An ancient canine breed called the Tibetan Mastiff has become a status symbol among the affluent of China, and a puppy recently sold for a record-breaking $2 million. The golden-haired dog measuring 31 inches tall was purchased by a property developer from Qingdao.
Purebred Tibetan Mastiffs are sought after in their rarity, as the majority of existing bloodlines have been bred too closely, which produces unhealthy dogs with stunted lifespans. According to the dog's breeder Zhang Gengyun, “pure Tibetan mastiffs are very rare, just like our nationally treasured pandas, so the prices are so high."
An old, hearty breed, the Tibetan Mastiff genetically diverged from the wolf roughly 58,000 years ago, while most other canine breeds began to split roughly 42,000 years ago.
Below are some Tibetan Mastiffs as they exist in their natural habitat of the taiga:
Breeders differentiate between two types of Tibetan Mastiff, the Do-khyi and the Tsang-khyi. The Tsang-khyi (which,means "dog from Tsang" in Tibetan) is classified as the "monastery" type, being generally taller, heavier and bigger boned, with more facial wrinkling than the Do-khyi, or "nomad" type. Both types often come from the same litter, though the monastic types are more rare. The dogs can weigh 100-150 pounds, though the largest specimens are generally considered to be obese.
Another reason the purebred variety is difficult to produce is due to the fact that the Tibetan Mastiff is one of very few domesticated dogs that retains a single estrus per year, like most wild canids, instead of two. Most Tibetan Mastiff puppies are born between December and January, as the breed's estrus usually takes place during late fall,
The Tibetan Mastiff is equipped to confront predators as large as wolves or leopards, and aren't typically suited for apartment living. Potential owners should have a yard. The breed also does well with other dog companions, though is said to be sheepish around new human visitors.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.