Russian Wolfhounds of Yesterday and Today
by Freeman Lloyd
January 1, 1932, American Kennel Gazette
In the matter of the differences between the
American and the English Russian wolfhounds, of borzoi as they
are classed in Britain, the remarks of Dr. John E. de Mund of
New York, who judged Russian wolfhounds and greyhounds at the
Crystal Palace show, London, England, on October 7 and 8, 1931,
will be found of very considerable interest. The following extract
is abridged from The Kennel Gazette, the official organ
of the English Kennel Club, of November 1931, in which the president
of the American Kennel Club gives his impressions as a judge
and observer at the greatest of all kennel events in Europe.
Dr. de Mund says in part:
"I do not intend to write a critique
upon the dogs brought before me in the Crystal Palace, but
there were certain impressions which remain with me. Never
before have I seen such splendid greyhounds as at that show.
We have nothing in the United States that can approach them.
The Russian wolfhounds did not impress me as favorably. There
seems to be a tendency in England to breed for size and soundness
rather than for conformation. Some of the specimens were all
of 35 inches and more, while muzzles were very disappointing."
"They were inclined toward dish faces,
and the majority were not deep enough in the muzzle. The average
length of head was good, and among some of the younger specimens
I saw some that might go very high in the United States.
But in the main, the specimens at the show
indicated that the English breeder has forgotten that the
true purpose of the Russian wolfhound is to hunt wolves. And
that demands a strong muzzle. In closing this criticism, it
is only just to say that the type of wolfhound has improved
greatly in England during the past fifteen years."
As it appears to me, the chief fault that the
American had to find with the English dogs was they were not
powerful enough in the muzzle; further, that all or some of
the borzoi specimens that came under Dr. de Mund's notice were
what is commonly described as "dishfaced." This, seemingly,
was a point well taken; for the well-filled-under-the-eye skull
denotes more power or strength of jaw.
If we care to examine the profile of the lion
we will find little indication of a "stop," this being
particularly noticeable in the case of the lioness. But, after
all, as many will rightly declare, the strength of the jaws
is given that power mostly by the aid of the muscular jowls
and the cheek muscles of the feline race. And, as in the case
of the mastiff, bulldog and other strongly jawed canines and
culpines, the smashing, holding capabilities are greatly helped
by the jowls.
For many years it has been noticed that the
English borzoi have been inclined to the form of head that is
so well described in the not very aesthetic form of speech,
"dishface." But the usage of slang of the conversational
kind, as often as not quickly conveys to the mind of the doggie
personage just what the term means. In short, a dishfaced dog
means that its foreface or muzzle is scopped out under the eyes:
it is not "filled in."
As all the older bullterrier breeders will
agree, the well-filled-in-below-the-eye show dog of that variety
is comparatively of a modern style, albeit a very sensible one.
The reason is that this formation or build of the skull gives
more power to the biting and holding capabilities of the bullterrier's
jaws, a property that has its greatest value in a dog of a breed
that is not only renowned for his gameness, but its lasting
ableness as a fighter against his own kind or some other and
more devilish wild beast.
As has before been remarked, the down-faced
bullterrier may still be called a modern innovation, but, on
the other hand, the wolfhounds of Russia have ever, it would
appear, possessed that style or build of head which might be
classed as filled in. There has been a slight fullness in the
outline of the skull from the occiput bone to the nose; but
too much of a curve - like an inch on a man's nose - will make
all the difference! It is believed that every one in Russia
and America likes to see the filled in topline of the borzoi's
skull and foreface. It is thought that such a form has been
well and truly described as that of the Old Russian type.
"Fancy," of course, goes a very long
way; but it is always just as well to think the matter over,
before accepting the form of a new breed - to the observer -
as being absolutely of the right stamp to fulfill the duties
expected of a hunting or coursing dog of any kind or country.
It is believed that Europe will always keep
up the heights and strengths of its borzoi, those employed for
European wolf-coursing. Soundness, of course, is regarded as
a sine qua non in each and every one of the sporting
breeds. But great size must not be everything. The exquisite
quality, the beautiful outline, grace, and aristocratic bearing
- if I may be allowed to use the term - of the Russian wolfhound,
should be preserved at all cost.
Behold the greyhounds! They have remained -
as a class - the same in height, weight, bone, outline and quality.
This has been so down through the centuries; while above all
other matters and considerations, the speed, gameness, stamina,
and beauty in appearance of the longtail have not been impaired
in the slightest way. The greyhound primarily has been bred
for coursing hares. So his powers of vision - rather than "nose"
- swiftness, and staying characteristics have not been lost.
So it must be with the Russian wolfhounds which,
bearing the name they do, must be bred to a point of excellence
that shall be in keeping with their coursing, holding might
and killing traditions. Besides that, they remain beautiful
and very likely the loveliest creatures of all the long dog
Among the Russian wolfhounds observed on the
North American continent have been the large, quality-possessing
borzoi bred and owned in the Dominion of Canada. Among those
was a dog at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at St. john, New brunswick,
shows during the fall of 1930. I had heard of the measurements
of Ch. Peterhoff of marlboro, which won as best in show at both
the above exhibitions, but to make sure of the height, weight,
and so on of this borzoi, Maurice B. Zwicker of Halifax, breeder
and owner of Peterhoff, was asked to supply a sworn statement
regarding the measurements, etc., of his sound, large borzoi,
possessed of that necessary "quality," a term that
is so difficult to describe. For "quality," even in
a dog, might be confused with "effeminate" - certainly
a drawback in a dog employed for European wolf or American timber
Incidentally it may be mentioned that a photograph
of the head of Peterhoff was published in the first of this
series on the Russian wolfhound.
Complying with the request, Mr. Zwicker, on
October 23, 1931, swore to the following affadavit before Carl
P. Bethune, notary public of he Province of Nova Scotia. The
figures refer to Ch. Peterhof of Marlboro.
"The following are the official measurements
taken October 15, 1931:
"Length of head, from nose to occiput,
13 1/2 inches.
"Height at shoulder, 34 inches (under
"Girth, back of forelegs, 37 1/2 inches.
Weight 102 1/2 pounds."
Here will be found a matter of considerable
interest - one that undoubtedly will have its international
value as a scale for reference or making comparisons. As it
is remembered, the hair at the end of this dog's tail, while
in repose, touched the level ground on which he stood. Peterhoff
came from a long line of Russian or continental European-bred
borzoi. This Canadian champion is not a dish-faced specimen
of this breed.
In the November issue of this publication there
was discussed the great array of borzoi at the Cruft's show
at the Agricultural Hall, London, in February, 1892. Mention
was made that the Duchess of Newcastle had then commented to
take a strong and willing hand in the acquirement of some of
the best of the breed sent over from Russia. These came from
the Imperial Kennels owned by the Grand Duke Nicholas. Under
the same charge were three borzoi, the property of the Czar
It goes without saying these magnificent dogs
"set the Thames on fire." Most of them were immediately
sold at high prices. The Lord Mayor of London was presented
with one of the lovely dogs from Russia; while the Duchess of
Newcastle gave £200 ($1,000) for Oudar, although he was
in poor condition. Lasca, owned by the Czar, also changed hands
at $1,000. The kennel man in charge of the Russian dogs carried
instrucitons to sell all of them. Only one or two were disposed
of at the very low price of $100 each.