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A kyi-leo dog

The Kyi-Leo (pronounced "ki" as in "kite") is a small yet sturdy rare dog breed originating from the crossing of a Maltese and a Lhasa Apso. It is also known as a Maltese Lion dog, and is often confused with the Lhasa Apso-Maltese hybrids or Lhatese. While the Kyi-Leo is officially classified as a particular breed or brand,[1] the Lhatese remains a hybrid to cover mixes of the two other breeds.[2]


It was first introduced in the 1950s in the San Francisco Bay area by the accidental crossing of a Maltese and a Lhasa Apso, which caught the attention of several individuals. The most notable was Mrs. Harriet Linn, who acquired several of these dogs in 1965 and later acquired several more from the San Jose kennel in 1969; from then on she began to seriously breed them. In 1972 there was enough interest among owners and breeders to come together and formally recognize this breed. It was at this meeting that they formally decided on calling it a Kyi-Leo. The name comes from the Tibetan and Latin languages. “Kyi” is the Tibetan word for dog; this acknowledges the Lhasa Apso breed which first came from Tibet. “Leo” is the Latin word for Lion; this acknowledges the Maltese which is also known as the “Maltese Lion dog”. Since then the Kyi-Leo breed has slowly spread throughout the United States, and has recently become accepted by the American Rare Breed Association as a legitimate breed.



The Kyi-Leo reaches 8-12 inches in height and 9-14 pounds in weight. It has a long silky coat, most commonly black and white but sometimes gold and white, which tends to grow to long lengths (never quite reaching past the floor) if tended properly. Its hair also grows on its face and tail. It has small yet delicate legs that are prone to damage if dropped, but the Kyi-Leo can be very agile and quick. The Kyi-Leo has notable similarities, in body size, shape, and hair, to the Shih Tzu dog breed though the eyes are more human set rather than bulging and they do not have the short-snout face.

A variation of the kyi-leo's coloring


The Kyi-Leo is generally calm, obedient, quiet, and difficult to provoke. It is usually very playful and active around trusted humans or animals, but tends to stay cautious and alert around strangers. Its acute hearing makes it a decent watchdog. It ideally lives in indoor settings and can be very patient when left alone for long hours at a time.


  • Because of its small size, the Kyi-Leo has delicate legs and a delicate spine. A slipped patella or back pains, due to a lot of jumping or aggressive handling, are notable among Kyi-Leos.
  • Because of its thick hair and Tibetan ancestry, the Kyi-Leo adapts best to colder climates.
  • Food intake is also an issue, as the Kyi-Leo can easily become overweight due to its small frame.
  • The intake of human food, especially meat, is generally discouraged for the Kyi-Leo since its stomach cannot easily handle it. Kyi-Leos have been prone to pancreatitis, noticeable by excessive vomiting and a tender abdomen, which greatly limits the types of food they can eat. Most generic dog-food with a good source of protein is the best choice for Kyi-Leos.
  • The average lifespan of a Kyi-Leo is 13 to 15 years.[3]

Notable dogs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kyi-Leo(R) Dog Breed Information and Pictures". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Lhatese Dog Breed Information and Pictures". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  3. ^ Welton, Michele (2000). Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide (second ed.). New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-8050-6445-2. Retrieved April 22, 2011.

Other sources[edit]

  • "Dog Day Afternoon Helps Poor Pooches." Times - Picayune. New Orleans. 30 Mar 2000: C1.
  • Green, Randy. "Filas and Tatras: Check Out These Rare Breeds." Seattle Times 29 Jun 1997: H5.
  • Hunt, Karyn. "Dog breeders bare their canines over standards. // PETS:Two owners of the Kyi-Leo breed, a mix of Maltese and Lhasa apso, are at odds over its qualifications." Orange County Register. 23 Nov 1997: A11.

External links[edit]