J.B. Thomas Says American Borzoi Lead the World
by Micheline de Zutter
April 1, 1934, American Kennel Gazette
"After the advent of Krilutt and the exhibition
of a few specimens in the mixed classes for foreign dogs, the
popularity of this breed soon spread so that as many as 40 individuals
were exhibited, the principal breeders and exhibitors being
the Duchess of Newcastle, Col. the Hon. Charles Wellesley, Mrs.
Alfred Morrison, Mr. W.H. Huntington, Mr. Kenneth Muir, and,
Mr. Freeman Lloyd. The Duchess of Newcastle became the largest
imported, going as far as St. Petersburg on one occasion herself,
and sending agents.
"In 1891, the agent of her Grace, Mr.
Musgrave, sent out, I believe, from St. Petersburg a shipment
of no less than nine at one time. Of all the shipments made,
there appears to have been not one really good 'ancient type'
hound, and in few cases did the importers have the slightest
idea of what the pedigrees of their hounds meant - that is,
they had no knowledge of the type of the progenitors of their
purchases. However, it is from an old picture of Mr. Musgrave's
that I first obtained an idea that the 'ancient type' ever had
existed. Mr. Musgrave had found this picture in Russia, although
I do not suppose that he, or any other foreign fancier, ever
saw a hound to approach the dog depicted until I visited the
grand kennels at Perchina, many years afterward.
"Several of the early imported hounds
came from the Imperial Kennels at Gatchina, near St. Petersburg,
which were full of greyhound blood and showed it in short tails,
distinct stops to the skull, and short coats in some instances,
while others came from sources no less free from the greyhound
cross. No less an authority than Mr. Artem Balderoff, who knows
almost by heart the breeding of every dog in Russia, is the
source of information which verifies thoroughly the distinction
between ancient type (Gustopsovoy Borzoi) and the modern type
"I think I have shown you that when, 15
to 30 years ago (written in 1912), Borzoi were being sent out
from Russia, although there were then very few specimens of
the ancient type in existence, there was a distinct idea in
the mind of the Russian as to what that type had been; for not
only was this idea depicted by drawings, but written standards
were made which called, in most exact terms, for the salient
characteristics of the ancient type. For example, L.P. Sabaneyef,
of Moscow, writing in 1892, although reconizing that breed had
changed somewhat, calls for a standard requiring length of coat,
length of tail, and shape of head, such as were not to be found
in the animals that had left Russia. Although some of the exportations
were fairly good specimens individually, on account of their
mixed blood it was quite impossible to find them breeding true.
In England and America the lack of dogs approaching this ideal
standard had caused much controversy as to what type to breed.
"After having bred such Borzoi as I could
obtain in America for a number of years, and having read everything
I could find on the subject, I came to the conclusion that,
in America, there were no hounds that fulfilled the requirements
of the Russian standard, nor even the requirements of the English
standard, which, as a matter of fact, was practically a copy
of the Russian.
"I was, moreover, decidedly nonplussed
by the repeated failure of the breed to reproduce itself with
any kind of regularity. Of course, at this time I was unaware
of the crossings which had been perpetrated.
"Finally, I became so much perplexed in
regard to this matter that, in July, 1903, I went to England
to inspect the several kennels there, of which I had heard so
much. After weeks spent in visiting every prominent breeder
in England, I was convinced that England was little, if any,
better off than the United States.
"The, then, principal kennel was most
notable for the size and coarseness of its dogs, which characteristic,
together with the fact that many of them were very unsound,
made them anything but coursing types. Coarse heads, with prominent
stops to the skull, were here very much in evidence. Hardly
any two dogs looked alike. In the minor kennels there were a
great many weeds. There was no definite type to be seen, and,
as a whole, the English representation lacked character. There
was no definite cachet to the breed. There were positively
no hounds that had real quality and substance combined.
"Early August saw me in St. Petersburg,
and here I nearly gave up the search for the ideal, of which
I had seen pictures, as I have told you. On visiting the Imperial
Kennels, at Gatchina, near the capital, I saw only two out of
80 grown dogs that I should have liked to possess; but what
was more discouraging than this was the fact that no distinct
type was visible.
"Some were well-coated, others the contrary;
some had fairly good heads, while others were absolutely poor
types - not borzoi, but greyhound.
"The reason for the lack of type in England
and America here became immediately patent, as more specimens
had gone to those countries from the Imperial Kennels than from
any other. Fortunately, in spite of further disappointments,
I did not relinquish my quest until I had visited the kennels
of Grand Duke Nicolai Nicolaiovitch, and that of Mr. and Mrs.
"My visits to these kennels came almost
by accident, for Russia is a country of great distances; and
accurate information on any subject, especially sporting subjects,
is most difficult to obtain. The Russian sportsman is even more
apt to underestimate or overestimate than is his American confrere,
and there are fewer sources of information.
"From St. Petersburg I had gone to Moscow,
and visited kennels there with no success in finding what I
was looking for, but what I did find was more pictures, and
this encouraged me to continue my search. With great difficulty
I obtained the address of the editor of a little sporting paper,
and gleaned from him, after using parts of several languages,
that Mr. Artem Balderoff had an excellent kennel, and he thought,
moreoever, that H.I.H. the Grand Duke Nicholas also had 'some
"Little did I realize, at that time, what
my fortune was to be, for had I not seen either of these kennels,
I should have been little wiser for my trip. I sent off a telegraphic
request to be allowed to visit them, and, fortunately, the wires
brought favorable replies; in the one case from Mr. Balderoff,
himself, in the other, from M. Dimtry Walzoff, who is 'chef
du comptoir' to the Grand Duke.
"My trip from Moscow brought me early,
on the following morning, to Tula, a town some hundreds of versts
from the ancient capital. After some difficulty, I obtained
a troika. With a crack of the driver's knout and the
tinkle of a string of bells hung at the horses' throats, as
was formerly done in all posting conveyances all over Europe,
the heavy carraige, similar to our victoria, rolled over the
cobblestones of the town street and out along the dusty trail
towards the estate of the Seigneur.