Central Asian Shepherd / Alabai
Strength and nobility are the main features of Turkmen dogs, alabies. Nobody knows when the first dogs appeared on the territory of Turkmenistan. However, it is known exactly, according to the bone relics from the sites of ancient towns, that in Turkmenistan during the Bronze Age several breeds of dogs were bred.On the site of ancient Anau (5 km to the west of Ashkabad) in the lower stratum of the New Stone Age, relics of the Indian wolf were found which differed from other wolves by its exterior and skull. Specialists connect these relics with the origin of the modern German sheep dog. In old Merv (Gaur-kala) a statuette of a sheep dog was also found.
In settlements in the mid-Amu-Darya archaeologists found terracotta statuettes of hounds and shepherd dogs dating to the early Medieval Period. Dog bones found during the excavations in Khorezm of the 12th-14th centuries testified that the local dogs differed from each other by their types and sizes - from spitzlike dogs to small sheep dogs.One of the ancient local breeds is a sheperd dog which the Turkmen people call alabais ("a skewbald" is the most popular color of the breed). The Turkmen legend, retold to me by the historian A.M.Annanepesov said that in ancient times the alabai females were taken away high to the mountain and tied with the lambs there. A snow leopard heard the lambs' cries and came down the mountains to mate with them.
The largest alabais were descended from their offspring.Aristotle wrote about eastern dogs, that they were descended from the interbreeding of dogs and tigers. Later he said more abstractly "...with any beast that looked like a dog."The terracotta statuette from Altyn depe (2000 BC) gave the ancient image of the sheperd dog with cut ears and tail. Archaeologists consider that this is the image of the modern Turkmen alabai. Some archaeologists state that the Tibetan mastiff is its ancestor. At present the Turkmen alabai is its direct descendant and it has not been influenced by other breeds. The image of the enormous dog represented on the Parthian rhyton from Nissa (18 km from Ashkabad) is related to the mastiff breed. The breed of giant mastiffs was very popular among cattle-breeding tribes of Middle Asia. They were highly appreciated in the Ancient East The "Nissian mastiff" looked like dogs from Gandhara (the region in India) which were taken by Alexander the Great from Sopeifa. Sopeifa dogs were let go against the lions. Probably, such dogs were used during the funeral ceremony of the mazdeists as watchdogs to look after the deceased person. The massagets used special dogs to eat corpses. Later there was a dog cult among the Zoroastrians of Iran and Turkmenistan. In their opinion it would be a great misfortune for somebody if he offended a dog. If a man saw a homeless dog he had to bring it home and feed it. The dog chose itself whether it would stay at the home or go away.In ancient times the Alabais' ancestors were taken out to the Middle East. They were very popular in Ancient Assyria, Urartu and in Egypt. Egyptian and Assyrian reliefs show their images, similar to lions in size (as on the rhyton from Nissa).
In the East, men hunted lions, tigers, wolves, and buffaloes with the help of these dogs. Later they appeared in Ancient Greece and spread in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient Rome these dogs were used in the circus, in bloody performances. According to our facts all the mastiflike breeds descenoied from these dogs. Many of them greatly differed from the initial type of shepherd dogs of Middle Asia. It was known that Huns (the Turkmen ancestors) took away the blind puppies from their mother's and the sheperds fed them themselves. The grown up dog remembered its caretaker and was faithful only to him. Such dogs were used for guarding sheep and house, for hunting and in the military service.