Now the breed has been celebrated with a national holiday, which included a contest to find the best Alabai on show.
The President’s son and deputy, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, presented the prize in his father’s name during the festivities, Reuters reported, after entrants in national dress paraded their dogs on a colorful stage.
Akhal-Teke purebred horses, another national icon, were also celebrated at the event.
Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the President’s son and deputy, holds a puppy during the event.
Dogs are considered part of Turkmenistan’s national heritage and are widely used by the many traditional herders among its population of six million. Berdymukhamedov, 63, has written a book and a poem about the Alabai dog and in 2017 gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a puppy for his birthday.
The large, stocky breed is known as “wolf-crusher” for its prowess in guarding sheep and goats and is also used to guard homes.
The golden statue unveiled last November joined Ashgabat’s growing collection of monuments, which includes a gold-coated statue of President Berdymukhamedov himself seated on a horse, mounted on a white marble cliff, built at a major road junction in 2015.
A statue of an Alabai dog in Turkmenistan’s capital.
Vyacheslav Sarkisyan/Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo
Despite the glitzy capital and billions of dollars spent on architectural curiosities, Turkmenistan’s population faces hyperinflation and food shortages.
CNN’s Helen Regan contributed reporting.