Kublai Khan's 5000 Dogs

Some 5000 dogs became famous in history in Marco Polo's writing, the most dogs ever owned by one person - Kublai Khan.

When Marco Polo, an Italian explorer and writer, traveled through Asia, he wrote about the many dogs Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan (Great Khan) of the Mongol Empire, owned. He described the small dogs (the Tibetan Spaniel) as "little golden-coated dogs nimble dogs." The other breed, the majority of his dogs, he described as "tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as a lion. Strong enough to hunt all sorts of wild beasts particularly the wild oxen which are extremely large and fierce." These dogs were the Tibetan Mastiff.

The mastiffs were used for war and hunting, and were cared for by two men who were brothers. "The Emperor hath two Barons who are own brothers, one called Baian and the other Mingan; and these two are styled Chimtchi (or Cunichi) which is as much as to say, 'The Keepers of the Mastiff Dogs'." Marco Polo goes on to describe the hunt. "And when the Prince goes a-hunting, one of those Barons, with his 10,000 men and something like 5000 dogs, goes towards the right, whilst the other goes towards the left with his party in like manner. They move along, all abreast of one another, so that the whole line extends over a full day's journey, and no animal can escape them. Truly it is a glorious sight to see the working of the dogs and the huntsmen on such an occasion! And as the Lord rides a-fowling across the plains, you will see these big hounds coming tearing up, one pack after a bear, another pack after a stag, or some other beast, as it may hap, and running the game down now on this side and now on that, so that it is really a most delightful sport and spectacle."

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