Friday, December 7, 2012

Tibetan Mastiff, rare vintage photos

Rare 1910 photos of Tibetan Mastiff

These priceless photos of Tibetan Mastiffs are courtesy of my friend, Kathy Hoskins.  In the early 1900s her grandfather lived in Kalgan, China, an international trade city and the chief northern gate in the Great Wall.  Located about a hundred miles northwest of what is now Beijing, it was the major entry/exit point from China through Mongolia to Russia on what was called the Tea Road.

Look closely and you can see that the dog is secured with a rope. 

The Chinese word for the breed is do-khyi, translated as home guarddoor guard or dog which may be tied.  Not actually a Mastiff, the dog is a flock guard.  They were usually tied outside the home during the day and allowed to run loose at night to protect livestock. 

In the background of the photo below, you can see an automobile, Mongolian horses (the first domesticated horse) and camels.  Where ever it is they're going, they have transportation covered.

The man standing in front of a traditional yurt has something, perhaps food, in his hand. Yum. As every dog lover knows, food is the universal and timeless treat that crosses all cultures and centuries.

The breed had already made its way to Europe as early as the mid 1800s. Queen Victoria's dog, Bout, is below.
Queen Victoria's Tibetan Mastiff, Bout.
c. 1855, by William Bambridge

An ancient breed, it was depicted in art as early as the 1600s.

Read more about the Tibetan Mastiff


  1. Mongolian shepherd dogs, not tibetan mastiff

    1. Reply to "Mongolian shepherd dogs, not Tibetan mastiff"
      I think you are correct. The location and date of the photos (Mongolia, 1910) indicate that the dogs are likely Mongolian Shepherd Dogs and not Tibetan Mastiffs. Most authorities agree that Tibetan dogs have close ancestral ties to the Mongolian dogs, however Mongolian shepherds are older and are believed to be the stem parents of the Tibetan Mastiff.

    2. I doubt either is the parent breed of the other as they are basically close variants of the same landrace of livestock guardians and much tranfer of their genes has gone on for thousands of years. You find these large livestock guardian type dogs all over much of Eurasia, particularly along ancient trade routes and good sheep grazing land. A lot of the time, the main differences in the LGD breeds are coat types and colours rather than radical bodily dimorphism. Until they are bred for looks over function for a few generations, that is.

      Our Western DoKhyi/Tibetan Mastiffs are basically a mix of this ancient landrace from around the Himalayas and even one dog from Afghanistan. They should really be called Himalayan Mutts, but for all that, you see artwork and photos of DoKhyi from over the years and even the few dogs that survived Tibet's annexation and they are strikingly alike in many cases. Sadly, the Chinese are now crossbreeding TMs out of existence and all recognition as they are a status symbol for the rich. Even in Europe and America, they are going the way of Newfoundlands and St Bernards as they are mostly family companion dogs rather than working dogs.

      The Mongolian Shepherd Dogs have not fared much better than the DoKhyi to be honest as there are very few that have not been subject to crossbreeding with GSDs and their Ovcharka cousins at the time of Mongolia's occupation by the Soviets. Sounds sad, but it's a time worn and inevitable process, just as it's for people to destroy what they are then going to mourn the passing of or try to save a version of.

    3. Thanks for a very informative comment.

  2. Ohhh NO!! that is a not Tibetan Mastiff. It is a Mongolian Shepherd dog. Publisher you are cheater or liar. Mongolia is a not part of China. It is a Independence country and not as Tibet. And don't compare Mongolian shepherd dog with Tibet Mastiff.
    Mongolian Shepherd dog is more intelligence and stronger than others, specially tibet mastiff.

  3. Mongolians know that ancient Mongolian shepherd dogs are almost destroyed. But there are few dogs keep ancient genes, therefore we are trying to remain real ancient Mongolian dogs. Is there any genetic way to differentiate pure genes from mixed blood?

    checkout this link. This dog seems very close to ancient Mongolian dog

  4. "Kalgan" is the former and slightly corrupted Mongolian name of a city with strong Mongolian roots that is situated in Hebei Province and close to Inner Mongolia (China).
    The correct Mongolian name was "Čiɣulaltu qaɣalɣa", shortened in "Qaɣalɣan".
    Now the official Chinese name of Kalgan is "Zhangjiakou".

    "Do-khyi" (Dokkhyi / Dogs Khyi) is not a Chinese name but a Tibetan one. It means literally "dog tied with a rope".
    It is an abreviation for "Gosungdokkhyi" (Sgo Srung Dogs Khyi) = The guard-dog tied at the door.
    Gokhyi / Sgo Khyi = Door Dog / Gate Dog / Entrance Dog
    Sungkhyi / Srung Khyi = Guard-Dog

    Bout, the Tibetan Mastiff offered by Lord Hardinge in 1848, was the third specimen of its breed to reach the British shores. A couple imported from Shigatse (capital of Tsang Province) was exhibited in the Regent's Park Zoo of London from 1828 to 1830.

    The artwork at the bottom of the article was realized by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione in 1747. The Tibetan Mastiff represented here had been offered to the Chinese Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799).

    1. Thanks for such in in depth description. The best part of having a blog is getting comments from people like you. Thanks for taking the time to comment.