A beautiful Borzoi called Sergei!  
Welcome to my page about the very beautiful and elegant Borzoi or "Russian Sighthound"!
The dog above is Swedish owned "Sergei" (Kennel Velikij) taken at only 17 months, November 1998. See first pic. below for him as a mature male! What a difference! This breed is one of the largest Sighthounds yet at the same time it is surprisingly easy to keep as it is mostly "cool, calm and collected", (unless there is a hare in sight!) being quiet and so sweet and charming around the home, that it wins it's way into everyone's heart. In many ways, a "gentle giant!"


Swedish owned Velikij Sergei again, but now a mature male. A good example showing the profuse coat of hair most adult dogs have. (Females slightly less so and their coat can be affected when they come into season or have puppies.)

A little Borzoi history
The Borzoi, in common with so many other sighthounds, was originally owned by noblemen and royalty only, but the abolition of serfdom in 1861 changed the social customs of the Russian people.
All the sighthounds have a long history behind them, and the Borzoi is no exception. The first mention of a Russian hunting dog appears in the middle of the thirteenth century, although it's a reference to a hound that hunted hares rather than wolves, which were otherwise the common quarry of these dogs. Two types predominated. There was the shorter haired Borzoi which was tall, and pale coloured, beige and white or brindle and white. This was thought to be the most ancient variety and was probably nearer to the Greyhound than the other types.
The other dominant breed was smaller, finer and rangier, usually dark in colour and possessing more stamina than the larger hounds. Early artistic records exist in hunting frescoes in Kiev's Sophia Cathedral, dating back to the 11th century. These paintings show hounds of the Borzoi type chasing boars and stags and it would seem that the curly coated Greyhound type must have existed long before the first written references.

The dark or black coated dogs were long frowned upon by the Russian nobility because they stood out more clearly in the snow. With the liberation of the serfs came the closing of many of the large estates and their enormous kennels and the breed degenerated for a while. But in 1873 the Society for the Development of Hunting Dogs and Proper Conduct for Hunting was founded in Moscow. This society arranged dog shows and aimed to improve canine conformation as well as hunting abilities. In 1887 a supporter, Archduke Nicolai Nikolajawitsch, founded the now world-famous Perchino kennels, which he based on the very best bloodlines available at the time. He started with 60 Borzois and built a number of stone houses, each containing boxes for a dozen hounds. Every house had three paddocks and only the houses for the bitches and puppies were heated! The dogs had no heating at all the whole year round! The dogs were grouped where possible after their colours. About 50 puppies a year were reared. When embarking on a wolf hunt, the duke would take about 35 couples with him. The couples consisted in fact of three hounds - two dogs and a bitch - again selected mainly after their colours. About 40 riders would go ahead in the forest to be hunted, any spaces and gaps were covered with nets. Then a pack of foxhounds, also owned by the Perchino kennels would be sent ahead to flush out the quarry. The Borzois were restrained on very long leads by riders who galloped after the wolves, then slipped the Borzois who ran up alongside and harassed and bumped, often the third dog running and biting from behind until the wolf lost its balance and fell and whereupon it was immediately grabbed at the ears and throat and held down by the three dogs. The hunters then rode up and bound its legs and wedged a wooden block between its teeth. These wolf hunts lasted about an hour each and any young healthy wolves would then be released again. General appearance

The first impression of a Borzoi is dominated by its impressive size, its thick and wavy coat, the elegance and beauty in its lines and harmony of build that all together create a very stunning looking dog. Size is from 70 to 82 cm or more at the shoulder, bitches are always 5 cm or more smaller. The largest known Borzoi was Russian and measured 92 cm at the shoulder. Borzois have a long and dense wavy coat and owners must be prepared to spend some time caring for this, especially in periods of moulting. All colours are allowed, often basically white with coloured areas going over to darker dogs even self black does occur. Male Borzois have a curve to their backs that is a special characteristic for the breed. Bitches are similar but the curve is not so well defined. They have deep chest and tucked up stomachs. An elegant long head - there are many varieties of head of which each was given a name by the nobles who kept and bred them in the past. They should have dark, intelligent and keen looking eyes, almond shaped with dark eye rims. Hind quarters should be broad and powerful with long thighs, well bent stifles and broad well let down hocks. The tail is long and heavily feathered.

The Borzoi was introduced into Britain at the end of the 19th century by the Duchess of Newcastle, who imported the famous Perchino and his self black and tan brother Argos, who won a silver medal in Moscow in 1892.
Argos became champion in both England and the USA. The Duchess's kennel name was "Notts" and soon she owned about a 100 dogs and was famous as a breeder and as a judge.
England's Queen Alexandra's kennels at Sandringham also contributed to the Borzoi's popularity. She was given several dogs by the Russian Czar. Alex was the most famous and another called Ajax became a champion.

These days the Borzois in England, whilst still looking very much like the Russian dogs, are often looked down upon by Russians. This is mainly due to the inevitable inbreeding that has occurred since the introduction of the quarantine laws, (luckily now lifted) but also, to the Russians, the main criteria is still the dog's ability to hunt and not it's beauty!

Although Borzoi in the UK are mainly pets and show dogs, they also attend lure coursing events. Many a time a Borzoi is Best in field, beating Whippets, Greyhounds, Afghans etc. Many breeders have plenty of land for their Borzoi to run and "let rip" at top speed for a while, making short work of any rabbits or foxes that are stupid enough to venture into their paddocks!
Some owners are not lucky enough to have their own land, so many rent a field where their hounds can run free and play.
The UK Borzoi owners are proud of their hounds and are mindful to ensure that they are all fit for purpose, although coats are naturally much bigger and glamorous, than the working hounds.*

In Russia, they are very strict. Before a dog becomes a show champion, it must be 3 years old and have working certificates as well as three of the coverted gold medals. The Russian equivalent of our certificate consists of one beauty certificate and two working certificates!

Hunting instinct
The Borzoi does have a strong hunting instinct - some specimens more than others. One must never forget that for hundreds of years it has been trained to hunt its prey to the bitter end, using its keen sight.
These days this is forbidden and dangerous for the dog, so they must be slipped to run free only at places which have been chosen with care - that is well away from all traffic and where there are no wild animals that could become their unhappy prey or lure them away from you! Also, it is wise to train the dog from earliest puppyhood to be used to and respect, cats, other dogs and all manner of other animals and other peoples pets.
The puppy years are very important learning time for all dogs and you should be very active to get your Borzoi used to "modern civilization" and all the many situations and things that you both will come upon during its lifetime.
Make every experience a happy one and train so that the dog has fun and enjoys itself, with plenty of tit-bits as a reward for good behavior.

As a family dog
The Borzoi is maybe not exactly what one thinks of first as a family dog, but in fact they can be very good with children if they are used to children - and it is up to the children (their parents!) to observe all the normal rules for being together with dogs and have a proper respect for them, just as is necessary with any other breed of dog.
Borzois are calm and sweetly loving by nature and lie lazily around the house, decorating the best easy chairs. They love their families and become very devoted and loyal.
They need, just as any other active dog, a good walk and a free run every day. Otherwise they are happy to spend the rest of the time "keeping a devoted eye" on their owners.

A Borzoi should have a firm but loving and understanding owner. They cannot tolerate much shouting and anger and persons with a "fiery" temperament had best not have a sighthound. Borzoi, as with some of the other sighthounds, become overly nervous, confused and very unhappy with a lot of harsh and angry treatment.
They learn quickly and easily and wish only to please, while at the same time their catlike independent nature must be respected and allowances made.
They make charming, quiet and faithful companions.
An adult Borzoi does not need as much food as its size would suggest - all depending on how much exercise it gets.
However, as puppies and up to the age of about 2 years, it is extremely importance that they get a first class quality dog food to ensure that their very long bones get all the necessary nourishment to enable optimal development. Follow the advice of a good breeder and spare nothing to give the best diet possible in these early years.
Good exercise is also essential for good strong bone development.

A Finnish Champion
Finnish Champion Polongain Zimbalist
* My thanks for help with the text from Borzoi breeder Alma Abrahams: http://www.jamarqui.co.uk
The British Sighthound Field Association: lurecoursing.org.uk/home.html

My e-mail: janetfm@sighthound.net

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