by Daniel Taylor

First published in American Tibetan Mastiff Association Newsletter, April 1979

Thumdru (pronounced Tum-dru) is a black, long-haired Tibetan Mastiff. The English translation of his name is "child of bear". His home, until mid-October 1977, was north of Lake Manasawar in Tibet. Since then, his home is on the top of Spruce Knob Mountain in Cherry Grove, West Virginia. Thumdru is important because he is male. A female long-haired Tibetan Mastiff (black and tan) lives with Melvyn Goldstein in Cleveland, Ohio. Together they are the only two long-haired Tibetan Mastiffs in the western world. Both are exceptionally fine specimens of their breed.

Thumdru is the non-medical consequence of a medical expedition to northwestern Nepal. This expedition was organized by the Woodlands Institute of Cherry Grove, West Virginia. The expedition's double purposes were to provide medical education for a group of U.S. physicians and to conduct a health survey of the most remote area of Nepal for His Majesty's Government of Nepal. While a day's trek south of the Tibetan border, the expedition learned from nomads of Thumdru's existence three days' trek away in Tibet.

Negotiation for Thumdru proceeded and finally was concluded. The exchange was made for one corduroy shirt, a sturdy pair of trekking pants plus 300 rupees. Costs were just beginning: eventually, almost $600 was needed to ship Thumdru to the United States.

The dog that arrived from Tibet was vicious. True to the Tibetan Mastiff reputation, he at first let no one near him. He took a couple of severe bites of expedition members. He cowered on his tether and could be approached only with food. He permitted no one to touch him.

Very quickly, Thumdru lost this fierce temperament. He had been starved and beaten into it. At the time he came from Tibet, he weighed 23 pounds. Ravenously, he ate almost anything put in front of him. Hand feeding him by expedition members proved to be the way to get him to tolerate their presence. Particularly effective tidbits to encourage friendliness proved to be tsampa (toasted barley flour), cheeses of any sort, and peanut butter. With these items, he began to leave behind his mean ways.

Within a week, Thumdru did not snap even when being groomed, although he remained sensitive about his face for almost a month. Rapidly, he developed almost an insatiable appetite for being handled. During this period, he developed a recognition of expedition members, both American and Nepali; these were the only people toward whom he acted friendly. With villagers, he remained hostile.

Thumdru walked 120 miles from his home in Tibet to the airstrip in Simikot, Nepal. From there, he flew to Kathmandu, spent three days, and then flew directly to the United States. Sixteen days after leaving Tibet, he was in the U.S. Clearly, he suffered from confusion. Many new things confronted him. More than ever, he needed handling. His appetite continued. Three weeks after leaving Tibet, he weighed 50 pounds. Finally, ribs that had virtually no meat on them began to fill out. With this, Thumdru put on a growth spurt: Eight weeks after leaving Tibet and nine months old*, he weighed 70 pounds.

Thumdru's temperament is now of utmost friendliness. People who meet him comment spontaneously on his gentle manner and are amazed to hear of former hostility. Dogs who meet him find that to their suspicious snarls Thumdru never snaps back, but only continues to bound around. His thick coat protects him from their snaps, so he considers this a game. As is true for any pup of his age, he is full of energy and needs exercise.

Visually, Thumdru's appearance is delightful and his carriage is comic. In his playfulness, he often acts silly. His markings are solid black with a white spot on his chest. In Tibet these are considered optimal, since they are identical to the Himalayan Black Bear and thus forewarn ferocity. Thumdru's bearing and stance are excellent, possessing all the features described by Melvyn Goldstein as characteristic of the breed.

Considering that no effort was made to train Thumdru until now, he learns quickly. The training regimen, however, permits no punishment and few negative aspects. When spanked, Thumdru cowers, and on occasion has psychologically withdrawn into the old fear-filled world he lived in when in Tibet. When this withdrawal occurs, it takes days of patient loving to bring him back from this world of fear.

The long-haired mastiffs in particular, and the other Tibetan breeds in general, are greatly threatened in present-day Tibet. Breeding lines are becoming contaminated. In immigrating to this country and in helping to continue his breed, Thumdru is making a big step both for himself and for lovers of the Tibetan Mastiff. Having proven itself throughout history as a very protective and capable watchdog, we are now learning that the long-haired Tibetan Mastiff is also one of the best-looking and happiest of the larger dog breeds.

*Note: The opening paragraph in the ATMA Newsletter contains this disclaimer published by the President of ATMA, Ann Rohrer: "The following is an article sent to us by Daniel Taylor-Ide on the long-haired Tibetan Mastiff. There is no certainty that this particular variety of dog is in fact a variation of the Tibetan Mastiff breed (as is true among dachshunds who have a long-haired variety) or whether this represents a distinct breed."

At the time this article was originally written, very little was known about the large, long-haired dogs from Tibet. Since then, it has been established that Thumdru was not a long-haired, or bearded Tibetan Mastiff at all: he and others like him are actually a distinct breed of their own. There are 49 Tibetan KyiApsos, as they are now correctly named, living in the United States. With the advantage of having eight imports (total) along with eight litters of puppies on the ground to watch grow and develop, it is also believed that Thumdru was not a puppy when brought out of Tibet but actually three to four years old.

THUMDRU––The Long-Haired Immigre
THUMDRU––The Final Years (Part 1)
THUMDRU––The Final Years (Part 2)
THUMDRU––The Final Years (Part 3)
THUMDRU––The Final Years (Part 4)