Little Zaen-ho looks set to become something of a celebrity after arriving in Derry, coming all the way from Russia.
The extremely rare Chongqing dog is the first of its kind to be brought to the UK or Ireland, with the nearest of his kind located in Austria and Italy.
Two local men have undertaken painstaking research before locating a certified breeder of the Chinese dogs and laying the groundwork for the 15-weeks-old pup’s arrival in Derry.
The Chongqing breed is so rare, even in its native China, that there are now global efforts at conservation and the local owners of Zaen-ho are hoping to contribute to that, as well as increasing the population of the dogs in the UK.
They are now awaiting the arrival of abitch pup over the coming days and it is hoped they will be able to breed.
The dogs come with a hefty price tag, with little Zaen-ho costing in the region of £5,000, including the travel and documentation. For that reason, along with the rare nature of the dogs, the owners wish to keep their location and full identity a secret for now.
One of the men, Robby, said, however, that the response from local people who have come across little Zaen-ho while out walking has been incredible since he arrived in the city last week via Crufts, where his Russian breeders were showcasing some of their other dogs.
Robby said: “It’s been amazing you couldn’t walk five yards to be honest. We don’t mind, it’s one of the reasons why we got him. He has come from one of the top dog breeders in Russia
“My friend was fascinated by the breed. I didn’t know much about them. He introduced me to them and we have been keeping a close eye on them ever since.
“He put in a couple of years research and found out all about its food and care needs . The dogs have a very fine coat and are also bald in parts so they need suncream on sunny days.
“They are not your normal, run of the mill dog. We have selected the dogs very carefully and tried to get a breeding pair but, obviously, that will depend on a lot of factors.
Robby’s friend and co-owner of Zaen-ho said he first became interested in the breed after seeing a friend change his Facebook profile to one of the dogs three years ago.
“I contacted him and he was saying there are three people in the world that are allowed to bring them out of the country and he just happened to be one of them, so I just kept chatting, finding out more about them.”
It is this breeder, from Slovakia, who will be transporting the female pup over the coming days.
The Derry man added: “The Chongqing bamboo tail dog is extremely rare. They are rarer than the Panda in China at the moment. There are none in the UK and Ireland.
“We want to introduce them here and, hopefully, breed them before sending some back out to China.”
“They have a big Conservation Centre in China and their plan is to get them throughout the world so if anything happens - like what has happened before -that the breed will not die off.
“These dogs were nearly made extinct on a few occasions.
“The dogs in China live in the mountains and they can grow up in families and become great family pets and they are good with children once socialised.
“This will be the first breeding pair in these isles. They are a very loyal dog, a good guard dog and also very good pets.”
And its not just passers-by that Zaen-ho is proving a big hit with, as the owners admit to “sharing custody.”
Robby laughed: “We’re fighting over keeping him at night and during the day.
“We’re sharing him until the female arrives,” his partner added.
The duo expect that it could be around a two year wait for the first pups - if all goes well - and those interested in becoming the proud owner of one of the rarest dogs in the world, or who just want to follow little Emperor Zaen-ho’s progress can contact his owners via his own Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/chongqing1st/ or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/p/BRlx5xfAL1b/