Vladimir Putin, former president and current Prime Minister of Russia, has a softer side: he loves animals. Though some say Putin stages photo ops with animals both wild and domestic as a way of boosting his personal popularity, others note his genuine affection for furred, finned and feathered creatures.
That Vladimir Putin loves animals is no secret, even among spies whose business is secrecy. For example, in a leaked diplomatic cable recently published by WikiLeaks, U.S. diplomats referred to Putin as “Alpha Dog”. The code name is relevant on a number of levels; besides owning several dogs as his family’s personal pets, the former Russian president and current Prime Minister is widely presumed to be at the apex of political power in the world’s largest country.
Putin owns a black Labrador Retriever named Koni, who often enters conference rooms during high-level meetings and puts attendees to the sniff test.
(image via: Known Knowns and unKnowns)
Former U.S. president George W. Bush met Koni when Bush visited Russia; Putin had met Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney, on a previous trip to the USA. As Koni charged across the lawn to greet Dubya, Putin reportedly leaned in and with a twinkle in his eye, said “Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney.”
In the fall of 2008, Koni demonstrated the GLONASS satellite navigation system – Russia’s version of GPS – by wearing a collar that broadcasts her whereabouts to a remote location. Laika would approve!
Three toy poodles named Tosya, Romeo and Rodeo also share the Putin home and demand (and receive) their fair share of affection from VP. Officially they belong to Putin’s wife, Lyudmila Putina, as such cuddly pets may not appear to be “manly” enough to rate ownership by Russia’s Alpha Dog.
Putin’s latest pet, a caramel-and-white-patched Karakachan shepherd dog named Buffy, was a gift from Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov to “seal the deal”, as it were, on Bulgaria’s signing on to the South Stream energy pipeline. When asked how Buffy was adjusting to his new family, Putin replied “He draws me huge puddles around the entire house, and leaves piles. But he’s a very pretty boy, of course, and I love him.” Awww…
Here’s a short video showing Putin receiving his fluffy, four-legged gift from the Bulgarian PM:
(image via: Stuff.nz)
You might think “Buffy” is an odd name for a Bulgarian dog, and one owned by a Russian nonetheless. The fact is, the name was chosen by Dima Sokolov, a 5-year-old boy whose suggested name won a nationwide competition. “I really liked your suggestion,” Putin told Sokolov at an introductory ceremony (above) introducing Buffy to friends, family and the Russian media. Buffy will grow up to be a serious vampire slayer in future as the breed can grow to weigh as much as 55 kg (121 pounds).
(image via: Known Knowns and unKnowns)
So, you think you get Putin’s goat? Nyet! In post-Soviet Russia, Putin’s goat get YOU! Well, something like that. Putin received Skazka (“Fairy-tale”), the snow-white goat above, from longstanding Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov. Luzhkov was removed from office following the summer of 2010’s deadly wildfires, and you’d better believe he didn’t get his goat… back.
As Vladimir Putin’s reputation as some sort of Dr. Doolittle (or as one blogger out it, “Dictator Doolittle”) grows, so does the impression that he can easily establish some deep connection with various kinds of animals. Check out the photos above… looks like he’s channeling Spock doing the Vulcan mind meld, inter-species style. Most illogical!
Some of the most talked-about photos of Putin are those that show him shirtless, performing some feat of strength or simply posed grandly macho… Macho Grande, as it were. Photos like those above, taken on a camping trip to Russia’s far east, may seem over-the-top to us in the West but back home in Mother Russia they serve to crystallize Putin’s image as the heir to a long line of Russian strong men.
“On his virility-proving camping trip, Putin also rode a mini-submarine to the bottom of Lake Baikal and attached a tracking device to a whale,” according to the Times of London. Click HERE to see Putin shooting at the whale – with a freakin’ crossbow, no less – and doing a few other uber-manly things. Sums up the Times: “The photos will inevitably trigger mass swooning by women all over Russia – as well as unfavorable comparisons of their husbands to Mr Putin’s manly physique.” That sound you just heard was your Man Card, crumbling into dust.
Vladimir Putin really doesn’t need to seek animals out, as he gets so many as gifts from foreign leaders and domestic governors. Take this tiny, 57cm (22.8”) tall miniature horse, for instance. You can’t – but Putin did, during a trip to Kazan in the constituent republic of Tatarstan.
(image via: Cheezburger)
Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth – at least, not for long – Putin was out in the wild once again in 2009, this time to Russia’s far-northern Franz Josef Land archipelago just 1,000 km (620 miles) from the North Pole. The plan was for Putin to help attach a satellite-tracking tag to the neck of a full-grown male bear. Watch the video HERE.
Russian security agents convinced Putin not to attempt a mind meld with the polar bear, instead tranquilizing it before the PM could get close. Even so, Putin couldn’t resist introducing himself to the bear with a vigorous handshake. “The paw shake was strong,” he said, smiling. “It is clear he is the real Lord of the Arctic.” C’mon Vlad, who are you kidding?
Putin’s image may be of the prototypical he-man hunter and master of all beasts, but a closer look reveals a more subtle motive: branding the Russian leader as a leading environmentalist. One such instance occurred in November of 2010, when he hosted heads of governments of nations who claimed wild tiger populations at a major ecological summit intended to save the big cats from extinction.
(image via: WTFhub)
Previously, in 2008, Putin was given a tiger cub by an unnamed benefactor as a 56th birthday present. The cub was presented to the public at a media photo op and soon after was handed over to a zoo.
Putin mixed business and pleasure on World Environment Day (June 5, 2010) by planting a tree and feeding a moose calf. It’s unknown whether Sarah Palin could see the event from her house. “Russia’s nature is a gift from God,” said Putin, “without any exaggeration a wonder which we enjoy every day and deserves our protection.” Watch video from the event HERE.
(image via: Liberalguy)
All creatures great and small… and the Jeopardy question is, “Who are Vladimir Putin’s best friends?” Not much else we can ascribe to the above pic, other than to be reminded that chicks – ANY chicks – just can’t resist that old Putin charm!
You can’t accuse Putin of being a cold fish, but you can certainly accuse him of catching one. Why the rugged outdoorsman felt the need to kiss the sturgeon he reeled in is beyond us, though it’s not surprising to those who have read and viewed the earlier portions of this post.
(images via: Damn Cool Pics)
Putin’s frequent habit of bare-chested fishing has inspired a similarly bare-chested action figure. Not much info’s out there on this figurine, though as a political promotional item it succeeds… hook, line and sinker.
(image via: WTFhub)
Last but definitely not least, are Vladimir Putin’s encounters with dolphins. The photo above isn’t very odd, and one might expect it’s the closest your average world leader would come to a dolphin. Then again, Vladimir Putin is not your average world leader…
Yep, you knew this was coming but it’s still remarkable: Putin swims with dolphins and likes it – as do the dolphins, from all appearances!
Now you tell me… does this guy look like a frightening threat to world peace? Is he a crafty manipulator whose political and psychological smarts have been honed by decades of service in the KGB? Or is he merely a folksy, plain-talking man of the people who loves animals (and not just party animals) unconditionally, and isn’t afraid to show it? I guess it just depends on your point of view.