The Hound of the Czars
Article by Walter Dyer, originally published in the October
1916 issue of Country Life in America magazine.
Mr. Bull owned one once that never did become
civilized. "She was extremely beautiful," he told
me, "extremely strong-willed. There was always a contest
whenever I wanted her to do something she did not care to do.
She was fairly intelligent and could learn the meaning of almost
anything, but she would obey only when she felt like it. She
was very playful and loved a good romp. She was quick as a flash
and sensitive to a harsh word.
"She was about a year old when we got
her and had never been handled at all. She had been brought
up in a big kennel, the runt of the family, and had to fight
for whatever she got to eat. And the first time she was handled
the kennel man tried to give her a bath and let her escape by
backing out of her collar. It was her first bath, first collar,
and first handling, and was a bad start, especially as the man
lost his temper and whipper her for what she did not know.
"I have faith," he added, "that
is I could get a little puppy and bring him up by hand, I might
have a different story to tell."
Mr. Bull's dog never did learn the true meaning
of human comradeship. She had been spoiled at the outset. No
collar, harness, or chain chould hold her, and at last she had
to be disposed of.
I tell this story not to depreciate the breed,
but to discourage any one from buying a Borzoi whose good training
in early youth cannot be vouched for. The breed is sensitive
and the character may be easily ruined, and it is far too fine
a breed to be spoiled by careless handling or inexperienced
believe it all comes down to that, and that most of the arguments
that can be mustered against the breed are due to lack of human
wisdom rather than canine depravity. There are enough instances
of Borzois who have turned out well to prove that this is so,
and I believe that a Borzoi puppy, taken young, may be made
into as trustworthy a companion as a St. Bernard or Great Dane,
as well as the most striking ornament the owner can add to his
Most of these tendencies to wrong doing, indeed,
may be traced directly to the fact that bred deep in the blood
and bone of the Borzoi is the instinct of the wolf hunter of
the broad steppes, and that is a noble calling. In Russia the
Borzoi has for centuries been used for this purpose. He can
not only run down the fleetest wolf, but kill his quarry as
well. This seems almost impossible when you look at the slender
jaws, but the powerful neck and shoulders have to be reckoned
with. The wolf runs a straightaway course, with no doubling,
but he is no match in speed for the Borzoi. The dog's method
is to come upon him from behind, seize him back of the ears,
and with a lightning-like twist, break the wolf's neck.
In Russia, however, the Borzoi is usually trained
to capture, not kill the quarry. When a wolf is started, a pair
of Borzois are unleashed. Side by side they race after their
prey, overtaking him one on each side. Suddenly, often simultaneously,
they pin him back of the ears, and hold him unti the huntsman
comes up to deliver the coup de grace, or to muzzle the beast
and take him alive. Can you blame a dog, with the spirit of
such a chase in his blood, for being a bit restless at the end
of a chain, or imprisoned in a suburban back yard?
The Borzoi runs by sight only, not by scent.
He is nimble enough to catch a jack rabbit or a fox, and powerful
enough to kill the big gray timber wolf. In the West, Borzois
have for some time been used with great success for hunting
and killing coyotes, and there are indications that they are
to be employed even more extensively for this purpose in the