The Hound of the Czars

Article by Walter Dyer, originally published in the October 1916 issue of Country Life in America magazine.

My friend Charles Livingston Bull, the animal artist, is, as the boys say, "nutty" over the Russian wolfhound, and it is to him that I owe largely my appreciation of that breed. At the Westminster show he delights in pointing out to me the wonderful beauty of the Borzoi's lines, and I have come at last to view the matter somewhat with his eyes. I suppose it is natural for us to like some breeds better than others, and I confes that I never warmed up very much to this Russian, but I can see now how the Borzoi must appeal to an artist, and I am quite willing to admit that he has other good points as well. Leaving out all question of personal preference, therefore, let us see why this breed has become so popular.

In the first place, the Borzoi is perhaps the most spectacular of all dogs in appearance, and that goes a long way with many fanciers and dog owners. He never can fail to attract attention in the show or on the street, or when sailing over fences in the open country. When running he is an epic of motion.

Major Borman, one of the breed's best friends in England, says: "The most graceful and elegant of all breeds, combining symmetry with strength, the wearer of a lovely silky coat that a toy dog might envy, the length of head, possessed by no other breed - all go to make the Borzoi the favorite he has become." Major Borman knows the breed; we will let his estimate stand.

The Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound as he is more often called in the United States, is a dog of ancient lineage, akin to the long-coated Persian greyhound and belonging to the greyhound family. For centuries, probably, he has been bred in Russia as the sporting dog of the aristocracy. The rest of Europe has known him for only a few decades.

It was perhaps forty years ago that the first Borzois were imported into England. The Czar presented dogs to the royal family of England, so that his position in English society was assured from the start. English fanciers took up the breed about 1880, and the Borzoi Club was founded in England in 1892. The English, however, made more of a companion than a hunting of him, wolves being less plentiful in Great Britain than in Russia, so that our English importations have differed somewhat in character from those brought direct from Russia.


The first Borzois were brought to this country in the early '90's, and were called Siberian wolfhounds. Later we adopted the name Russian wolfhound. Interest here was spasmodic until Mr. J.B. Thomas, Jr., took hold. He bought dogs in England, Canada, and the United States, and then imported some fine dogs from Russia, including the famous Bistri of Perchina and Sorva. Bistri was a typical example of the breed and his stuffed remains are preserved at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Mr. Thomas's continued enthusiasm has had much to do with the ever increasing popularity of the breed in this country. We now have plenty of good breeding material here, with several large kennels doing a good business, and the future of the breed seems assured. Borzois are becoming more and more common among dog owners in all parts of the country, and the show entries are always large. There were thrity-four of them at Madison Square Garden last February.

Grace, speed, strength, and beauty are the Borzoi's physical characteristics -if you concede the attribute of beauty to so narrow a head. The Standard calls for a dog built on greyhound lines, but taller and somewhat leaner than the greyhound. The greyhound's action is quicker than that of the Borzoi, but the latter is a stronger runner, with a longer stride and greater staying powers.

The Borzoi's chest should be deep and narrow, the body muscular, neck, back, and loins bespeaking strength, with the back arched over the loins. Both fore and hind quarters should be powerful, the thighs well muscled, hind quarters somewhat straighter than those of the greyhound, hind legs set well forward and well bent at the hocks.

The Borzoi's head counts fifteen points in the judging. The skull should be longer and narrower than that of the greyhound, and there is usually an angle at the brow, producing a Roman nose. The eyes are dark and set somewhat obliquely. The ears are small, thin, and carried down.

The coat is long, fine, and silky, sometimes with a curl. White usually predominates in the coloring, which may be all white or with markings of tan, fawn, blue-gray, brindle, lemon, or black. Whole colored specimens of these tints sometimes appear.

The Standard calls for a dog 28 to 31 inches high at the shoulder. In England the minimum has been raised to 29 inches. The average weight is 75 to 105 pounds, bitches 15 to 20 pounds lighter. A desirable height is 31 inches; some dogs have stood 33 inches or more.

Common faults in the Borzoi are shoulders too heavy, chest too wide, turned-out elbows, splay feet, cow hocks, head too short or thick, light eyes, and lightness of bone.

The Russians are good breeders, as a rule, and the puppies are not difficult to rear if proper care is taken. Fairly high prices are the rule, prize winners being valued up into the thousands occasionally. Good puppies, eight or ten weeks old, may be had for $35 to $50. The Borzoi is at his prime when three or four years of age.

Being a somewhat nervous, restless breed, more than ordinary care should be exercised in training the puppy. He should be broken early, if possible, of a tendency to run away or roam, for the Borzoi is naturally a great ranger and wants to use his legs. The puppy should be accustomed to the collar and lead when quite young. It is better, however, not to try to keep one on a chain. A good sized fenced-in run is better, and the fence needs to be pretty high. The breed does not take kindly to close confinement, and some individuals can never be made into house dogs. In the main, variety of diet, plenty of exercise, and patience in training are the requisites in rearing a puppy.

RazloffThere appears to be some difference of opinion as to the Borzoi's disposition. The breed's staunchest friends claim that he is naturally affectionate, and a one-man dog. He seldom picks a quarrel. I am inclined to think that individuals differ rather widely, some being sweet-tempered and some not. Perhaps they have been spoiled by their aristocratic training. They are often snobbish, sometimes wilful.

I knew a Borzoi once that did no end of damage by breaking loose occasionally and running wild. In almost every instance the owner heard of chickens killed or some other damage done, sometimes ten miles from home. This Borzoi seemed unable to resist the call of the wild when it came, though between times she was docile and affectionate. It was bred in her to run and kill.


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


if you have an informational link that you would like to see listed, or if you find a link that is no longer working, please contact the webmaster

[our logo Borzoi was provided and is copyrighted by Cecelia Barnett] ~ [ about the Photos on this site ]

Borzoi Central | Design by Gryffyn | R. Lynn Shell-Whitlock
contact webmaster

The use of robot, spiders, webcrawlers or reapers, or any other means to reproduce this site, its databases, its programs or any part thereof is strictly prohibited.