completely smooth-it was the first one I had ever seen and I stared with fascination- it resembled a coarse Tibetan Spaniel and had a sweet, shy temperament. Mum had a difficult task of explaining to this handsome, charming man that really it wouldn't be a wise idea to breed from this little bitch (especially when it transpired that the whole litter had been smooths, and by the sound of it possibly the dam!)