History of the "Borzoi" Russian Wolfhound

The following is from a booklet published in 1930 by the Russian Wolfhound Club of America.

The Russian wolfhound has been used in Russia for many centuries for coursing of hare, and other game, as were used the "sloughi" or greyhounds of Egypt many centuries B.C., as depicted in tombs and monuments of that country.

We note from old books from all over the world that coursing has been conducted for many hundreds of years, it may be for thousands, originally probably with sole motive of procuring food and then later for sport.

Exercising Borzoi in RussiaThe Russian Borzoi, or the old Russian Psovoy, Gustopsovoy Borzoi or Russian wolfhound, had many varieties, but they all conformed to the following general characteristics. Ears: short and pointed, when quiet, lying back on the neck and touching each other at the tips. The ribs: should extend down to the elbow or below. Back: that of the male rising in a graceful curve from the shoulders to the hips; the female had a straight back, although sometimes they also showed a slight curve. Feet: long, hare-shape, never round like the English hound. Coat: dense, soft, silky and long, on the neck the har longer and heavier and inclined to be curly. Color: of the true type, it was grey or yellow, also these two mixed, but the color must not be too deep nor the same all over the dog (straw or maize color preferred). The muzzle, throat, chest, hip edges and underside of tail must be considerably lighter in color, becoming white at the tips, as with the greyhound.

In respect to the special features of all the different varieties of the Russian Borzoi or Russian wolfhound, the authorities do not differ very much. And if occasionally someone defends some particular deviation, it is usually due to private reasons or opinions. And though such a person's dogs may be of pure blood and breed, their deviation from the established type cannot be approved. For instance the ribs of the Russian Borzoi, of Russian wolfhound, are not barrel-shaped as are those of the Crimean Borzoi, they are longer and extend further down, and the hips are never so large as are those of the Caucasian Borzoi or of the English greyhound. It seems certain that all breeds of Russian Borzois, or Biking with BorzoiRussian wolfhounds, come from one common source, namely from the crossing of the Asiatic or Eastern Borzoi, which penetrated into Russia several hundred years ago, with the Northern wolf-like dogs, or even perhaps with the wolf itself. This is indicated by the ears and by the long hair on the neck. The Courland or Kurland Borzoi seems also to have added its blood to the breed and given to it the long curly coat. Doubtless one will be interested in knowing how it came about that the ancient type of Russian wolfhound has become so difficult to obtain or to breed. So much is heard, and so much is said about it, that we shall try to explain. It so happened that in the early part of the eighteenth century, after many wars, and with subsequent revival of sporting activities in Russia, there arose a great craze to cross Russian wolfhounds with foreign dogs of the same general type, such as Asiatic greyhounds, Crimean greyhounds and gazelle hounds with flapping ears. This crossing was practiced to such an extent that about the middle of the eighteenth century there were few pure-blooded Russian wolfhounds left in the whole of Russia. At this time a large number of the nobility left their estates and repaired to different cities and to sojourn in various places in Europe and in many cases their kennels were given up entirely. Thus it will be seen that first from the mixing of other blood with the breed and later from the decrease in number of hounds, the ancient type became almost extinct, so that when the first exportations of Russian wolfhounds were made from Russia, practically none of the real ancient type of hound ever left the country. Of course in some cases an occasional good specimen may have come out of Russia, but usually any such hounds were duly sent out to individuals as presents.

As far as it is known, the first Russian wolfhound which came to America was brought over from England by Mr. William Wade, of Hulton, Pa., in 1889, this hound being purchased from Mr. Freeman Lloyd. This was a bitch, named Elsie, and described in The English Stockkeeper as "nothing much to look at, being small, light, and weedy, with no bone, straight back, very curly tail and too much bent in stifles.: Mr. C. Stedman Hanks in the early or middle nineties imported several Russian wolfhounds and the records show that some of them were considered very good ones. Mr. Hanks appears to be the only extensive American importer of these hounds who ever visited Russia, until 1903, when Mr. Joseph B. Thomas went there, with the exception of Mr. E. L. Krauss of Pennsylvania, whose importations were of German origin, and as somebody writes, many of them were very weedy, although very pretty to look at, with good heads and coats, but they had evidently been kennel raised for many generations and seemed to show it in disposition and lack of stamina.

Mr. Joseph B. Thomas' importations were made directly from Russia, from the Perchina Kennels, owned by the Grand Duke Nicholas of Romanoff and from the Woronzova Kennels of Mr. Arten Balderoff. In these kennels Mr. Thomas found the good ancient type of hound that everyone interested in the breed was looking for and is still looking for and about which so much is said. It seems that from some of Mr. Thomas' memoirs the reason these two gentlemen, the Grand Duke and Mr. Balderoff, had the ancient type of the breed well preserved in their kennels was due to the fact that during the period of the degeneration of the breed, their places and places from whence they got their stock were so far out of the way that the craze of crossing did not reach that far.

As you visit different kennels and dog shows and observe Russian wolfhounds, you will see the well-knit, well proportioned animal with perfect conformation, that will move elegantly, with great poise, and remind you in the whole of the great superiority of a true aristocrat. Then you will also see the hound that apparently does not look just right to the eye, and to the novice this particular dog is a sort of puzzle. He or she will realize that there is something radically wrong but will be unable to say what it is. This is the type of hound that everyone should try to eliminate. It is either too long for its height, with too small or too large a head for the rest of its body, fox- or Roman-headed, with improper carraige of tail which is sometimes too short, in whole, all out of proportion, not typical or of good conformation, being unable to move properly and lacking the grace and appearance the breed should have. This type is mostly found in the larger sized hound where it was raised in confinement and did not have the chance to exercise properly, and as a rule it will be found to be unsound.

Breeding Russian Wolfhounds >>>

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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