Million dollar dog: Is the Tibetan mastiff the most expensive dog?

There's nothing particularly new about animals being traded as luxury goods, but the obscene prices that some dogs can fetch are enough to make you shake your head in disbelief. What's behind the million dollar dog, and why is the Tibetan mastiff so expensive?

What was the most expensive dog ever sold?

The Tibetan Mastiff is the world's most expensive dog breed.
The Tibetan Mastiff is the world's most expensive dog breed.  © imago/Panthermedia

The most expensive dog to have ever been sold is the Tibetan Mastiff. The proud holder of this remarkable animal record is Dazhewang, a Chinese specimen sold in for over $1.9 million in 2014. Here's what makes this 200-pound Tibetan Mastiff so incredibly valuable.

Why is the Tibetan mastiff's price so high?

There's no doubt that Dazhewang is a pretty special individual, but it's actually the breed that guaranteed his mind-blowing price. Tibetan Mastiffs are generally considered to be the most expensive of all dog breeds.

This ancient animal hails from the dizzying heights of the Himalayas. Originating in Tibet, they are also one of the largest dog breeds in the world. Due to their resilience, their size, but also their gentle disposition, Tibetan Mastiffs have always enjoyed a lot of popularity.

The reason why Tibetan mastiffs are so unbelievably expensive is actually pretty simple: They are from an extremely rare and pure bloodline that is hard to come across.

Tibetan mastiff profile

We have done a full breakdown on the Tibetan mastiff, giving you all the information you could possibly want. It is one of the biggest, priciest, and strongest dogs in the world, and well worth a look at if you're interested.

Here are the key characteristics of a Tibetan mastiff:

  • Life expectancy: 10 to 15 years
  • Character: alert, stubborn, calm
  • Uses: guard dog, herding dog
  • Size: 26 inches male height, 24 inches female height
  • Weight: 100 to 160 pounds
  • Coloring: pale gold, black and tan, deep red, brown, black
  • Health: robust, good health
  • Needs: undemanding, grooming necessary several times a week

Origin and history of the million dollar dog

The Tibetan Mastiff was mainly used to protect villages and livestock.
The Tibetan Mastiff was mainly used to protect villages and livestock.  © 123RF/Fan Pao-Jen

Some sources trace the origins of the Tibetan Mastiff as far back as 3000 years ago. Throughout its history, this ancient and traditional dog breed served to guard nomadic peoples, properties, and livestock.

There's even a mention in the reports of the famous explorer Marco Polo, who encountered the Do-Khyi during his travels through Asia. The dog was described as being the size of a donkey and having the powerful roar of a lion. As a result, exotic rumors about these big, strong mountain dogs sprang up all over Europe.

There's nothing exaggerated about the reputation that Tibetan Mastiffs enjoy today. Thousands of years of ruthless natural selection in the hostile mountain ranges of the Himalayas have produced an extremely robust and resilient breed.

Dog with plastic container stuck on head leads police to launch massive search operation
Dogs Dog with plastic container stuck on head leads police to launch massive search operation

This means it's best to approach a Tibetan Mastiff with caution. These imposing dogs are typically calm, affectionate creatures, with a fondness for children. When it comes to strangers, though, their sharp protective instincts can quickly kick in.

What is the name of the most expensive dog in the world?

Dazhewang, the most expensive dog in the world.
Dazhewang, the most expensive dog in the world.  © YouTube/ToolTown - Home of Heimwerken

The most expensive dog ever sold is Dazhewang, which translates as "Great Lion King". The name is more than fitting. Dazhewang has a shoulder height of 31 inches and weighs in at almost 200 pounds!

But what made Dazhewang so valuable?

According to his breeder Zhang Gengyun, the deep red dog supposedly has "lion's blood" in him. Aside from this mythical quality, purebred Tibetan Mastiffs are considered particularly rare, which makes them a coveted commodity. They are sometimes traded as luxury goods among rich Chinese businessmen, one of which is the proud owner of Dazhewang.

How much did the second most expensive dog in the world cost?

Currently, Dhazewang holds the title of most expensive dog in the world. But another Tibetan Mastiff isn't too far behind in second place. In 2011, another red-coated specimen, called "Big Splash", sold for a mind-boggling $1.6 million. It's hard to believe that this record ended up falling, let alone by as much as $300,000.

Where can you buy one of the most expensive dogs in the world?

Tibetan Mastiff puppies stand out because of their puffy fur
Tibetan Mastiff puppies stand out because of their puffy fur  © 123RF/brusnik

Finding a breeder that deals in genuine purebred Tibetan Mastiffs isn't easy. Although it's extremely valuable, the breed needs a lot of space, usually a large fenced off area where it can follow its instincts as a herding dog.

This puts a large and costly burden on breeder and owners alike. The Tibetan Mastiff isn't a suitable pet for people who live in apartments.

First time dog owners should also consider a different breed. Caring for a Tibetan Mastiff requires a lot of experience and expertise, as well as the right conditions and environment.

Those who think they check all these boxes still need to have very deep pockets: a purebred Tibetan Mastiff puppy can cost up to $10,000 or even more in some cases.

Cover photo: imago/Panthermedia

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