A CHINESE dog breeder has said a property developer paid him £1.7 million for Tibetan mastiff twins, highlighting how the breed has become a status symbol for China's rich.

The large, slobbery dog with massive amounts of hair used to be best known for herding sheep in Tibet but has now become a luxury for the ultra-rich who want to spread their wealth beyond stocks and real estate.

Breeder Zhang Gengyun said he sold the one-year- old twin male dogs to a single buyer at a luxury dog fair in wealthy Zhejiang province, on China's east coast.

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One of the twins, a golden-haired Tibetan mastiff, was sold for £1.1m and his red-haired brother went for £584,000

Mr Zhang said the buyer, from eastern Shandong province, paid him with his credit card. He denied the sale was a ploy by breeders to hype the price of Tibetan mastiffs and said he was reluctant to sell the twins.

Mr Zhang said the unnamed buyer might start breeding Tibetan mastiffs himself.