An Outline of the History of the Borzoi
The Prehistoric Period
Mr. Anuchin, in describing the dogs of the
Bronze Age that Aryans brought to Europe, says: "At the
same time, from all the data presented one may conclude 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." Mr. Anuchin does not draw any
other conclusions, probably because there is nothing else to
add. From the foregoing words of our scholar, we hunters can
say, almost with certainty, that the breed in question was closely
similar to our borzoi.
Now the question arises: which of the two breeds
of fossilized dogs was older? We also find the answer to this
question in the words of Mr. Anuchin, who adds that in addition
to the bones of the large dog of Lake Ladoga, bones of a sort
of intermediate breed were found which is similar to the native
European dog of the Stone Age and similar to the sporting dog
or hound, but with the difference that the type of large dog
of the Aryans with a borzoilike exterior predominates in the
We see from the results of modern dog breeding
that a breed, once firmly and long established, always predominates
in the descendants of crosses with a native dog, and it is clear
from this that the breed of the borzoilike dog of the Aryans,
as predominating in the cross with the native dog, unquestionably
was older and was more firmly established than the breed of
Stone Age dogs in Europe.
And for this reason we may conclude that the
borzoi is the oldest of all known breeds of dogs on earth.
Once we reach this conclusion, we also may
conclude that all existing breeds of dogs, together with various
modifications, descended from the borzoi. We now shall see how
accurate this statement is.
The distinguishing features of any borzoi break
down into two groups. One group pertains to the physical build
of the animal, while the other is entirely moral. From the first
glance at any dog we may say that this animal is by nature adapted
for running; in the borzoi this adaptation is pronounced much
more sharply than in other dogs, by the severely dropped ribs
and the so-called "tucked loins." Despite this difference,
however, we still can note that tucked loins exist more or less
in any dog. Here, of course, I am not taking lapdogs into account.
But in fact we see that any dog is indeed very capable of powerful,
prolonged running; even the heaviest of them, such as the bulldog,
run superbly under certain training conditions.
As for the moral aspect, it is observed unconditionally
in any dog, and comprises the proclivity to chase and catch
anything that runs; once again, this tendency is developed more
strongly in the borzoi than in other dogs.
The features just described, which are more
or less inherent in all dogs in general, merely confirm my opinion
of the origin of all dogs from one breed of borzois.
How this was accomplished is hard to say, even
if it is entirely impossible, but it seems to me that one can
establish to some extent a certain hierarchy in the origin of
one breed from another.
Before undertaking to do so, let me try to
surmise what the dog of borzoilike form that belonged to the
Since at that time a large portion of the earth
was covered with forest, one cannot suppose that it had the
elegant and light forms that we see in the modern borzoi. The
words of Mr. Anuchin to the effect that it had good scent and
strongly developed gripping muscles force us to hypothesize
a coarse dog capable of tracking an animal through the then
dense forests, and of engagin in battle with it; since it had
fairly good speed, this was fairly easy for it to do. It should
be added that in those days man probably did not hunt fast-running
animals such as the hare, but pursued larger game such as elk,
deer, bear, and so forth. Consequently, the dog had to have
not the speed of the modern borzoi but simply a fast gait, indefatigability,
and strength. In general, the type of this dog as the forebear
of all existing dogs should not have had any pronounced features
of constitution, but more likely was to some extent similar
to a large, borzoilike mongrel.
It is a great pity that there are no data as
to what kind of ears this breed had: prick or hanging ears?
For my part, I am inclined toward the view that the ears were
semihanging - and here is why: I spoke previously about the
predominance in crossbreeds of the forms of the breed that is
older; in the present case one can apply the same principle.
We know of a long-existing breed of borzois with hanging ears:
these include all the eastern dogs; when these borzois are crossed
with borzois and in general with other dogs with prick ears,
the hanging shape of the ear is conveyed to the offspring more
strongly than any other features; from this one can conclude
that the hanging ear of the eastern borzoi is an unquestionable
feature of antiquity and of established blood. This hanging
ear moreover persists in crossbreeds, which in borzoi breeds
with which the blood of the eastern borzoi has been mixed even
once, dogs are produced with hanging ears after time intervals
of 40 or 50 years, despite the fact that all subsequent studs
had prick ears; this persistency of the feature only confirms
my opinion of the hanging ears of the primitive dog. How do
I imagine the primitive dog? It was probably a very large, mongrellike
borzoi, with a coarse, muscular head, a short muzzle, semi-hanging
ears, highly developed thick ribs, and not especially large
Having concluded with this, we shall now try
to divide existing dog breeds into groups.
While recognizing the dog only as a hunting
animal, I believe it possible to subdivide all dogs into two
large groups, namely: 1) gazehounds (sighthounds), and 2) scenthounds.
All dogs with poorly developed scent that are
capable of taking an animal solely by speed of pursuit or physical
strength in battle will belong to the first group.
The second group will include those dogs whose
scent is well developed and which can take an animal either
by wearing it out or by cunning.
In establishing these two groups, I do not
take into account lapdogs and mongrels without any definite
Lapdogs are not taken into consideration because
they do not constitute any separate breed but are simply caricatures
or miniatures of all large breeds.
Mongrels cannot be taken into consideration
because they constitute a mixture of all possible breeds.
I include among gazehounds of the first group:
Borzois in all their varieties;
- All varieties of Great Danes;
- All varieties of huskies and working dogs of the northern
- Danes and Dalmatians;
- Terriers of all kinds.
The second group will include:
- Scenthounds of all varieties;
- Sporting dogs of all kinds;
- Saint Bernards;
- Mountain dogs.
If one examines closely the division that I propose,
all existing breeds will find a place in one of these two groups.
There are also a number of breeds that descended
from a crossbreeding of members of one group with members of the
other; but this nonetheless cannot destroy the basic types described
At first blush it may seem strange that I have
placed in the same category two such opposed dogs as the borzoi
and the mastiff or bulldog, but I believe that there can be no
doubt as to the kinship of these dogs. Of course, one cannot suppose
that the mastiff descended from the borzoi in a short time interval
and is not the product of the very recent existence of man as
the creator of the breed.
During the hunt for large game, the first people
probably were struck by the ability of the borzoi, which by chance
was born with a shorter muzzle, to hold an animal more strongly
and for a longer period of time. As a result, in skirmishes with
larger animals that could not run fast, they began to try to breed
dogs with a shorter and more powerful muzzle. By selecting more
and more massive dogs with stronger jaws as studs and bitces,
they arrived at the mastiff, and from it they produced the bulldog.
Someone might object to me that primitive man
was hardly so developed that he could conduct breeding; I do not
postulate this, but think that breeding was done without any preconceived
notion of breeding some variety or breed of dog; it all took place
of its own accord, stemming solely from the hunter's experience
and pressing need, and no theory was at work there.
It should be noted here that in general primitive
man, a closely similar type to which we see in existing savages,
was a fairly refined expert in the training and breeding of varieties
of various animals; nearly all current livestock arrived in this
state not in recent times but in the prehistoric period of man's
As I base my hypotheses on this, the selection
of studs and bitches in the breeding of dogs with various features
that are fairly well suited for hunting such diverse animals as
the deer or bear does not seem strange; a lighter dog was required
for the former and a more massive and powerful one for the latter.
To what extent the ancients were more capable
than we are in the domestication of wild animals, we see in the
existence of domesticated lions, which are used in war and even
in hunting, as many writers attest.
How the hound was formed from the borzoi is,
in my view of the subject, perfectly clear. Among primitive dogs,
dogs both large and small probably were expressed, and among these
latter, dogs less fast and faster occurred. Out of these latter,
both smaller and not so fast, the hound formed with time. The
hound, having no possibility of catching an animal, began to bay
out of meanness, and little by little conferred on itself this
habit during the hunt. Originally, it probably bayed only in the
case where the animal was stopping or moving in view.
With time, its scent developed more and more
and the ability to hunt by voice along a trail took root.
One should not think that the primitive hunter
overlooked this phenomenon without noticing it and turning it
to his advantage in tracking down a wounded, hiding animal. Hence
the ability to smell and speak in a dog, albeit not a hound, but
a dog that was already turning in a sense into a hound, grew stronger
in each generation and finally yielded the Russian hound of old,
then the Kostroma hound, and finally all other hounds, from the
ancient, now fossilized badger hound (dachshund) and the modern
French hounds with their enormous ears.
If one takes two extremes from the second group
of dogs, they will seem less strange, as the origin of the other
breeds from the hound is obvious, and there would be no point
in going on about this.
In conclusion, I would like to say a few words
about the extreme ability of the whole race of dogs to be altered
with extraordinary facility. One could hardly find another animal
that adapts so easily to climate, way of life, and food as the
dog, from the dog of the northern countries, covered with a thick
and warm coat, to the Chinese hairless.
Since, for instance, adaptation to climate occurs
quickly, I have had occasion to observe it for myself on long-haired
borzois that I took to the Caucasus, to the banks of the Kuban'
River; the hair on the dogs became much thinner in the very first
year, and in the very first generation of progeny it lost its
thickness even more. If this could happen in the short time interval
of 2 years, one can easily imagine what a difference centuries
would make in this regard.
The question that needs to be clarified is the
more or less prick-type ear of different dogs, despite the fact
that according to all data one may hypothesize the primitive dog
with semihanging ears, as I endeavored to prove above.
We unquestionably see the prick ear only in one
kind of dog, namely dogs of the Far North. In general, the prick
ear demonstrates alertness and attention; any dog whose attention
is roused pricks up its ears, from which we may conclude that
the more often and constantly a dog must listen attentively, the
more its ears must prick up; the extreme limit will permanently
and completely be a prick ear.
In addition to hearing, we may note in the dog
other abilities that serve to recognize terrain, such as scent
and recognition of places already known to the dog.
In the Far North, where the terrain is all but
impassable and utterly uniform, the severe cold hinders recognition
by scent, one ability remains for a dog to orient itself - and
that is hearing. This is why it seems to me that an entirely prick
ear appeared in this breed; to what extent my hypothesis is correct
I don't know, but it seems to me that it is the only possible
one in this case, and this phenomenon can hardly be explained
in any other way.
In describing the appearance of the primitive
dog and postulating for it a semihanging ear, I do not think that
it was so characteristic as the ear of the hound, the sporting
dog, and the eastern borzoi. The ear, like any other organ, is
capable of change, and in the primitive breed it probably was
more a hanging ear than a prick ear, and differed greatly from
the ear of the modern eastern borzoi, which, as I stated above,
so strongly passes on this feature to its offspring, in crossbreeds
with other breeds of dogs that have a semiprick ear.
A fact that somewhat clouds the picture is the
appearance of prick ears in some breeds of wild dogs in warm countries,
such as the Dingo of New Zealand, but in this case the Dingo may
not, I believe, be considered a domestic animal but only an animal
that belongs to the "dog" genus on a par with the wild
dog of the Cape of Good Hope and the dogs of the American plains.
The wolf, jackal, hyena, and fox all belong to
the "dog" genus and all have prick ears.
Some modern breeds have the same prick ear, but
in this case one must strictly apprehend the time of appearance
of a known breed of dogs. There are breeds developed of late and
there are breeds that undoubtedly date to deep antiquity which
do not have prick ears.
Dog breeding has not reached a level of development
and skill such that new breeds arise not of necessity or application
to some practical purpose, but simply as a whim of idle fantasy,
which creates in its own image a known type, often unsuitable
for anything, and then from this type the dog breeder begins to
work in a known direction and with forethought creates an animal
conforming to the envisioned type.
I cannot look on the subject from this standpoint,
and must first ask myself, which breeds of dog do I recognize
as the oldest? The find by Mr. Bourguinia gives us the answer.
In France, at a place called Clapier, 3 kilometers north of Saint
Césaire, near Grasse, in an unknown cave that Bourguinia
called "Grotte Camatte," he found a complete collection
of Canis. Out of the pile of bones, he was able to identify
dogs of the following breeds:
- The badger hound (dachshund) Canis vertagus;
- The hound Canis gallicus;
- The sporting dog Canis avicularis;
- The sheepdog Canis domesticus;
- Two types of borzois, one of which was Canis graius
and the other, a taller kind, for which he could not make a
comparison (probably the large borzoi of Lake Ladoga, which
was still unknown at that time).
Finally, he also gathered at the same place bones
of the chien-loup (wolfhound), as it is called in France (Canis
pomeranus); that these bones belonged to Canis pomeranus
is doubtful. In addition to the breeds mentioned, he also found
there numerous bones that belonged to various kinds of Great Danes
One can see in what we have just said that the
breeds of dogs in the final period of prehistory were not distinguished
by their numbers, and that the breeds found by Bourguinia may
be considered the oldest, if not on earth then at least in Europe.
The following order emerges:
- The borzoi, mastiff, and sheepdog;
- The hound, dachshund, and sporting dog.
I have changed the order somewhat, because Bourguinia
arranged them in the order in which the bones were found and not
by the hierarchical seniority of the breeds.
Analyzing the ears of these breeds, we see that
the borzoi, sheepdog, and mastiff, which I place in the first
group, all have a semihanging ear, or at least an ear capable
of pricking up sharply while listening, and that these breeds
may be considered the oldest of the breeds of dog.
I would add one thought to my various notions
about the origin of the different breeds of dog from the borzoi.
In the improvement or modification of various traits of the hunting
dog, the number and variety of animal chased by them play an enormous
role; in this case practice has an enormous influence.
Primitive man lived in a constant war with the
various large animals around him; this struggle was obviously
a daily affair, developed hunting abilities in dogs, and at the
same time strongly affected the alteration of the external forms
of dogs and their hunting abilities and techniques in the chase
of wild animals.
To judge by the present status of hunting dogs
among native peoples, they must have belonged not to individuals
but to whole villages. In this regard, the status of the hunting
dog among the natives in Cambodia is quite characteristic. There,
dogs do not have nicknames and in response to a traveler's question
of a native, "What is your dog's name?," he replied
with surprise, "He's called 'dog'." They all live in
the human community, and accompany the first native on the hunt;
it should be assumed that in the days of the primitive inhabitant
of the land, in exactly the same way the dog was only an assistant
and not a servant to the hunter. In recent times, hunting dogs
in Sparta by law could not belong to individuals but belonged
to a whole city or settlement, and everyone had the right to use
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