Sighthounds and Scenthounds

by L. P. Sabaneev

Terra Terra
Moscow, 1993
Originally published in "Nature and Hunting" [In Russian: Priroda i okhota]
May, 1899

Translated by Vladimir Beregovoy
Edited by Stephen Bodio

Differences in the appearance between types of the Russian Borzoi according to Sabaneev and other writers cited in his book: (See Page 110.)

The word "Psovaya" originated from archaic Russian word "psovina", which means dog¹s hair. The Psovaya has long, wavy hair over its entire body, with long fringing, especially on the neck and tail.

The Goostopsovaya dog has long, silky hair, with tight curls predominantly on the neck, below the shoulder blades, on the sides, thighs and especially on the tail.

The Chistopsovaya has short, thick, smooth hair. Fringing on the sides of theneck forms a crest. Fringing hairs are not wavy, but straight.

The Kurland Psovaya Borozoi has a coat that is smooth on the head, ears, on the throat, front legs below the elbows, and on the hind legs below the stifles. The rest of the body covered with short curly hairs like in a young poodle.

PP. 142-147

The character of the Borzoi varies, depending on its strain and training. The Kurland Borzoi was most the aggressive and sulky; the Goostopsovaya Borzoi usually also had a rough and very aggressive character, especially towards unfamiliar dogs who did not belong to a sighthound breed. If raised inside, Borzois become friendlier and more obedient and affectionate to people, even unfamiliar people. Borzois can be taught not to attack other dogs. With their thick coats, even short- hair Borzois adapt poorly to life inside. Without proper care, their hair can easily become matted. Spoiled purebred Borzois become very choosy eaters; they can be whimsical, and may become hesitant at field trials depending on their mood. In other words they can lose some major qualities of the Borzoi, such as energy and eagerness to hunt.

Although the Borzoi must be aggressive in the field because of its purpose and nature, not every Borzoi is aggressive at home. It is important to distinguish aggressiveness towards wolves from aggression towards humans or to other dogs. In this case, "good" aggressiveness is the innate or instinctive drive against the wolf. Such dogs can be quite affectionate to people and in rare cases they are also not aggressive to other dogs. Telyatnikov ("Priroda I Okhota", 1888, IX, In Russ. "Nature and Hunting") tells us about "Sokrushai" of Soshalsky and about his "Vedma". "Vedma" was timid and never fought other dogs. Both dogs jumped into a horse cart with a dead wolf in it and started biting him; when they tired of shaking the wolf, they closed their eyes and remained motionless for some time, while holding the wolf firmly. Then, they resumed shaking the corpse! "Vedma" treated wolf skins the same way.. Some particularly aggressive Borzois even sunk their teeth into a frozen wolf's corpse. In this case the term aggressiveness stands for that blind, innate aggressive drive, the same instinct that forces a dachshund to take a firm hold on a badger skin or a trained Laika to shake a bear's skin.

The Kurland Psovaya Borzoi was particularly aggressive. The Goostopsovaya Borzoi followed him, and this was the reason why he was called The Wolfhound. The majority of old Psovaya Borzois also caught wolves, but mainly only yearlings. Among modern Borzois, dogs that will not catch a young wolf are rare. There are many Borzois which can catch wolves more than one year old. However, a mature wolf can be caught and killed only by a pack of a few Psovaya Borzois or by a pair of the strongest Psovaya Borzois, because the wolf is much stronger then any single Borzoi. Cases where a single Borzoi caught a mature wolf with an empty stomach [engorged wolves are easier to catch, because they are slower-V. B.] became legends long ago. Examples of such famous Wolfhounds were "Zver" of Prince Baryatinsky, "Kosmach" of Karakozov and a few other dogs.

Generally, all adult wolves caught by Borzois in modern time are either females, males up to three years old, senile wolves, weak sick individuals, or wolves engorged with carrion. This is understandable, because a mature wolf is very fast and very strong. The dog must catch up with him first and then overpower him. Unfortunately, Borzois rarely combine aggressiveness with speed. Very fast Borzois are poor at catching wolves. They sense the wolf's strength, and only nip at his thighs. Many dogs who have proven themselves at catching young wolves slow down when approaching a mature or even a year- old wolf. A mature wolf is an experienced fighter and understands what is happening very well. He may allow a hare hunting dogs to nip him. "However, now, three proven catching wolf males are released. The wolf looks at them and sees how decisively they run towards him. His entire look changes. His head lowers, his neck stretches forward, the hair on the shoulder raises like a hump, and his powerful legs begin to work at a higher frequency." (Zhomini).

A mature wolf is very fast, but he is not sprinter- fast ["prutkost"- V.B.]. Only a sprinter- fast Borzoi can catch up with the wolf under normal circumstances. A. I. Novikov supposed that not even the fastest Borzoi could catch up with a wolf starting from a distance of more than 250 meters. Besides having the speed to catch a mature wolf, the Borzoi must be very aggressive and strong. Only the most aggressive Borzois take a firm hold on the wolf instead of just nipping him. They grab the wolf at the ear, behind the head or at the throat, because this is the only way in which the dog can avoid being bitten by the wolf. A mature wolf is strong enough to pull two, and sometimes even three dogs hanging onto him. Sometimes the wolf stops and one can see how the dogs fly in different directions. Only the strongest Borzoi can lock his jaws on the wolf, and it takes a strong man to pull such a dog off the wolf by holding him by the collar.

Only those Borzois who take hold of the wolf at the neck behind its ears and hold it firmly can be called true wolfhounds. These dogs, like the Bulldog, lock their jaws, and so they must have powerful jaw muscles. Only this kind of reliable and aggressive dogs will allow one to handle a wolf over a year old or, if you are lucky, even a mature wolf. The hold at the throat is considered the best one, sometimes incorrectly called a "choke grip", because it is supposed to strangle the wolf. There have been cases when a dog strangled the wolf. However, according to the expert A. I. Novikov, Borzois, which take a hold at the ear or at the back of the neck and then remain motionless hold more securely. A dog, which takes a hold at the wolf's throat, holds firmly, but from time to time he tries to sink his teeth deeper. Perhaps the dog feels the breathing of the wolf, and this prompts him to try even harder to kill it. Some dogs seem to lose their senses in the process. They keep their grip on the wolf even when the wolf does not move. Sometimes extraordinary methods are needed to pull the dog away from the wolf, such as lifting it by its hind legs, blowing in its ear, or splashing it with cold water.

Although all strong big dogs are aggressive towards wolves, true wolfhounds with correct techniques for catching wolves are rare. Encouragement and practice may allow the dogs to catch young wolves or ones over a year old. Uninhibited aggressiveness and the skills to catch and hold wolves are inherited qualities. Males of the Nazimov strain over a year old were taken on a hunt along with older dogs, and the youngsters caught wolves at the neck behind their ears and held them securely. If the wolf bit them, they grabbed the wolf even more decisively. It is known that once bitten some young Borzois may start fearing the wolf. Aggressiveness to the wolf may be enhanced by practice, but it can be lost if the offspring of aggressive dogs are hunted only on hares. Hunting and catching young but free wolves is much better for training dogs then chasing captive- raised wolves. Dogs are reluctant to take captive wolves, because they stink and because such a wolf does not run well. Such a wolf often stops and snaps at the dog. He is difficult for the dog to take without the risk of being bitten. The advantage of the Borzoi is in his speed. He can hit a running wolf, knock him down, and then grab him by the throat or take a hold on his neck behind his ears. Some dogs knock the wolf down by hitting him with their chests. Other dogs catch up with the wolf and make a powerful tearing bite at its thigh, causing the wolf to tumble; then, a skillful Borzoi will grab him at the neck behind his ears and hold on until the end.

A major quality of the Borzoi is not his aggressiveness, but rather his speed, which is measured by the speed of a hare, mainly the European hare (Lepus europaeus)*. The old Psovaya Borzoi, the Goostopsovaya Borzoi, and the Kurland Borzoi, used for short distance chases, differed from Khortois and eastern sighthounds mainly in their ability to sprint. When running over long distances they would get tired and become exhausted. Khortois and lop-eared sighthounds are quite the opposite. They are more suitable for chasing in large, open country, and can maintain speed for a longer time. The Chistopsovaya and Psovaya Borzois, if they have a mixture of eastern and English blood, have an intermediate quality. They can start fast and then run tirelessly for a longer time, keeping a satisfactory speed. According to A. V. Zhikharev, his Persian- origin sighthounds were, on the average, faster than his Borzois. However, among Borzois, exceptionally fast dogs occurred more often.** A noteworthy fact is that the majority of fastest Borzois belonged to the first generation of crossbreeding with Persian- origin sighthounds.: for example, "Serdechnyi" of Kologrivov, "Otradka" of Khomyakov, etc. They all combined both the sprint start of the Borzoi with endurance of Persian sighthounds. The fastest Borzois are as exceptional as is genius among humans.

The sprint start of the Psovaya Borzoi is determined mainly by his running style, which differs from that of Khortois and eastern sighthounds. The Goostopsovaya and the regular Psovaya Borzoi, without exceptions, run with frequent leaps. Their necks are stretched forward and almost lay on their front legs. Stupishin writes: " They couldn¹t run with a raised head like Khortois do, because the front part of their body is somewhat low, and because they bring their hind legs too far forward, so that the body assumes an almost vertical position. If they did not stretch their necks forward, they would tumble over their heads at each leap! When a Goostopsovaya suddenly notices an animal and takes off, making his first leap, the observer of this can be startled for fear that the dog may tumble and crash." When watching such a running dog from behind it looks like a rolling ball; watching it from the side, it is hard to distinguish its frequent leaps. Making long, low-frequency leaps while running is characteristic of strong steppe sighthounds; Russian Borzois with a mix of steppe sighthound often run using low- frequency leaps, but they will leap more frequently when accelerating for the last dash [Yermolov.]

Besides the sprint start, all old type Russian Borzois (the Psovaya, the Goostopsovaya, the kurland psovaya and the chistopsovaya) are different from all khortois and eastern sighthounds in their last dash. "The last dash ("brosok") is the final lightning- fast accelerating run performed by a fast dog prior to catching the animal" [Machevarianov]. "The last dash, is the ability of a purebred dog during last 4-7 meters from the hare to accelerate even faster like a bullet" [Yermolov]. According to Kareev, "The last dash ("kidok") starts when the dog approaches as close as 4-8 meters to the chased hare, accelerates at a lightning speed and catches it. These last two leaps can be 16 feet long each, and in big dogs even 20 feet, which has been determined by measuring tracks on fresh snow. Such a leap is called "kidka".

Although the fastest final dash belongs to the Psovaya, according to Machevarianov and Yermolov, in dogs with an admixture of Persian sighthounds or Krymki the last dash is even longer. Thus, for example, when the a purebred Psovaya starts his final dash at 6-8.5 meters from the hare, the mixed dog running in the same group starts his dash at 17-21 meters from the hare, catches the hare, and carries it away from under his very nose of the first dog. In particularly fast dogs the last dash can measure up to 32 meters, and, according to Machevarianov, even 43 meters! It often happens that when the first dog opens his mouth, ready to grab the hare, the dog running right behind him suddenly accelerates and grabs it first, or tumbles in front of him with the hare in his mouth. The dog¹s speed during final last dashes is often compared with the flight of a stone or the stoop of a falcon. The force of the last dash can be judged by one case when the dog hit a horse's pastern and dislodged it, and the horse fell. [Mochevarianov]. There are cases when the Borzoi hit a stump on his final dash and killed himself instantly. A catch in the final dash usually ends with a tumbling dog holding the hare in his mouth; very often the dog kills the hare by hitting it with his chest and breaking its ribs or hind legs. The Kurland Psovaya almost always hits hares like a club. It is not hard to conclude that the sprint start and running style of the Psovaya is not favorable for catching hares, especially if they make sharp turns.

* (Now L. capensis.) [I think!--S.]

*.*Zhikharev's famous Persian- origin sighthounds had an admixture of Psovaya Borzoi.

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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