Funny old world: The week's offbeat news

Paris, France: Our weekly roundup of offbeat stories from around the world:

In the mood for love

French male pride swelled to seam-threatening levels at the news that the world's most romantic panda -- who is naturally French -- had managed to couple eight times in one day with his new lover.

Pandas are not known for their stamina in the bedroom department. Experts say few captive ones get the urge and when they do fewer still know what to do.

Given that females only get in the mood to conceive once a year for 24 to 48 hours, they don't get much practice.

But keepers at Beauval zoo in central France said sparks flew when Yuan Zi got up close and personal with his young Chinese mate Huan Huan.

Her "high-pitched sounds" and Zi's "more husky" grunts gave early indications that love was in the air. Despite the audience and an AFP film crew, the pair managed "eight contacts" in the course of a torrid day of trysts.

But before Zi can declare that "he's the Daddy" -- "zizi" being French slang for the business end of the male anatomy -- and lie back on a bed of bamboo, keepers warned that a love child is not guaranteed as pandas often have false pregnancies.

But whatever the outcome, it was a far more satisfying experience for Huan Huan, who gave birth to the first panda born in France in 2017 after artificial insemination.

When a man loves a horse... 

To Turkmenistan, one of the world's most closed and repressive countries, where singing dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has written a new song.

The horse-crazy Central Asian leader has already recorded a rap video with his grandson praising his favorite Akhal-Teke horse, Ak Khan, to whom he has also penned a love poem.

The horse -- whose "name is the melody of heavens/ the anthem of my heart", according to the "Great Protector" -- is no ordinary steed.

Ak Khan holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest horse to walk 10 meters on its hinds legs, a feat achieved on President Berdymukhamedov's birthday.

So as you can imagine the birth of the horse's first foal was a moment of great national jubilation. Berdymukhamedov, 63, assembled the country's greatest musicians to perform his song to a backdrop of giant images of him astride Ak Khan.

"The People's Horse Breeder" as his adoring people also call him, owns more than one in 10 of the world's thoroughbreed Akhal-Teke horses.

He has also adorned the capital of the gas-rich nation with a monumental golden statue of himself riding an Akhal-Teke as well as the world's biggest statue of a horse's head.

Berdymukhamedov has also made his favorite dog breed, the alabai, a national symbol with their own holiday as well as the obligatory giant gold statue.

Turkmen television viewers are regularly treated to reports of their leader's myriad talents and sporting feats including doing handbrake turns in his 4x4 around a volcanic crater and landing six catfish in a row last summer, sometimes without having to reel them in.

Coverage of his victory in a 2013 horse race was mysteriously cut short seconds before he fell off his mount in the home straight.

Sugar buzz

A one-million-euro ($1.2 million) drug haul announced by the Paris police turned out to be nothing more sinister than some strawberry sweets.

The bags of suspected MDMA and ecstasy turned up after a "fruitful investigation" into clandestine parties during the French capital's lockdown.

In fact, the suspicious substance was "crushed (Haribo) Tagada strawberry" sweets, a perennial favorite of French children.

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