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05.01.05á13:44

ALABAI - FRIEND OF TURKMENS
UNLIKE OTHER DOGS THIS DOG HAS STRONG BODY, IMPENETRABLE SKIN, STRONG NERVOUS SYSTEM AND ABILITY TO PROTECT MEN
As one ancient legend says, wild animals surrounded Adam and started attacking him after he was expelled by God from paradise to the sinful earth. A huge dog headed the horde. The first man begged the Almighty for help, and he advised him to stroke a dog. Adam followed his advice. The dog turned around and began protecting Adam from assailants.

This was the way the dog became the first friend and protector of men on earth, according to ancient legends.

In the territory of Turkmenistan the oldest remains of large dogs were discovered in the settlement of Dzheitun (VI century BC). In the settlement of Altyn - Депе (II century BC) we may see later evidences of large dogs - ancestors of the modern Turkmen Alabai breed - that lived during those ancient times in the territory of today's Turkmenistan. It should be noted that the first mentioning of the Tibetan mastiff, alleged to be an ancestor of the Turkmen wolfhound, is found in the ancient Chinese "Book of chronicles", dated 1121 BC. It tells us about one large dog presented to Chinese emperor Vu-Vangu. It gives us the ground to revise the notion that the Tibetan mastiff is the ancestor of the Turkmen Alabai, which is proved by the terracotta figure found in the settlement of Altyn -Depe (the Bronze Age) in the territory of modern Turkmenistan. It has more ancient history and is 9 centuries older than "Book of chronicles". The figure is a vivid example that the Turkmen Alabai has kept its origin. A figure of the modern Turkmen Alabai with cut ears and tail and hardly visible transition of a forehead to a muzzle and a strong body can be seen in it.

In Turkmenistan, Alabai dogs were kept isolated from other breeds of dogs and retained its original breed, not mixing up with other breeds. This was fostered by the geographic situation of Turkmenistan: there are the Kopetdag mountains on the one hand and the Caspian sea on the other, plus the Kara Kum desert. None of existing breeds of dogs could overcome independently these natural obstacles and mix up with the Turkmen Alabai. Turkmens, being true selectors, bred unique breeds of pets, such as the Ahalteke racer, the Turkmen Alabai, the hunting dog called Tazy and kept their original breed for thousands of years.

In the ancient times people grazed flocks around their homes on nearby pastures. At that time, dogs were used basically for protection of settlements and, to a lesser extent, for grazing of live stock. In the beginning of the first century BC, however, the situation changed and the era of cattlemen-nomads began. They used to take their flocks to the remote pastures and there, far from settlements, one could hardly survive without such friend, assistant, defender and body guard as a dog. As opposed to settlements where dogs were used only as guards, ancestors of the modern Turkmen Alabai dogs helped cattlemen graze sheep and protected both shepherds and their livestock from predators that lived in great amounts in the territory of modern Turkmenistan at that time. The Turkmen Alabai is a strong dog, modest in meal and capable of grazing the flock for a long time, protecting it from predators and at the same time managing to do with a piece of bread or a lap made of flour all day long.

Cattlemen valued these qualities very much, for such a large dog, capable to fight a wolf, can do with so poor food. Also, the Turkmen Alabai can easily stand sharp weather changes. Alabai dogs adapt both to very hot weather, +45 degrees Celsius in shade, and to high-mountain temperature, up to - 30 degrees Celsius. Another special feature inherent in the Turkmen Alabai is the ability to protect his master from snakes. Alabai grabs the snake and breaks her backbone with sharp strokes. The dog does so for a certain reason. If it holds the snake by the head, then other large snakes can twist around his neck and strangle him. These qualities make the Turkmen Alabai the true friend and body guard of a cattleman in his hard life.

The VI century BC witnessed a wave of conquests by the Ahemenid kings. According to one legend, Kir I, the greatest of Ahemenid kings, was fed with dog's milk. It means that dogs were held in great esteem and considered sacred. Then, there followed conquests of Alexander the Great, the times of the most hard fights and campaigns. In VI century, Central Asia was completely conquered by Turks who established their own state in 551 year. At that time, cattle breeding already advanced, a shepherd needed a loyal friend and dogs were treated favorably.

The attitude toward dogs changed in VII century owing to the conquest of Central Asia by Arabs. Arabs brought in their culture and new faith - Islam. If fire worshippers considered dog a sacred animal, Islam regarded dogs as dirty animals and the attitude toward man's true friends changed. Aggressive dogs were simply killed, only the most loyal to man and children dogs were left. This might be the reason that the Turkmen Alabai belongs only to one territory, he carries security service only at his territory and does not show aggression to people in the foreign territory.

The history of Central Asia is replete with great conquests and campaigns of nomads. Basically, those were nomad tribes of cattlemen, and it is hard to imagine the cattleman's life without a large security dog. Each tribe used to bring their true friends, dogs, with their flocks. But the life chooses the strongest, capable to survive in very difficult conditions. In the territory of modern Turkmenistan, the original breed of the dog called the Turkmen Alabai survived. The look of the man's true friend has not changed over 5 thousand years, despite all hardships it had to overcome together with his master.

The Turkmen Alabai retained its origin thanks to such qualities as modesty in meal, ability to do even with very poor food and without water for a long time. Alabai has thick and impenetrable skin that cannot be torn up by teeth of opponents and damaged by various scratchy plants that grow in abundance in the territory of Turkmenistan, especially in sandy places. Alabai can fight a predator and, as a rule, beats the enemy. Alabai does not need daily training to master certain commands as is the case with dogs of some other breeds. In contrast with them, the Turkmen Alabai learns in his young age from the mother how to graze the flock, fulfill guard duties, kill snakes, master fighting skills, bark at the approaching enemy. Nobody teaches Alabai specific commands as to stay behind a sheep that strayed from the flock in the desert or in mountains. Protection of property of his master, even at the expense of his own life, is natural of the dog. As one shepherd told us, his loyal Alabai stayed with a sheep that strayed from the flock for three days and died from thirst near her. The Turkmen Alabai is a loyal dog.

Many modern breeds of dogs were bred artificially by the method of crossing different breeds, and their history is less than 200 years. They appeared as a result of people's modern demands. However, it can happen that they may be no longer required in due time and will disappear as did other breeds that were not in demand and could not adapt to the new conditions of life and work. Time is the true judge in this regard, and the Turkmen Alabai, who passed his life test with credit, lasting for 5 thousand years, has proved it.

Many would-be dog breeders have no idea about implications of their experiments, trying to grow up the best breed by crossing Alabais with other breeds. They do not realize what harm they do to the breed that survived thanks to its unique qualities. True admirers of this breed are convinced that the best representative of Central Asian sheepdog (САS) breed is Alabai. Archive documents, in which CAS breed was known as "the Turkmen sheepdog" until 1938 (since its best representatives were in Turkmenistan), is evidence of that.

There are legends about a shepherd who tried to breed large dogs crossing Alabai with a tiger.

We still have laymen who claim that their dogs have the blood of a tiger or a leopard, not understanding absurdity of these words. It is impossible to cross-breed a cat and a dog and to expect offspring from them. We know some cases of free crossing of Alabais and Tazis. Their offspring are called "Gayyn" (one should not confuse it with "Gytyk", meaning sleek-haired). Such dogs were smaller than thoroughbred Alabai dogs and could not be regarded as successors of the breed.

If "Gayyn" and Tazy crossed again, their offspring were called "Zannar", they were categorically denied further breeding. Also, there were examples of crossing of dogs with a wolf. In this case, if the father was a dog and the mother was a wolf, the offspring were referred to as "Hunnush". Otherwise, offspring were named "Unnush".

It is said that a puppy incorporates many qualities with mother's milk. That is why some shepherds tried to hold offspring of a wolf and female Alabai, but they had many defects: a wolf has a weak waist and always falls down when contenders rise on back legs. Alabai has the thick and impenetrable skin, and this quality may be lost at mixing.

Hybrids have weak nervous system. A wolf, by his nature, always hunted and stole live stock, and a wolfhound, on the contrary, protected flock and sheep. That is why their offspring with weak nervous system are unpredictable. They either are too aggressive or very coward and useless either for protection or for grazing livestock. All the more so, if we take into account that Alabai is stronger than a wolf, why spoil the breed? The main distinctive feature of the Turkmen Alabai is affection for men, especially children. On the contrary, a wolf is aggressive. Also, hybrids are unsuitable for contests between thoroughbred Turkmen Alabai dogs as they show and grind the teeth, which is inadmissible for Alabai.

In the years of independence, against the background of the common process of reviving people's spiritual and cultural heritage, unlimited and illegal export of valuable representatives of the breed, "Turkmen Alabai", was stopped. In fact, new breeds of dogs can be raised by cross-breeding, and the breed with ancient history is very difficult to find. Alabai is a fearless dog that will not tremble before any enemy. To prove it, enthusiasts took Alabai nicknamed Ekemen (who proved himself good in test fights) to a zoo and brought him close to an open-air cage with a lion. It was hard to hold Ekemen, so furiously he tried to rush at the lion, denying claims that a dog, having put the tail between the legs, will escape only at hearing the terrible roar of the animals' king. Despite the lion's growl, Ekemen became even stronger in his fury. Finally, the lion got away, lied down and lifted upwards all his four paws (a defensive position) as if recognizing the dog's superiority over the family of cats, because a lion is a cat too, yet the big one.

The Turkmen Alabai once again proved in practice that he will not spare his life to protect his master. One should be really proud of this masterpiece of nature!

Dovlet KURRIKOV

Chairman of Turkmen club of cynologists "Turkmen Iti"

Ashgabat

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