Turkey has an eclectic mix of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history plus modern Western European influences. Developing strong political and trade relationships with both East and West has made it a bridge between the two.
Strength of the Kangal Dog
Historically, Turkey has had a different relationship with pets compared to many Western European countries. It has not been known as a country of dog lovers, yet there is an impressive indigenous breed: the Turkish Kangal Dog.
This pastoral breed is well respected in rural areas for its work ethic, strength, ability to cope with all climates and protective instinct. All that combined with a magical Eastern backstory – the Kangal, a treasured national emblem, is said to be ‘as strong as a lion’ and ‘born of a lion and a tiger’.
Turkey is actually more well-known as a country of cat lovers. The historical explanation: ’Prophet Muhammad had a cat called Muezza (the mother of cats) who he loved so much that he once cut the clothes on which she was sleeping, so as not to wake her up when he was about to pray’.
The bond with cats continues to this day, with high populations in many cities. On street corners you see bowls of food and water for the local cats. In winter, people build cat houses to provide shelter.
The famous cat ‘Tombili’ who once roamed the streets of Istanbul now has a statue in his honour. Istanbul is even referred to by some as ‘Catstantinople’.
Responsible pet ownership
As Turkey continues to buy into more elements of Western culture, pet ownership is increasing. There are also significant advances in animal welfare, with minimum welfare standards for health and well-being. Animal cruelty is now a punishable offence and responsible pet ownership is a strict criterion for keeping a pet.
Emergence of the pet industry
The Turkish pet food industry embraces market trends from Europe and the US. Along with the emergence of pet food manufacturers, pet shops and associated services accommodate the needs of middle-class dog owners who want to pamper their pet.
Euromonitor said in 2017 about Turkey: ‘Dog food continues to register a positive performance as a result of rising pet owner awareness of pet health. As a consequence, more owners seek advice from veterinary clinics, which generally recommend prepared dog food for healthy pet nutrition.’
Stronger emotional bonding with pets is expected to continue. Turkey has its own unique blend of Eastern cultural heritage intertwined with much of what Western society has to offer. It has always had its own special bond with animals which can still be seen in Turkish values today. However, as the economy advances and disposable incomes increase, the importance of family pets from a Western ‘pet parent’ perspective will continue to grow.