A statue, an ode, and now a national holiday for Turkmenistan dog breed

ASHGABAT, April 25 (Reuters) – Turkmenistan marked a new holiday on Sunday dedicated to its national Alabai dog breed, to which its longtime leader has already erected a gilded memorial and written an ode.

The new holiday took place on the same day that the Akhal-Teke breed of horses, which Turkmenistan also considers part of its national heritage, was celebrated.

Alabai Day included a competition to find the best of the large sheepdogs. President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has ruled the isolated desert state with 6 million inhabitants since 2007, awarded a border guard dog the main prize for courage.

The President’s son, Deputy Prime Minister Serdar Berdymukhamedov, presented the award, which included a medal for the dog and a car for his handler.

Authorities also organized a race for purebred Akhal-Teke, horses known for their elegant stature and metallic sheen.

Dogs and horses are sources of national pride in the former Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan, where they are widely used by many traditional shepherds.

Last year the government erected a gilded Alabai statue on a busy roundabout in the capital, Ashgabat. At another intersection there is a gold-coated statue of President Berdymukhamedov himself, who is sitting on a horse.

Reporting by Marat Gurt Writing by Olzhas Auyezov Editing by Frances Kerry

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