Tibetan Terrier history dates back some 2,000 years. The breed is one of those rare ones that, due to a number of circumstances, is believed to be as pure as the driven snow. While the name correctly states the region where the dog was kept, Tibet, the "Terrier" part is incorrect; these dogs are not Terriers. They were thought to be Terriers by Westerners who first saw the dogs in the very late 19th century.
There may be a great amount of privately held accounts of these dogs, but as the dogs were kept in monasteries in an isolated area north of India high up in the Himalaya Mountains, there is very little history available. What is known was brought back by early modern Western adventurers. These dogs were highly prized by the lamas who kept them. There have been DNA tests that prove the Tibetan Terrier is descended from the most ancient dogs, and that they were responsible for a great many other breeds such as the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Spaniel, and Shih Tzu.
As these dogs were able to perform many tasks, they were and are known by many names: Holy Dogs of Tibet, Little People, and Luck Bringers. Tibetan Terriers would walk across the backs of sheep in narrow mountain passes, retrieve items that had fallen down steep cliff sides, and help watch over and guard the flocks and property of monasteries. They were never sold, but they were occasionally given as gifts to people. One of those people, an English surgeon named Dr. A.R.H. Grieg, was given a female Tibetan Terrier named Bunti in 1922. She later got a second one, a male named Rajah, and with these two she had foundation stock in the Western world. By 1924, she had a litter on her hands, and they were formally called Lhasa Terriers. Six years later, in 1930, the breed's name was changed (by the Kennel Club of India) to Tibetan Terrier.
Some years later, in 1956, a couple named Dr. Henry and Alice Murphy imported some of the dogs to the U.S. and founded Kalai Kennels. In 1957, Alice Murphy helped to establish the Tibetan Terrier Club of America. By 1963, the breed was being allowed to participate in AKC shows. A decade later, in 1973, the AKC formally recognized the Tibetan Terrier.