J.B. Thomas Says American Borzoi Lead the World

by Micheline de Zutter
April 1, 1934, American Kennel Gazette

head study of Champion BistriThe "tempest in a teapot" which has raged in England ever since the Continental borzoi authority, H. J. M. Van der Berkhof, judged at Ranelagh is somewhat interesting and amusing to American breeders of the dog, which is recognized, in this country, as the Russian wolfhound. It is amusing, because when Mr. Van der Berkhof contends that the Continental type of borzoi is far better than the general type found in England and the British dispute his statements, both sides are dealing in half-truths.

The discussion as to the relative merits of Continental and English borzoi led me, recently, to visit, probably, the greatest living authority on the breed, Joseph B. Thomas, former owner of the far-famed Valley Farm Kennels, which for more than two decades, starting in 1889, bred, exhibited, and coursed the finest borzoi in the world.

Mr. Thomas was one of the founders of the Russian Wolfhound Club of America in 1903, and for many years one of its officers. He retired from an active part in the game about 20 years ago, but the splendid stock that he brought directly out of the Perchino Kennels of H.I.H. the late Grand Duke Nicholas is the foundation behind most of the outstanding dogs in America today.

What Mr. Van der Berkhof and some of the English borzoi authorities know by hearsay, Mr. Thomas knows by actualt experience, and much of his knowledge is in contradiction to the supposed truths. It was in the Summer of 1903 that Mr. Thomas made his first trip to Russia, and the following year he again took the same long journey. Upon each occasion he left no stone unturned to dig out a true perspective on the breed as it had existed, for centuries, in that country, and as it was at the time of his visit.

The conclusions he reached led him in 1912 to write a book on the breed. It is called, simply, "Borzoi," but it is regarded in America as the most authoratative work on the breed. No truer picture of the development of the borzoi or Russian wolfhound may be had than is found in the quotation from "Borzoi" which follows:

"Doubtless you will be interested in knowing how it came about that the ancient type of borzoi at one time nearly disappeared. It happened thus: shortly after the close of the Napoleonic wars, and the subsequent revival of sporting activity in Russia, there arose a great craze for trying experiments in crossing foreign greyhounds with the ancient type borzoi of that country. Various breeds were used; but principally English and Polish greyhounds (the latter a cousin of the English breed), and Crimean or Asiatic greyhounds with pendent ears. To such an extent was this crossing practiced that, in 1861, when the serfs were emancipated and conditions in rural Russia were turned topsy-turvy, there were few hounds left in the whole country the blood of which had not been contaminated by the foreign invasion.

"After the 'freedom,' large numbers of the Russian nobility, who were paid by the Government when their land was relinquished to the former serfs, left their estates and repaired to the cities and watering-places of Europe. In many cases, their kennels were either entirely given up, or utterly ruined by the extended absence of the lord of the manor.

"When the noble eventually returned to his estate in after years, he was oftentimes no longer in a position to redintegrate his kennels, so that the maintenance of hounds and hunting, which had originally been a universal custom throughout Russia, remained in isolated instances only. Private ownership in small holdings also militated against the sport in some localities. The economic conditions were not dissimilar to those in the Southern States of America at the close of the Civil War.

"Thus it will be seen that first, from the mixing of the breed, and then later from the decrease in the number of hounds, the ancient type became nearly extinct, so that when the first exportations of borzoi were made from Russia, so far as I can ascertain, none of the real ancient type hound ever left the country. It is even doubtful if they could have been readily found had the exporters known the difference. Very few of any kind ever went to Continental Europe. They were held at too high prices for one thing, were difficult to obtain at all, and were usually only sent out to individuals as presents.

"It is not precisely known who first introduced borzoi into England; but a writer of 1878 observes, concerning British dogs, that borzoi, or 'barzois,' as he spells it, 'are scarce in this country, which is to be regretted, as they are strikingly handsome.'

"In the early days of the borzoi in Great Britain a few were exhibited at the Kennel Club shows, among the best of which were H.R.H. the Prince of Wale's Moeldewitz - probably a misspelling of Moloditz - from the Imperial Kennels, at Gatchina, near St. Petersburg; Mr. Cummin MacDona's Sandringham by Moeldewitz, out of Oudalscha; and Lady Emily Peel's Czar, a white with fine markings like his dam, Sandringham. Czar was by the Duke of Hamilton's Moscow, a prize-winner at the Crystal Palace in 1875.

"A writer in the Stock-Keeper of about 1890 remarks:

"'The hounds which Lady Charles Innes-Kerr used to exhibit were very beautiful creatures and pleasantly colored, the rich-toned orange patches making a rich contrast to the pure body white. They were, we always understood, descended from specimens in the Imperial Russian Stud, which were originally presented to Lord Cowley. Lady Emily Peel used also to exhibit a very grand specimen of the breed.'

"From the public appearance of Krilutt, property of the Hon. Mrs. Wellesley, of Merton Abbey, Surrey, at the Alexandra Palace show in the Spring of 1889, dates the present popularity of the breed in England and America. Krilutt is described by Hugh Dalziel, the well-known writer on dogs, as the best of his day in England. This dog, imported by Col. Wellesley, was born April 27, 1886, and was bred by Mr. Korotneff. A report of the Moscow Dog Show for 1888 describes Krilutt as the winner of a silver medal, which means that he was a fair specimen, but not good enough to deserve the gold medal, only given to hounds of premier rank. He is said to have sold for 400 roubles. His measurements, taken from the Stock-Keeper, with comments, were as follows:

 
INCHES
Length of head 11 1/2
From occiput to between shoulders 11 1/2
From between shoulders to between hips 23
From between hips to set-on of tail 6 1/4
Length of tail (not reckoning hair) 21
Total length 73 1/4
Height at shoulder (taken fairly) 30 1/4
Girth of chest 33
Girth of narrowness part of tuck up 22
Girth just above the stifle-bend 13
Girth round the stifle 11 1/2
Girth, hock joint 6 1/2
Girth below hock joint 4 1/2
Girth, elbow joint 8 1/4
Girth above elbow joint 8 3/4
Girth, midway between elbow and pastern 6 1/2
Girth of neck 17
Girth of head, round occiput 16 1/2
Girth of head between occiput and eyes 16 1/4
Girth of head round the muzzle, between eyes and nose 9

"'We give these details fully, because, this dog being now proved to be the handsomest of its kind in England, we think they must be not only interesting, but likewise of instructive value as a means of future comparison, Krilutt has the best feet we have seen on any of these hounds; they are more hare- than cat-footed. He is a little short in tail, and his head could be somewhat leaner. The name Krilutt is the Russian "winged" - in the sense that Mercury has wings' hence it means "fast in the wind."

continued >>>

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(not exclusively Borzoi)

Coursing Excerpt from The Beasts of the Prairies

Dog of All the Russias
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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
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Hunting Dogs: Sighthounds and Scenthounds
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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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