A sheep is a sheep is a sheep right? Apparently not, if you happen to be part of the rare Dolan breed. With only 1,000 of them known to exist in the world, they have become a coveted pet amongst China's wealthiest who are ready to pay hefty sums to get their hands on one.
In case you are wondering, the sheep are not covered in gold fur - They are simply unique looking creatures with regal curved noses, long floppy years and twin tails. The animals, which are bred in Kashi, China were once very popular for food because they are large and mature quickly. However, over the years they were slowly replaced by normal sheep, leaving very few of them around.
But, this recent craze may change things - That's because sheep breeders in Kashi are now selling their entire herds to purchase one breeding Dolan sheep - Those who cannot afford to buy them individually, are pooling their money and forming consortiums. So far, they have not been disappointed. One breeder who made the switch and bought two Dolan sheep for 25,000 Yuan ($3,900 USD) in 2009, said he recently got an offer to sell them for ten times his original investment.
As happens in the selection of any pet, the price depends on how good the animal looks - Dolan sheep with darker fleece, big floppy years and nicely curved faces are worth a lot more than 'ordinary' lookers.
While all of them seem to sell for ridiculous prices, the most coveted one is a six-year old Dolan owned by Kashi resident, Majid Abdul Reyim. The breeder claims that he has received over 14 offers, some exceeding 14 million Yuan (about $2.2MM USD), for this distinguished animal, but has not succumbed to any yet. Mr. Reyim, who feeds his 19 Dolans a special diet of grass, dates and walnuts, believes that the six-year old is a high pedigree speciman, one that is capable of producing really distinguished offspring - Therefore, too precious to sell.
This is not the first animal that the wealthy Chinese have taken a fancy to - In 2009, a rich couple broke the world record for owning the most expensive dog, after paying $500,000 USD for a really pure breed Tibetan Mastiff dubbed Yangtze River Number Two (They already owned Number One!). Pretty amazing!