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The Borzoi Or Russian Wolfhound








Of the many foreign varieties of the dog that have been introduced
into this country within recent years, there is not one among the
larger breeds that has made greater headway in the public favour than
the Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound. Nor is this to be wondered at. 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 favourite he has become.

He is essentially what our American cousins would call a spectacular
dog. Given, for example, the best team of terriers and a fifth-rate
team of Borzois, which attracts the more attention and admiration
from the man in the street? Which does he turn again to look at? Not
the terriers! Add to this that the Borzoi makes a capital house dog,
is, as a rule, affectionate and a good companion, it is not to be
wondered at that he has attained the dignified position in the canine
world which he now holds.

In his native country the Borzoi is employed, as his English name
implies, in hunting the wolf and also smaller game, including foxes
and hares.

Several methods of hunting the larger game are adopted, one form being
as follows. Wolves being reported to be present in the neighbourhood,
the hunters set out on horseback, each holding in his left hand a
leash of three Borzois, as nearly matched as possible in size, speed,
and colour. Arrived at the scene of action, the chief huntsman
stations the hunters at separate points every hundred yards or so
round the wood. A pack of hounds is sent in to draw the quarry, and
on the wolves breaking cover the nearest hunter slips his dogs. These
endeavour to seize their prey by the neck, where they hold him until
the hunter arrives, throws himself from his horse, and with his knife
puts an end to the fray.

Another method is to advance across the open country at intervals
of about two hundred yards, slipping the dogs at any game they may
put up.

Trials are also held in Russia. These take place in a large railed
enclosure, the wolves being brought in carts similar to our deer
carts. In this case a brace of dogs is loosed on the wolf. The whole
merit of the course is when the hounds can overtake the wolf and pin
him to the ground, so that the keepers can secure him alive. It
follows, therefore, that in this case also the hounds must be of equal
speed, so that they reach the wolf simultaneously; one dog would, of
course, be unable to hold him.

Naturally, the dogs have to be trained to the work, for which purpose
the best wolves are taken alive and sent to the kennels, where the
young dogs are taught to pin him in such a manner that he cannot turn
and use his teeth. There seems to be no reason why the Borzoi should
not be used for coursing in this country.

One of the first examples of the breed exhibited in England was owned
by Messrs. Hill and Ashton, of Sheffield, about 1880, at which time
good specimens were imported by the Rev. J. C. Macdona and Lady Emily
Peel, whose Sandringham and Czar excited general admiration. It was
then known as the Siberian Wolfhound. Some years later the Duchess
of Newcastle obtained several fine dogs, and from this stock Her Grace
founded the kennel which has since become so famous. Later still,
Queen Alexandra received from the Czar a gift of a leash of these
stately hounds, one of them being Alex, who quickly achieved honours
as a champion.

The breed has become as fashionable in the United States as in Great
Britain, and some excellent specimens are to be seen at the annual
shows at Madison Square Gardens.

To take the points of the breed in detail, the description of the
perfect Borzoi is as follows:--

* * * * *

HEAD--This should be long, lean, and well balanced, and the length,
from the tip of the nose to the eyes, must be the same as from the
eyes to the occiput. A dog may have a long head, but the length may
be all in front of the eyes. The heads of this breed have greatly
improved the last few years; fewer apple-headed specimens, and more
of the desired triangular heads being seen. The skull should be flat
and narrow, the stop not perceptible, the muzzle long and tapering.
Too much stress cannot be laid on the importance of the head being
well filled up before the eyes. The head, from forehead to nose,
should be so fine that the direction of the bones and principal veins
can be seen clearly, and in profile should appear rather Roman nosed.
Bitches should be even narrower in head than dogs. THE EYES should
be dark, expressive, almond shaped, and not too far apart. THE EARS
like those of a Greyhound, small, thin, and placed well back on the
head, with the tips, when thrown back, almost touching behind the
occiput. It is not a fault if the dog can raise his ears erect when
excited or looking after game, although some English judges dislike
this frequent characteristic. The head should be carried somewhat
low, with the neck continuing the line of the back. SHOULDERS--Clean
and sloping well back, i.e., the shoulder blades should almost touch
one another. CHEST--Deep and somewhat narrow. It must be capacious,
but the capacity must be got from depth, and not from barrel ribs--a
bad fault in a running hound. BACK--Rather bony, and free from any
cavity in the spinal column, the arch in the back being more marked
in the dog than in the bitch. LOINS--Broad and very powerful, showing
plenty of muscular development. THIGHS--Long and well developed, with
good second thigh. The muscle in the Borzoi is longer than in the
Greyhound. RIBS--Slightly sprung, very deep, reaching to the elbow.
FORE-LEGS--Lean and straight. Seen from the front they should be
narrow and from the side broad at the shoulder and narrowing gradually
down to the foot, the bone appearing flat and not round as in the
Foxhound. HIND-LEGS--The least thing under the body when standing
still, not straight, and the stifle slightly bent. They should, of
course, be straight as regards each other, and not cow-hocked, but
straight hind-legs imply a want of speed. FEET--Like those of the
Deerhound, rather long. The toes close together and well arched.
COAT--Long, silky, not woolly; either flat, wavy, or curly. On the
head, ears and front-legs it should be short and smooth; on the neck
the frill should be profuse and rather curly; on the chest and the
rest of the body, the tail and hind-quarters, it should be long; the
fore-legs being well feathered. TAIL--Long, well feathered, and not
gaily carried. It should be carried well down, almost touching the
ground. HEIGHT--Dogs from 29 inches upwards at shoulder, bitches from
27 inches upwards. (Originally 27 inches and 26 inches. Altered at
a general meeting of the Borzoi Club, held February, 1906.)
FAULTS--Head short and thick; too much stop; parti-coloured nose;
eyes too wide apart; heavy ears; heavy shoulders; wide chest; barrel
ribbed; dew-claws; elbows turned out; wide behind. Also light eyes
and over or undershot jaws. COLOUR--The Club standard makes no mention
of colour. White, of course, should predominate; fawn, lemon, orange,
brindle, blue, slate and black markings are met with. Too much of
the latter, or black and tan markings, are disliked. Whole coloured
dogs are also seen.

* * * * *

The foregoing description embodies the standard of points as laid
down and adopted by the Borzoi Club, interpolated with some remarks
for the further guidance of the novice.

The Borzoi Club was founded in 1892, and now consists of about fifty
members, with the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle as joint-presidents.
It does much good work for the breed, guaranteeing classes at shows,
where otherwise few or none would be given, encouraging the breeding
of high-class Borzois by offering its valuable challenge cups and
other special prizes, and generally looking after the interests of
the breed.

Although the Club standard of height has been raised from 27 and 26
inches to 29 and 27 inches for dogs and bitches respectively, it must
be borne in mind that the best dogs of to-day far exceed these
measurements, and, unless exceptionally good in other points, a
dog of 29 inches at shoulder would stand little or no chance in the
showing under the majority of English judges; indeed, bitches of 29
to 30 inches are by no means uncommon.

Not many of us can afford to start at the top of the tree, and, except
for the favoured few to whom money is no object, and who can buy
ready-made champions, there is no better way of starting a kennel
than to purchase a really good bitch, one, say, capable of winning
at all but the more important shows. She must be of good pedigree,
strong, and healthy; such an one ought to be obtained for P15 upwards.
Mate her to the best dog whose blood nicks suitably with hers, but
do not waste time and money breeding from fourth-rate stud dogs, for
if you do it is certain you will only meet with disappointment. On
the other hand, if you have had little or no experience of dogs, you
may possibly prefer to start with a puppy. If so, place yourself in
the hands of a breeder with a reputation at stake (unless you have
a friend who understands the breed). It is a fact that even a cast
off from a good strain that has been bred for certain points for
years is more likely to turn out a better dog than a pup whose dam
has been mated haphazard to some dog who may or may not have been
a good one. Big kennels also generally possess the best bitches and
breed from them, and the bitch is quite as important a factor as the
sire. If, however, you prefer to rely on your own judgment, and wish
to choose a puppy yourself from a litter, select the one with the
longest head, biggest bone, smallest ears, and longest tail, or as
many of these qualities as you can find combined in one individual.
Coat is a secondary matter in quite a young pup; here one should be
guided by the coat of the sire and dam. Still, choose a pup with a
heavy coat, if possible, although when this puppy coat is cast, the
dog may not grow so good as one as some of the litter who in early
life were smoother.

As regards size, a Borzoi pup of three months should measure about
19 inches at the shoulder, at six months about 25 inches, and at nine
months from 27 to 29 inches. After ten or twelve months, growth is
very slow, although some continue adding to their height until they
are a year and a half old. They will, of course, increase in girth
of chest and develop muscle until two years old; a Borzoi may be
considered in its prime at from three to four years of age. As regards
price, from P5 to P10 is not too much to pay for a really good pup
of about eight to ten weeks old; if you pay less you will probably
get only a second-rate one. Having purchased your puppy, there are
three principal items to be considered if you intend to rear him well;
firstly, his diet must be varied; secondly, the pup must have
unlimited exercise, and never be kept on the chain; thirdly, internal
parasites must be kept in check. For young puppies Ruby Worm Cure
is most efficacious, and does not distress the patient.

Food should be given at regular intervals--not less frequently than
five times a day to newly weaned puppies--and may consist of porridge,
bread and milk, raw meat minced fine, and any table scraps, with
plenty of new milk. Well-boiled paunch is also greatly appreciated,
and, being easily digested, may be given freely.

One important part of the puppy's education that must by no means
be neglected is to accustom him to go on the collar and lead. Borzoi
pups are, as a rule extremely nervous, and it requires great patience
in some cases to train them to the lead. Short lessons should be given
when about four months old. If you can induce the puppy to think it
is a new game, well and good--he will take to it naturally; but once
he looks upon it as something to be dreaded, it means hours of patient
work to break him in.

If you decide on commencing with a brood bitch, see that she is dosed
for worms before visiting the dog; that she is in good hard
condition--not fat, however; and, if possible, accompany her yourself
and see her mated. For the first week rather less than her usual
quantity of food should be given; afterwards feed as her appetite
dictates, but do not let her get too fat, or she may have a bad time
when whelping. For two days before the puppies are due give sloppy
but nourishing diet, and this should be continued, given slightly
warm, for four or five days after the pups are born. Borzois as a
rule make excellent mothers, but to rear them well they should not
be allowed to suckle more than five--or, if a strong, big bitch,
six--pups. If the litter is larger, it is better to destroy the
remainder, or use a foster mother.

[Illustration: MRS. AITCHESON'S BORZOI CH. STRAWBERRY KING]

Whatever they may be in their native land--and the first imported
specimens were perhaps rather uncertain in temper--the Borzoi, as
we know him in this country, is affectionate, devoted to his owner,
friendly with his kennel companions and makes a capital house dog.
As a lady's companion he is hard to beat; indeed, a glance at any
show catalogue will prove that the majority of Borzois are owned by
the gentle sex. No one need be deterred from keeping a Borzoi by a
remark the writer has heard hundreds of times at shows: Those dogs
are so delicate. This is not the case. Once over distemper
troubles--and the breed certainly does suffer badly if it contracts
the disease--the Borzoi is as hardy as most breeds, if not hardier.
Given a good dry kennel and plenty of straw, no weather is too cold
for them. Damp, of course, must be avoided, but this applies equally
to other breeds.

The adult hound, like the puppy, should never be kept on chain; a
kennel with a railed-in run should be provided, or a loose box makes
a capital place for those kept out of doors, otherwise no different
treatment is required from that of other large breeds.





Next: The Greyhound

Previous: The Deerhound



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