ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – The autocratic leader of Turkmenistan has introduced a national holiday in honor of the local breed of dogs, media reports said Tuesday.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ordered the public holiday, which celebrates the praises of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog Alabai, on the last Sunday in April, when the former Soviet nation also celebrates Local Horse Breed Day, according to Neutral Turkmenistan.
The Central Asian nation of 6 million people is proud of its horses and dogs and honors its centuries-old herding traditions.
Berdymukhamedov has ruled the gas-rich desert country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that calls him Turkmenistan’s “Arkadaq” or protector.
The Turkmen leader has praised the Alabai for years. He published a book and wrote a song about the breed and gave a puppy to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017. In 2019, Berdymukhamedov also presented the then Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev with an Alabai puppy.
Last year, Berdymukhamedov inaugurated an almost 15-meter-high gold-plated statue in honor of the dog in the Turkmen capital.
Berdymukhamedov’s son Serdar, who heads the international Alabai federation, told the president that a beauty contest and agility contests will be held during the holidays.