Riyadh: First it was camels. Now Saudi Arabia has held its first "beautiful goat" pageant.
Owners of pedigree "Najdi" goats from around the Gulf region converged on Riyadh this week, hoping to win the prize for top male and female goat, following in the footsteps of lucrative camel competitions which have taken off in recent years.
"The Najdi goat is a pure national product like nothing else in the world," said Sheikh Faisal al-Saadoun, a leading Saudi breeder who organised the show.
"They are different in terms of beauty, shape and how eye-catching they are."
The goats are named after the central Najd region of Saudi Arabia, where the goats have a distinctive high nose bridge and shaggy hair with a fine, silky quality.
They were given a thorough shampoo for the show, according to the official website (wwwl.al-nawader.com) which displayed the winners.
Most of the goats in the competition were bred from one star goat, Burgan (Volcano), from Saadoun's stable and have been exported around the Gulf in trade worth millions of riyals.
Burgan was not on display at the show as the owners fear he could be afflicted by the "evil eye".
But that did not stop offers from the Qatari royal family to buy him, the compere told the gathering.
Saadoun sold dozens of goats from his stable for at least 100,000 riyals ($26,000) each at the show, adding to some 8 million riyals he has made over the years breeding from Burgan.
"This male goat is different. He is historic and he has contributed to developing the Najdi goat," he told Reuters, as poets recited odes in praise of the goats over loud speakers.
The winner in the male category was a son of Burgan with a value of 450,000 riyals.
The gathering at a ranch outside Riyadh gave breeders a chance to trade but Abu Ahmed, a breeder from the United Arab Emirates, was disappointed that Saadoun did not take his offer of 350,000 riyals for a one son of Burgan.
"I wanted to develop the breed from the point it has got to," he said. However, camels remain the pride of the Bedouins. Delicate females or strapping males can sell for more than a million riyals and camel-racing is a popular throughout the Gulf.
Last November a leading authority of Saudi Arabia's hardline school of Islam condemned camel beauty contests as evil, saying those involved should seek repentance in God.
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