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
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
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.
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.