Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a display during the MAKS 2017 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow on 18 July. Russian media report he uses the blood from deer antlers Reuters

Vladimir Putin has reportedly been engaging in the ancient Russian tradition of bathing in blood from severed deer antlers to boost his health. The Russian news outlet Kapitalist.tv reported that the president had 70kg of stag antlers prepared for him when he visited the far-flung Altai Mountains in 2016.

Putin has visited Altai many times in the last few years where he has been pictured enjoying the great outdoors, engaging in macho pursuits like riding a horse with his top off. News outlet Republic said a decade ago Putin had consulted about the health benefits of Maral, or red deer antler extract, which is boiled into a broth.

It is described as being able to enhance sexual performance and was once known as "horns of gold".

One Altai farm, which exports antlers for use in Chinese medicinal cures, describes the extract as a kind of panacea which could strengthen bones, muscles, teeth, eyesight and hearing.

But the practice of getting the extract, involving the sawing off of deer antlers without anaesthetic, has been described as barbaric by animal rights campaigners.

Irina Novozhilova, president of Russian Animal Protection Centre 'Vita', described it as "a pure example of a cruel attitude to animals."

She said: "Blood baths. This is manipulating nature, without any sense.

"It is strange that we are discussing this matter in the 21st century, because the faith in the effectiveness of this medicine made from antlers comes from ancient times," she said.