Borzois

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.

Borzoi pair resting after a run

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 one.

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.

click to enlargeIt 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.

1898 German Borzoi

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.

click to enlargeIn 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 Borzoi breeding.

puppy tug-o-war

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.

continued >>>

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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