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Turkmenistan erects giant gilded dog monument

ASHGABAT (Reuters) - A huge gilded statue of a dog has been unveiled on a busy traffic circle in the capital of Turkmenistan by the country’s longtime leader, who has also written an ode to the local breed and gifted one to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The statue, with a screen showing Turkmenistan’s beloved Alabai dogs in action wrapped around the pedestal, joins another on a different major junction, also coated in gold, of President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov himself, seated on a horse.

Dogs and horses are sources of national pride in the isolated desert nation, where they are widely used by the many traditional herders among the population of six million, which largely depends on revenues from natural gas reserves.

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

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

The large, stocky breed is known as wolf crusher for its prowess in guarding sheep and goats and is also used to guard homes and for dog fights, a popular entertainment in Turkmenistan.

Reporting by Marat Gurt; writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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