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FCI Changes Tibetan Breeds’ Country of Origin to China
By Dog World-UK
Posted in: Dog World UK, Learn!, News Bites, Right Now!
Enthusiasts of the Tibetan breeds say they are outraged that the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) has changed their country of origin from Tibet to China.
And more trouble is brewing after it became known that a proposal is on the table to alter their country of patronage/development from the UK to China.
The change of the country of origin was agreed unanimously by the FCI’s General Committee in March – although this has only just come to light – following a request from the Chinese Kennel Union (CKU). This affects the Tibetan Mastiff, Tibetan Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu.
The proposal regarding the breeds’ development affects the Tibetan Spaniel, Tibetan Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu and Chow Chow, despite the fact that there is a general acceptance that China has played no part in developing and patronising the breeds in the show ring or establishing breed Standards.
Aficionados have called the moves ‘high-handed’, nonsensical and ‘a total betrayal of Tibet’.
In the midst of the hubbub FCI president Rafael de Santiago issued a statement on the organisation’s website saying: “Always attentive to the opinion of the breeders worldwide, we took note of the uproar concerning the attribution of the 2019 World Dog Show to China and to the decision regarding the country of origin of (these breeds),” he said.
“While we understand the concern expressed by the breeders worldwide about both situations, the FCI wishes to inform that the decision to grant the organisation of the World Show 2019 to China was taken by a decision of our General Assembly where 68 countries were present or represented and by a large majority of votes, in total transparency and according to the principles of democracy internationally recognised and accepted.
“That decision was made on the basis of a very open and complete presentation made by our Chinese member, CKU, during which (the Chinese) delegation clearly mentioned the cultural differences between China and most of the other countries in the world. The FCI sees it as an excellent opportunity to raise awareness among the Chinese population that the dog, our beloved friend, is a member of our families, a living entity and most of all man’s best friend.
“May we add that China won the right to organise this World Show over several other countries, namely Spain, Germany and Croatia, in a clear victory.
“In addition, we find it important to clarify that (the) CKU is an FCI full member. As such, it has the right to ask to be the country of origin of the breeds indicated above.
“It is important to know that any change in a breed Standard can be implemented worldwide if, and only if, the FCI General Committee, following recommendations of the FCI Standards and Scientific Commissions, approves it.
“Nowadays, the FCI is more than ever committed to the betterment and safeguard of the dog and to promoting its welfare, love and respect in the four corners of the world.”
In light of the announcement, supporters of the Tibetan breeds are hoping to form an international group through which to make their feelings known.
“The idea would be that all the breed clubs affected in each country unite by sending a letter to their kennel club expressing the concerns they have on the recent changes,” said organiser Yvonne Cannon.
“The FCI very clearly stated ‘contacts would be established between the FCI and its members – the relevant kennel club for each country – and not with the breeders and exhibitors.
The FCI’s decision has come as a ‘huge shock’ to Tibetan Terrier enthusiasts.
“We are asking for senior representatives of Tibetan breed clubs, be it a chairperson or secretary, to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Soffia Kristin Kwaszeno at email@example.com if they are interested in such a group and we can forward our proposal.”
An online petition has been launched saying: ‘We, owners of the breed, do not agree with the decision. Our Tibetan breeds have a history from Tibet, they are developed in Tibet and just because China took Tibet our breeds are not changing their country of origin to China’.
The Kennel Club said it was concerned to hear what had happened.
“Without knowing the full background to the changes we would assume that this is perhaps a matter simply of geographical status and therefore should not present any issues,” said General Committee member Frank Kane. “However, we remain cautious of the situation.
“What is obviously of great concern is the suggestion that the country of development for these breeds may be reconsidered. We would strongly resist such a change because the facts are clear – these breeds were developed in the UK by UK breeders and this should not be altered.”
Pat Tempest, chairman of the Tibetan Terrier Association, said her breed should be respected by the FCI which, she said, was acting in a ‘high-handed’ fashion.
“The first I heard of this was on Facebook and I actually thought it must have been a joke or a misunderstanding,” she said. “Unfortunately it wasn’t.
“I find it extremely difficult to find any justification to change the country of origin except for political reasons. It certainly has nothing to do with the improvement of the canine world. Historical records show that the Tibetan Terrier has remained unchanged for over 2,000 years having been evolved from dogs bred at one remote monastery in the Lost Valley of Tibet.
“All Tibetan Terriers were swiftly removed to remote monasteries for safe keeping when the Chinese invaded and overran Lhasa in the early 18th century.
“We are a breed that evolved in Tibet and our structure and breed characteristics are such as was required to survive in such a harsh environment. We are a breed steeped in history which should be respected by the FCI. And what next? The report of the FCI meeting records that future consideration will be given to change the patronage of several breeds from Great Britain to China. As far as I am aware there is a very small population of Tibetan Terriers in China. Who has the experience there to control the breed Standard and to ensure that the breed remains as true as possible to its origins?
“Great Britain has by far the biggest Tibetan Terrier population and the greatest number of people with knowledge and expertise to see that the breed stays true to type and origin. It was in 1934 that the first British Standard for the Tibetan Terrier was written. Since then it has remained fairly intact with some modifications to aid clarity and understanding.
“I hope that with the backing and support of the UK Kennel Club a steering group/committee can be established to protect the breeds under attack from this high-handed and unnecessary development from FCI. We cannot sit back and allow this to happen.”
DW’s Tibetan Terrier breed note writer Vita Davies called the move ‘a huge shock’.
“This implies that the Tibetan Terrier could no longer be called the Tibetan but the Chinese Terrier,” she said. “This would not be the first time that there has been a change of name since the very early days when they were called Lhasa Terriers, and would certainly be a huge shock to the Tibetan Terrier-owning public without any consideration for the views of them, with no invitation to comment on these changes.
“Many Tibetan Terrier followers in this country have given decades of loyalty to and for the development of the Tibetan Terrier, Surely consultation should have taken place with major breed clubs, and with the Kennel Club.
“The history of the Tibetan Terrier is inexorably linked with the part of eastern Asia called Tibet.
“Changing the country of patronage/development from Great Britain to China seems of more serious contention. Tibetan Terriers were first imported into this country in 1934 and have been caringly bred and developed here over the last 80 years It is now one of the most popular breeds in the country, which leads the world in detecting their general defects and analysis through DNA testing. Therefore patronage should definitely stay with this country.”
DOG WORLD columnist Mike Tempest said Tibetan Terrier fans worldwide were up in arms and called it ‘a total betrayal of Tibet’. This is because our much-treasured natural breed from Tibet has been given away by FCI to China,” he said.
“How do owners and breeders throughout the world fancy a change of the name of the breed to Chinese Terrier. Flippant? Don’t rule it out! Do you think that when the World Show is held in China that the Chinese are going to schedule a breed with Tibet in its name?
“The next target for China is apparently for it to be described as the country of patronage and development of the Tibetan breeds. The political interference with the correct country of origin of our breed, and other breeds, when these breeds have an enormous cultural heritage, just stinks.
“In my view this is a total betrayal of Tibet by the FCI. I even question whether the FCI has any authority to do this; certainly the country of patronage/development is accepted by FCI as being the UK. History tells us that China had nothing to do with the patronage or development of our breed – that was down to Dr Greig bringing them from Tibet to the UK, and their patronage and development is entirely British. Indeed this is recognised by FCI in the UK breed Standard which is given on the FCI website.
“The FCI should have had nothing to do with this when these breeds are of British patronage. It’s like the FCI giving one of our breeds away when it has no right to do so. We should be asking our KC to intervene and do something to protect our ‘British’ Tibetan breeds from this stealth.”
DW’s Tibetan Mastiff breed note writer Jeff Springham also called the FCI’s decision high-handed.
“There has been for some time now a move afoot, in certain quarters, to promote a heavier, more molossoid type of Tibetan Mastiff which is alien to the original purpose of this particular breed,” he said.
“It had been rumoured that the FCI was due to split the breed into Tibetan and Chinese Tibetan – or some similar distinction. As we stand this does not appear to be the case, and one can only think that the population explosion of the heavy, immobile, short-legged ‘market type’ in China resulting from well documented crossbreeding with many varied breeds in order to add incorrect bone, size, flew and dewlap to what is essentially a mountain dog looks likely to be the reasons behind this decision, which would appear to be both political and economic.
“How will this affect the breed in the UK? I would like to say very little but, unfortunately, I have no way of knowing until we see what the CKU decides to do with their patronage of the FCI Standard. It should be noted that the patronage of this standard, Do-Khyi 230, has been with the FCI for many years now.
“Although we have come a very long way in the last few years the gene pool for the Tibetan Mastiff in the UK is far from large enough and, naturally, many UK breeders are looking to Europe for suitable stud dogs and puppies to enhance their breeding programmes. Currently, the majority of the Tibetan Mastiffs one encounters in Europe look very much like those you find in the UK, however the spread of the ‘market type’ is ongoing. Should the CKU decide to change the Standard to reflect their perceived preference rather than produce two separate Standards, UK breeders will have to spend much more time and effort when sourcing potential new bloodlines, although many, including myself, do not necessarily see this as a bad thing.”
DW’s Lhasa Apso breed note writer Pauline Torrance wondered whether the UK Kennel Club would champion the cause.
“I understand that in international law there is now no country of Tibet as it is an automatous region of China,” she said. “But having travelled to Tibet, our Lhasa Apsos are definitely Tibetan, having evolved over many years to cope with high altitude and diverse weather conditions.
“When in Tibet we saw, perhaps, one purebred Lhasa, and we also heard some. We saw many Tibetan Mastiffs, and when I asked our guide why we didn’t see any Lhasa Apsos in Lhasa he told us they were kept by the Tibetan nobility and these people no longer existed in Tibet.
“I understand that the next step is to change the country of patronage/development from Great Britain to China. At present all FCI countries judge the Lhasa Apso to the British Standard and therefore there is a reasonable amount of uniformity in the breed across the world. However, if China changes our breed Standard will the rest of the world have to follow that one? This would mean that as we are not governed by the FCI but by the KC we could be different. The Honourable Mrs Bailey, Lady Freda Valentine and a small band of people worked hard to bring these small dogs to Britain from Tibet in the 1930s – can we stand by and say nothing while the FCI and China at one meeting change all this? Will the next thing be a change in the name of our breed and the Tibetan Spaniel, Tibetan Terrier and Tibetan Mastiff for FCI countries, and will Britain keep the current names?
“There are so many questions yet unanswered… will the KC champion these breeds and write to the FCI?”
Tibetan Spaniel breeder and exhibitor, DW columnist and breed note writer Jane Lilley said fans of her breed spoke as one when they said it did not originate in China.
“Why is a Tibetan Spaniel described as such? Simply because it is a type of dog originating from nowhere other than Tibet!” she said. “There is no written or recorded history of Tibet before the seventh century, the origin of the breed is – and probably always will be – shrouded in deep oriental mystery.
“However, it is a fact that their ownership was always highly prized in ancient times, perhaps especially because of their similarity to the lion, this being of particular significance in the Buddhist religion, with Tibet becoming a Buddhist country in the seventh century, the lion, symbolising the power of the peaceful Lord Buddha over aggression and violence.
“Buddha had trained a lion to walk to heel like a faithful dog and, thus, it was easy to identify the small dogs who trotted along with the Tibetan Lamas with the symbolic lion of Buddha.
“Just to emphasise the point, Marco Polo, who spent much time with Kublai Khan, in fact likened the lions in the latter’s Imperial Menagerie to the ‘little golden coated nimble dogs, which were commonly bred by the (Tibetan) people themselves in their homes’, as he had seen during his travels.
“It then became the custom to present these ‘little lions’ to favoured guests and to those in other monasteries in Tibet, the custom growing as these dogs became more and more highly valued, to being sent as special gifts to the palaces of China and other Buddhist countries.
“These Tibetan dogs then became included as part of the annual tributes paid to the emperors of China by successive ruling dynasties at Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, and treasured as pets at the oriental courts.”
“It is thought that through giving them as precious gifts, the paying of tributes and thence via the Caravan Silk Routes from China to Europe, the Tibetan Spaniel became the original ancestor of many of today’s breeds such as the Pekingese and Japanese Chin, and may well account for the numbers of these type of dogs in Spain, Portugal and the South of France to name but a few.
“Just to quote a small, relevant postscript from Wikipedia, ‘The Tibetan Spaniel is a breed of assertive, small, intelligent dogs originating over 2,500 years ago in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet’, with the statement that they are also known as Simkhyi, ‘which means house dog, room dog or even bedroom dog. They are the dogs of highest order being kept as Lama dogs or with aristocrats’.”
Bridget Croucher, secretary of the Tibetan Spaniel Association, said she had ‘never heard such nonsense’.
“The Tibetan Spaniel came from Tibet and therefore that is the country of origin,” she said. “Just because China now thinks it owns Tibet doesn’t make any difference.
“As far as we are concerned it is a Tibetan breed and always will be.”
Chow Chow breeder and exhibitor Sheila Jakeman added her views.
“Within the Chow world it is well known that the Standard for the breed was drawn up in 1895 by the first committee of the Chow Chow Club,” she said. “We have, though, always declared the origin of the breed to be China.
“With regard to patronage/development it is clear that we were probably responsible for the continuation of the breed and its development into the examples we see here today. Those in North America are also linked to the original exports from the UK as are many throughout Europe, but not exclusively, of course.”