Russian Wolfhounds of Yesterday and Today

by Freeman Lloyd
January 1, 1932, American Kennel Gazette

In the matter of the differences between the American and the English Russian wolfhounds, of borzoi as they are classed in Britain, the remarks of Dr. John E. de Mund of New York, who judged Russian wolfhounds and greyhounds at the Crystal Palace show, London, England, on October 7 and 8, 1931, will be found of very considerable interest. The following extract is abridged from The Kennel Gazette, the official organ of the English Kennel Club, of November 1931, in which the president of the American Kennel Club gives his impressions as a judge and observer at the greatest of all kennel events in Europe. Dr. de Mund says in part:

"I do not intend to write a critique upon the dogs brought before me in the Crystal Palace, but there were certain impressions which remain with me. Never before have I seen such splendid greyhounds as at that show. We have nothing in the United States that can approach them. The Russian wolfhounds did not impress me as favorably. There seems to be a tendency in England to breed for size and soundness rather than for conformation. Some of the specimens were all of 35 inches and more, while muzzles were very disappointing."

"They were inclined toward dish faces, and the majority were not deep enough in the muzzle. The average length of head was good, and among some of the younger specimens I saw some that might go very high in the United States.

But in the main, the specimens at the show indicated that the English breeder has forgotten that the true purpose of the Russian wolfhound is to hunt wolves. And that demands a strong muzzle. In closing this criticism, it is only just to say that the type of wolfhound has improved greatly in England during the past fifteen years."

As it appears to me, the chief fault that the American had to find with the English dogs was they were not powerful enough in the muzzle; further, that all or some of the borzoi specimens that came under Dr. de Mund's notice were what is commonly described as "dishfaced." This, seemingly, was a point well taken; for the well-filled-under-the-eye skull denotes more power or strength of jaw.

If we care to examine the profile of the lion we will find little indication of a "stop," this being particularly noticeable in the case of the lioness. But, after all, as many will rightly declare, the strength of the jaws is given that power mostly by the aid of the muscular jowls and the cheek muscles of the feline race. And, as in the case of the mastiff, bulldog and other strongly jawed canines and culpines, the smashing, holding capabilities are greatly helped by the jowls.

For many years it has been noticed that the English borzoi have been inclined to the form of head that is so well described in the not very aesthetic form of speech, "dishface." But the usage of slang of the conversational kind, as often as not quickly conveys to the mind of the doggie personage just what the term means. In short, a dishfaced dog means that its foreface or muzzle is scopped out under the eyes: it is not "filled in."

As all the older bullterrier breeders will agree, the well-filled-in-below-the-eye show dog of that variety is comparatively of a modern style, albeit a very sensible one. The reason is that this formation or build of the skull gives more power to the biting and holding capabilities of the bullterrier's jaws, a property that has its greatest value in a dog of a breed that is not only renowned for his gameness, but its lasting ableness as a fighter against his own kind or some other and more devilish wild beast.

As has before been remarked, the down-faced bullterrier may still be called a modern innovation, but, on the other hand, the wolfhounds of Russia have ever, it would appear, possessed that style or build of head which might be classed as filled in. There has been a slight fullness in the outline of the skull from the occiput bone to the nose; but too much of a curve - like an inch on a man's nose - will make all the difference! It is believed that every one in Russia and America likes to see the filled in topline of the borzoi's skull and foreface. It is thought that such a form has been well and truly described as that of the Old Russian type.

"Fancy," of course, goes a very long way; but it is always just as well to think the matter over, before accepting the form of a new breed - to the observer - as being absolutely of the right stamp to fulfill the duties expected of a hunting or coursing dog of any kind or country.

It is believed that Europe will always keep up the heights and strengths of its borzoi, those employed for European wolf-coursing. Soundness, of course, is regarded as a sine qua non in each and every one of the sporting breeds. But great size must not be everything. The exquisite quality, the beautiful outline, grace, and aristocratic bearing - if I may be allowed to use the term - of the Russian wolfhound, should be preserved at all cost.

Behold the greyhounds! They have remained - as a class - the same in height, weight, bone, outline and quality. This has been so down through the centuries; while above all other matters and considerations, the speed, gameness, stamina, and beauty in appearance of the longtail have not been impaired in the slightest way. The greyhound primarily has been bred for coursing hares. So his powers of vision - rather than "nose" - swiftness, and staying characteristics have not been lost.

So it must be with the Russian wolfhounds which, bearing the name they do, must be bred to a point of excellence that shall be in keeping with their coursing, holding might and killing traditions. Besides that, they remain beautiful and very likely the loveliest creatures of all the long dog varieties.

Among the Russian wolfhounds observed on the North American continent have been the large, quality-possessing borzoi bred and owned in the Dominion of Canada. Among those was a dog at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at St. john, New brunswick, shows during the fall of 1930. I had heard of the measurements of Ch. Peterhoff of marlboro, which won as best in show at both the above exhibitions, but to make sure of the height, weight, and so on of this borzoi, Maurice B. Zwicker of Halifax, breeder and owner of Peterhoff, was asked to supply a sworn statement regarding the measurements, etc., of his sound, large borzoi, possessed of that necessary "quality," a term that is so difficult to describe. For "quality," even in a dog, might be confused with "effeminate" - certainly a drawback in a dog employed for European wolf or American timber wolf-hunting.

Incidentally it may be mentioned that a photograph of the head of Peterhoff was published in the first of this series on the Russian wolfhound.

Complying with the request, Mr. Zwicker, on October 23, 1931, swore to the following affadavit before Carl P. Bethune, notary public of he Province of Nova Scotia. The figures refer to Ch. Peterhof of Marlboro.

"The following are the official measurements taken October 15, 1931:

"Length of head, from nose to occiput, 13 1/2 inches.

"Height at shoulder, 34 inches (under standard)

"Girth, back of forelegs, 37 1/2 inches. Weight 102 1/2 pounds."

Here will be found a matter of considerable interest - one that undoubtedly will have its international value as a scale for reference or making comparisons. As it is remembered, the hair at the end of this dog's tail, while in repose, touched the level ground on which he stood. Peterhoff came from a long line of Russian or continental European-bred borzoi. This Canadian champion is not a dish-faced specimen of this breed.

In the November issue of this publication there was discussed the great array of borzoi at the Cruft's show at the Agricultural Hall, London, in February, 1892. Mention was made that the Duchess of Newcastle had then commented to take a strong and willing hand in the acquirement of some of the best of the breed sent over from Russia. These came from the Imperial Kennels owned by the Grand Duke Nicholas. Under the same charge were three borzoi, the property of the Czar of Russia.

It goes without saying these magnificent dogs "set the Thames on fire." Most of them were immediately sold at high prices. The Lord Mayor of London was presented with one of the lovely dogs from Russia; while the Duchess of Newcastle gave £200 ($1,000) for Oudar, although he was in poor condition. Lasca, owned by the Czar, also changed hands at $1,000. The kennel man in charge of the Russian dogs carried instrucitons to sell all of them. Only one or two were disposed of at the very low price of $100 each.

continued >>>


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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