Genghis Khan had one, legend says. So did the Buddha.
And now, the prized red Tibetan mastiff, thought to be one of the world’s oldest and most venerable breeds, has another distinction: One of the massive, fluffy dogs has become the most expensive dog ever sold.
An 11-month old pup named Big Splash (“Hong Dong” in Chinese) recently sold in the Chinese city of Qingdao for 10 million yuan — about $1.5 million in U.S. dollars.
The 3-foot-tall, 180-pound dog is one of a breed that has been around since time immemorial. Tibetan mastiffs are said to have guarded nomad camps and monasteries, and are rarely seen outside of Tibet.
Over the past several years, they have become status symbols among China’s growing wealthy classes, driving up their price from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands, according to the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper.
But even among that rarified class of canines, Big Splash stands alone.
Raised on a diet of beef, chicken, abalone and sea cucumber, “he is a perfect specimen,” his breeder, identified only as Mr. Lou, told the British newspaper. “He has excellent genes and will be a good breeding dog. When I started in this business, 10 years ago, I never thought we would see such a price.”
Lou declined to identify Big Splash’s new owner, other than to say that he is a multimillionaire who made his fortune in coal. And given the rising popularity of the breed, it may be that the owner can make some of his investment back by offering the dog’s services at stud. Some breeders are willing to pay as much as $100,000 to get a dipper out of Big Splash’s gene pool.
Big Splash takes the title of the World’s Most Expensive Dog away from another Tibetan mastiff, Yangtze River Number Two, who sold for 4 million yuan in 2009. In an example of what some say is the excess exhibited among China’s new rich, Yangtze River Number Two was chauffeured to its new owner in a motorcade that included 30 limousines.