The Tibetan Mastiff, a rare breed of "oriental super dog," has become a highly prized status symbol for China's nouveau riche. A coal baron from the north of China recently paid more than $1.5 million (10 million yuan) for an 11-month-old Tibetan Mastiff puppy that's being hailed as the most expensive dog in the world. Here, a brief guide to the posh puppy trend:

Who is this pricey pooch?
The $1.5-million dog goes by the name of "Big Splash," or "Hong Dong," in Chinese. Less than a year old, he already weighs more than 180 pounds, is nearly three free tall at the shoulder, and has vibrant red fur.  "He is a perfect specimen," says his breeder, Lu Liang. "He has excellent genes and will be a good breeding dog. When I started in this business, ten years ago, I never thought we would see such a price."

Who previously held the "most expensive dog in the world" title?
That would be another Tibetan Mastiff, named Yangtze River Number Two. In 2009, Yangtze was purchased for more than $600,000 (4 million yuan). His homecoming in the city of Xi'an, in central China, included a motorcade of 30 black limousines, which, not surprisingly, some found tasteless.

What makes the Tibetan Mastiff so special?
They are reportedly one of the oldest and fiercest breeds in the world. According to legend, both Genghis Khan and Buddha had them, and they are known to be great guard dogs. They are rarely found outside Tibet and China, making them an especially exclusive breed. In China, they are considered a state protected animal, and there are reportedly just 15,000 in the country, most belonging to the wealthy. When relaxed, they act like normal dogs, but under distress, the hair around their neck stands on end and their bark sounds like a roaring lion, according to Datuk Seri Liu Yun-lian, a wealthy Malaysian businessman who recently paid more than $1.5 million (10 million yuan) to import five of the prized dogs.

What do they eat?
Big Splash enjoys a diet of chicken and beef, with occasional delicacies like sea cucumber and abalone. The Malaysian businessman says he spends more than $5,000 a month maintaining his five prized beasts.

Sources: Telegraph, Asia One News