The Borzoi dog breed originates in Russia, and is a tall elegant dog of the sight hound group. Also once known as the Russian Wolfhound, the Borzoi was bred to be fast enough to catch a wolf, and then tough enough to bring it down. Of course, one dog could not do this alone - they generally hunted in a small pack of 2 or 3, pinning the wolf for long enough for the hunter to kill it.
Wolf hunting was a very big and important part of aristocratic life under the rule of the Romanov dynasty, and the Borzoi played an important role in the hunt. This breed was held in very high esteem, and breeding good hunting dogs became an important part of any grand estate.
Like other dogs of the sight hound group, the Borzoi dog breed was developed to chase something else that runs away from them. This innate desire to chase will cause a Borzoi to go after most cats and small dogs, unless they are introduced to them at a young age.
This is a gentle and calm dog breed, which has a natural respect for humans. They will walk around in a careful and elegant manner, with an air of sophistication and a regal bearing. Although bred for speed and endurance, they love lying on a sofa and playing the couch potato.
The Borzoi is sensitive, and usually reserved around strangers at first. But they are affectionate with people they know well. Unlike breeds developed for herding and protecting sheep, Borzoi are not territorial, and do not feel that they have to defend a particular space or area. HOWEVER they do not like their personal space being invaded closely, and may be unsettled by small children.
Like all sight hounds, Borzoi have an independent nature, and can become bored easily. If let out in a big open space, they will range over long distances very quickly, with no regard for motor traffic. You need to be sure that the space is secure if you are going to let your Borzoi off-leash.
The first Borzoi were bred in Russia in the 17th century, by crossing a type of Greyhound from Arabia with another breed that had a thicker coat. The name "Borzoi" is basically a corruption of the Russian for "fast". The Russians did not call their dogs "Borzoi" as such.
They are similar to other Central Asian breeds such as the Afghan Hound and the Saluki. They can be thought of as long-haired Greyhounds, in essence.
Popular with the Russian Czars (the Romanov dynasty) up to the Russian revolution in 1917, the Borzoi dog breed could not be bought or sold publicly, only given as a gift by the Czar.
The Russian aristocrats would organize big hunting events, where guests would ride out with several packs of Borzoi for the hunt. Smaller animals like rabbits and hares were the most common prey, but the aristocrats really wanted to test their dogs against a wolf.
Only the very best Borzoi in terms of speed, courage and strength to hold a wolf were used for breeding. In this way, the Borzoi really did become the Russian Wolfhound. They are fast, strong, courageous, and can cover big distances with endurance.
After the Revolution in 1917, the Romanovs were killed, and the Borzoi became seen as the dog of the aristocrats, and many were killed when their aristocratic owners were killed. The Borzoi population took a big hit, but they were not targeted as "enemies of the people". They were just seen as unnecessary for wolf hunting.
The soviet authorities were persuaded that there was a need to regulate the breeding of the Borzoi after the 1940s, to support indigenous hunters and fur traders. By the late 19th century, enough Borzoi had been exported to European countries and the USA to establish the breed securely outside of Russia. In 1936 the breed was re-named from Russian Wolfhound to Borzoi.
The Borzoi is not a breed for the first time dog owner. They are gentle, sensitive, but have a streak of independence. Like other sight hounds, such as the Afghan Hound, the Saluki, and the Scottish Deerhound, the Borzoi can become bored by training routines.
They can appear to be stubborn if they are not properly motivated. Training sessions should be kept short, just 5 to 10 minutes at a time, repeated 2 or 3 times a day.
Borzois do not respond to harsh treatment or rough training methods. They need patient and consistent instructions with rewards for correct behavior.
Height; minimum 30 inches (male) at the withers, and 26 inches for females.
Weight; 100lbs (45kg) for males, and 75lbs for females.
The Borzoi dog breed does not feel it has any territory to protect. It was not bred to be a protector or guardian, and so they can't be relied on to bark or raise the alarm if a stranger approaches the house, or even tries to gain entry.
Nevertheless, this is a BIG dog, and the mere appearance of the Borzoi is usually enough to deter the casual intruder. But if somebody does try to get into your house, the dog will probably watch them, to see what they are up to. They may bark, but it's unlikely that they will take any more action.
If you want a dog for protection, you should look to another breed.
This breed has a lifespan of 9 to 12 years, although some live to be a little older. They are basically healthy, and do not have the incidence of OCD, hip and elbow dysplasia that other breeds suffer from.
Unfortunately, more problems have cropped up since the 1970s due to lower breeding standards, compared to in the early 1900s in Russia. Some dogs have heart problems such as cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrythmia.
Especially important is the diet of the dog in its early years. Traditionally, the Russian ancestors were fed a diet of oats and kitchen scraps. The breed has evolved to be lean and light, and does not need (nor tolerate) energy-dense or dry kibble based diets.
There are many examples of the Borzoi dog breed appearing in films and literature, but a couple are listed below;
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