Although the Tibetan Mastiff has made a number of fleeting appearances to the United Kingdom since the early/mid eighteen hundreds the most recent influx began in the early 1980’s. That said the efforts of those committed enough to source and import dogs prior to this deserve our thanks and merit more than passing comment.
A number of Tibetan Mastiffs were imported to the UK by Colonel and the Hon Mrs Bailey in the twenties who were already well known by those in Tibetan breed and this, along with their social standing, undoubtedly helped the TM in the Great Britain. There are varying accounts of these dogs so I am grateful to Eric Holliday and Peter Rees Jones for their help in extracting the information from those accounts. The Baileys imported four TMs in 1929, these dogs lived with the Baileys until they returned to Kashmir in 1932.At this point these dogs, two dogs and two bitches, were placed with Mr Philip Bates, a Curator, at Whipsnade in 1932. The names of the bitches were, Shekar Gyandru (Black and Tan) and Gyapon (red). The dogs were called Tomtru (Black and Tan) and Shekar Rakpa (decribed as red brown). Tomtru seems to have been generally regarded as the best specimen but only lived at the Zoo for a short time before passing away. According to records 49 pups were born to various combinations of these dogs, and their progeny, over a period of 23 years and during that period two new dogs were also imported. It should be noted that, then as now, many TMs were named after the previous dogs the new owners had admired so repetition of names is common – and confusing!Shekar Rapka and Shekar Gyandru produced a puppy named Gyapon which was born on 2nd February 1932.Rakpa and Gyapon produced a litter on 28th December 1932. Three of these were registered at the KC namely, Shekar Jomo, Turoni of Gurkha and Kundeling. Rapka and Gyandru produced their next litter on 5th February 1935. One pup was the famous Tonya and the other was called Tengyeling. Tonya grew to 26 inches, is described as a lovely tawny gold colour and was apparently well behaved off the lead. I think it is fair to say that Tonya and Tomtru are probably the first historical photographs most people see of the Tibetan Mastiff – they were certainly my introduction to the breed before meeting one “in the fur”.Rakpa and Gyapon produced the last litter recorded from the Bailey's imports on 1st January 1934. Four dogs and three bitches were born and five registered with the KC. The dogs were named Dhomna and Pasang, the bitches Lal Mayo of Gurkha, Muru and Empress.A dog called Gyamdruk - of Tomu from Tibet' fame was imported in 1936 and whilst he was in quarantine he was mated to Tonya and Muru. The Gyamdruk/Tonya mating produced eight puppies born on the 28th December 1936. From this litter came the well known Bru, a Black and Tan male who, it is recorded, grew to be 30 inches and weigh 130lbs. The other dogs were called Wakka-Chu, Lhassa, Merna and Tashi Gyandru.Tonya and Bru - who you will have noted were mother and son - produced several more litters. One born on 28th December 1938 produced four dog puppies but none were registered with the KC. On 13th December 1938 another litter of five puppies was born to Tonya and Bru. Three of these were registered at the KC. Bru and Empress produced a litter on 8th January 1938 but only two dogs are known about.Tonya and Bru produced their next litter on 20th December 1940 consisting of six puppies. On the 28th January 1942 Tonya and Bru produced a litter and on the 28th December 1942 another litter from Tonya and Bru was registered at the KC. On 25th December 1944 (Christmas Day litters are nothing new) a litter was born to two progeny of Tonya and Bru and on the 3rd December 1945 the last recorded litter of TMs was born in the UK. A number of dogs were still alive into the 1950's but with the situation in Tibet making importing almost impossible coupled with the size of the available gene pool Mr Bates decided not to breed those in his care at Whipsnade Zoo and by 1957/1958 none were left in the UK.Fast forward to the 1980’s and two Tibetan Mastiffs did make a brief, but notable, appearance on our shores once more. Two dogs spent some time here en-route to Australia namely Ausables Tudorhill Dalai (Dog) and Ausables Tudorhill Lama (Bitch). Dalai was shown at the Ladies Kennel Association Championship Show in 1982 and awarded Best unclassified. In 1981 Mrs Pauline Brigden suffered a terrible misfortune when two TM imports died in quarantine and one can only imagine how heartbreaking this must have been. A short time later, as many of you will know, two more bitches were imported to the UK by Mrs Brigden. Both of these bitches were in-whelp to Angmo Rajkumari von Chattang, better and possibly more famously known as “The Dutchman” and had come, once again, from the Ausables kennel in the U.S.A. These two, Ausables Apache Ann (who coincidentally was Dam to Dalai) and Ausables Black Magic whelped a number of puppies and the names that should be most familiar to those who study the pedigrees of UK bred dogs are Qassaba Ausables:- Gyapon, Malenki, Krishna and Rakpa. Several TMs were also imported from the “de la Tour Chandos” kennel in France and of these dogs, Althan, Assam and Akbar along with two imports from Nepal, Barni and Migoe should be well known to anybody involved with the TM in the UK. Delviento Tham-Che, bred by Bruce and Kathy Birks, was mated to the aforementioned Althan and produced two puppies- Chortens Cobi Lingka and Chortens Ben Sharbaz.