The Twentieth Century Dog - Borzoi Section

by Herbert Compton
published in 1904, Grant Richards, London. "Compiled from the contributions of over five hundred experts."


The average height of our show-bench borzoi is about 30 inches, though one gigantic specimen, Caspian, measured 34 inches. The colours are white, splashed with lemon, red, fawn, grey, and occasionally darker shades, but black and tan is tabooed. Expatriation has decidedly improved the borzoi's disposition, and it cannot be regarded as anything but a very docile creature in its English domicile, though it retinas its inveterate habit of chasing anything that appears to it to be of the nature of a warrantable quarry, and for this reason requires looking after in its walks abroad.

Before recapitulating the criticisms on the type of the breed as it exists in England to-day, I will reproduce two descriptions of "ideal dogs," so that a mental picture may be represented to my readers' eyes of the exceedingly beautiful subject of this sketch.

THE DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE'S IDEAL BORZOI - A perfect borzoi should show substance combined with quality. A lon head, rather Roman-nosed; dark, almond-shaped eyes, soft and expressive, set half-way between the occiput and point of nose; small ears, set on high, but not prick; a strong neck, which should appear rather short in proportion to the size of the hound; well set-back shoulders, sloping to the points; well sprung ribs (but not round, like a barrel); deep chest, arched loin, stern set low. Very strong muscular quarters, so that, standing behind, they appear the widest part of the hound; hocks well bent and let down; stern long and carried low; long, silky coat, white, and should curl slightly on the neck; legs straight and well feathered; the bone and muscle on legs should not appear round, but flat. Feet rather long, with not too much bridge to the toes. Height from 29 to 32 1/2 inches.

MISS HELEN ARNOLD'S IDEAL BORZOI - My ideal only exists in fancy at present, but some day I hope to exhibit him to the public. He shall be about 33 inches high, with a lovely, long, curly, silky coat, waving up round his ears with quite a Queen Elizabeth ruffle, to set off a head 13 1/2 inches long, with a skull 16 1/2 inches in circumference, flat on top, and oval to the sides. The skin on his head will be so thin and the hair so fine that his veins will be perceptible all down his aristocratic "Wellington" nose. His eyes will be very dark and penetrating; his ears small, thin, and always alert when exercising, but tightly folded back when at ease. When he is fully furnished his chest will measure 3 inches more in circumference than his height; his ribs will not resemble a "weather-board," but he will be "fish-sided." There will be room for his heart to beat and his lungs to expand, so that I may not lose this dream of years (when I get him!) by sudden failure of the heart's action. He will cover as much ground as his height, and will be wider behind than in front, owing to his sloping, muscular hindquarters. He will have a strong but not too short neck, and a sloping shoulder; his stifle well bent, his hind legs brought up nicely under him, owing to a good roach back, which roach will be a harmonious curve, not a camel's hump of a thing. His long tail and his hind and fore-quarters will all be well feathered with long, silky hair; the bone of his fore legs will be flat, gradually tapering down to his hare feet, which must be this shape in case some day duty calls him to his proper work, which is, in winter, on the snow; and I should like him to meet his Russian brothers on equal terms. His temper will be generous and kind, and he will be equally happy in house or kennel; always willing to share his bed and food with his companions, as all mine do now. I hope his colour will be white, with deep auburn markings, shading off to black in the face, or a beautiful sttel-grey. If I get all the other points I shall not mind if he is fawn, lemon, or orange-marked, though I believe Russians prefer a peculiar red-grey brindle if the cannot get a whole white, and for breeding many keep a whole-coloured bitch in the kennl, as such a one generally breeds good puppies, and is healthy and strong, thereby proving the old adage, :The darker the colour, the stronger the dog."

With these two admirable pictures of what a borzoi should be, I will procedd to quote the criticisms of what it is in this year of grace in England:

THE DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE - I think we have quite as good specimens, and, on the whole, sounder than are to be found in their native land, - owing, I expect, to our less severe winter. Light eyes are, I am afraid, becoming too common, and breeders here think too much of size, getting with it flat sides and want of depth in chest. (Subsequently, aftering seeing the proofs of this article, Her Grace added these notes): Luckily very few specimens of the borzoi came from the Czar's kennels; his borzois, as a whole, are a particularly bad collection. It was the Grand Duke Nicholas who sent Mr. Cremiere over in February 1892 with a team of some twenty borzois, Oudar and his litter brother and two sisters being the best of the bunch. I thoroughly disagree with the statement that the borzoi is less sagacious than other dogs, and consider that in the criticisms of his sense and temper he has been much maligned. I have had fourteen years' intimate friendship with, perhaps, three hundred borzois, and have come across no fools amongst them. Every one I have taken into the house, even including imported mature specimens that have been used for wolf-hunting, have been good-tempered, intelligent companions, absolutely devoted to me, and well able to take care of themselves. And during my experience of them I have not had a bad fight in my kennels. They are also easily taught tricks. As really faithful companions, they are first among breeds. A borzoi 30 inches in height should girth at least 35 inches, and the taller the dog the deeper in proportion the girth should be. This should prove to all borzoi breeders the great importance of not going for leggy, weedy animals; as far as height goes, the tall ones, at first sight, impress any one not really knowing the breed before the smaller but much heavier dog; but the judge who goes for height before heart room is doing his best to ruin the breed. Dogs from 29 to 32 inches are the best - bitches from 28 to 31. It is really only within the last ten years that the breed has become popular and quite common, but it may interest those who do not know it that the borzoi was known in this country as far back as 1863, when a dog, Katai by name, bred by the Czar, was shown at Birmingham. In 1869 H.R.H. the Prince of Wales showed a specimen at Islington. Lady Emily Peel was the next borzoi fancier, then Lady Charles Innes Kerr, Colonel Wellesley, and Mrs. Alfred Morrison. After this I came on the scene in 1890, and borzois have increased since then all over England.

MR. R. HOOD-WRIGHT - I am not satisfied with type as it exists today. I think we are losing sight of the original use of the dog, and sacrificing type to coat, size, and length without breadth in head; consequently they are losing brain-power and intelligence.

MISS HELEN ARNOLD - Taken as a whole the borzois just now lack the dark eye so characteristic of the breed, and the silky curly coat so prized by Russians. Also more attention should be given to heads and general soundness. Many think the silky curly coat wrong in a borzoi, but it is amongst the chief points in a Russian hound, as it clings closer to the body, and keeps out the weather (silk is warmer than wool). Others think that the borzoi should have ribs like a weather-board; a proper borzoi's ribs are sprung, so that his heart has room to beat and his lungs to expand. When they are bred like this we shall not hear of so many dropping down dead after galloping. Dogs should have good arch, the bitches less. English breeders want bitches with as much arch as a dog, and are apt to say of really good bitches, "She lacks arch." The borzoi's arch should give his back a rounded appearance - not the "spikey" look so many have. No point values are given in the Club's book; if I had to draw up a scale I should assess them - Head, including eyes, ears and expression, 20; neck, shoulders, and fore-legs, 20; body between shoulders and hips, 20; hindquarters and hind legs, 20; coat, tail, and general type, 20; total - 100. (Miss Helen Arnold is also exercised over my insufficient appreciation of the borzoi's character, and adds to her notes): - I agree with your notes criticising the intelligence of the imported borzoi. In Russia, of course, they are trained to be savage as possible, and are essentially hounds, not pets, and all the conversation they are treated to is the whip. An English bred borzoi, e.g., one that has been "talked to" and treated kindly, is as intelligent as any other breed of dog, and has a much longer memory than some. I will admit there are some strains that will no civilise, and have given the breed its bad name in this country. I carefully avoid them. Part of my ambition has been realised: I have just sold one of my strain of borzois to a Russian nobleman for breeding. Russian breeders may not like the new (English) disposition of the borzoi, and may call them "lap dogs!" My imported bitch, before she learnt English and took to domestication, could and would attack anything; but she soon learnt to obey, and became the most gentle with every one.

MRS. J.M'INTYRE - There are so many types of borzois that the question of satisfaction as regards type is difficult to answer. No two judges judge alike, and not one judge in ten is consistent in his judging throughout the classes. Borzois should be judged by their points, and points alone; we should then have on and the true breed. There is no use in having point values when the dogs are not judged by them.

MAJOR BORMAN - There appears to be a tendecny on the part of too many judges to go for size, without taking quality sufficiently into consideration; and more attention should be given by breeders to getting the long, lean head so characteristic of the borzoi. The following is, roughly, my idea of what point values ought to be - Head and expression, 20; legs and feet, 20; loin, 15; coat, 10; eyes, 5; tail, 5; girst and general symmetry of outline, 20; total - 100.

The recommendations of the borzoi are infinite. The Duchess of Newcastle thinks "they have most charming dispositions, most affectionate to their masters, and although prefectly civil to strangers don't make a fuss over them. They are, I consider, the most faithful of any breed of dog I have personally come in contact with, and are certainly the most handsome." Miss Helen Arnold likes them as a breed "for their size, beauty, and symmetry, and because, for ladies' dogs, they are not too heavy to handle, can follow horse or person, yet be contented and comfortable in a room." Mr. Hood-Wright deems them "beautiful and graceful, and the bitches make charming companions; but the dogs' natural instinct is to chase - consequently many of them are not desirable companions off the lead." Mrs. M'Intyre thinks them "the most elegant of dogs; good friends and good companions, and very tractable. When reared properly they are very hardy. I like them best of any dogs; they are always sweet and clean, and free from the objectionable odour so many dogs have." Another lady-fancier writes: "Borzois seem to come truer to type than any other breed, and to pay for getting the best blood, and using the best sires. If - but that is a big 'if' - you can get them over distemper, they are very ornamental, affectionate, and - jealous. For all intents and purposes they are pet-dogs in England; they never knock over furniture or ornaments in a drawing room; but otherwise they are stupid, and not always good-tempered under punishment, which is frequently necessary from their in-bred habit of chasing everything. But they are so graceful and so insinuating that one forgives them much. No doubt where they are kept for real sport they are different animals. One thing greatly in their favour is that they have no 'doggy' smell, which especially fits them for the house."

continued >>>

Coursing and Racing Dogs
(Freeman Lloyd)

(not exclusively Borzoi)

Coursing Excerpt from The Beasts of the Prairies

Dog of All the Russias
(W. Haynes)

Dogs of Today - the Russian Wolfhound or Borzoi

Dogs That Hunt Bears and Wolves (Excerpt)
Freeman Lloyd

Excerpt from Hutchinson's Encyclopedia

Excerpt from the Kennel Encyclopaedia

Freeman Lloyd on Borzoi

Hound of the Czars
(Walter Dyer)

Hunting Dogs: Sighthounds and Scenthounds
(L. P. Sabaneev, 1899)

Hunting Large Game Excerpt

J.B. Thomas Says American Borzoi Lead the World
(Micheline de Zutter)

An Outline of the History of the Borzoi
Baron G.D. Rozen, 1891

Ruby de Bolshoy
(Melanie Richards)

Russian Wolfhounds of Yesterday and Today
(Freeman Lloyd)

RWCA's History (1930)

the Borzoi
(H. W. Huntington)

the Borzoi or Russian Wolfhound
(Major Borman)

the Hare and Many Foes

the Russian Borzoi (excerpt from "Dogs From All Angles")

the Russian Wolfhound
(James Watson)

the Russian Wolfhound or Borzoi
(W. Johnston)

Twentieth Century Dog - Borzoi Section

Watson on Borzoi


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