Tibetan mastiff puppy sells for £1.2 million

'Lion-like' breed is status symbol in China

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CHINA-DOG-OFFBEAT

It's not unusual for dog owners to claim that their pooch is worth a million pounds. But one Chinese property developer can point to a receipt to prove it.

According to local media, the man paid £1.2 million for a gold-maned Tibetan mastiff puppy, making it the most expensive dog ever sold. Just one year old, the puppy is said to weigh 90kg and stand 81cm tall.



Tibetan mastiffs have a striking appearance. Gold, red or brown in colour, they can approach three feet in height and have a showy mane. Last year, indeed, a Chinese zoo was caught out trying to pass off a member of the breed as a lion.

The dogs are high-status animals in China. "They have lion's blood and are top-of-the-range mastiff studs," the puppy's breeder, Zhang Gengyun, told the Qianjiang Evening News. Originally bred for hunting, they are said to be intelligent but stubborn and need consistent discipline. Their nocturnal habits mean they're widely used as guard dogs in Tibet.

"They're not a dog for everyone. These dogs think for themselves, they're very clever and very family oriented. We always have somebody in the house - they need company," says British breeder Jimmy Parry. "They're not aggressive, but they bark when anyone comes - a ninja wouldn't get past one."

The buyer of the record-breaking puppy is reported to be planning to breed from it, and could easily make £1,000 a time.

The puppy sold yesterday isn't the first to command an eye-watering price: one red-coloured Tibetan mastiff sold for a reported £971,000 in 2011. "Pure Tibetan mastiffs are very rare, just like our nationally treasured pandas, so the prices are so high," says Zhang.

However, all may not be as it seems. Breeders have been accused of engaging in fake sales between themselves in an effort to drive up prices. Advertisements are frequently Photoshopped, and buyers report taking animals home only to discover the use of hair dye and even extensions.

Elsewhere, Tibetan mastiffs can be welcomed into the family rather more cheaply, with puppies costing between £900 and £1,200. Parry says this is because the two countries have different standards on appearance.

"Ours aren't supposed to have jowls, and if you look at one in Tibet, they look like ours," he says. "China seems to have different standards; it's just what the super-rich want to be seen with."