A Chinese dog breeder said Thursday that a property developer paid him 18 million yuan ($3 million) for Tibetan mastifftwins, highlighting how the breed has become a status symbol for China's rich.
The large, slobbery dog with massive amounts of hair used to be best known for herding sheep in Tibet, but has now become a luxury for the ultra-rich who want to spread their wealth beyond stocks and real estate.
Breeder Zhang Gengyun said he sold the 1-year-old twin male dogs to a single buyer at a luxury dog fair Tuesday in wealthy Zhejiang province, located on China's east coast. The sales were reported by the local Qianjiang Evening News.
One of the twins — a golden-haired Tibetan mastiff — was sold for $12 million yuan, and his red-haired brother went for $6 million yuan.
Zhang said the buyer, from eastern Shandong province, paid him the 18 million yuan with his credit card.
Zhang denied the sale was a ploy by breeders to hype the price of Tibetan mastiffs and said he was reluctant to sell the twins. "It's a real deal," he said.
The more expensive golden-haired dog was 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) tall and weighed 90 kilograms (200 pounds).
"His hair is bright and he has a dead-drop gorgeous face," said the breeder. "Usually he's quiet and gentle, but when a stranger shows up, he could bark endlessly and bite."
Zhang said the unnamed buyer might start breeding Tibetan mastiffs himself.
"The Tibetan mastiff is as treasured in China as the giant panda, so people consider it a symbol of higher social status," he said.
Liu Na, organizer of a Tibetan mastiff fair in Beijing, said the average price for one of the dogs is several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The price tag usually depends on the breeder's expectations, the buyer's appreciation of the dog and the bargaining between the two, she said.
"It's just like deals done when buying antiques," Liu said. "But it isn't uncommon for a breeder to hype a price in order to raise his profile in the industry, just like a celebrity can inflate his or her appearance fee."