Turkmenistan’s president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov unveiled a 19ft (6m) gold statue of the Alabay dog on a busy roundabout in the capital Ashgabat this week. It’s a home-bred Turkmen variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog and is listed under the country’s national heritage. The large, stocky breed is known for its prowess in protecting sheep and goats from wolves. It is also used to guard homes and in dog fights, a popular form of entertainment in Turkmenistan.The statue is located in a residential area designed for civil servants. The statue features an LED screen with video footage of the breed in various situations. In a song and dance-filled ceremony opening the residential area, an elder handed an Alabai puppy to a young boy, symbolizing the dog’s constancy through generations of Turkmen.
Mr Berdymukhamedov has occasionally given a horse or a puppy to leaders of “friendly” nations, and among the recipients of such gifts were the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and the Qatari emir. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has also written an ode to the local alabai breed. Dogs and horses are sources of national pride in Turkmenistan.