Russian Wolfhounds of Yesterday and Today
by Freeman Lloyd
January 1, 1932, American Kennel Gazette
It was not long after the acquisition of Oudar
that the Duchess had over fifty borzoi kenneled at Clumber,
the Nottinghamshire seat of the Newcastles. These borzoi were
exhibited at all the important events in England and soon the
Russian dogs became a rage, and ultra fashionable among the
rich, as well as the less affluent society and professional
folk of Britain.
The demand from America became greater and
greater; and, as is well known, the breed was not only well
supported as a dog of pastime, but as a dog for sport. There
are no wolves or coyotes to course in the British Isles, while
to run a fox with any kind of dog, except a pack of pure hounds,
would be looked upon as an unforgivable sin and an outrage against
the spirit and traditions of foxhunting.
So it was when the news arrived that Americans
and Canadians had put the Russian borzoi to work on this continent,
a wave of satisfactory sentiment was experiences in the hearts
and owners of the Russian wolfhound kennels in Albion.
It was not until 1895 that the Borzoi Club
of England was formed. It was a great honor to be elected on
the first committee of the club, after it had been declared
as such, at the Albemarle Hotel, Piccadilly, during the London
season of that year.
The Duke of Newcastle was in the chair, and
was supported, so far as it can be remembered, by his Duchess,
Sir John Evertt Millais, Bart., the Rev. Gambier Bolton, Geroge
R. Krehl, Mrs. morrison of near Salisbury, the Rev. G. C. Dicker
and several others whose names have escaped my recollection.
Suffice it to state that after the meeting
had been called to order - the secretary pro-tem being Mr. Bolton
- the club was formed in the usual manner, excepting, perhaps,
the novel departure of "christening" the club, as
the Duke expressed himself, by pouring a bottle of champagne
over the Russian wolfhound that the Duchess had brought to the
Not until the "baptism" rite was
completed were the glasses lifted to the success of the undertaking.
Then it was that the heavily-coated dog of the Muscovites, well
soused with the sparkling vintage, shook and tried to dry himself!!
It was a "ducal" christening, and
eight years afterwards (1903), at the Old Madison Square Garden,
New York, and also in 1913, after a Sunday afternoon's service
in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, the Duke laughingly and jestingly
referred to the founding of the Borzoi Club, and its ceremony
on that genial and jovial occasion at the Albemarle.
The late Duke of Newcastle was very fond of
America; and while here usually put in a good deal of his time
at Overcross, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Haley-Fiske, Bernardsville,
New Jersey. Photography was another hobby of the late nobleman
who voyaged far and wide in search of pictures of natural history
subjects, his companion being Gambier Bolton - also an amateur
photographer - whose still portraits of wild beasts and birds
became the most popular of studies of an age when hand cameras
were in their infancy.
It is thought that the Russian wolfhound would
never have attained its great popularity in Great Britain had
not the Duchess of Newcastle taken up the breed. It is true
that quite a few persons of high birth and social position had
imported, bred, and owned the Russian dogs long before the Duchess
resolved to support the breed in the grand manner.
Moreoever, the British - or for that matter,
any other of the public - had not been used to seeing a "live
duchess" in a dog show ring, either as an exhibitor or
judge. But the Clumber lady was, and is, nothing if not "democratic,"
and her love for sport, horses, and dogs takes precedence today,
even as it did quite forty years ago.
A Master of Harriers, she hunted her own pack
as she did her beagles. Her wirehaired foxterriers, with the
well-known affix "Of Notts," have ever remained a
common topic in every quarter of the globe where the wirehaired
dog is known. It may be written that no woman of any period
has accomplished so much and of the very greatest value for
the furtherance of the interests of Russian wolfhounds and wirehaired
foxterriers, as has Kathleen, Duchess of Newcastle!
And here it is to be reminded that from Clumber
came the first pack of 15- to 16-inch beagles ever entered to
hunt kangaroo. This pack, which was kenneled between Fremantle
and Perth, in Western Australia, was owned and hunted by Cairns
Candy, brother of the Duchess. It was in the scrub country around
Fremantle that Mr. Candy first hunted, and was able to "blood"
his beagles on the brush marsupial. It was there, in 1901, that
I had the honor of being a hunting guest. Among Mr. Candy's
beagles was an English show champion. He was a neat and sturdy
little hound - about 16 inches - and his name was Lofty.
Mr. Candy said that he first conceived the
idea of hunting the smaller wallabies with beagles, while he
was transport riding with camels, from the Coast to Kalgoorlie,
where, at that time, there was no fresh or drinkable water.
However, he found that the small wallabies would not stand up
before hounds; there were too easily run down and killed. There
appeared to be no chance for real or legitimate sport, he said,
until, fortunately, an Irish and sporting friend suggested that
the brush kangaroo might provide the required diversion.
Thus, in fact, it was the Duchess who was responsible
for the introduction of a new sport into an esentially sporting
country. She had presented to Western Australia the first pack
of beagles able to run down as graceful an animal as ever observed
while running before a pack of hounds. The brush generally provided
a run of from 30 to 45 minutes.
As will be seen from the cartoons that appear
on pages 26 and 27, the booming of the borzoi, in England, was
in full swing in January, 1891, or just 41 years ago. It was
just about the eve of the Cruft's dog show of that year, an
annual exhibition that still remains the greatest in point of
entries of the whole world.
At that time I was engaged in giving publicity
to the Russian wolfhound breed in America as well as England,
a fact that may be gathered from george Cruikshank's caricature
of the round-faced showman beating the publicity drum with "Cheerful
Horn" and "Thames Tattler" tacked on to the figure.
The hideous example of a hump-backed, long-footed borzoi was
supposed to represent the ideal Russian wolfhound, desired by
an American then writing about the breed in New York publications,
especially Turf, Field and Farm, New York, for which
"Thames Tatler" was the London correspondent. The
whole cartoon was an advertising stunt.
Sad to say, nearly all of that gay crowd of
kennel notables of two score years ago have passed to the Great
Beyond. Oh, that I had the necessary space required to describe
each figure and its history! Every person bore a responsible
or leading position in the English kennel world of that time.
It seems uncanny and strange that I am able to recognize the
likenesses and personalities of the great caricaturist's subjects.
Young George Cruikshank was monstrously clever
as a cartoonist. Three or four thumb nail lines and the caricatured
facial or bodily peculiarities of the "victim" was
complete: Young George must have been the quickest man with
the pencil in all London Town.
The winking, top-hatted figure of himself may
be seen hanging on to the money bag in the top of the Canine
World, supported by the figure of our mutual friend, Sandow,
"the strong man," who had only just come over from
germany, and hardly knew or understood a word of the English
This publication was the forerunner of The
British Fancier, which, in time, developed into Our
Should any reader desire that any figure in
the cartoon be identified, I will be pleased to supply the information,
if the subject is marked with a cross (x) and forwarded to this
magazine. Every picture has its story, and an interesting one
at that! Look at Charles Cruft as he appeared 41 years ago.
Yet, to-day, you would be able to identify this man from the
Cruikshank drawing made in 1891.
So far as the super-value of great publicity
was concerned, the large cartoon proved a gret success. Cruikshank's
"Great Siberian Wolfhound" - his own caption - aroused
the public interests in Russia as well as elsewhere. For, as
has already been written, the next year (1892), the Russians,
in the august persons of the Czar and Grand Duke, came down
on London "like wolves on a fold," and with their
dogs won almost every prize with their superb teams of borzoi.
So, to an extent, "Rousseau's Dream"
had become a reality. America also was in the market; the world
was becoming borzoi mad! And so has the enthusiasm for Russian
wolfhounds become of much international importance: to wit,
last October the A.K.C. president judged the borzoi at Europe's
most notable show.
Dr. de Mund is the first American specialist
to ever adjudicate on borzoi in Europe.
It is felt that the Russian wolfhounds will
always be among the more popular of the wolf-coursing dogs in
the Americas. This because of the two most estimable of reasons:
utility and beauty. Or these laudations might be expressed the
other way, placing the beauty of the borzoi before the borzoi's
usefulness. For many like to look upon the Russian wolfhound
as a dog of supreme magnificence and bearing the outward and
visible signs of the sport and, it might be, a cultured taste
of such a dog's owner.
On the other hand, the hunter in a wolf and
wolf-hunting country will prefer to look upon his imposing beast
as a dog of speed, deviltry, and one possessing jaw power. For
the ideal of the wolf hunter must be a dog which can take his
own part gainst a wolf of any height or weight. So it shall
be that the thing of beauty must be a joy forever - providing,
of course, that the dog is quite capable of overhauling or running
to a standstill a wolf; and with sufficient weight and strength
to hold, and mayhap kill, the wild and ferocious animal after
which the Russian dog has been named.
"And how are the show Russian wolfhounds
getting on in America?" some overseas reader will ask.
Excellently! At almost every bench exhibition
in the East of the United States last year a Russian wolfhound
was to be found among the last four or five dogs left in for
the best in show competition. Moreover, the Russian either won
or was close up for the final award. At the Newport, Rhode Island,
large and fashionable gathering, the most beautiful and costly
silver goblet of the season was awarded to the borzoi, Ch. Vigow
of Valley Farm, owned by the Romanoff Kennels, Nyack, New York,
a magnificent hound.
As the Russian wolfhound in the United States
is useful and ornamental, the breed should remain popular.