The practice is legal and not unheard of in Russia, and involves sawing the antlers off Maral stags — a species of deer found in northern Asia — extracting the blood, boiling it, and making it into a bath.
The blood allegedly helps boost male health and sexual potency, though women sometimes take the baths too. Russian TV personality Lena Lenina even drinks the blood.
Stags are not given anesthetics before the severing. Their antlers grow back incredibly quickly — sometimes even at a rate of an inch per day — and because the animals continue to regrow them for fifteen years, they are often mauled over and over.
The largest Maral stags have antlers that weigh 33 pounds, and Putin’s bath required 150 pounds of antlers. That means that at least five stags were required to draw a bath for the president of Russia.
Rumors of Putin’s ill-health have cropped up from time to time over the past few years. The president is 64 years old now and reportedly first started looking into the health properties of Maral blood ten years ago. He’s consulted experts on the subject and visited Altai Mountains farms specializing in the antler-severing and blood baths sometimes as often as a few times in a year.
One such establishment is Siberia’s Novotalitskoye Farm, which breeds Maral stags for this purpose and advertises a rather optimistic list of the blood’s health benefits:
“Extract from red deer antlers acts as a strong tonic, especially for men’s potency. It strengthens the body’s bones, muscles, teeth, eye sight and hearing, cures pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, joint pain, osteoporosis, and problems with the spine.”
This grotesque practice doesn’t just happen in Russia. Around 3,000 antlers are preserved and exported from Russia every year; South Korea is the main buyer.
“You feel euphoric after the first bath, like you are flying,” a Russian owner of a guest house specializing in these blood baths told The Daily Mail.