Dyed “tiger” dogs are still being sold throughout China.
They are called Wuxi tiger dogs — a mysterious rare breed of canine with perfect tiger stripes running down their bodies. They mysteriously arose across China in 2010, the year of the tiger. Street vendors seized upon the opportunity to corner the market, and have enjoyed a virtual monopoly on their sale. To get one you need to snoop around train stations and metro stops and find a street vendor that has a bag, basket, back pack, or cage full of the squeaking, little orange stripped things. They generally sell for 200 RMB ($36), but with a little dealing you can more than likely land one for whatever you feel like digging out of your pocket. This is China, live things sell cheap here.
But there is another common name for the Wuxi tiger dog: black mutt with chemically dyed stripes. This is not some new breed, it’s the result of rather unscrupulous petty vendors trying to up the value of their product. Apparently, tiger stripped puppies sell better. While a variety of methods of dying the pups are used, it has been reported that many use chemical bleaches and dyes, “toxic tarnish,” paint, and other miscellaneous and potentially fatal substances. Sometimes these dogs are called “one week puppies” — an indication of their life expectancy. These dye jobs generally last around two months before the little tigers “mature” into regular old dogs . . . if they last that long.
I’ve seen these tiger puppies being sold all over the country: in Shanghai, Xiamen, and I took the below video in Nanchang. The interesting thing is that when I asked the vendor if the stripes on the little pup she plopped down before me were fake, she didn’t deny it. In fact, she was overtly annoyed by my question and basically told me that she was embarrassed/ sorry about it in what seemed to be a rote response — she probably gets asked that question all day long. The next time I walked by her the intriguing puppy was gone.
Though the practice of dying the fur of pet dogs is not just restricted to street vendors trying to dupe customers into buying cuter, more exotic looking versions of regular dogs. Pet owners across the country have taken to diversifying the color palettes of their canines. So pink, green, and, of course, tiger stripped dogs are not exactly uncommon. You can see them from time to time when walking around in the streets here, and a well groomed poodle with florescent orange fur, gold painted nails, wearing little booties hardly gets a second glance anymore. In China, trends are born fast, spread far, but die hard.
More on Vagabond Journey: 6 Strange things that are done to dogs in China
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
Next post: The Ultimate Travel Writing Device Goes Extinct as Times Change
Previous post: Swastika Tattoo on Tibetan Man