Turkmenistan on Sunday celebrated a new state holiday honouring the native Alabay dog breed.
The dog is to be celebrated on the same day the Central Asian country lauds its Akhla-Teke horse, a breed known for its speed and endurance. The two animals are seen as a source of national pride.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov aims to make the Alabay as well-known as the horse. Last year he unveiled a 15-metre golden statue of the dog in the capital, Ashgabat, which also boasts a complex dedicated to the breeding of the dog race.
The Turkmen president gave his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, an Alabay for his 65th birthday in 2017, and in 2019 published a book saying that the first Turkmen "saw in the horse their dream, and in the Alabay their happiness".
Alabay, traditionally used for guarding livestock herds, are among the world’s largest dogs, weighing as much as 80 kg.
Sunday’s observance included a competition of 10 examples of the breed in which they were judged on appearance and agility. The winning dog and breeder received the award from Berdymukhamedov's son and the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Serdar Berdymukhamedov.
It comes just days after the 63-year-old ruler bestowed his son with the new title of "honourable breeder."
When accepting the title he described the Alabay dogs as the "national pride" and "heritage" of the Turkmen people.
The appointment comes at a time when Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 38, is increasingly being tipped to succeed his father, who came to power in 2006. Last week, he replaced him at the head of the national association of Akhal-Teke horses.
Serdar Berdymukhamedov also recently became a senator, deputy prime minister and member of the powerful National Security Council.