"Some people love cats, some people love dogs. Here we have sheep," says Abou Aziz Mare, 27, who says he spends three to four hours a day on his terrace with his animals. "I live with him like a close friend," he says of Dogo.
Samba Fall, 44, keeps seven sheep at his home in Dakar's Medina neighborhood though his clear favorite is blue-eyed Papis General Fall.
"He is like my little son," Fall says, stroking Papis between his horns. "I prefer being with my sheep to being with people. Sheep don't talk about insignificant things."
Some sheep in Senegal's capital are fed cardboard cartons to line their bellies or are forced to scrounge for trash. Fall says he spoils his sheep by mixing up a medley of corn, millet, beans and sorghum.
"Across the house he hears the pieces dropping into the bowl and comes to find me," he says with a proud smile.
Papis General Fall is among the nine finalists in one Dakar neighborhood when he is led out of his pen on a rope and brought past the judges before being given a bag of food to keep him busy while the other finalists are trotted out one by one to the loud beats of a drum circle.
An audience in white plastic lawn chairs waves fans in the heat as the announcer calls out each animal's measurements and owner's name.
Each ram competing on "Khar Bii" is graded on a series of physical criteria — including up to five points awarded for the symmetry of its testicles and another 5 points possible for the quality of its coat. How well the sheep marches with his owner is another 10 points.
And overall size is key: Papis General Fall at 225 pounds (102 kilograms) failed to advance, and the neighborhood prize went to Alassane — a ram weighing in at 280 pounds (127 kilograms).
The victor had a snow-white coat and red collar with his name embroidered in green and yellow letters — the colors of the Senegalese flag.
Even for the sheep who don't win cash prizes, there is still plenty of love. Lamine Diop, a 33-year-old post office worker, keeps a photo of Eto'o on his cell phone.
"I treat him like a brother," Diop says of the animal named for Cameroonian soccer player Samuel Eto'o. "A sheep is a part of the family. When the sheep is sick, it's like a member of the family is sick."
Khar Bii: http://www.facebook.com/(hash)!/kharbii
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