The Kyi-Leo is the happy result of an accidental cross-breeding of a Lhasa Apso and a Maltese. A sweet-natured dog with the looks to match, Kyi-Leos make great companion pets, as suited to apartment living as they are to family houses. Excellent with kids and easy-going with other pets, they’re rapidly becoming one of the most popular types of ‘designer breeds’ around. Find out more with these ten things you didn’t know about the Kyi-Leo dog.
1. They can trace their origins to the 1950s
After an amorous Lhasa Apso met an equally passionate Maltese, the first batch of Kyi-Leo pups was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s. A breeder named Harriet Linn took a fancy to the puppies and soon began engineering more of the same. Thanks to Harriet’s efforts, the crossbreed had achieved enough popularity by the early 1970s to earn their official name. ‘Kyi’ derives from the Thai word for ‘dog’ (a nice little homage to its Lhasa Apso origins) while ‘Leo’ is the Latin name for “lion.” Since those early days, word about the Kyi-Leo has spread to other parts of the world. As a result, the little dog can now claim to be one of the most popular members of the ‘designer dog’ club.
2. They’re hypoallergenic
Kyi-Leos have long, luxurious coats with the slightest of waves. Although they shed slightly, they’re considered to be hypoallergenic, making them an excellent choice of pet for allergy sufferers who typically need to steer clear of dogs. Just be aware that while their coats might be great for allergy sufferers, their intensive maintenance needs make them a poor choice for the time-poor. Daily grooming sessions are a must if you want to avoid the dreaded matting, while regular trims should be considered par for the course.
3. They can be shy with strangers
Despite being a friendly little pooch, the Kyi-Leo has traces of the Lhasa Apso’s stubborn, suspicious streak. Even though they tend to be extremely playful and cheerful around people they know, the sight of a stranger is enough for them to put their guard up. They’re also likely to become shy and retiring if they venture into unfamiliar surroundings. Early socialization is a must to stop the problem from getting out of hand.
4. They don’t need masses of exercise
Like most small breeds, the Kyi-Leo is lively and energetic. They don’t, however, require a huge commitment when it comes to exercise. Although they need structured walks outside to keep them happy, most of their exercise needs can be met with indoor fun and games. Unlike the Maltese (a dog who notoriously hates being apart from their owner), the Kyi-Leo can handle some alone-time, making them a good choice for working families who don’t have all day to spend walking, talking, and playing with their pet.
5. They have an average lifespan of 13 -15 years
Kyi-Leos are generally healthy little dogs who can expect to live a very respectable 13 -15 years. Although they’re not as prone to medical complaints as the Maltese and Lhasa Apso, there are a few things you need to watch out for, including Luxating Patellas (also known as dislocating kneecaps, this is a common condition in small breeds); back pain and lameness (like all small breeds, Kyi-Leos are fragile and vulnerable to the effects of too much rough play and handling); and pancreatitis (Kyi-Leo’s have sensitive digestive tracts – avoid indulging them in too many fatty foods or table treats).
6. They’re tiny
You wouldn’t expect the pairing of a Lhasa Apso and a Maltese to result in a huge dog, and you’d be right. The Kyi-Leo is tiny. At birth, a Kyi-Leo puppy can fit comfortably into the palm of your hand. A fully grown, adult Kyi-Leo isn’t that much bigger, weighing in at between 8 to 14 pounds and standing 8 to 12 inches tall at the shoulder.
7. They’ve been officially recognized as a breed
While the Kyi-Leo and the Lhatese share common ancestry, there is a crucial difference between the two. The Lhatese is still considered a Lhatese even if one or both of its parents are purebred Lhasa-Apso or Maltese. Kyi-Leos, on the other hand, have become established enough to earn ‘breed’ status, meaning that only puppies born of two registered Kyi-Leo dogs are considered Kyi-Leos. As wagwalking.com writes, to date, the Kyi-Leo has achieved official breed status with the American Canine Association Inc., the American Pet Registry, Inc., the American Rare Breed Association, the Continental Kennel Club, the Dog Registry of America, Inc., the Kyi-Leo® Club, and the National Kennel Club.
8. They gain weight easily
As dogtime.com reports, Kyi-Leo dogs are prone to gaining weight, which can quickly lead to back problems and other health conditions. They should stick to a healthy, calorie-controlled diet that’s appropriate for their life stage. Snacks and treats should be restricted while finishing off any leftovers from your plate should be strictly off-limits. As calorie needs can vary by age, size, health, and activity levels, it’s always advisable to speak to a vet if you have any concerns about your pet’s diet.
9. They have a distinctive appearance
As wagwalking.com writes, the Kyi-Leo has a very distinctive appearance that makes them stand out from the crowd. Their bodies are longer than they are tall while their heads are small, rounded, and finished off with straight, medium-length muzzles. Hair around the face can grow shaggy and long incredibly quickly and needs regular trims to stop it from obscuring vision. Their round black eyes are conspicuous (some might say ‘bulging’), alert, and twinkly, while their medium length ears are pendant shaped and extremely shaggy. Like the Lhasa Apso and Maltese, their coats are long, silky, and wavy. Most Kyi-Leos are white with black patches and markings, but you won’t have to look far to find ones with apricot, brown, and even tri-color markings instead. Tails are luxuriantly feathered and curled over their backs.
10. Their name is registered as a trademark
Kyi-Leos may have started out in life as a crossbreed mutt, but they’ve come on leaps and bounds in the years since. Not only have they been officially recognized as a breed, but they’ve even had their name registered as a trademark. In 1995, the Kyi-Leo Club in Concord, CA trademarked Kyi-Leo under the description of “breeding pure-bred dogs.” So there you have it – welcome a Kyi-Leo to the family, and you’ll be investing in a brand as much as a breed.