Did you know?
In Russia the Borzoi is called Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya. The last word in the name, Borzaya, is an adjective used to describe the speed of a horse.
Its meaning is fleet or swift.
Extraordinary creature! So close a friend, and yet so remote. – Thomas Mann
Borzois are a noble breed with a long history. A descendant of the ancient Persian Greyhound, the breed originated in Russia and was used to hunt wolf, fox and hare. They evolved between the Kyrgyzstan, the lower Kazakhstan part of Altai and the Afghan plains. The earliest actual sighthound breeds were the plains Afghan hounds and the Kyrgyz Taigan. These ancient breeds then migrated South developing into breeds adapted to those regions.
The breed naming system used by the Russians consisted of descriptive terms, rather than actual names. “Borzói” means “fast”. “Borzáya sobáka” (“fast dog”) is the basic term used by Russians. Other examples are “Psovaya” from the word Psovina, which means “wavy, silky coat” and “Hortaya” means “shorthaired”. In Russia today the breed we know as the borzoi is officially known as “Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya” or “Russian wavy, silky coated fast dog”!
Borzois were associated with the Russian aristocracy being kept and bred by the Tsars prior to the 1917 revolution. For centuries, they could not be purchased but only given as gifts from the Tsar. Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievich of Russia bred the dogs at Perchino, his private estate. They were also favourites of English nobility.
The Russians introduced hunting trials to test borzois’ instincts. Only the fastest and most intelligent hunting dogs were used in breeding programs. Borzois and Foxhounds accompanied by mounted hunters pursued hares and other small game on the Russian steppe. However, the most highly prized tests involved wolves. If a wolf was sighted, the hunter would release a team of two or three borzois. The dogs would pursue the wolf, attack its neck from both sides, and hold it until the hunter arrived.
Photos displayed courtesy of Michèle Fink, Secret Haven, Ontario
Once know as Russian Wolfhounds, Borzois are considered a giant breed and stand up to 32 inches (81 cm) tall at the shoulder. They have a long silky coat, that may be straight, wavy, or fairly curly. Any colour or pattern is acceptable. However, it is usually white and marked in lemon, tan, grey, brindle, or black. Their overall aristocratic appearance is graceful, dignified and elegant.
Borzois are intelligent, independent, and can be stubborn. Aloof with strangers, they are devoted to their families. This is not a breed that will fit into every household. Even though they are large dogs, they are graceful animals, and with proper training make excellent house dogs. When raised with children, most are good companions, but they are not a breed that will tolerate a child’s rough-housing.
These animals are classified as sight hounds, bred to chase and catch game by sight; any small animal that runs may trigger this response. Bear this in mind if there are other pets in the house – especially cats.
Basic obedience training and socialization are recommended. Patience and consistency are the keys to training. Borzoi mature slowly, so the destructive tendencies of puppyhood are there for a long time in a very large dog. Borzois are selective learners who quickly become bored with repetitive, apparently pointless, activities! Boredom often leads to destructive behaviour. Attention and exercise can help; however, if the dog is to be left alone for long periods of time, you should consider having an outdoor run built or providing a crate inside. Borzois are sensitive to harsh training methods and raised voices. Strong, firm, leadership is the key to Borzoi cooperation and respect.
They also require regular exercise. As you might expect of an animal bred to hunt and hold wolves, this dog is courageous, powerful, and capable of great speed. To see a Borzoi running is to watch poetry in motion. However, it is NEVER advisable to allow him to run loose.
In addition to the show ring, today’s Borzois can be found competing in lure coursing events, obedience, agility, and flyball.
With his elegant lines and aristocratic demeanor, the Borzoi is a popular subject for artists.