Kyrgyzstan’s doomed dogs and contraceptive cats

Posted on 17 February 2011


Yuri Kuznetsov played chief dog-killer Ivan Maksimchuk in the 1989 Soviet film

Those of you who lived in the USSR in 1989 might well remember when one of the biggest Soviet horror films was released.

It was called Псы (psy, ‘dogs’), and was about a town in Central Asia – devoid of human life. In move a pack of abandoned blood-thirsty pooches. But then, the humans want their town back. Enter the dog hunters.

It was filmed in an arid corner of Kazakhstan around the Aral Sea.

Now their neighbours to the south are planning their own version, except it’s for real.

Officials in Kyrgyzstan are planning to cull 10,000 of the capital Bishkek’s “unwanted homeless dogs”.

I fear the phrase “humane cull” might be left somewhere on the sidelines, given my experience of the country – where throwing a headless goat around a field is called ‘sport’.

Hired dogcatchers are to round up, and then shoot or bash the poor dogs to death.

This might be marginally better than what has been happening: local people regularly take the problem into their own hands.

I remember seeing pots of poison left for the dogs outside the main entrance to the apartment buildings – where dogs sometimes congregate to bed for scraps.

It’s not unknown for people to slip their neighbours’ pets a bit of poisoned meat if the animals get on their nerves.

The Kyrgyz word for dog is: ‘it’.

(My mum used to call the dog ‘it’ too – which I got particularly peeved about (“She’s not an ‘it’, she’s a ‘SHE’!”) – Ok, sorry… that wasn’t funny.)

Here comes the science bit:

Kyrgyz is part of the sprawling Turkic family of languages (along with Turkish, Azeri, Tatar, Kazakh, Turkmen, Uzbek…) and you can say ‘it‘ for a dog in modern Turkish too, although ‘köpek is more common.

The Kyrgyz seem to have a less than friendly approach to animals, and even though the Kyrgyz enjoy their pets – there have also been reports of people ‘enjoying’ their pets.

Dire straits have followed last year’s revolution, and there have again been reports of people eating their or the next door neighbour’s pets – as happened following the one in 2005.

Stray dogs in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek

I remember the problem of packs of unwanted strays affected the area where I lived in Moscow.

It was particularly frightening at dusk – packs of stray dogs in the streets, even though they were mostly docile, enjoyed “testing” people – seeing how close they could get. Some would scrounge off you.

I just remember worrying that the dogs might have something rabies-like. This is one of the things that the Kyrgyz fear most: and it’s not hard to see why if you look at the state of their national health system.

But despite the clear need for something to be done with the stray dogs on the streets of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, dogs are actually the country’s favourite pet.

Beyond the company they provide, having a dog in the house is meant to be good for the fertility of the women in the house.

That’s right. Dogs pray for you to get pregnant. Stands to reason.

Cats, on the other hand, are evil. Officially. The Kyrgyz believe that cats pray to a god to prevent women in the house from conceiving.

Perhaps the cats just want all the attention for themselves. I dunno… I’ve always been a dog person.

So, ladies… Forget the pill. Get a cat. It’ll pray that potential bun-in-the-oven right out of town.


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