Fellow blog reader, Don Messerschmidt’s book about Tibetan dogs recently launched and we wanted to share the news!

A century and a half ago Tibetan mastiffs were first imported into England, and only three decades ago to North America. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution these remarkable high-altitude livestock guardian dogs were nearly annihilated, but they have recovered and are now (surprisingly) in high demand, some for very high prices among the nouveau riche of modern China. Today, thousands of these dogs are found around the world, promoted by many breeders, raised as pets, guardians, and faithful companions. Some have scored high marks at international dog shows. Interest in Tibetan mastiffs and related dogs—their history, breeding, temperament, function, and future—has never been as high.

This is a book of discovery of the exotic and relatively rare breeds of big dogs from Tibet and the Himalayas: the Tibetan mastiff (best known), the rare KyiApso (the ‘bearded’ or ‘shaggy’ Tibetan mastiff), the Himalayan mountain dog, and the least known Sha-kyi (Tibetan hunting dog).

Where do Tibetan mastiffs come from? What is their function? What did the early explorers to Tibet say about them? What do they look like? Are they as ferocious as often described? Why is there so much popular interest in this exotic breed today? What is their future? And, are they, in fact, true mastiffs? This book addresses these questions, and more. It relates stories about them from Tibet, the Himalayas and the West. It also follows the author’s own discovery of the big dogs in the high yak pastures along Nepal’s northern border, in north India, and across Tibet. Meet Amjo from Helambu, Kalu (an international champion) of Kathmandu, and Bhalu his son in Canada.

Research on Tibetan dogs is contentious. Marco Polo wrote about them in the 13th century but did he ever see one? Did he go to Tibet? And is the translation of his description of dogs “as big as donkeys” accurate or mere hyperbole? This book challenges some of the conventional wisdom about the big dogs with evidence showing how some big dog fanciers have gotten it wrong. It questions the notion that there were gigantic dogs in the past, an idea that has inspired some modern breeders to create enormous critters, mistakenly evoking a mythical past. It also discusses the relationship of shaggy KyiApsos to Tibetan mastiffs.

  • Seven chapters, illustrated; with five appendices.
  • Personal accounts of big Tibetan/Himalayan dogs by the author and others.
  • Assiduously researched, including some little known and remarkable descriptions by early explorers, mountaineers, missionaries, diplomats, and spies.
  • An important study that all big dog owners will want to read and own.

“I’ve just completed a wonderful morning reading through your canine charivari… It’s a cracking book. It is patently both a labour of love and a work of exhaustive scholarship. You’ve done a magnificent job.”

—Charles Allen, author of popular historical books on Tibet, the Himalayas and South Asia

“You do know that the s**t is going to hit the fan when you publish, right? You’re going to tick off a lot of people!! Personally, I think that could be a good thing for the breed if it gets some folks thinking…”

—A Tibetan dog breeder (anonymous)

“The history-lovers version of Marley and Me, Messerschmidt’s memoir [is] an enjoyable dog romp through the Himalayas.”

Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk (writer)

“Reading these pages, one wonders at times what sort of strange fetish Messerschmidt must have to pursue creatures that clearly want no part of him other than his leg in their mouths.”

from a review at peacecorpsworldwide.org/pc-writers/


DON MESSERSCHMIDT, author and anth­ro­polo­gist, is a Himal­ayan specialist and an authority on Tibet­an mastiffs (TMs) from the ‘Roof of the World’. He has spent over four decades study­ing them in their natural setting and their places of origin (and has scars to show for it). Dr Messer­schmidt has raised, trained, shown, bred and photo­graphed Tibetan mastiffs. His long­time companion TM, the Inter­national Champion Saipal Baron of Emo­dus (aka ‘Kalu’), is well known in the blood lines of many fine TMs in North  America and Europe.


Don’s writings about Tibetan dogs have appeared in Dog World, Range­lands and ECS Nepal magazines, and in The Himal­ayan Times and various dog club news­letters. His other writ­ings have appeared in Alaska, Summit and Himal maga­zines. Dr Messer­schmidt is an accom­plis­hed maga­zine editor, ethno­graph­er, bio­graph­er, and con­sultant on rural development projects.

Learn more about Don Messerschmidt’s Big Dogs of Tibet & the Himalayas: A Personal Journey at Orchid Books or on Facebook.