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Monday, June 1, 2015

Consumer taste change !!! - Tibetan Mastiff fad falls in China !!!!

China’s boom-to-bust luxury landscape is strewn with devalued commodities like black Audis, Omega watches, top-shelf sorghum liquor and high-rise apartments in third-tier cities. Some are the victims of a slowing economy, while others are casualties of an official austerity campaign that has made ostentatious consumption a red flag for anticorruption investigators – this is totally different ~and for no fault of its.

Of the so many pets, dogs are considered to be very loyal.  There are many expressions associated with ‘dog’ ; still many of them depict the mongrels derogatory.  ‘Dog days’ (Latin: diēs caniculārēs) are the hottest, most sultry days of summer.  There would however be exceptions as the 18th month old rare Tibetan Mastiff dog named Yangtze enjoyed !   A Chinese millionaire by name Wang visited the remote border region between Tibet and western Qinghai province in Apr 11; she reportedly owned a Tibetan Mastiff bitch and was in search of a mate, which reportedly was bought for £350,000 – a whooping Rs. 3.28 crores at today’s exchange.  In many ways high breed dogs are considered ‘status symbols’too.   Of course, experts will point out the price is overbearing and not the market value !!

The expectation of master from his dog is high ! - devoted dog; besotted owner. That continuous loop of loving reinforcement may begin with the dog’s gaze, according to a new report in Science.  Japanese researchers found that dogs who trained a long gaze on their owners had elevated levels of oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain that is associated with nurturing and attachment, similar to the feel-good feedback that bolsters bonding between parent and child. After receiving those long gazes, the owners’ levels of oxytocin increased, too.   The dog’s gaze cues connection and response in the owner, who will reward the dog by gazing, talking and touching, all of which helps solder the two, the researchers said.

That ‘costliest dog’ in news ~ ‘the Tibetan Mastiff’ is an ancient breed and type of large domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originating with nomadic cultures of Tibet, China, Nepal, and India.   The Tibetan Mastiff also known as "Dok-Khyi"  (translated as "nomad dog") , reflects its use as a guardian of herds, flocks, tents, villages, monasteries, and palaces.  Nomadic families have long used mastiffs as nocturnal sentries against livestock thieves and marauding wolves. A primitive breed with a deep guttural bark, they are inured to harsh winters and the thin oxygen of the high-altitude grasslands; like wolves, females give birth only once a year. “They have the power to fearlessly protect possessions, human beings and livestock from any kind of threat, and people are proud of them.”  The name is a  misnomer; it is not a true mastiff. The term "mastiff" was used primarily because it meant "big dog". Early Western visitors to Tibet misnamed several of its breeds: The "Tibetan Terrier" is not a terrier and the "Tibetan Spaniel" is not a spaniel.

Years have passed by since – the traits, loyalty, food and other habits of the dogs have not changed – but their values can and have changed !!!  - from times when in frenzied heights of China’s Tibetan mastiff craze, when a droopy-eyed slobbering giant like Nibble might have fetched $200,000 and ended up roaming the landscaped grounds of some coal tycoon’s suburban villa – have changed now !!

NY Times quotes the tale of Nibble and 20 more unlucky mastiffs found themselves stuffed into metal chicken crates and packed onto a truck with 150 other dogs. If not for a band of Beijing animal rights activists who literally threw themselves in front of the truck, Nibble and the rest would have ended up at a slaughterhouse in northeast China where, at roughly $5 a head, they would have been rendered into hot pot ingredients, imitation leather and the lining for winter gloves.

Nibble, a Tibetan mastiff, was checked by veterinarians after being saved from the slaughterhouse by a group of animal rights activists. Other rescued mastiffs had suffered broken limbs. It is stated that these days, those mastiff breeders left in the business are suffering from overcapacity, as it were. Buyers have largely disappeared, and prices have fallen to a small fraction of their peak. The average asking price for desirable dogs — those with lionlike manes and thick limbs — is hovering around $2,000, [Rs.125000 approx] though many desperate breeders are willing to go far lower.  Some of the breeders are even considering quitting the business as keeping such carnivores  properly fed cost $50 to $60 a day.   Since 2013, about half the 95 breeders in Tibet have gone under, according to the Tibetan Mastiff Association, and the once-flourishing Pure Breed Mastiff Fair in Chengdu, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, has been turned into a pet and aquarium expo.

In recent years, a number of Chinese cities have banned the breed, further denting demand and perhaps contributing to the surge in abandonments. The rescuers who saved Nibble and the others from an ignominious fate said the conditions of the transport were appalling.  Animal rights activists say many of the dogs are stolen by gangs who grab pets off the street, while some have been sold off by breeders eager to unload imperfect specimens.

During her 25 years in China, Mary Peng, the founder and chief executive of the International Center for Veterinary Services has seen successive waves of dog fads, which invariably begin with speculative breeding and end in mass abandonment. “Ten years ago, it was German shepherds, then golden retrievers, then Dalmatians and then huskies,” she said. “But given the crazy prices we were seeing a few years ago, I never thought I’d see a Tibetan mastiff on the back of a meat truck.”

In some ways, the cooling passion for Tibetan mastiffs reflects the fickleness of a consuming class that adopts and discards new products with abandon.  A professor at Nanjing Agricultural University and an expert on Tibetan mastiffs is quoted as saying - speculators were partly to blame for sabotaging what had been a healthy market.  News stories about mastiffs attacking people, some fatally, also dampened ardour for the breed. Although not inherently vicious, Tibetan mastiffs are loyal to a fault, increasing the likelihood of attacks on strangers, experts say.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th Apr 2015.

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