Turkmenistan leader unveils giant gold statue of local dog

Tribute to alabai sheepdog towers above roundabout in capital of Ashgabat

Turkmenistan leader reveals golden monument to favourite dog breed – video

Turkmenistan’s longtime president has unveiled a huge gilded statue of a dog on a busy roundabout in the capital.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has also written an ode to the local alabai breed and given one of the dogs to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The statue, which has a screen wrapped around the pedestal showing alabai dogs in action, joins another of Berdymukhamedov seated on a horse, also coated in gold, at a different junction in Ashgabat.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov presents Vladimir Putin with an alabai puppy in 2017
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Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov presents Vladimir Putin with an alabai puppy in 2017. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Dogs and horses are sources of national pride in Turkmenistan, where they are widely used by the many traditional herders among the population of 6 million.

Berdymukhamedov has run the tightly controlled former Soviet republic since 2007 and is unofficially known as the arkadag, or protector.

He has praised the alabai, or Central Asian shepherd dog, as an example of national heritage and written a book about them. He gave Putin a puppy in 2017.

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.