Japan keeps word, gifts Akita dog to Russian skater Zagitova

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday took part in a ceremony to present a Japanese Akita dog to Russia's Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova during a visit to Moscow.

Zagitova, the 16-year-old who won gold at this year's Pyeongchang Olympics, proclaimed her love for Akitas after spotting them while training in Japan, and local officials pledged to find one for her.

The head of the Akita preservation society, Takashi Endo, gifted her a puppy called Masaru in the ceremony in a central Moscow hotel.

Abe, who spoke at Saint Petersburg's Economic Forum this week and will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, took part in the presentation.

In 2016, the governor of Japan's Akita region gifted an Akita puppy named Yume -- "dream" in Japanese -- to Putin.

In recent years, foreign ownership of Japan's most famous indigenous breeds has skyrocketed, with celebrities like Hollywood actor Richard Gere and French film star Alain Delon owning the breed.

Other famous Akita admirers include deaf-blind political activist Helen Keller who brought one back to America.

Originally a hunting breed, Akitas emerged from the northern Japanese region of the same name.

They are large, around 60 to 70 centimetres (24 to 28 inches) tall and between 40 to 50 kilogrammes (88 to 110 pounds), with prominent ears that stand straight up, deep-set eyes and almost bear-like faces.