The breed's popularity is growing among the country's wealthiest citizens, but is it puppy love or just another status symbol?
A Chinese millionaire paid $600,000 for a purebred Tibetan Mastiff and sent out a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes to pick up the pooch and escort it back to his estate. It's just one example of the skyrocketing popularity of this animal, a large dog with a thick, black mane that can look like a lion or a bear, and the lengths some Chinese citizens will go to once they've obtained one.
The dog, named Yangtzee River Number Two, now spends time in a cage with 40 other Tibetan Mastiffs owned by his millionaire master. According to MSNBC, the man seemed frightened by the animal's aggressive nature, though his wife can be seeing playing with the dog in home videos.
His fear isn't entirely unfounded. The breed is massive, growing up to 180 pounds and 3 feet tall. They are also extremely loyal to their owners, but distrusting and suspicious of strangers. Tibetan Mastiffs are also highly sought after, particularly purebred ones, because of their reputation as a holy animal. Chinese legend says they guarded the Tibetan kingdom and bring health and security. Purebreds are becoming increasingly hard to find because of their booming popularity. Prices have increased 500 percent per year.
But since the dogs' primary care is often not provided by their owners, it raises the question of why the majority these dogs are being adopted. Owners insist they love their pets and they wouldn't spend so much to buy them and take care of them if they didn't. Animal activists, however, denounce the Tibetan Mastiff obsession because many owners don't have a relationship with the dog. They might pay for food and caretakers, but without a bond reinforced by interaction with the animal, it's impossible to love the pet.
NPR reports that for decades pets were illegal in China under communist rule and most Chinese citizens couldn't afford to keep large pets like dogs anyway because they were so poor. They often chose crickets as pets, and ate dogs and cats instead. Now, the process of registering a dog is complex and expensive, often requiring owners to obtain a photo ID for their animal.