Turkmen alabay is national heritage, faithful friend and indispensable assistant

Photo: Hasan Magadov and Yuri Shkurin

The dog is a symbol of New Year 2018 according to Chinese calendar and the alabay, the famous local breed of dogs, which representatives have been reliable and faithful friends, indispensable assistants and companions of Turkmen people for the centuries, is the symbol of New Year in our country. This tireless and powerful dog, which behaviour combines the steadiness, kind character and fearlessness.

In the ancient time when people were tending sheep around their houses at nearby pastries, the dogs were used for protection of the settlements. However, the epoch of nomadic cattlemen has started in the beginning of I B.C. They went with their flocks to the remote pastries where their life was unthinkable without such friend and defender as the dog. The ancestors of modern Turkmen alabays helped to tender sheep and protect their owners and livestock from predators. Turkmen alabay is tough dog and not particular about food, which is able to defend the flock from the predators and have just some bread for a long time.

The historians track the breed for 4 thousand years. The power and stamina of the pedigree of the alabay is provided by the antiquity of the breed. Dog handlers analysts say that Tibetan mastiffs, the shepherd watchdogs of highlands nomadic tribes as well as Molossian attack dogs, the original breed of Ancient East bred in Mesopotamia and Iran, were the ancestors of Turkmen alabay. It is supposed that alabay’s ancestors could have appear first in China, from where they were brought to Mongolia and after to Central Asia.

Crossing with local breeds, Tibetan mastiff could gradually acquire the features of Turkmen hound assimilating under stronger genes. Information about Tibetan dog, which is supposedly the ancestor of Turkmen wolfhound, was first mentioned in ancient Chinese “Chronicles Book” dated 1121 BC. However, let us have a look at historical facts that historians have in place.

The first references of Turkmen alabay as of separate breed are dated by XI century in literature sources. The archaeology is more precise in this direction – the oldest remains of large dogs were discovered in Jeytun Settlement (VI BC). In other words, large dogs similar by type to Central Asian shepherds used to live on the territory of modern Turkmenistan in Alty Depe (Bronze Age) in II BC. Therefore, terracotta statue that was found in Altyn Depe settlement has older history and nine centuries older than the “Chronicles Book”. Porcelain statue of the dog realistically reflecting the pedigree of Turkmen alabay was found by Turkmen archaeologists during the excavations of Dandanakan settlement in Mary Velayat.

Numerous great conquests and nomadic rides are described in historical chronicles of Central Asia. The tribes were always followed with faithful companion of the men, the dogs.

However, only one breed of dog, Turkmen alabay has remained in its original appearance. It never changed for 5 thousand years.

The alabay remained until our days owing to such features as modest food requirements and ability to stay without water for long time. The alabay has strong skin difficult for the enemy teeth as well as for many thorns that grow everywhere in Turkmen flats and desert. The alabay acquires the skills of protection of the flock from predator, watch service, killing snakes, fighting and warning of approaching enemy with mother’s milk.

Throughout the centuries, Turkmen alabay kept its original appearance and massive body conformation what is explained by the locality of the breed existence. Therefore, the protection of traditional knowledge on the formation of this unique breed and the dissemination of this knowledge are important part of national historical and cultural heritage.

Throughout the centuries, the breed has been improved by natural and artificial selection – the shepherds used to leave only active puppies with massive heads. Centuries-old tradition helped to protect and develop the best pedigrees of the alabay. Today, the work for pedigree breeding of the dogs is continued in our country.

Turkmen alabay is unique breed. This is not just strong and independent dog but also faithful to its owner and always ready to help. The uniqueness of Turkmen alabay is determined by the needs of people themselves, for which it was bred, and by climate conditions where it happened. The dog is able to handle easily changes in the temperature, having developed the adaptation to the hot weather up to +45 in the shade and low temperature in the mountains up to – 30. As a result of long evolution, the dog became so unpretentious that are able to live outdoors in summer and winter, have very simple food and stay for long time without water.

While the aggressiveness toward the potential enemy is set in its genetic code, the alabay lives in peace with other pets on its territory. It does not attack people, however, it treats the guests it doesn’t know with suspect. The alabays are more active at night what allows it protecting the flocks at night. It is willing to put its life to save the herd and run towards the predators without hesitation. On the move, the alabays go in front of the herd clearing the path or in the back protecting the rear. At the same time, they remain charming and friendly dogs that love to play especially with the children. It is worth to know about this excellent breed, the history of its origin to understand the reasons of deep affection and love that Turkmens feel to loyal, friendly and fearless dogs.