Forget sports cars, designer clothes and fancy apartments. An ancient breed of dog has nuzzled its way into the running to be the next big status symbol for China's rich.
An 11-month-old Tibetan mastiff male puppy has gained the title of the world's most expensive dog after being bought for 10 million yuan (NZ$2.1 million), London's Daily Telegraph reported.
It was purchased for this large sum by a coal baron from the north of China who will reportedly use him as stud for other breeders, making as much as 100,000 yuan each time.
Kathryn Hay breeds Tibetan mastiffs in Tasmania and has travelled to China to visit their exclusive mastiff kennels.
Outside China these dogs attract sums of just $3000 to $12,000, but there she has seen puppies with price tags of $870,000.
"In China it is like the national symbol, everybody knows what the breed is and the history," she said.
"You can't really compare it to a dog in Australia. It is known as almost having a lion in your backyard. It really is the ultimate symbol that you've made it."
Because of their rarity, Tibetan mastiffs are exported all around the world. Ms Hay has shipped three dogs from Europe to Australia and has also sold puppies to people in Singapore, the US and New Zealand.
She says dogs from the top Chinese breeders are highly prized because they are seen as more prestigious.
"Some of the dogs I saw in China just took my breath away," she says. "They looked really raw; when you're a Tibetan purist you can see the origins of the dog."
A large dog, the Tibetan mastiffs can weigh more than 60 kilograms and live for 10 to 14 years. ms Hay says they are good for people with allergies as they shed their coat only once a year.
Regarded as one of the world's oldest breeds, Tibetan mastiffs were traditionally used for guard duties. Genghis Khan is believed to have kept them.
These guardianship traits still exist in the breed today, Ms Hay says.
"You've got a very untouched, unspoilt breed," she says.
"They can be great pets but you have to be a strong owner because they're not overly domesticated."
The good news for potential owners is that, despite their size, Ms Hay reports they don't eat too much. They might be good protectors, but they are also fond of lazing around.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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