This small American dog, with Maltese and Tibetan roots, is the ideal companion dog. The Kyi-Leo is easy to live with, gets along with young and old alike, and makes an outstanding life companion for the whole family, without any adaptation problems. The Kyi-Leo is still not well known by the general public despite all his qualities.

Height 23 to 28 cm
Weight 4 to 6 kg
Life expectancy 13 to 15 years
Home country United States (US)

Quick Overview of the Kyi-Leo


  • Calm and obedient
  • Self-confident
  • Very playful temperament
  • Patient and docile


  • Very solid frame
  • Lively and alert appearance
  • Head totally covered with hair
  • Tail carried on the back when in action


  • Generally healthy
  • Patellar luxation sometimes observed
  • Diet to be monitored

Temperament of the Kyi-Leo

The Kyi-Leo is a calm, confident little dog that doesn't get angry very easily. With a playful character, he loves to show off and have fun with other dogs.

Without being aggressive, he remains however very suspicious of strangers. He is nevertheless courageous and takes his role as guard dog very seriously.

His hearing is excellent and he is always ready to react to the slightest noise. He is a very alert little dog.

Compatible with all family situations, this dog loves his owner and his family. He likes human contact, but can stay alone for long hours without causing any problems in the house.

Even though he has a coat that protects him from the cold, he is a small indoor dog that loves the comfort of home. The Kyi-Leo still needs a minimum of daily exercise to be happy. In order to keep his shape and health, a daily walk is essential.

Breed Appearance

kyi leo

This pretty little canine specimen is very similar to his counterpart, the Shih Tzu, which also has Tibetan ancestors.

He has the same characteristics in terms of body shape, size and hair, with the only differences being the muzzle and eyes.

He has very strong bones for his size and a lively, alert appearance.

This small dog has a fast and agile gait.


Between 23 and 28 cm (9.06 to 11.02 inches) for the male
Between 23 and 28 cm (9.06 to 11.02 inches) for the female


Between 4 and 6 kg (8.82 to 13.23 pounds) for the male
Between 4 and 6 kg (8.82 to 13.23 pounds) for the female


The color of his coat is usually black and white, but it can also be a combination of gold and white.


The coat is generally long and silky. It is made of nice long, thick hair that grows evenly on the dog's tail and face.

The Kyi-Leo's coat can take up to 4 years to reach his final adult shape. Once mature, his hair has a nice length.


The adult Kyi-Leo weighs approximately 4 to 6 kg (9 to 13 pounds), regardless of gender.

His head is completely covered with long hair. His eyes are dark, and his ears are covered with long hair. His pretty little nose is black and he has a corkscrew tail.

According to the FCI breeds nomenclature, this breed belongs to group , section and is #

Health of the Kyi-Leo

Generally in good health, the Kyi-Leo rarely gets ill. But some precautions can be necessary with some specimens.

His small size is the cause of a delicate backbone and very thin legs. A patellar luxation is sometimes observed if he is forced to jump or subject to overly aggressive physical handling.

It is necessary to watch his diet because he is predisposed to overweight and pancreatitis.

In his case, certain types of food should be avoided. The best choice of food for this small dog is one with a good source of protein.

The coat of this superb small canine, thanks to its thickness and Tibetan pedigree ancestry, allows him to withstand colder climates. During winter walks, he does not need a coat to protect him.

The Kyi-Leo has a very good life expectancy that can range between 13 and 15 years.


His beautiful long and silky coat requires a good regular combing to keep it shiny and healthy. The daily use of comb and brush prevents tangled hair and allows the dog to keep his beautiful and identifiable appearance.

An occasional small cut is necessary but mowing is never essential. Apart from regular combing and brushing, the Kyi-Leo requires minimal maintenance.

History of this breed

This funny small dog is still unrecognized by many official dog federations.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay in the state of California in the United States, this friendly little American dog was born in the 1950s from an accidental cross between a Lhasa Apso and a Maltese.

This involuntary crossbreeding attracted the attention of several people, including Harriet Linn, who acquired many specimens of the breed between 1965 and 1969.

As of 1972, the breed became so popular that breeders and owners decided to get together to officially regularize it.

It was at the time that he was given his real name. His ancestors being partly Tibetan, half of his name came from his ancestral country, Kyi meaning dog in Tibetan.

The second half, which comes from the Maltese (or Maltese Lion Dog), was then given, Leo meaning lion in Latin.

Since then, the breed has gradually spread to the United States. The Kyi-Leo has recently been accepted by the American Rare Breed Association as an official and legitimate breed.

The Kyi-Leo is an adorable little companion dog, and although he is a bit surprising due to his small size, he also makes an excellent guard dog.

There are certain Kyi-Leo celebrities, such as the two puppies that Mariah Carey received as a gift when she was in Tokyo during a world tour. They currently reside in Brooklyn, New York City, at the home of the famous singer.

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