Tibetan Mastiffs: From Guard Dogs to Status Symbols to Hot Pot

Tibetan Mastiff

From QQ:

Foreign Media: Chinese Anti-Corruption Campaign Continues, Once High-Priced Tibetan Mastiffs Now Being Used for Hot Pot

Not long ago, Chinese people had gone crazy for Tibetan Mastiffs, where dogs like Nibble here, with drooping eyes and drooling mouths on their big heads, fetched prices upwards of 200,000 USD, roaming around the suburban houses of coal bosses.

But at the beginning of 2015, Nibble and 20 other Tibetan Mastiffs down on their luck found themselves locked in cages, with 150 other dogs, on the back of a truck.

If this truck had not been intercepted by Beijing animal rights activists, Nibble and the other dogs would have been taken to a slaughterhouse in the Northeast and sold for about 5 USD a head as hot pot ingredients, imitation fur, and linings for winter gloves.

Tibetan Mastiffs aren’t the only luxury goods that went from popular to the poorhouse in China. Black Audis, Omega watches, high-end baijiu sorghum liquor and high-rise apartments in third-tier cities are all victims of the slowing economy, and some are also victims of the ongoing campaign against corruption.

In the past, the clumsy Tibetan Mastiffs from the Himalayan Plateau were a necessary accessory for any Chinese person who valued their social status. 4 years ago, a red purebred Tibetan Mastiff named Big Splash sold for 1,600,000 USD, though cynics believe the price was artificially manipulated. A self-proclaimed professional said buyers at the time who had lost their senses would spend over 250,000 USD to purchase a high-quality breed.

Today, breeders of Tibetan Mastiffs are dealing with the consequences of over-breeding. Buyers have disappeared, and the price of the dogs has shrunk to only a small fraction of what it once was, hovering at around 2000 USD. Many disheartened breeders are willing to sell for even less.

Gombo, an expert breeder from Qinghai said, “If I had other opportunities, I would definitely get out of this business.” He said feeding a 160 pound Tibetan Mastiff costs 50-60 USD a day, which is causing significant stress for breeders.

According to information divulged from the Tibetan Mastiff Society, between 2013 and the present, out of 95 Tibetan Mastiff breeders, almost half of them have gone bankrupt. The once bustling purebred Tibetan Mastiff market in Chengdu has become a pet and aquarium exhibition.

From a certain perspective, the loss of interest in Tibetan Mastiffs reflects the fickle nature of consumers. Liz Flora, the chief editor of market research company Jing Daily, stated that fads are a huge driving force in China’s luxury market, that Han Chinese consumers were willing to spend money on anything related to the romanticized Tibetan Mastiff.

Nomadic herdsman have always used Tibetan Mastiffs as watchdogs, to guard against attacks from wolf packs. They have a piercing bark, and are adapted to the cold, thin air of the high plains. Like wolves, female mastiffs can only give birth once a year. Gombo said “they fearlessly protect their owner and owner’s property. Owners are proud of their dogs.” There were 3 mastiffs tied up in his courtyard, barking at and trying to charge strangers.

At the peak of the Tibetan Mastiff’s popularity, some breeders would inject silicon into their dogs to make them look stronger. At the beginning of 2013, one breeder sued a Beijing veterinarian, and was compensated 14,000 USD because his dog died on the operating table while undergoing cosmetic surgery. The owner explained, “If my dog looks stronger, the owners of female dogs would spend even more money to have their dogs breed with my dog.”

Li Qun, a professor and Tibetan Mastiff expert from Nanjing Agricultural University said that speculating businessmen were partially responsible for the corruption of a good market. However, following the spike in prices, unscrupulous breeders began to breed Tibetan Mastiffs with other breeds, diluting the value of the breed and driving away potential customers. By 2013, the market had already been overrun by mixed-breeds.

News reports of Tibetan Mastiffs attacking people, and even stories of people being killed also put off people’s enthusiasm for the breed. One professional said that although they are not naturally vicious, their extreme loyalty adds to the risk of them attacking strangers.

In recent years, many Chinese cities have prohibited Tibetan Mastiffs, further suppressing the demand for them, and increasing the risk of people abandoning their dogs.

The people who saved Nibble and the other dogs said that the animals were being transported under horrible conditions. Many of the Tibetan Mastiffs had injuries on their legs, and had already gone days without food or water. As the dogs were taken out of the cages (volunteers paid for their release), a third of them were already dead.

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When Anna Li isn’t intercepting trucks carrying dogs on the highway, she operates a hedge fund. She said, “It makes you feel hopeless, that even when what they’re doing is illegal, even the police will not come help you stop them.”

Animal rights activists say many of the dogs were snatched off the streets, and some were sold by breeders anxious to get rid of imperfect specimens. From the swollen nipples on the female dogs, its obvious that they were abandoned during the lactation period.

Mary Peng, the founder of the Beijing International Veterinary Clinic, has seen many similar cases during her 25 years in China. She said, “Ten years ago, it was German Shepherds, then Golden Retrievers, then Dalmatians, then Huskies. When I think of how expensive they were a few years ago, I never would have thought they would end up on a meat truck.”

Reasons why “Tibetan Mastiff Fever” has disappeared

Since ancient times, Qinghai has been the principal location for the production, gathering and buying of Tibetan Mastiffs. However, data from Tibet’s Tibetan Mastiff Society indicates that between 2003 and 2013, there were 95 mastiff breeders. Currently that number has dropped to only 66. At the peak of the mastiff trend, they would sell nearly 10,000 Tibetan Mastiffs each year, but in the last two years (2014, 2014) they only averaged around 3000.

At the same time, data from Qinghai’s Tibetan Mastiff Society proves that China’s “Tibetan Mastiff Fever” continues to cool. From 2010 to 2012, there were 3000 breeders, and now there are less than 1000. Yearly totals of Tibetan Mastiff sales dropped from 2 hundred million RMB to around 50 million RMB. Aside from the Qinghai/Tibetan high plains, the market has also frozen in other areas. Wang Zhankui from the Henan Central Plains Tibetan Mastiff Research Center said that 90% of the Tibetan Mastiff breeders in Henan are losing money and that there has been a 60% reduction in the number of breeders.

Besides reasons involving the anti-corruption campaign, the market’s lack of regulation, mixed-breeding, and cities prohibiting large-breed dogs have all contributed to the Tibetan Mastiffs fall from popularity. An industry insider believes after the “bubble” pops, the industry will be re-born, and this time investors will be more rational.

Specifically, while the “Tibetan Mastiff Fever” that started in the 1990s led to a rapid increase in the number of Tibetan Mastiffs, the number of purebreds actually became fewer and fewer, to the extent that they have even become endangered. Wang Yonggang, president of Tibet’s Tibetan Mastiff Society believes that the market is in an adjustment period, that the market of the past few years had been too speculative, with many people not understanding this kind of animal, and didn’t treat the industry rationally. Driven by the promise of greater profits, mixed-breading became more and more serious, leading to the nature and appearance of the dogs to change. Following their marketization, people are gradually becoming more knowledgeable about these rare animals from the snow covered plateau, and the price of ordinary Tibetan Mastiffs continue to drop. In addition, the cooling market is also related to many cities beginning to strictly enforce bans on large-breed dogs.

Comments from QQ:

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5 Dollars? I’m not very educated, but even if the exchange rate were 1:20, I’d like to see you buy a meat-eating dog for 100 RMB.

[no name]

Tibetan Mastiffs are the kings of the snowy plateau. Shepherds see them as their best friends, and the strong ones able to kill several wolves. They belong in the grasslands. But some people blindly worship their fierceness, use them to make money or as a symbol of social status. If you don’t respect them, you aren’t qualified to raise one. All I can say to those who use them as food is that ignorance is bliss, it’s sad and stupid.

Kwei ,謉

I may not be very educated, but don’t lie to me! If 5 dollars can buy one, I’ll take 20. I’ll keep them in my house and zhuang bi.


Just as I thought, the dog being so expensive was because these assholes were manipulating things behind the scenes [speculating, hyping the market]. It’s just sad that these dogs have fallen to become mere dishes. What a waste.


If a dog bothers you, can’t you just not keep it? Why do you need to eat it?


If I had this much money to spend on a dog, I would buy a purebred Labrador rather than these long-term oxygen-deprived garbage Tibetan Mastiffs who not only eat a lot but have low intelligence.


Fuck, I can’t accept eating dog meat!


I’ve always been puzzled by whether or not dogs are protected animals. Say they are and yet you can see them everywhere and there are no relevant legal ordinances; say they aren’t and yet you still have those people all day calling on people to not eat dog meat and that dogs should be protected. Who can explain this for me?


If we don’t get rid of the maggots, they’re going to destroy the world!!!


Tibetan Mastiffs are like ebony, artwork, and such stuff, their prices all hyped-up [artificially inflated]. People who like it will pay anything for it, while people who don’t won’t even take it for free.


An illness of our countrymen: fads.

  • helsic

    I agree with the guy that said “If you don’t respect them, you aren’t qualified to raise one.”
    I can’t believe people is just this stupid, and it’s not only Chinese people, around the world you can find those kind of people who will buy anything that is in fashion and dispose it as soon as the trend is over. It’s obvious that having such a massive dog is not for everyone! dogs behave very different depending on the breed, some dogs are just not suitable for the life in the city at all! people should do a little research before buying or getting any kind of pet, because all of them have different needs.

  • DD Bear!

    i do not like big dogs at all. they eat much more than a big guy, what a waste of food.
    our small dog only eats a little, i like her very much.

    • Vance

      If she is very small, you can put her in a purse with her head out the opening in the top and carry dog and purse on your shoulder. Sometimes women do that here. Cute as can be!

      • DD Bear!

        not that tiny either! ha!
        bigger than most tiny dogs. middle size should say.
        but very picky at food, only eat a little, just born 3 baby dogs.
        but yesterday she stole our meat from kitchen……

        • Vance

          Dogs always want to eat what the people are eating. They’ll eat that dog food, but then go beg you for something when you sit down for dinner! You have to be fast! Usually if I was making a meal and I left the chair too close to the table when going to get something, my meal was gone and my dog was sick from eating to much.

          • DD Bear!

            i made a mistake, in china toy poodle is called teddy.
            i want a brown toy poodle.

          • Vance

            Those are great dogs to have.

      • YourSupremeCommander

        I see you have a Paris Hilton fetish.

        • DD Bear!

          i do not wanna carry a dog at all!
          i only carried my tiny white cat in my bag while walking to park or back. i miss my little dead cat.
          sometimes when recall it, i feel i am a bad person, not good enough to animal, never feel so guilty.

          • Vance

            As long as you fed it regularly, you pretty much did your job. No guilt needed. Cats get by well on their own.

        • Vance

          I think she is one of the main reasons we have a similar phenomenon going on with chihuahuas left in shelters. Many people wanted to imitate her right down to the chihuahua. Then they found out that, unlike fancy clothes, chihuahuas require care. Paris Hilton is nice looking. No doubt about that, but I’ve personally known women who carried dogs in purses.

    • James

      but big dogs have more meat on them to eat when you are done with them. You can feed your whole family for an entire week and is a much better investment to fatten up!

      • DD Bear!

        we do not eat dogs, people in my town do not do this.
        coz we feel dogs are too dirty, they even eat shit…

        • mr.wiener

          So do pigs hon, but we still eat them.

        • Vance

          I will never eat a dog. Not even to impress the family of some hot chick in China! That is almost like eating a person around here. I say “almost” because they do eat their own shit after all like you said.

          • Bing

            dude, seriously. I assume you are ‘merican.
            some ‘mericans value dog too much. what is a dog eventually? some mammal bred from wolf?
            Chinese should make two laws, one to forbidding people hurting/eating any private proprieties, including others’ pet dog, pet pig, pet fish, pet chipmunk, pet anything.
            the other law should give clear and doable instructions to tell how to eat those animals in a legal way and use other laws to protect people’s right.
            i personally won’t eat dog (man i have pathetic eating habit), but i won’t say, eating dog is like eating a person.
            dog is always dog, pet excluded.

          • 42

            many have the misconception that chinese, or koreans for that matter eat every little fluffy dog they come across in the streets like a chihuahua or a poodle. however not all dogs can be eaten, and they are especially bred. like how pigs or cows are bred for consumption. I have never eaten dog before myself, but would not mind to try it someday. I certainly would not mind if a dogmeat industry much like that of cows, chicken or pigs would exists. If we dont mind eating cows and pigs and do mind eating specially bred dogs for consumption then we are just hypocrites. that dogs are cute little pet man best friend is a sorry excuse, I see the trend of today is that more people are discovering that piglets are very well suited to be kept as pets. but however we still eat them.

          • Bing

            exactly. regulations/law needed to make both parties happy.

          • Jahar

            Stray dogs get eaten in China. You are full of shit.

          • mr.wiener

            Please try and keep your answers more diplomatic, even when the person in question is full of….misinformation.

          • Jahar

            yes, boss.

          • 42

            Not at all, do some research, Chinese aswell as Koreans eat only a special kind of breed dogs known as Nureongi or 黃狗, these are yellowish skin almost furless kind of dogs. They are considered livestock dogs for consumption and not bred and used as pets.

            Eating any other kind of dogs is considered an exception and is certainly not common practise.

            Your assumptions that stray dogs are eaten may very well be in the category of the Nureongi dogs, and certainly not poodle or somekind, but ofcourse eating stray dogs harbors risks and one does not get the guarantee its quality and hygiene.

          • Vance

            Seems crazy doesn’t it, but that’s the way it is. Dogs and horses here. I think it may have something to do with the relationship that the pioneers had with these animals that has filtered down through the generations. People needed horses to get across large stretches of dry land. Horses literally meant life to those people. Dogs’ alertness kept many pioneers from being surprised by wildlife, Indians, or outlaws. So I think that this affinity has just continued. People here will sometimes even buy health insurance for their dogs (not me). Poeple are held to a higher value, but sometimes it seems like our dogs are held to almost as high a value. There are some Americans no doubt that have eaten dog when they were in another country just to say they did, but I think many would feel as I do. It actually seems like many of the Chinese look down on eating dogs.

            Yes I agree that any animal that is used for food should be raised and butchered accourding to humane guidelines.

    • Bing

      i’m imagine this conversation in ted’s voice…

    • Gordon Gogodancer

      I hate small dogs with all my heart!

  • Q Ball

    tulip bubble

  • Clive Rowland

    A lo of empty statistics here, as usual. Surely the market for a dog cannot be soley funded by corrupt officials buying them? I have seen a few of these dogs as pets and they were owned by normal people, although when I stumbled on a dog farm when cycling, it seemed apparent that only black ones were worth any real money.

  • Vance

    This is so not the right breed for those gigantic crowded mega cities where most people seem to live stacked 30 or more stories high in those miles and miles of high rise apartments.

    • ClausRasmussen

      Agreed. Dogs belong in suburbia or in the country side. Get a cat if you live in an apartment

    • Bing

      i second man.

  • Karze

    Tibetan should now stop selling the dogs to Chinese as it will end up in frying pan/wok.

  • WghUk

    Why eat intelligent animals like dogs?

    • mr.wiener

      Pigs are actually much more intelligent than dogs. Just saying…

    • Bing

      why you eat beacons when pigs are very smart and intelligent…

  • Vance

    I still can’t believe that dog! I think they cross bred a poodle and a bear.

    • Bing

      this will defiantly eat you and your dog if it’s out of control.
      having them in ranch/very rural area might be a good idea for bears/wolves/coyates….
      but having them in the town(facepalm)

  • Submachine

    “I’ve always been puzzled by whether or not dogs are protected
    animals. Say they are and yet you can see them everywhere and there are
    no relevant legal ordinances; say they aren’t and yet you still have
    those people all day calling on people to not eat dog meat and that dogs
    should be protected. Who can explain this for me?”

    I too am curious about what exactly are the laws on dogs and cats in China, does anyone know what kind of protections(if any) they have.

    • Dax

      None. I could be wrong, but I think the only animals that have any kind of legal protection in China are the endangered ones like pandas and tigers. I seem to recall a story a few years ago about somebody who thought it would be fun to throw a bunch of puppies off the roof of their apartment building. The only thing they got charged with was endangering pedestrians below.

    • donscarletti

      Domestic animals are afforded similar protection to domestic animals in most western countries in that domestic animal by definition belongs to someone, an offense against a domestic animal is an offense against its owner’s property.

      The Chinese academy of Social Sciences has proposed draft laws for
      preventing of animal cruelty in general, but has not been passed,
      probably because these laws specifically make dog meat illegal. There are
      however certain other laws that may be applied to prosecute wanton
      animal cruelty against any animal if it causes social unrest, as was the case with those
      crush videos a while back.

      I do not know of a single country where it is specifically illegal to kill dogs and cats and few western countries if any make it illegal to eat dogs and cats (although most do not allow dog and cat meat to be sold). I personally don’t see why if (humanely) killing and butchering dogs and cats for personal consumption is legal throughout Europe, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand it should be illegal in China.

      It is a contentious issue because Chinese families have not traditionally kept pet dogs and many older people consider adopting western attitudes toward them to be a cultural imposition.

  • Foreign Devil

    The prize winning 200K dog that made headlines earlier is found in a trailer headed to the dog meat markets for $5? I call bullshit on this part of the article.

  • ClausRasmussen

    Yes ?

  • Emme

    Majestic as fuck…

  • Jahar

    This just in from “Foreign Media,” the one source of information outside of the Heavenly Kingdom~

  • Danny

    I have a Tibetan Mastiff.
    A friend owned her as a puppy.
    Me and my wife would take care of her sometimes and after a while he said he couldn’t handle her anymore so we took her in.
    She is 2 years old now and very sweet.
    She doesn’t cost that much money to feed.

    These breeders would feed them raw meat only, trying to make the dog as wild and vicious as possible so they could sell them for a higher price as a status symbol.
    This and the fact that Chinese people in general have no clue how to raise a dog, gave them a very bad reputation.
    Chinese either treat dogs like sh*t or they treat them like a son/daughter. Both not healthy.

    Some people look at me in disgust, how dare I walk such a dangerous animal.
    Other people are amazed by how well behaved she is.

    People basing their opinions on hear-say are dumb and should be ignored :)

    • njren

      Now that’s a mastiff; a “four eyes” you’d see a lot of in the highlands, not the ridiculously poofed show dog illustrating the article.

  • HinDL

    50 – 60 USD a day to feed this dog? What is the breeder giving his dogs to eat? Sounds way exagerated to me.

  • Vance

    I used to say her only purpose in life was to eat, sleep, and be fuzzy. Now my other dog was a 110 pound yellow lab. He was very afraid of the 10 pound toy poodle. He was a wimp.

  • MoDare

    Chinese don’t give a damn about animals – they are weirdly, wantonly cruel. I should know, I live here….

    • yeah, white dogs are better, come to china look for free sex or marry rich women, do not know which one is worse.

      • Vance

        Or? I don’t need to choose one or the other. I can have both! Marry a rich woman who is great at sex.

        • hahaha! u find someone online already?

    • James

      just as many whites hunting and killing animals.

  • My TM Result 2016 Updates Ae getting Worse. He Had Fever Few Days ago and Now He Won’t eat and Eyes are red and shivering !!

  • Zubaid

    Is it a dog…;-)

  • Ashfaq

    Is it a dog really…..

  • Ashfaq

    Yeah u r rite

  • Ashfaq

    A small dog

  • wouldworker

    Have you guys just abandoned this website?

    • mr.wiener

      Pretty much.

      • wouldworker

        Is there any more to the story? Are they being choked out or just lost interest? You’ve been on here for ages it seems…

        • mr.wiener

          It all gets down to what Kai and Fauna want to do with it…which at the moment seems to be not much.

          • KamikaziPilot

            Awwwww, too bad. I actually thought this site allowed us to see the personalities of regular posters better than other sites I frequent, especially when CSmack was in it’s heyday. But . . . . I guess they felt it was time to move on. Just shows nothing lasts forever.

          • wouldworker

            Well I’m not in China full time any more but still hope it comes back – enjoyed this site a bunch.

  • saraboulos

    More like a digimon imo.