At the summit for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Leaders in Sochi, October 2017, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a puppy of Alabai breed called “Vefalı” (Faithful). Alabai, generally known as Central Asian Shepherd Dog is one of the ancient dog breed from the Central Asia region, and its origin dates back to III-II centuries BC.
Central Asian Shepherd Dog originated in the surrounding areas of modern day Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Traditionally, these dogs have been used for guarding sheep and goats. Because of their great size, strength and power they can survive the harsh conditions, in which they are exposed, and can serve as effective protectors of the livestock from predators, such as wolves and bears. That’s why there is a generally accepted belief in the region that in order to avoid a grab of a predator onto a tail or ear, the dogs are usually docked and cropped. The thick dewlap around their neck also gave protection against wolf’s bite.
Throughout the region, there are many types of this dog breed and they are in different size, coat length, head shape and color. Their names in local languages also vary. For example, the purebred Central Asian Shepherd Dogs in Turkmenistan are called Alabai (Turkm. alabaý). They are considered national heritage and banned to export from the country. The word “alabay” comes from words that are common for Turkic languages; “ala” (mottled) and “bai” (abundant). On the other hand, in Kazakhstan this breed is called Tebet (Kaz. төбет), which is the merger of two words “tebe” (hill) and “it” (dog). However, Uzbekistanis call them “Buribosar” (Uzb. bo’ribosar), which means a Wolfhound. Some regions within Uzbekistan also call these dogs “Chuponi”, which is probably directly translated from its Russian name; Ovcharka (Rus. овчарка) meaning Shepherd.
During the Soviet period, Central Asian Shepherd Dogs were supposed to be used for watching over the government estates, but because of their angry behavior their training became too difficult to achieve. After the dissolution of the USSR these dogs came to North America and were classified as Central Asian Shepherd.
Nowadays, except being used as livestock guardians in Central Asia, it is quite popular to use them in dog fights. Dogfighting is decriminalized in every country throughout the region, and people from a wide variety of backgrounds make their living from it. They get profits from gambling operations centered around the fights, and a puppy of the champion dog is significantly expensive. Usually, the organization of the dogfighting takes a relatively less effort, and it takes place in unsanitary conditions without taking consideration of the safety of both dogs and spectators.
Unfortunately, Central Asian states lack effective laws and regulations on the protection of animals, and the governments are inactive in drafting such laws. They don’t establish or fund shelters for dogs or cats. Sadly, abandoned pets usually are put to sleep or just left to die in scrapyards. However, the adoption of laws on the protection of animal rights would be one of the most important steps in building a modern humane civilized state.