Prapsos and Shavenese
By Michelle Burke, © 2001


Years ago, I became involved in the breeding of Lhasa Apsos. Prior to this, I worked for several years as a veterinary assistant, which provided a sound knowledge of the whelping process, animal husbandry and the recommended care and treatment of a bitch during pregnancy and whelp. My knowledge of genetics was limited, although my husband (now ex) did have an adequate grasp of this subject, mostly gained from previous experience as a breeder of St. Bernard's. So, in some respects, I was an inexperienced breeder and in others, better qualified than many beginners.

Initially, I had no problems. My first bitch, Azu, produced a fine litter of healthy pups, although all four pups presented breech. However, other than necessitating assistance at delivery, this was not a problem. We simply made sure that the pups did not remain in the feet first position at birth, since mom seemed not to realize she was enthusiastically cleaning the "non breathing" end of the pups.

In a second litter, Azu produced 3 females and 2 males. They all appeared healthy and were thriving. At about 5 ½ weeks, I began to notice that one male had a coat that was different in texture and was not lengthening like the coats of the other pups. Initially, I just thought he was a slow poke and would develop a normal coat as time passed. By 8 weeks, however, it was clear this might not occur. My little Lhasa boy, whose dam was a perfectly beautiful bitch and whose sire was a finished champion, looked essentially like a cute beagle. (No offense to beagles! I think they are adorable. They do not look like Lhasa's however.)

All five pups had families waiting. I was very concerned about whether or not anyone would love and accept this "special" pup. He was a sweet, charming, energetic puppy, full of puppy kisses, but certainly was not looking like the typical Lhasa puppy-furball with a face like a chrysanthemum.

Finally, a week before the pups were scheduled to go to their forever homes, I contacted one of my prospective families and explained the problem. These folks were friends of my parents, and as it turned out, were delighted to have less grooming to do. I was so happy to find a loving home for this little guy, I charged them only 1/3 the normal price. Everyone was happy.

As far as I am aware he never had any dispositional problems, health problems or aggressive tendencies, and I'm sure I would have heard if he had. Recently, I tried to contact them to see if this pup is still living. Unfortunately, they have moved out of state and my parents have lost touch with them. However, I do know of two littermates, in addition to the female I kept from this litter, that are still alive and well at 13!

At the time all of this took place my husband and I had never heard of this phenomenon. We tried to talk to several other breeders about it and were treated terribly. I ended up feeling like my bitch had leprosy and I was headed straight to hell for breeding her. It was very disheartening. I had Azu spayed, and subsequently quit breeding. Her daughter Geisha, which I kept and still have, was also spayed. Sadly, the owner of the stud repeatedly told people that "he knew" the entire problem rested with my bitch. I could see no way to disprove his allegations.

I wish the internet had existed then. Four years ago, when I began surfing the web, one of the first things I stumbled on (looking at dog related web sites of course) was a page describing a so-called "Prapso." There wasn't much information, but at least I finally knew there were others who had produced shorthaired Lhasa Apsos.

Last year, I lost my beloved best friend, Azu, to congestive heart failure at age 15. Just months before Azu crossed the bridge, I became aware of the Havanese breed. Having no desire to try and "replace" Azu, I decided on a Havanese as the new member of my family. I also joined a Havanese email list with over 500 Havanese owners and breeders. Through this list, I became aware of a breeder whose recent litter of Havanese had produced one "short-haired" pup, which some call a "Shavanese."

This breeder openly acknowledged the pup, and displayed his picture on the internet. Immediately, there were individuals who jumped in to criticize her and question her breeding practices. I applaud her for coming forward with honesty and forthright information. We need more breeders like this!

To my mind, those who attacked this breeder are showing the same type of shortsighted ignorance some Lhasa breeders displayed 13 years ago. The greed of the puppymillers and pet stores is not the only obstacle we face in our effort to eliminate hereditary problems in our breeds.

Hopefully, with the excellent open registries which now exist for many of our known breed health problems, and the wonderful ability we have to share information worldwide via the internet, we can proceed with more confidence down the path to producing sound, healthy dogs. This will not take place, however, if problems are kept hidden and breeders are reviled for being honest and openly sharing their "special" kids.

Not everyone is critical and negative about the shorthairs. Some go so far as to suggest including them as a breed variety. This is going to the opposite extreme, when we need to stay in the middle ground. I do not support the idea that the standards of either the Havanese or Lhasa should be altered to include the shorthairs. But hiding them and shaming breeders whose bitches produce them is not the answer either.

Years ago, when Prapsos first appeared, if open discussion had taken place, we might have successfully eliminated them from the breeding stock. We are now blessed with the Internet. If we all work together to promote the open dissemination of information, eventually this spirit of cooperation, combined with the wonderful progress being made in genetic and DNA research, will significantly improve the health and longevity of our beloved animal friends.

I dearly hope we can someday put an end to the heartbreak of watching our wonderful pets become blind, displastic or even die long before their lives would normally end, due to problems passed down from generation to generation. Their future is in our hands.


Permission to publish this article was granted by Michelle Burke


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