The Borzoi

This article was written in 1898 by H.W. Huntington


In general appearance the Borzoi resembles a large English greyhound, but with long silky coat, attentuated head, and rather flat-sided body. The standard adopted calls for a very long and lean head throughout, with a flat, narrow skull, long snout, and hardly any perceptible stop. Though it is of this delicate outline, it should be covered with strong muscles, giving the appearance of being very powerful, for the duties it has to perform require that it should be without the faintest trace of weakness.

Argoss head studyThe nose is black, and, though rarely found, should be what is known as the Roman nose, and is, perhaps, more fully developed in Champion Argoss than in any other dog in America. The eyes are one of the most beautiful features of the dog, being dark, expressive and oblong. In our best specimens they are very gentle, soft and dreamy when in repose, but, when excited, are full of fire and exceeding determination. The ears are very small, thin of leather, set high on the head, with the tips almost touching each other when thrown back, and, when covered, as they should be, with soft, fine hair, they add greatly to the elegant appearance of the head.

There are two distinctive types of heads, although the general outline of form is the same. As it is almost impossible to describe the characteristics of both, the reader is referred to the reproduction of the heads of Argoss and Ardagan, each representing the ideal of its own type. At the English shows the fancy turns toward the type of the latter, while the Russians prefer the former, as representing more what is desired in a dog whose chief object is to hunt the wolf. This, however, is largely a matter of fancy. The head is on the general outline of the greyhound, only it is very much longer and more attentuated, some good specimens measuring eleven inches from tip of nose to occiput, and, in point of narrowness, far exceeding that of the greyhound. Taken all in all, it is one of the most ideal of heads, and perhaps is best shown in that of Champion Argoss, the celebrateddog the writer imported some years ago, and with which he won fifty-eight first and special prizes.

While the standard calls for a neck "not too short," it is far better to err on the side of being too long than being too short, especially as all good specimens should be provided with what is called a profuse ruff, and which gives the head a most elegant, as well as quaint, appearance. This characteristic feature of the breed is best shown in the vignette of Mr. Kraus's Ardagan.

In the males the back is somewhat arched, while in females it should be level and broad. The loins are broad and drooping, the ribs deep, reaching about to the elbows, but not so well sprung as in the greyhound.

Why the standard should call for ribs of less spring than the greyhound's is inexplicable. Both are dogs of the chase, and well-spring ribs are the sine qua non of a fast running dog. The standard adopted by our fanciers for the breeding of every member of the hound family, down to the diminutive Italian greyhound, calls for well-sprung ribs, as such insure greater room for the action of the lungs and heart.

The forelegs are very straight and muscular, the hindlegs being thrown somewhat under the body, which gives the dog at times a rather stilty appearance. While the clause seems to have been made to fit certain dogs, it certainly is better to have an easy-moving dog for the chase than one which is, or at least appears to be, tucked up. Some of our best and most intelligent fanciers are now trying to breed out this peculiarity of the position of the hindlegs, and it seems a rational effort. It certainly will tend to improve the outline of the dog, and many claim it will add greatly to its speed.

The coat varies with the particular breed, as there are two recognized breeds of this dog, viz., Chesto-psovie and Gusto-psovie. One is recognized as of the Circasssian type, and is short-coated, some claiming such is better for deep snow, as the snow then will not adhere to the dog, and so wet and chill him. The other is the long, silky, flowing coat, of wonderful texture, and on the body reaching sometimes to a length of five inches, while on the tail it should be of great length, the writer having had one female whose hair measured there fourteen inches. The more profuse and silky the coat the better, and it should always be a factor when purchasing.

Quality as well as quantity should be taken into consideration. A woolly coat is as objectionable in a Russian wolfhound as in a setter, and should so be penalized. Curly coats are much to be avoided, though some rare-made specimens have them. Those of some of our best specimens are a trifle wavy, which by many is considered far preferable to the flat-lying coat. The tail is one of the most beautiful features of the dog. It is very long, sickle-shaped, set on low, and gracefully carried. It should be heavily covered with long silky hair - the longer the better - parted in the center and falling gracefully over the sides.

The height of good specimens in males ranges from twenty-eight to thirty-three inches, and in females from twenty-six to thirty inches, and in every case, where all things are equal, preference should be given to the larger specimens, as they are accordingly more beautiful and useful. It is quite easy to breed good small specimens, for in them the faults are not so glaring, but it is very difficult to raise fine large ones, as in them any defects are greatly accentuated and cannot be overlooked. But in no case should height or size be made supreme, as, unless there is proportionate power and bone, height and size are worse than useless, as we then have a flat-sided shelly animal that is of no earthly good.

MirzaThe legs and feet of the Borzoi are somewhat different from the English greyhound's. The legs of the former are what the Russians call "lean", or what we would term flat in bone, while in the latter they are more inclined to be round. In fact, it seems in many Borzois imported from Russia that the breeders had tried to discover how wholly flat a dog they could possibly produce. The feet are very long, but the toes are close together, between which there is a profusion of soft hair. As the work has to be done largely over snow, feet formed as called for by the standard will do well enough, but where frozen earth is to be traversed the dog would soon grow footsore, and a broken toe ot two would not be uncommon; in fact, four of the best wolfhounds we now have here have broken toes. Shorter toes, after the style of the English greyhound's, are decidedly preferable, as being far more serviceable.

His wonderfully long attentuated head, his style, character, love for his master and intelligence; his form, the most graceful of any of the canine race; his coat, profuse and silk-like in texture, all combine to stamp the Borzoi the aristocrat of the entire canine race, and as a companion, either on foot or horseback, none better can be found the world over.

The question of color has been a vexed one both here and in England, and it was only until recently that it was publicly admitted that the writer's claim, made years ago, was correct, viz., that the Borzoi can be any color. Champion Argoss, who, beyond all doubt, was the greatest all-round Borzoi ever shown in America, was black, white and tan, with a preponderance of black; and when in Russia he won the great silver medal at Moscow in 1891, the award being made in Russia and under a native judge proved his right of color. Still, classified as a recognized color, there is no question but that the most beautiful color is either pure white, white and orange, white and lemon, or white and silver-gray. Pure white with mahogany patches is also extremely beautiful. There is now a standing offer of £200 for a solid pure silver dog, and yet no takers are to be found, as this color is very rare indeed.

Much harm has been done the Borzoi in this country by the statements made by prejudiced and unreliable writers that he was dangerous, treacherous and wholly unreliable. These statements were a gross libel. There are vicious specimens in every breed of dogs, but among the hunters there is perhaps none more docile, more lovable, more tractable than the Russian wolfhound or Borzoi. None loves the companionship of the human race more than he, and when kindly treated he is all the most exacting dog fancier could desire either as a companion or a hunter.

At the Brooklyn show several years ago the impression of his ferocity had gained such strength by malicious writings that one exhibitor, to prove the falsity of the statements, put his own little child into the stalls of every Borzoi benched there. Child-like, he pulled their ears, thrust his chubby fists into their mouths, walked on their feet, pulled their tails to his heart's content, finally closing the scene by selecting one beautiful white bitch as his especial favorite, and falling asleep with his head across her loins. The bitch, from time to time, would raise her head, gently lick the face of the sweet young sleeper, then sleep herself. This one public proof of the lovable character of the dog did more toward disproving the falsity of the reports than pages of denials.

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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