Russian Wolfhounds of Yesterday and Today

by Freeman Lloyd
January 1, 1932, American Kennel Gazette

[continued]

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 meeting.

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 tongue.

This publication was the forerunner of The British Fancier, which, in time, developed into Our Dogs.

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.

 

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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