An Outline of the History of the Borzoi
The Prehistoric Period
By this heading I mean that time which we can
judge only by the fossilized remains of dog bones.
Everything now known about this time pertains
exclusively to Europe, since we do not yet have reports from
This entire period may be subdivided into two
parts: the time before the arrival of the Aryan tribes in Europe,
and the time since then.
Before the arrival of the Aryans, all that
can be adduced about the existence of the dog reduces to the
Fossilized remains have been found everywhere,
but in a very limited quantity with respect to individuals.
Just four breeds of dog are known to this point:
Canis ferus (the wild dog),
with its variations called Canis familiaris;
- Two close varieties related to the wolf; Cano europaeus
and Cano Edwardsianus (a breed close to them still
exists in India and the Himalayas);
- The peat dog of the Swiss lakes;
- One of the two breeds found during digging of the new Ladoga
Canal and called Canis polustris Ladoguensis.
All these dogs existed in Europe before the
Arrival of the Aryans, as earlt as during the Stone Age. With
the appearance of the Aryan peoples who brought bronzeware with
them, one other breed probably bred by the Aryans appears among
fossilized dog bones. It differs from local dogs in its larger
height and borzoilike exterior.
It cannot be assumed that Canis ferus
was indeed a domestic dog as we see it now, and this is because
most of the teeth found for this breed were pierced and probably
served as decorations for primitive peoples. We know that all
decorations, in this sense, were made solely from the teeth
of wild animals that were the subject of the hunt. In later
and later epochs, where there can be no doubt as to the domestication
of the dog, the teeth of these wild animals do not turn up in
pierced form, whereas the teeth of the bear, the wild boar,
and others continued to serve as decorations.
All that I have said up to this point pertains
to Canis ferus, Cano europaeus, and Cano
Edwardsianus, but recently, inexcavations during the diggin
of the new Ladoga Canal, Mr. Inostrantsev found the remains
of dog bones of this locality during the Stone Age.
Everything pertaining to this find can be found
in A. A. Inostratsev's work Doistoricheskii Chelovek Kamennago
Veka, Poborezh'ya Ladozhskago Ozera [Prehistoric Stone
Age Man on the Shores of Lake Ladoga], revised by D. N.
Anuchin. The information drawn from this work is as follows:
during the digging of the new Ladoga Canal, bones of a prehistoric
dog were found that belonged, according to the surmises of Mr.
Anuchin, to 15 individuals. It may be assumed that these bones
occupy in time a position between the so-called "Danish
kitchen remains" and the "Swiss pile dwelling."
It turned out that a comparison of the Ladoga dog with the dog
bones of the kitchen remains is all but impossible because of
the extremely spoiled state of the latter.
The remains of the pile dwellings are superior
material for comparison. From comparisons, it turned out in
general that the dogs of the pile dwellings and Lake Ladoga
have much in common, both in the structure of the skull and
in height; they are apparently the same breed.
Rüthimeyer [Ryutimeier] finds that a comparison
of the skeleton of the fossil dog of Western Europe with existing
breeds forces us to surmise that it was most similar to hounds
and sporting dogs.2 In addition to the hound and
sporting dog, the fossil dog is close in skull structure to
the dog of the Papua Archipelago and New Britain.
In addition to the breed described above, in
the prehistoric period there was another type of dog identical
to the others, but larger, called the "peat dog,"
whose appearance incidentally dates to the very late Stone Age.
According to remarks by Mr. Anuchin, one of
the dogs of Lake Ladoga, although similar to the dogs for the
pile dwellings and the peat dog, is another kind of fossil dog
in terms of certain features but had yet to appear in Western
Europe. Mr. Anuchin says: "From all the data presented,
one may conclude that one breed of dog on the shores of Ladoga
during the Stone Age was extremely similar, and in all likelihood
was closely related, to the Neolithic breed in Western Europe,
and differed from it mainly in having somewhat greater height,
a stronger constitution, a less bent profile, a large flare
of the skull toward the rear, and a somewhat less pointy muzzle
One may conclude from the available data that
in the Stone Age there existed throughout the entire are of
Europe basically one breed of dog, with extremely minor variations.
The features of this breed were: small height, fairly weak teeth,
and, in all likelihood, close similarity to the modern sporting
dog and hound.
With the advent of the Bronze Age and the arrival
of the Aryans in Europe, an entirely different breed of dog
appears. Mr. Anuchin talks about this more in his work: "In
the Bronze Age we find another breed of dog, taller that all
previous ones, and closely similar in skull structure to the
large borzois of today. In general one may say that all hypotheses
of scholars are conjectural because they do not have in hand
the skulls of today's purbred borzois. In all probability, the
large borzoilike dog of the Bronze Age appeared together with
the Aryans who appeared in Europe at about this time and who
brought it from Central Asia."
But all breeds of Stone Age dogs probably belonged
to the indigenous, primitive inhabitants of Europe, who had
no need for the large borzoi, since they did not have herds
and all the land then occupied was wooded.
In addition to the large dog of the Bronze
Age, there is a sort of intermediate form from whose skull we
may hypothesize that it descended from crossbreeding of the
large breed of borzoilike dog with a small breed that existed
before it in Europe, which was similar to modern-day hounds
and sporting dogs.
In the bones found at Lake Ladoga, although
the same intermediate breed also is present, from the changes
in the skull one can note that it retained a great similarity
to the large borzoilike breed of the Bronze Age. This forces
us to conjecture the greater predominance of the borzoilike
dog over the local breed when they were crossbred with each
Later Mr. Anuchin says: "At the same time,
one may conclude from all the foregoing data that the large
ancient Ladoga breed of dog had a well-developed scent, was
distinguished by strong gripping muscles, and was superbly adapted
to fast running. In other words, this breed combined in itself
all the main traits necessary for successful hunting of big
"It would be extremely desirable to trace
the spread of these ancient Ladoga breeds in local districts
of Russia, but the available materials unfortunately remain
too meager to arrive at any positive conclusion in this regard.
"It is worth noting that in the Neolithic
sediments of Central Russia, such as around the village of Volosov
near Murom, all the bones of a domestic dog were found recently,
despite the fact that many stone implements and bones of fish,
fowl, elk, marten, badger, bear, wild boar, beaver, and other
wild animals are found there.
"The bonyeards of Perm' also have failed
to yield dog bones, despite the fact that masses of bones of
elk, wolverine, bear, northern deer, and small predators were
found there, as well as livestock, including cattle, horses,
goats, and pigs."
The absence of dog bones at the aforementioned
sites also may be explained by the fact that these were sites
where sacrifices were brought and the dog was not a sacrificial
All that has been said thus far pertains to
the very earliest times of appearance of the dog in Europe;
the further we trace the finds of dog bones dating to the most
recent epochs, the more universal the occurence of the dogs
becomes and the more diverse their breeds.
Mr. Bourguinia [Burginia] in France has found
numerous remains of dogs in caves in the Alpes-Maritimes Department;
of these bones, he recognized the following breeds:
- Sporting dogs;
- Two varieties of the borzoi.
In addition to these breeds, Bourguinia believes
that the remains of other varieties of Great Danes also were present
among the bones.
So this is all that we know thus far about the
fossil dog, and all these data reduce to the following: for now
we know of two breeds of primitive fossil dog (Bourguinia's find
may not be dated to this time): 1) the Stone Age dog, which is
similar to the sporting dog or hound, and 2) the dog of the Bronze
Age Aryans, large and quite similar to the borzoi.
Since the subject of my outline is the borzoi
and since the primitive dog of the Stone Age generally has nothing
in common with the borzoi, I shall endeavor exclusively to elaborate
the question of the large borzoilike dog of the Bronze Age Aryans,
believing it to be a relative of our borzoi.
In working on this question, I of course have
no data other than the detailed description of this dog's skull
by Mr. Anuchin, and I therefore will have to present only my own
conjectures and hypotheses.
We do not know, of course, whence originated
the dog that the Aryans brought to Europe, and all the hypotheses
of scholars regarding the origin of the dog in general also may
Recently they have begun to tend toward the view
that the domestic dog descended from one or many breeds of wild
dogs, but from which? And where are the remains of these dogs?
Here indeed is a question! The view of some scholars on the origin
of the dog still has not been fully estalished; many continue
to adhere to an origin from the wolf, jackal, hyena, and fox;
in my view, this notion does not have any basis, and I shall allow
myself to repeat here what I have already written on this subject
in a brief note published in Issue No. 14 of the magazine Russkii
Okhotnik for 1890, under the title "A Few Words on the
Origin of the Dog."
I believe that everything that various scholars
have had to say on this subject suffers from one-sidedness. Scholars
view the dog through the eyes of scholars, and not hunter; it
seems to me that herein lies their main error in the desire to
learn whence the dog came.
To view this subject from the hunter's standpoint
would be more rational, especially since the first dogs could
only have been used for hunting; and why this is so I shall say.
In the beginning, the entire surface of the earth was in all likelihood
covered with dense forests; there are genealogical data to this
Primitive man in those days could not, of course,
engage in any activity other than hunting, and the dog was unquestionably
his best helper in this undertaking.
The question is: did man train some breed of
animal to hunt, or did this breed already exist and man only train
it and make use of tis habits and propensities, turning them to
his advantage? These questions can be answered by an analysis
of the character and propensities of the dog, on the one hand,
and of those animals such as the wolf, fox, jackal, and hyena
from which, according to some scholars, the dog descended in all
its varieties, on the other hand - the scholars' mistake lies
precisely in their omitting, in this analysis, the character and
propensities of both groups.
Any dog, whatever the breed and whatever size
it may be, differs from other animals in its ferocity; it is the
only animal that kills other animals solely for pleasure. This
trait is more characterisitic than anything else. All other animals
kill and attack other animals in just two cases: when they are
driven to do so by hunger or self-defense. Furthermore, all other
animals of the "dog" genus are distinguished by an extremely
base character, and for the most part they are cowardly. The bravest
of these, such as the wolf, never attackes alone and openly animals
stronger than themselves. I am not speaking of the jackal, fox,
and hyena - their cowardive and baseness have found their way
into a local saying.
The dog, by contrast, often attacks animals much
stronger than itself, and what is the main thing, it possesses,
if one may use this expression, overt hunting proclivities. It
never tries to resort to cleverness and always acts openly and
honestly. Someone may say to us in reply that man developed all
this in the dog, but I believe that man could hardly create a
brave and honest creature from a craven and base animal! If all
these traits had been instilled in the dog by man, then the very
nature of the animal would have manifested itself somewhere without
fail - for instance, in those breeds which have long serves only
as a decoration or a whim and in which every effort is made to
wipe out the hunting instincts, such as all breeds of lapdogs.
In fact, we often see how a small lapdog whose
ancestors and which itself were raised in a room on small sofas,
with pleasure smothers some canary or mouse that it has succeeded
in catching; I believe that this is a direct sign of its basic
character, and that it could not have been instilled in it from
The wolf, when sated, will not for any reason
chase after another animal, no matter how tasty a morsel it might
appear to be. To a dog, on the other hand, whether sated or hungry,
it is all the same. Perhaps it cannot catch the pursued animal
because its belly is too full, but it will without fail chase
after it and, if it can catch it, will stifle it with the same
ferocity, regardless whether it is full or hungry. One would hardly
suppose that a dog constantly stuffed with coffee, chocolate,
and biscuits would smother a canary or a mouse out of hunger;
would it not be more likely to postulate in all these cases the
hunting instinct rather than hunger?
An important confirmation of my ideas can be
found in analysis of the habits of the shepherd dog. According
to data available to us, the shepherd has existed almost as long
as the original dog itself, but in it we see the same ferocious
proclivities as in the hunting dog, although man has changed the
dog's character, training it to chase after only certain animals
while at the same time guarding others.
In sporting dogs we see the same thing; man has
already trained them to point and broken them of chasing and attacking
wild game. All these results of training by man are noticeable
only in those dogs under man's constant watch; but remove a shepherd
or sporting dog from man's influence and leave it to its propensities,
and it will undoubtedly revert to its natural, primitive habits.
We can trace this easily in those sporting dogs and shepherds
who are raised as yard dogs, without any supervision, and who
are not given any training; all these dogs begin to chase animals,
not only in subsequent generations but even in the first; the
shepherd will choke lambs, and the sporting dog will lose its
pointing ability and begin to chase wild game. From all my observations
of dogs, I have reached the conviction that training has an effect
only to a certain degree, and that the fundamental feature of
the character of any dog - its ferocity - cannot be extirpated
by any training or upbringing whatever.
From the foregoing one may assume that primitive
man, who trained the first dogs, in no way bred them from the
wolf, fox, jackal, or hyena, but encountered a preformed dog that
already possessed hunting abilities to a superior degree. On encountering
the dog, man could only turn it to his advantage and develop these
abilities, but could not in any sense toy with the idea of creating
for himself a hunting assistant in the form of a dog from a wolf
or other animal, and of imparting to this animal the traits necessary
for hunting. This last situation also could not have been because
to create something one must have an idea of the object; how could
man have created a dog never having seen one and having no concept
of what a dog would be and of for what it would be suited?
As an argument for the descent of the dog from
another animal, some scholars adduce the notion that a dog that
has gone wild loses its ability to bark, but in reply to this
one could say that there are whole breeds of nonbarking dogs,
such as the tundra dog of northern Siberia, which never barks;
the large Siberian hunting dog, which barks almost not at all;
and finally our Russian long-haired borzoi, which also barks almost
not at all. A dog does not have to run wild in order not to bark.
What even more strongly refutes the hypothesis
that the dog descended from any other animal is the current existence
of the very same animals from which it was supposed to have derived.
The wolf, fox, jackal, and hyena often live close
to dogs, but they do not freely interbreed with each other and
even if mongrels of these animals and dogs occur, under the influence
of man and in a hunting sense they are never suitable; there is
a loss of bravery, and only a tendency to shred to pieces livestock
and poultry is retained.
Finally, if the dog could have derived from one
of the animals mentioned in prehistory, why does the same thing
not occur now too?
In Algeria, where a great many stray dogs live
in full association with packs of hyenas and jackals, mongrels
are not seen, although fights between them occur not infrequently.
At the present time, there are still places on
earth where dogs live in a near-wild state, and it would be very
interesting to obtain fossil remains from these places; unfortunately,
excavations conducted thoroughly and skillfully have produced
results only in Europe.
What excavations in other countries will give
us in this regard we still don't know; it should be assumed that
the question of the origin of dogs will become clearer then than
it is now; we need only find some fossilized form of an indisputable
In light of all the foregoing, I conclude the
modern dog unquestionably descended from the dog, and not from
any other animal.