The Lhasa Apso origin in not fully known since many believe they were a distinct breed around 800 A.D. wile others claim they are even more ancient (dating back to 800 B.C). Studies claim they are one of the 14 oldest domesticated dog breeds! What we do know is that they come from the small country of Tibet in central Asia. The terrain of Tibet is harsh and rugged, yet beautiful-- alternating mountains and valleys create extreme climates that range from sweltering hot to freezing cold. These "bearded lion dogs", as their original name implies, must be hardy and fierce to have thrived in such conditions.
These dogs were primarily guardians. Lhasa Apso history includes guarding of monasteries and homes as well as livestock. They are said to have lived mainly on the interior of these building and alerted the monks or residents to any signs of approaching people or animals. The breed was so revered they are believed to be part of the reincarnation process of Buddhists; also, they are often associated with the Tibetan Snow Lion mythology that was thought to protect the people from the mountains.
Lhasa Apso dogs could not be bought-- they were precious gifts. As such, they didn't make a well known appearance in the West until the 1900s when some military men brought them back to England. The Lhasa Terrier (as it was then referred) arrived in America in 1933 when the 13th Dalai Lama gifted a pair to C. Suydam Cutting. Although they were recognized as terriers by the AKC as early as 1935, the group was officially changed to the non sporting group in 1959.