The Twentieth Century Dog - Borzoi Section

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

An aristocrat of aristocrats, the borzoi is at once the noblest looking as well as the newest addition to our bench of sporting hounds. He came with an Imperial halo about him, for amongst the earlier specimens introduced into this country were some from the Czar's kennels.

The Russian wolf-hound, like its Irish prototype, bears a great affinity to the greyhound. Except for its fleecy coat and feathered tail it is practically built on greyhound lines with certain modifications. The chief of these is in the head, which differs in outline and conformation so much that it is practically distinct from any other breed of hound. The veriest tyro having once seen it can recognise a "borzoi head," with its thin, narrow, Roman-nosed contour, and its long fine muzzle. And yet the grip of these hounds is far in excess of what you would give them credit for, and the boast of their masters in their native land is that we have no hound so tenacious of holding on to its quarry. Perhaps it would be more correct to ally the borzoi to the Asiatic greyhound, the hounds of Persia and Afghanistan, generically, notwithstanding that the Russian has kept the delicate and lightly carried ear - perhaps at the expense of a skull too narrow to contain much brains.

Truth to tell, the borzoi has acquired a character of being less sagacious than other dogs - outside his own sphere of sport, wherein he is peculiarly cunning and adept. I remember hinting this to a lady-fancier, and being crushed with the retort, "Stupid! Not a bit of it! My hound knows its name quite well!" Subsequently, a confession was made that the hound in question was a little rash in the risks it ran of getting run over, and was safer on a lead than when allowed to wander unattached. I trust I am unintentionally unjust to the borzoi, whom I have no desire to libel; but I must confess I retain the conviction that, mentally speaking, it is not a brilliantly witted hound.

But, as I have said, in its own sphere the borzoi is neither lacking in sense nor spirit, and perchance any dog, translated from such outlandish climes as the wilds of Russia to our busy centres of dog-showing, might not be able to adapt itself to its new surroundings and conditions for a generation or two. But the borzoi is being quickly anglicised; it has already ceased to be rare, and has increased marvellously within the last few years. This is reflected in the entries at the Kennel Club Show, which leaped from fifteen in 1900 to sixty-two, fifty-three, and seventy-two in the last three years. An even better proof is afforded by the advertisement columns in the dog-press. Picking up a paper at random I observe a column of borzoi advertisements, with a host of reputed champion-bred stock offered at prices which old fanciers of the breed would doubtless consider scandalous compared with prices current ten years ago, when, in the first blush of its invasion and the sunshine of Royal patronage, to possess a borzoi was to be in the first flight of fashion as regards dogs. Even now, when they are comparatively common, a borzoi at heel invests the owner with a certain distinguished air, which no other breed can do, and I remember an audible remark oerheard at a fashionable sea-side parade in reference to a very meagre specimen that was rather dejectedly following a somewhat seedy-looking individual, "Look! that's one of the Queen's dogs!"

It is prbably due to Her Majesty's interest in the breed that it has achived this high tone. But, on the other hand, its lovers may insist that its fame is all its own, and due to uts undoubted grace and beauty, which must ever continue to attract attention and command admiration. And one fact certainly cannot be denied: the borzoi is one of the most striking-looking dogs in our canine repository, and once seen is more easily recognised than any other. And if there is a certain want of quick intelligence in its glance, a certain languor in its action, these are merged and lost in its harmonious outline and its aristocratic mien, which enable it to comport itself with a lofty indifference to surroundings that is in itself a sort of acme of superiority!

The Russian wolf-hound has the advantage of justifying its name in its own country, where it is still employed in the chase of the wolf, being used in much the same way as the Anglo-Indian uses his Rampur hound or greyhound for jackal hunting, and as Irish wolf-hounds were utilised in the good old days. That is to say, it is essentially a coursing and killing hound - not a hunting one. The actual dislodging of the wolves from their cover is done by a commoner and less aristocratic dog. The borzoi is stationed at a suitable point outside to deal with the quarry after it has been hunted out. When the wolf has been driven into the open, sighted, and allowed a suitable start, - a hundred or two hundred yards, according to the ground and the proximity of the next cover, - then, and not till then, are the borzois slipped, generally in couples, though with noted "fliers" a single hound may be allowed to show itself off. When a couple are employed they approach the wolf from different sides, and on overtaking it await their opportunity until one or the other is able to pin it by the neck just below the ear. The next moment hound and wolf are on the ground, head over heels, - all in a muddle, so to speak. And it is here that the marvellous ability of the hound to hold on comes into play; it never lets go of the wolf; once fixed it is a permanency, until the keeper comes up, who proceeds to slip a muzzle on the wolf, the capture of which alive is the scheme of the chase. If, however, there is any delay the borzoi is quite capable of giving the wolf the coup-de-grace, and has frequently done do, for its hold is the hold of death. And it is a striking fact that the hound rarely if ever gets a scratch in the encounter. The best borzois can, and often do, kill a wolf without assistance, though, as I have said, the design is to take the animal alive in order to utilise it to enter young hounds for the sport. An ordinary adjunct of these wolf-courses is a cage on wheels, in which the captured wolves are carried from the field to provide tuition and entertainment in much the same way as our bagged badgers do. The speed with which the borzoi can travel in pursuit of the wolf requires to be seen to be appreciated, and is second only to that of a good English coursing greyhound.

Entered to such savage sport, it is not strange to learn that the borzoi in its native land is accounted a savage animal, and has a reputation of being a terrible fighter in the kennel. The greater its prowess, the more redoubtable its exploits, the more it is prized, and a considerable jealousy exists amongst those who own it, chiefly nobles and persons of rank and wealth, as to the relative merits of their respective strains, which are as keenly fostered and kept pure as are the occupants of noted sporting and hunting kennels in England. Not only the Czar, but many of the Imperial princes of Russia are fanciers of the borzoi, and their strains are the creme de la creme. Mr. Rousseau gave the Queen, when she was Princess of Wales, the famous borzoi Alex, which in 1900 divided honours for the Kennel Club championship. The present borzoi, Gatchina, owned by Her Majesty, and the dam of several winners, came from the Czar's kennels.

Contrary to the popular belief, it is the smooth coated borzoi which is the most common in England. The Duchess of Newcastle is my authority for saying that the rough borzoi (Goustopsovy), even in Russia, is scarcer than the smooth (Psovy); both come in the same litter at times. A real rough coat, as seen on the imported hound Kaissack, is almost an unknown thing in England, and those who did not see this specimen cannot realise in the least what it was like. The imported hound Korotai also had a very heavy coat, but it was not so good in mixture, being coarser. Kaissack, however, never grew so good a coat as the one he landed with. The same applies to Sverkay, a dog at present in the Clumber kennels. He landed with a coat the equal of Kaissack's, but now, although good, it is not what it was. The heaviest coated specimens that have been bred in this country have been sired by Kaissack or Korotai or their descendants.

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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