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
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."
FOR WESTERN HUNTING
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
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.
THE BORZOI IN AMERICA
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,
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.
POINTS AND CHARACTERISTICS
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.
A STRONG DOG
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.