from Hutchinson's Popular and Illustrated Dog Encyclopedia,
published Great Britain in weekly excerpts in 1934.
This beautiful dog is, as we all know, a variety
of the Greyhound, and certainly one of the most attractive of
them all. Whilst it shows its family relationship, it is by
no means just a long-haired Greyhound, and a dog that approaches
the Greyhound is by no means a good Borzoi.
As a breed the type combines gracefulness and
beauty with every suggestion of speed. In the olden days it
was said to combine with these virtues strength and size, but
the dog of today, although by no means a small or delicate one,
can hardly be considered as a powerful animal or a very large
The build of the finest specimens is symmetrical
and well proportioned, and it has been said that every part
must be correctly placed and every part correctly distanced
and balanced to avoid the dog losing that remarkable beauty
which in this breed is so important.
must be realized that, whilst at one time abroad the variety
was kept more or less entirely for its sporting powers in which
strength and weight were of far more importance than appearances,
in England and in the U.S.A. this has never been so, and the
interest of owners has centred on the matter of appearance.
The Borzoi in pre-war days in Russia was famed
the world over for its signal prowess in the truly Russian sport
of wolf-coursing, a sport of difficulty and danger. In this
the Borzois (two being used on one wolf) were trained to chase
and seize the wolf behind the ears - both dogs taking a grip
at the same moment - and to throw it over. The wolf once down,
the two dogs had to hold on to it until the huntsman had time
to arrive upon the scene, dismount, and seize the victim, either
killing it or gagging and tying it so that it could not escape.
With so strong and savage an animal as a full-grown
wolf it was no easy task for the dogs, and unless the tackle
and holding were well done they were certain to suffer serious
injury, and the wolf was likely to make its escape. If the wolf
was held on one side only it would turn that way. It was important
therefore that the two dogs should act so well together that
the wolf was firmly held at both sides simultaneously.
In Russia, therefore, appearance took second
place to coursing intelligence, speed, strength, and fearlessness,
but on the arrival of the breed in England no such use could
be found for it, and the breed became a variety for exhibition
and an ornamental breed for the home of elegance.
earlier times in Russia the Borzoi held a more or less similar
position to that of the Greyhound in England, that is to say
it was a breed over which the Royal Family and the Court had
full control. Thus it was to be found only in the Imperial kennels
and in those of the Grand Dukes. Later, however, the stricture
on keeping Borzois was removed, and it was taken up by the more
important landowners. Wolf-coursing was then considered to be
a Russian national sport, and it is therefore not surprising
that no expense was spared in developing the pastime.
Visitors to Russia in pre-war days who had
the fortune to visit the Borzoi kennels report that these establishments
had been built regardless of cost and were in every detail up
to date, with good accomodation for the large staff that was
employed. Men were on duty both night and day, and the best
dogs sold for high prices, and every conceivable plan was tried
to improve the dogs for coursing by feeding, breeding and training.
For this purpose - the fame of the British
greyhound having spread to Russia - at various times Greyhounds
had been introduced, so that some of the Borzoi breed began
to fail in coat, and some resembled Greyhounds, both in type,
size, head and coloring.
This was naturally displeasing, and it was
further said, possibly because of national prejudice against
foreign blood, that these Greyhound-improved Borzois, as well
as failing in appearance, further failed in working power.
In consequence Russian breeders most assiduously
eliminated any of Greyhound type, and so in time to a great
extent destroyed it. Huntsmen who had to gag the wolf (a piece
of wood was held close to the animal's mouth; it would seize
it, and the wood was pulled back by cords attached to the sides,
the cords being then fastened together behind the wolf's head)
were not over-happy to rely on dogs that were not of the purest
Because the two Borzois had to seize the wolf
at the same time, it was necessary that dogs working together
should approximate each other in running power, so that they
should arrive one on each side of the wolf together. It was
also important that they should be, as near as possible, equal
in strength and courage, for any hesitation or weakness would
give the wolf the opportunity of turning the tables upon its
enemies. It is therefore comprehensible that speed, strength,
and courage were considered important, and that colour, although
of interest, would take a very minor place. The Russians, however,
had a partiality for white dogs and those with ghostlike marking,
the white being considered the most aristocratic, going well
with the white leads and white gloves of the huntsmen.