Dogs of All the Russias

by Williams Haynes
July 1916, House and Garden magazine

Lithesome grace and proud, dignified mien stamp the Borzoi indelibly with the hallmark of blood and breeding. He is the siegneur of all dogs, the great aristocrat of dogdom. He looks down with amused indifference upon the common mob of canines; such a sturdy squire as the beagle he ignores; he even snubs that splendid old gentleman the foxhound; he is inclined to patronize his cousins, the greyhound and the deerhounds.

The Borzoi has reason to be proud of his race. For centuries his ancestors have been the companions in the sport of Russian autocracy. In 1260 the German ambassador to the court of the Grand Duke of Novgorod wrote of these coursing hounds, and the first Standard, describing the correct type, was drawn up in 1650. Since the time of John the Terrible, the first Czar, the Imperial Kennels have never housed less than fifty grown hounds, and even larger kennels have been maintained continuously from father to son on the estates of some of the greater nobility. Over a hundred years ago, when English sporting circles were agog over the sale of a foxhound for the record-breaking price of fifty pounds, and when an American who would have paid fifty dollars for a dog would have been considered crazy, Borzoi of the Courland strain sold at public auction in Petrograd for from seven to ten thousand rubles each, a matter of over a thousand guineas or more than $5,000.


In Russia they still course the hare, the fox and the wolf with all the forms and ceremonies that have been handed down as a precious sporting heritage for centuries. Modern conditions have militated against the sport in a measure, and the hunts are more modest that of yore; but the masters are still punctilious in the matter of the picturesque native livery of their hunt servants, and some of the larger kennels turn out thirty, forty, even fifty couples of carefully trained hounds. In his delightful monograph on the breed, Mr. Joseph B. Thomas thus vividly described a covert hunt with the Perchina hounds in Russia"

"In the early morning may be seen, wending its way along the trail-like roads of the district, a long line of mounted hunters, each holding in his left hand a leash of three magnificent Borzoi, two dogs and a bitch as nearly matched in color and conformation as possible, and followed by a pack of Anglo-Russian foxhounds, with the huntsmen and whips in red tunics. On arriving at the scene of the chase, the hunters are stationed by the master of the hunt at intervals of a hundred yards, so the entire grove is surrounded by a long cordon of hounds and riders. A signal note is heard on a hunting horn, and with the mingled music of the trail hounds, shouts of the men, and the cracking of the whips, the foxhound pack is urged into the grove in pursuit of hidden game.

"The scene is certainly a medieval one. The hunters, dressed in typical Russian costumes, with fur-trimmed hats, booted and spurred, and equipped with hunting horn, whip and dagger, and mounted on padded Cossack saddles high above the backs of their hardy Kirghiz ponies, holding on straining leash their long-coated, exceedingly beautiful animals, make a picture that once seen is not easily forgotten. But hark! the sound of the hound voices is changed to the sudden sharp yapping of the pack in 'full cry,' and simultaneously there springs from the covert a dark grey form bent on reaching the next woods, some hundred yards away. In an instant he is well in the open, and sees, only too late, that he has approached within striking distance of the nearest leash of Borzoi. With a cry of 'Ou-la-lou,' and setting his horse at full gallop, the hunter slips his hounds when they view the game, to sight which they often jump 5' or 6' in the air. There is a rush, a spring, and with a yelp the foremost hound is sent rolling; but instantly is back to the attack, which continues - a confused mass of white and grey, swiftly leaping forms and snapping fangs - until a neck-hold is secured by the pursuing Borzoi, who do their best to hold the wolf down. Then, in a most spirited dash, the hunter literally throws himself from the saddle of his hunting pony onto the prostrate wolf. Formerly, a deftly wielded knife assisted in avoiding any further trouble for the dogs; but of late years it has become better form to take the wolf alive. A short stick with a thong at each end being held in front of the wolf, he seizes it, and the hunter, with instant dexterity, ties the thong behind the brute's neck. Reynard and the hare are captured in the same manner by the dogs, but in that case, a toss in the air is usually sufficient."


In the Western States and Canada Borzoi have coursed jack rabbits, coyote and wolves. The little coyote, swift of foot and in a corner desperately vicious, is no mean adversary, while the big grey timber wolf canbe brought to bay only by hounds of great stamina and bravery with speed to boot.

The sight hound family is scattered all over Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, and it is not surprising, remembering their antiquity, that the origin of the Borzoi should be unknown. Writers outside of Russia have liked to account for him by the simple expedient of crossing the European and the Asiatic sight hounds. It is a charmingly simple hypothesis, but Mr. Artem Balderoff, a capital Russian authority, believes all the sight hounds were developed locally, the demand for speed evolving the same general type out of different local materials. He considers the Borzoi a development of the old long-coated, smooth-faced Russian beardog. Other Russian authorities agree in claiming a purely Russian origin for this national coursing dog.

The first Borzoi at the English shows was from Germany, a dog hound bred by Prince William of Prussia, exhibited at Islington by the Duchess of Manchester in 1863. Shortly afterward, the Czar presented King Edward, then Prince of Wales, with two hounds, Molodetz and Owdalzka. Lord Crowley also received some stock from the Imperial Kennels and these passed eventually into the ownership of Lady Charles Innes-Ker. The Duchess of Newcastle's Kennels were early prominent, and Colonel the Honorable Charles Wellesley was the imported of Krilutt, winner of a silver medal at Moscow in 1888 and the best dog seen in England up to that time. The breed received an additional fillip when Queen Alexandra singled it out as her favorite and made frequent entries from the Sandringham kennels.


Mr. William Wade, of Houlton, Pa., is said to have introduced the first Borzoi into America, and English bred bitch, Elsie, which he purchased from Mr. Freeman-Lloyd. Early in 1890 Mr. Paul H. Hacke, of Pittsburgh, brought over several couples of hounds from Russia, and a little later Mr. W. H. Huntington imported from leading English breeders. The first American to visit Russia hunting for Borzoi was Mr. Steadman Hanks, of Boston, and he shared show honors at the early exhibitions with Mr. E. L. Kraus, of Slatington, Pa., whose hounds were of German extraction. The pioneer in Canada was Mr. J. G. Kent, of Toronto.

It is to Mr. Joseph B. Thomas, however, that America really owes the Borzoi, and fanciers the world over are indebted to him for discovering in Russia several strains of the true old type, unstained by greyhound or Asiatic crosses. Few if any of the early exportations were hounds of the ancient breed free from foreign blood, but Mr. Thomas discovered the old type carefully preserved in the kennels of the Grand Duke Nicholas at Perchina and of Mr. Artem Balderoff at Woronzova. Since these epoch making importations the Borzoi has come forward rapidly in America. Mr. Thomas was joined by such good fanciers as Dr. De Mund, Mr. Harry T. Peters, Mr. George Ronsse, Mr. Bailey Wilson and Dr. Behrend, until to-day the United States has more and better Borzoi than any other country except Russia. Mr. Thomas' kennels were purchased entire last season by Mr. M. Mowbray Palmer, a thorough sportsman who evidently intends to maintain the high traditions of this famous stud.


Russian breeders distinguish the pure Borzoi by three distinctive points. The Roman profile, in which there is a slight but distinct bump instead of the greyhound's stop between the eyes, is the first of these. The correct coat, the second point, is rather curly over the shoulders, on the back and over the quarters; long and straight on the flanks and chest; long and wavy on the lower end of the tail. The tail should be long and the ears very small and thin, and finely covered with short hair. For the rest, the Borzoi is a larger greyhound, with a deeper brisket and flatter ribs. The feet of the two breeds are also different, the greyhound having small, compact "cat feet" and the Borzoi the longer, oblong foot of the hare.


The Borzoi's slender grace misleads many into thinking he is delicate. Such is not the case. Borzois stand the cold capitally, as might be expected when we remember their birthplace, and mature hounds require no artificial heating in their kennels. Young stock is no more delicate than other breeds - reasonable attention to diet, occasional treatment for worms, and protection from cold and dampness being essential to the successful rearing of all puppies. Many Borzoi, and this is true of both house and kennel hounds, do not get sufficient exercise. They require plenty of road work - ten miles a day is not too much - and for this reason it is not kind to keep them in town.


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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