Leading article: Eastern promise

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The Independent Online

The Chinese love their dogs. This is the land that gave the world the Chow Chow, the Shar-Pei, the Pug and the Shih Tzu. The Pekingese were the favoured pets of the late Manchu Imperial Court. The Dowager Empress Cixi laid down strict instructions for the care of her lion dogs (Pekingese): "For the day of sickness let it be anointed with the clarified fat of the legs of a sacred leopard, and give it to drink a throstle's eggshell full of the juice of the custard apple in which has been dissolved three pinches of shredded rhinoceros horn." Such a regime puts even the breeders of Crufts to shame. So we should not be surprised that, now the Chinese have money, the wealthiest among them are choosing to spend it on luxury canines. A Red Tibetan Mastiff called "Big Splash" has just been sold to a Chinese coal baron for a reported £1m.

So does this signal inflation in the pedigree dog market? Is now the time to buy Puglets, in the hope of a huge return in a few years? Perhaps. But buyer beware. For a dog to get the kind of premium prices fetched by the likes of Big Splash it needs to have special characteristics, such as a bright red coat. And there is no small amount of expense needed to produce so fine a specimen. After all, those sacred leopards, throstle eggs and custard apples don't come cheap.