This article was written in 1898 by H.W. Huntington
Far-off Russia, where winters are so severe that
but for a few months in the entire year are the fields free from
snow, is the home of a breed of dogs known there as the Borzoi,
or Psovie. The dogs are grand in aspect, with long, flowing coats
of silken texture that defy the terrible cold, and they are built
on lines that speak volumes for the antiquity of their origin.
In this country they are known as Russian wolfhounds.
The first specimen of the breed ever exhibited
here was the property of Mrs. Edw. Kelly, who, seeing it in Paris
late in the eighties, recognized its great beauty and showed it
at the Westminster Kennel Club Show, where it created a decided
sensation. Since that time some of our enthusiasts have imported
the best specimens to be had in continental Europe, and today
our exhibits at the various shows are well worth seeing.
England is the country that has perhaps done
most for the breed. Some fifteen years ago the Briton secured
the best that Russia had and bred them with the exceeding judgement
he displays in such matters. He today possesses beyond question
some of the grandest living. Within the past few years, however,
Germany has made most wonderful strides in breeding these dogs,
and together with the Briton has brought them very rapidly to
the fore. It seems to be a breed particularly adapted to the Germans
and their climate, which may
perhaps in some degree account for the success they are reaping
in the breeding. In fact, so much has the breed degenerated in
Russia for want of intelligent mating, that one of our greatest
German fanciers and judges of the breed claims that the purchasers
of good specimens must hereafter look to Germany and Great Britain
for what they want, and never think of seeking anything in Russia.
The proof of the lack of knowing the essential and correct points
of the breed on the part of the Russians was never more forcibly
shown than some three years ago, when the Czar of Russia sent
over to one of the great English shows a choice draught from his
kennels. With the exception of one exhibit these dogs were not
in any particular equal to the English-bred ones.
The Czar presented to the Prince of Wales Molodetz
and Owdalzka, which were considered the choice of his kennels,
but when they reached England they were found to be not nearly
so good as some other dogs not born in the purple, as it were.
Lady Emily Peel and the Rev. J. Cumings Macdonna
were the first of English enthusiasts to show these dogs in London,
and there in the streets it was a common sight to see her ladyship
with her two white dogs that created universal admiration wherever
Later on the Duchess of Newcastle, Mrs. Col.
Wellesley, Messrs. Muir, Blees, Dobbleman, Musgrave, Labouchere,
and Prince Demidoff became sponsors for this magnificent breed,
and under their fostering care it is hardly to be wondered that
the improvement has been do great.
The earliest of the finest specimens belonged
to Colonel Wellesley, and with his Krilutt in the stud he probably
did more for the advancement of the breed than any one else. Oudar
and Korotai also have been very instrumental in producing good
stock, so naught remains now but judicious breeding to bring the
Borzoi to a state bordering on absolute perfection according to
the standard for this breed. Bytschock, owned by Mr. Vallmer,
undoubtedly stands today at the head of all the Borzois of continental
Europe, and, while standing full thirty-two inches at the shoulder,
is most symmetrically made. Gaimane, however, is making a great
bid for first honors, and when they meet excitement runs high.
Five thousand marks have been offered for the former by Mr. Kraus,
one of our American enthusiasts, but the offer was refused. Tartar,
another great dog owned in Germany, has gone the way of all dog
flesh. He during his lifetime was considered by many to be the
equal of England's champions.
There seems to be a fascination about the dog
that few can resist, and where once it has gained a warm corner
in the heart no other breed can take its place.
Duchess of Newcastle, who recently entered the judging ring, donning
the ermine for the first time and adjudicating upon the merits
of the exhibits with great success, is now the most enthusiastic
admirer of the Borzoi in England, while Mr. Kalmountzky holds
the same position in Russia, he having recently given 25,000 roubles
for a young dog. He expended in one year over 42,000 roubles in
endeavoring to make his collection the finest in the world.
In the steppes of Russia, where wolves are so
numerous, as well as throughout the entire realm, the Borzoi is
used for hunting these beasts, which, in severe winters, will
encroach upon towns, and even cities, attacking men and children
alike, while sheep and cattle seem to be their especial prey.
When driven by hunger, the wolves stop at nothing,
attacking and killing horses and cows. In addition to being large
and heavy, the wolves are exceedingly cunning, and try not only
the patience but the ingenuity of the hunter to catch them. It
will, therefore, be seen that only a large and powerful dog endowed
with great speed and courage is able to cope with them, and nature
seems to have well provided the Borzoi for this purpose.
Nearly all dogs used in hunting wild animals
not only attack but endeavor to kill their quarry, but with the
Borzoi it is entirely different. At an early age they are put
into training with old and experienced dogs, so they soon learn
how to properly attack their adversary.
The forests are full of wolves, so when a hunt
is instituted the hunters assemble at stated places, each with
a pack of hounds varying in number from eight to twenty. Beaters
are sent deep into the forest hours before the hunt begins to
drive the wolves out into the open. After these beasts are well
in view, four Borzois generally are let loose as a team from slips,
the same as are used in England in greyhound coursing, and then
begins the race for life, for when once overtaken by the dogs
the wolves know that death is soon to follow. The wolf and the
dog being both of the same genus, one knows all the tricks of
the other; hence, it is like the traditional Greek meeting Greek.
As soon as the wolf is sighted and the dogs slipped,
the hunters, generally on horseback, follow as close as possible,
and watch for the opportune moment in which to attack and kill
their prey. When one of the dogs gets nearly side by side with
the wolf he makes one bold spurt, and with the foreshoulder strikes
the wolf so that he is knocked over. The other dogs coming up,
each strikes him in the same manner as he tries to rise, or they
pin him to the earth, and so engage him till the hunter arrives,
who, with spear or knife, kills him.