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SOLVING PUZZLE THE BORZOI
ALLOWING THE PIECES TO FALL INTO PLACE BY PATTI NEALE
I n these days of small entries and the continuing loss of experi- enced fanciers, the best dog in the ring on a given day may still not be breeding stock. While this phenomenon is not limited to any specific breed, it is particularly frustrating for judges of Hounds. The majority of Hound breeds are rare breeds and, sometimes, even decent- sized entries at an all-breed show can challenge one to find individuals that actually have enough good points to carry on the next generation. Though Borzoi are not yet on the endangered species list, the number of dogs bred and shown has greatly decreased in the last fifteen years. Special- ties still provide a showcase for the breeders’ best, however, so a student of the breed will be well-served to attend the big ones, especially the National. A judge, on an average weekend, is faced with a wide variety of Borzoi and a limited amount of time. He must find the individual pieces and fit them into the class placements to complete the jigsaw puzzle that is a breed entry. When the pieces are all there, it is a very satisfying exercise. So, which pieces of the puzzle are key? The Borzoi standard sets immediate priorities for the breeder or judge in the opening paragraph on General Appearance: “Special emphasis is placed on sound running gear, strong neck and jaws, courage and agility, combined with proper condition… unmistakable elegance, with flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose.” The correct Borzoi is found in the big picture; that is, the outline that exemplifies a running dog—sound legs, muscular condition, and grace. An athletic, shapely, whole dog is far more important than the prettiest head, biggest coat, the darkest eyes or most perfect teeth. Nearly every breed can be identified by its head. Head planes are not mentioned in the standard. Although the Borzoi head comes in a number of historically varied styles, none can be mistaken for another breed. So, the head is integral to type, but it is much less defined than the function- driven body. By itself, the Borzoi’s outline is not exactly unique. It shares the shape of speed with Whippets, Deerhounds, and the classic Greyhound. But, when combined with any of the several acceptable coats, it is quite distinctive and unmistakably Borzoi—like no other breed.
Borzoi show their best out-of-doors.
© Kelly Brunarski
Short back combined with long, flexible loin.
Excellent shape, balance, and overall construction in a bitch.
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Gait—When viewed from the side, there should be a noticeable drive with a ground-covering stride from well-angulated stifles and hocks. The overall appearance in motion should be that of effortless power, endurance, speed, agility, smoothness and grace.
Some of the differences in the overall look of individual Borzoi are allowed by parts of the Standard that are not specifically spelled out. Croup angle and precise proportions of leg length to height to body length are absent. These are areas of interpretation that may account for acceptable differences of body type, but only within a relatively narrow range. The athletic Borzoi is only slightly longer than tall. Hair on the chest and britches may visually lengthen the dog just a bit, but the coat on the topline gives the dog another inch or two in apparent height that usually balances the picture. Generic dogs have leg length that equals fifty percent of their height. Sight- hounds, and therefore Borzoi, are not generic, but are specialized runners. Like their classic prey, they should have legs that are at least fifty percent of their total height—never less. Long and low is extremely difficult to breed away from once established; and an anathema to breed type. Standards for generic dogs (or those that require stability and quick lateral movement) call for a short loin. The running dog, however, needs a long loin for extreme flexibility at the double suspension gallop. Within the same overall body length, the generic dog has a long back with a short loin. The sighthound has a short back with a long loin. The Borzoi standard addresses this: “Loins: Extremely muscular, but rather tucked up, owing to the great depth of chest and comparative shortness of back and ribs.” The marginally flexible back is short, compared to the very strong and flex- ible loin required to coil the dog practically into a ball on the contraction phase of the gallop and unleash the power on the extension phase in a split second. So, the static shape, based on running requirements of the Borzoi, is the first key to the puzzle. Unfortunately, we cannot judge the working gait—the dou- ble suspension gallop—in the ring. Since the majority of the Borzoi standard
is devoted to describing the kind of structure that makes a strong, agile distance runner, soundness is an integral part of breed type and, therefore, must be rated as a priority item. None of that structure is the least bit at odds with a smooth, long-striding trot as described in the standard: “When viewed from the side there should be a notice- able drive with a ground-covering stride from well-angu- lated stifles and hocks. The overall appearance in motion should be that of effortless power, endurance, speed, agil- ity, smoothness and grace.” We CAN judge that effortless, powerful, smooth, graceful gait in the ring when a Borzoi is moving around the ring in profile on a loose lead. Forward motion with minimal effort is a joy to behold; unmistakable elegance, flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose. Whereas a flawless down and back is wonderful to have, a straight, untypical Borzoi can achieve that without having the required athleticism of the whole dog. Because of this, it is good to have a ballpark range (albeit a narrow one) of acceptable soundness coming and going. However, to use this as the principal contest will miss the bigger picture. Showmanship alone is of little import. A dog needs to be trained to the degree that the basic elements for comparison of one Borzoi to the other are visible. This doesn’t mean perfect; just the basics. He must be able to trot in a relatively straight line, stand still for exami- nation, and move along with the handler on a loose lead. Borzoi are willing to please, but few have the “pizazz” of breeds with more excitable temperaments. Grooming, as it regards trimming, is optional. Most people do some, others carry it to an extreme. Good grooming or trimming should enhance a natural look, not create a caricature. Be careful not to penalize the clean, but less trimmed, dog for flaws that may have been sculpted out of its competition. So, when judging the Borzoi, first choose the dogs with the shape of speed, sound running gear, power, and grace. The rest of the puzzle will fall into place if you find those key pieces.
Power and grace, on the field and in the ring
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S O RT I N G O U T THREE ELEMENTS O F B R E E D TY P E
A ll breeds have specific breed elements. To quote Richard G. Beauchamp from his book, Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type , these include coat, head, movement, function, and temperament. But what makes these elements specific to a Borzoi? Let’s look at coat, head, and movement.
BY JON TITUS STEELE
COAT A Borzoi will spend hours out in the snow, curled in a ball, comfortable and protected by that double coat. Climate and func- tion have played a big role in developing the breed over hundreds of years. Consider the geography of origin for the Borzoi; the steppes of Russia with its cold harsh winters, hot summer days, and temperatures that run to extremes from day to day and with the time of year. To simplify, the Borzoi is a blend of an ancient Persian greyhound and a heavier, northern working breed similar to an Ovcharka. To get a dense, protective coat that sheds dirt and debris, there had to be a double coat, for protection in the winters, and a silky outer coat. They had to have a silky outer coat with guard hairs so that the dogs would be able to move through rug- ged terrain with speed, without getting hampered by a wooly or an over-abundant coat. A ruff around the neck was important to pro- tect the Borzoi from the bite of a wolf. With the ruff came fringe on the front legs and hind quarters, also for protection. There are at least three types of coat in Borzoi; straight, wavy, and curly. All are correct and all should have a correct silky texture. A wooly coat is a fault. To the touch, the coat should be smooth and supple, not dry or harsh. In old photographs, you can see all three coats. However, a difference in length and abundance when
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SORTING OUT THREE ELEMENTS OF BREED TYPE
There may be a bad Borzoi, but there is never a bad color.
compared with today’s show dog is evident. Kept in harsher conditions, those early hunting dogs often did not have the length or quality that our dogs have today. Improvements in nutrition and pet beds have made it easier to grow coats. It is debated that drier climates and higher elevations can make it easier for the coat to break off or appear flat. Those living in the Southern states suggest that, without the cold winter temperatures, it is hard to maintain the bigger and denser coats. Either way, Borzoi shed down to sparse coats during the year—especially the bitches after their seasons. Today’s condi- tioners, shampoos, oils, supplements, and soft beds have led to our dogs producing longer and more luxurious coats. One word on color: “Immaterial.” There may be a bad Borzoi, but there is never a bad color. HEAD A unique feature of a Borzoi is the head. Both fill and fin- ish are breed elements. In profile, there is a smoothness and a sleek appearance, with a barely noticeable stop. The eyes, set obliquely and almond-shaped, lead to that “far-off ” expres- sion. (It is true that they see the world differently and can focus on something insignificant off in the distance, rather than on the person at hand.) Ears are small, fine, and are held in a rose. They also can be pricked when at attention. Smaller ears have been found to have tighter ligaments, and some connection with better performance in the field. One of the breed characteristics is the Roman finish to the nose. This is different than Roman-headed. From the nasal bone to the tip of the nose, there is a downward slope. The Roman finish does not come from the planes of the head, but from the upper nasal cartilage. The planes of the head can be parallel or slightly downward-angled, but never such that they produce a down-faced profile. (This is not just a difference of degrees, but an entirely overdone angle.) In such a long head, a down-faced Borzoi will lead to an undershot bite. Most experienced breeders tread that fine line between beautiful heads with good fill in front of the eyes—with a nearly imperceptible stop—and an overdone, Roman-head- ed, undershot dog. The finish on any head should always have that sloping cartilage and large black nose that make up the Roman finish. Do not confuse a Roman nose with a Roman head. It might have been easier if the term used would have been “aquiline” (look of eagles) instead, where the beak is curved verses the whole head.
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SORTING OUT THREE ELEMENTS OF BREED TYPE
On movement, there is no doubt; Borzoi are bred to move.
MOVEMENT On movement, there is no doubt; Borzoi are bred to move. Efficient, ground-covering movement has always been a virtue. We are not talking about TRAD (Tremendous Reach and Drive), but a smooth and powerful gait. Borzoi had to follow the nobles on horseback, over very long distances, to the hunting grounds. Once there, they still had to have enough energy to do their job. A short stride or pounding movement is inefficient, leading to dogs that break down or have no stamina once on the field. Short hocks and strong, but springy, pasterns provide sound running gear. Borzoi have hare feet, never splayed. These flexible hounds need strong toplines that can extend in both a convex and a concave arch, to accomplish the double suspension gallop; simply stated, a topline rising at the loin in a graceful curve.
It is interesting that seventy percent of the verbiage in the stan- dard relates directly to movement. In the show ring, a trot is as good as you will get to evaluate movement and, if you do see the double suspension gallop, it would be because the Borzoi escaped its owner's grasp and headed across the fairgrounds to chase some small game that caught its eye. Years ago, in the ring next to the Borzoi judging, Anne Rogers Clark started yelling and was seen scooping up her Toy Poodle with both arms. Looking across the ring, we were shocked to see a Borzoi that had caught sight of the Poodle entry and decided the hunt was on. Back in the Borzoi ring, a well-known handler was obliviously looking in the opposite direction, with an empty lead blowing in the wind. Mrs. Clark was not amused, but we were all surprised to see that you can do a double suspension gallop in the Toy ring.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR For over 35 years, Jon Titus Steele and his wife, Jenni, have bred Borzoi under the Auroral prefix. Auroral Borzoi have been awarded BIS show, Top-Ten, MBISS, Group, Specialty, and Westminster winners. In 2007, Borzoi bred and owned by Auroral have retired the Carol Ann Stell Challenge Trophy, Insight Trophy, Dr. Charles Connelly Trophy, Stepplands Trophy and the Rogbori Trophy. Jon was nominated for ”Owner Handler of the Year” for Dogs in Review magazine, and both Jon & Jenni have been awarded both the Service and Breeder awards from the Midwest Borzoi Club (MBC). The current generation of Borzoi are now fifth generation of Best in Specialty winners. For well over a decade, Jon has been the Borzoi Columnist for the AKC Gazette. He has also served as Board Member and President of the Midwest Borzoi Club, Regional Govenor and AKC Delagate for the Borzoi Club of America (BCOA). Jon is also a founding member of the Michigan Hound Association. Jon is approved to judge the Hound Group, half of the Toy Group, Juniors, and Best in Show. Some of the highlights of his judging career are the Borzoi Club of America National, the Otterhound Club of America National, the Afghan Hound Club of America Top-20, and the Basenji Club of America Top-20. Jon’s judging assignments have taken him to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Great Britain, and Sweden.
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1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. In popularity, these elegant friends currently rank #103 out of all 192 AKC-recognized breeds. 3. We think everyone on earth should be a fan, but does the average person in the street recognize him? Is this good or bad when it comes to placing puppies? 4. Few of these dogs really “work” anymore. How has he adapted to civilian life? What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? 5. A big strong Sighthound requires a special household to be a perfect fit. What about the breed makes him an ideal compan- ion? Drawbacks? 6. What special challenges do breeders face in our current eco- nomic and social climate? 7. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthi- ness (or lack thereof)? 8. We find his aloof demeanor enchanting, but wonderful if this can make him difficult to train. Is this your experience? Does that make it more interesting, or exasperating? (Or both.) 9. What is the most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging? 10. What is your ultimate goal for the breed? 11. What is your favorite dog show memory? 12. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. ELLENHALL My parents met at a dog show. I was born on the way home from a dog show. I come from a large family (nine children). My first babysitter was a Great Dane. My parents had Boxers and Great Danes, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, Old English Sheep- dogs and Giant Schnauzers. My parents gave all the children, when they were old enough, their first dog, their choice of breed. I was about 15/16 years old when I saw Borzoi at a show (I believe it was Irv Bonois ) and was astounded by their movement. Didn’t get my first Borzoi for another seven years but he was worth the wait. I breed on a limited basis but have had some great successes. Have worked with my Borzoi in feature films with celebrities (Mel Gib- son, Robert Downey, Jr., Jared Leto, just to name a few) I live in Southern California, born and raised in a dog show family. I had a corporate career in Mfg Quality Control, retired in 1989, opened a grooming salon and then took over family boarding kennel in 2005. I’m currently semi-retired. Does anyone in dogs really retire? My average response “on the street” is, “How beautiful! Is that a Greyhound?” In today’s environment with Meet the Breeds and dog shows more widely publicized, I see a more informed person when looking for a new addition to their family. I participate in an annual three day event (America’s Family Pet Expo) which draws approximately 15,000 spectators daily. I am impressed to hear per- tinent questions as to the fit a Borzoi would make for them person- ally. I am fortunate to have most of my puppies spoken for before they are born. My experience over the last 45 years with Borzoi adaptabil- ity has been incredible. Inside, I find they want to be where you are and have a relatively calm demeanor. They get to use their inherent skills outside keeping uninvited guests (cats, small wildlife and coyotes) off their property.
They are the ideal companion, they are always there, easy to travel with and for their size rather unassuming in a social situation. Drawbacks are they require socialization, to stay in good shape, we need exercise and proper nutrition. And, obviously, their size. When interviewing a prospective new puppy owner, you want to ensure they are prepared to take on a 10 to 15 year commitment. As cost of living increases and smaller living spaces become more com- mon, educating a new owner to the cost, time and responsibilities required to have the pet/show dog you saw that interested you to begin with, that is paramount. I am observing my puppies the moment they drop. It is amazing what you can see from the beginning. At approximately eight weeks I begin to see trait consistencies (good and not so good) that guide me to my next up and coming show prospect. Does the breed’s aloof demeanor make training more interest- ing or exasperating? Definitely both. Over the years my experience has led me to at least leash train puppies before they go to their new homes. This gives the new owner the beginning most new puppy owners want, which to show off their new addition to their family. The most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging? Borzoi is a slow maturing breed. Have patience. Yes, we can show young dogs and finish them quickly sometimes. However there is still a dog in progress. Borzoi can complete growth and maturity as late as three to four years. Have patience. My ultimate goal for the breed is to keep and preserve the Borzoi uniqueness that I have enjoyed all these years and hope to share with others the same. My favorite dog show memory? I can’t point to one specific memory but I can tell you my dogs and their participation with me at dog shows, never ending excitement. PRUDENCE HLATKY I brought my first Borzoi in 1971, paying $100 and trading an Indian sitar for her. She finished within the year. When I was first starting out, I was fortunate to have some stellar mentors. Thanks to their guidance I’ve gone with a very small, limited breeding pro- gram that has produced multiple champions, several all champion litters, #1 Borzoi, BIS/BISS winners and multiple top producers and ROMC Borzoi. In the beginning of lure coursing (1970s) I also had several BIF winners. I live south of HHH—“Hot, Humid Houston”, Texas. What do I do outside of dogs? Who has time to do stuff outside of dogs? Professionally I work for Phillips 66, an energy distribution com- pany. In my little free time I try to keep my birds, butterfly and bees garden blooming. We’re surrounded by commercial rice fields and our garden is a very popular stopping place for flying friends. Does the average person in the street recognize the breed? While one of the sweetest breeds around I would be very happy if Borzoi never became one of the top most popular breeds The sighthound temperament is not for everyone and too often the average person is looking for the wrong breed in a Borzoi. How has the breed adapted to civilian life? I don’t feel there’s very many ‘field’ qualities that come in handy while around the house. Field qualities call for a hunting gamey dog. We do our best to suppress this gaminess in modern society. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion and are there drawsback? Did I mention hair, hair and more hair? As the old song goes, “Hair, Hair, Everywhere”. Definitely a drawback.
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Borzoi Q& A
“THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL, SWEET AND INTELLIGENT, REGAL ONE MOMENT AND CLOWNS THE NEXT.”
Prudence Hlatky continued Once they become mature, Borzoi become the ideal housedog. Hogging the bed and couch. They love nothing better than to be around and snuggle with their people. What special challenges do breeders face in our current econom- ic and social climate? Unfortunately, the AR movement is nega- tively affecting and limiting our ability to do things that we use to be able freely to do. These days, especially when traveling or out in public, we have to protect our dogs from AR people We are current- ly finding many hotels that use to accept dogs no longer welcoming. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? By, the time they are up on their feet and trotting around I’ve usu- ally have picked out my leading contenders. Then it becomes a wait- ing game. Will their bites be okay? Will the males have their equip- ment? Will they pass their health tests? Normally with health-tested parents this shouldn’t be an issue. I had a bite problem reappear after six generations, changing a beautiful youngster from show/ breeding prospect to a companion. Does the breed’s aloof demeanor make training more interest- ing, or exasperating? Borzoi are highly intelligent, but not the easi- est to train. But they will be very successful in training you in no time at all. You obey them, not the other way around and if you err you will hear about it immediately. What is the most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging? Look for functional and not foo- foo. A Borzoi is a coursing hunting dog. It has adapted well to mod- ern society, but at heart it still has very strong instincts. My ultimate goal for the breed? Having Borzoi that are sound of mind and body. We are fortunate to have a breed that is over- all very healthy. Keeping on top of health testing and supporting health research is important to maintaining the health of the breed. Temperament is highly important. We have worked diligently to keep sound temperaments in the Borzoi breed. They are too big, powerful and quick to be a dog you cannot trust. Conformation-wise, as I’ve stated above, it’s important that Borzoi stay as a functional dog. Unfortunately, today many sight- hounds are slowly slipping away from function. My favorite dog show memory? Winning the National spe- cialty with my veteran bitch MBIS, MBISS Ch. Soyara’s Chantilly Lace JC ROM-C. At the National she was Best in Sweepstakes as a youngster, WB/BW/AOM as a two-year-old and finally coming out of retirement at eight years old she was Best of Breed. Borzoi have graced my life for almost 50 years. They are beauti- ful, sweet and intelligent, regal one moment and clowns the next. You couldn’t ask for a better dog to live with. They’ll even let you share your bed or couch. I can’t see ever being without one. LEIGH& VICKI LITTLETON I’m originally from Northwestern Ohio. I spent many years at the Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research at The Uni- versity of Chicago, providing computer support. Then I spent even more years at Centra Health in Lynchburg, Virginia, providing computer systems design, programming support, and IT contract negotiation for the Centra Hospitals. I’ve been active in breeding and showing Borzoi, and in ASFA and AKC lure coursing, since the mid 1970s. Organizationally, I’ve been President of the American Sighthound Field Association and of the Midwest Borzoi Club, on the Board of the Borzoi Club of America, and active in the Potomac
Valley Borzoi Club. I have just recently retired, and my wife Vickie and I live in Southwest Virginia with our 14 Borzoi. My wife Vickie and I live in a beautiful location outside Fin- castle, in Southwestern Virginia between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains. What do I do “outside” of dogs? Until my recent retirement, computer system design, implementation, and contract review. On the side, reading, listening to music and attending concerts. Does the average person in the street recognize the breed? The average person does not recognize a Borzoi, but if I explain that it’s also known as a Russian Wolfhound, and is related to Greyhounds, they typically grasp the type of dog. I don’t think it’s an issue in placing puppies—pet homes are not typically looking for a Borzoi- sized dog and show homes know what the breed is. How has the breed adapted to civilian life? Actually, our Borzoi mostly do “work”: at lure coursing and racing, and some of them at open field coursing. I had the #1 Lure Coursing Borzois in 1988, 1991, and 2002. Qualities that are helpful at home would include being sturdy—not inclined to be easily injured, and also concentra- tion: keeping attention on something once it’s been pointed out. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? I can- not see that any sort of special household is needed—except that one either needs a big fenced yard or a commitment to walk the dog extensively. I think everything about the breed make them ideal companions—they are calm, intelligent, loyal, smart and they love to have fun. What special challenges do breeders face in our current econom- ic and social climate? The response to that could fill the magazine. Our current climate has anti-pet organizations promulgating the idea that it’s immoral to get a pet unless it’s a rescue. And the most popular “breeds” these days seem to not be breeds at all, but crosses: things like SpitzaPoo, or Schmorkie. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I’d say four months for first choices and six months to be definite. Does the breed’s aloof demeanor make training more interest- ing, or exasperating? I do not find that a typical Borzoi has an “aloof demeanor”. Some of our Borzoi may be aloof with strangers, but not with people they know—so that does not make even them difficult to train. Others of our Borzoi are careful but friendly with strang- ers, and still others are quite outgoing with everyone. And some are completely happy, and rejoice at whatever happens of interest. The most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging? This is a difficult question—the answer could go on for pages. What I look for particularly in Borzoi includes, as indicated in the Standard, sound running gear, strong neck and jaws, courage and agility, combined with proper condition. And I look especially for a properly refined and elegant head and a power- ful trot, with tail carriage not too low nor too high. My ultimate goal for the breed? In our current difficult world for purebred dogs, just to stay alive as a viable breed. To have enough of a gene pool to stay healthy and breed healthy pups, etc. And - to keep the breed health and mental health excellent, and preserve speed and athletic ability. It’s essential that we bring in a new gen- eration of Borzoi breeders, as much in love as we are with their rich history, purpose, and abilities. My favorite dog show memory? Judging PVBC Sweepstakes and awarding the trophy to an excellent puppy. I’d also like to share about the breed that they are marvelous friends. They have elegance, beauty and athletic ability. I can’t imagine why anyone would find them difficult.
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Reflections on Borzoi Type BY PRUDENCE G. HLATKY W e breeders, judges and exhibitors are entrusted with preserving Borzoi, a breed that was created centuries ago. To do this we need to know and understand the history and function of Borzoi. This article is not going to discuss and debate individual aspects of a Borzoi’s conformation, but rather look at some historic pre- revolutionary hunting Borzoi and modern day Open Field Cours- ing (OFC) Borzoi. Modern day OFC Borzoi were selected as very few judges and breeders get to see modern Borzoi doing work as it was originally intended. Anne Rogers Clark once said to beware of a drag in breed type, a drift in breed type. A past Borzoi Club of America Member Educa- tion presentation was about “Changing the Breed through Stealth”. Three highly respected breeder judges, Nadine Johnson—Rising Star Borzoi, Pat Murphy—Oaklara Borzoi, and Helen Lee—Sav- ladai Borzoi presented. Both Annie and our respected mentors were For additional Borzoi information and mentors: Borzoi Club of America Publications AKC Gazette Columns https://www.borzoiclubofamerica.org/aboutborzoi/borzoi-articles.php Judges Mentor list https://www.borzoiclubofamerica.org/pdfs/mentorlist.pdf Thank you to Yvonne McGehee and Karen Ackerman for providing the photos of modern Open Field Coursing (OFC) Borzoi and Yvonne for the Kazakhstan hunting photos.
highlighting the importance of staying true to breed type and not drifting into flavor of the month. It’s back to the old form versus function debate. Looking at Bor- zoi in a ring or in your backyard, can that Borzoi, do the function for which it was created? Borzoi are one of the fastest, most agile, strongest and graceful dogs ever created. Are you looking at one? The AKC Borzoi Standard states: “The Borzoi was originally bred for the coursing of wild game on more or less open terrain, relying on sight rather than scent. To accomplish this purpose, the Borzoi needed particular structural qualities to chase and hold his quarry. Special emphasis was placed on sound running gear, strong neck and jaws, courage and agility, combined with proper condi- tion. The Borzoi should always possess unmistakable elegance with flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose. Males, masculine with- out coarseness; bitches feminine and refined.” Does the Borzoi in front of you fit this description?
left: Gold Medal Hunting Team (Wolf) Korotai, Zarladi and Kassatka. Korotai was rated as a Gold Medal dog. Very few golds were awarded. This is a typical hunting team of two dogs and one bitch.
below: Bringing the Gatchina Borzoi to the Meet
From the original Borzoi book, Observations of Borzoi by Joseph B. Thomas pub. 1912 above left: Ancient type dog; above right: Ancient type bitch
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Reflections on Borzoi Type
BY PRUDENCE G. HLATKY continued
Historic paintings and a limited number of historic photos and videos show Borzoi alongside horses participating in various stages of hunts. One description of a hunt describes the Borzoi traveling for twelve verst to the hunt site. A verst is .67 miles. Although there are some paintings showing Borzoi traveling in sleds, most Borzoi most likely trotted for the majority of those eight miles. Then after a short rest the Borzoi did their real work of galloping after and taking down the game, with the courses running from an estimated ¼ mile to multiple miles. Upon completion of the hunt the Borzoi then reversed course and returned to their kennel. Remember, the game was not wait- ing at the kennel gate, saying “Chase me”. A Borzoi was expected to be physically able to get to the game, catch it, bring it back to the hunter then return to the kennel, an expenditure of many miles in a day. The Borzoi Club of America list the game of Borzoi as wolf, fox and hare (in that order). But history shows the majority of the hunting was for hare. These three different types of game created a very versatile dog, nimble and agile enough to capture a hare but strong enough to bring down and hold a wolf. There were very few solo wolf killers. Borzoi were expected to work in teams of threes, with multiple teams being released at a time. The teamwork between ken- nel mates during a course is beautiful and fascinating to watch. Most often one will be behind the game, pushing it, while the other two flank it, with each trying to turn it into one of the others. TO THE HUNTER THEN RETURN TO THE KENNEL, AN EXPENDITURE OF MANY MILES IN A DAY.” “A BORZOI WAS EXPECTED TO BE PHYSICALLY ABLE TO GET TO THE GAME, CATCH IT, BRING IT BACK
A young Borzoi bitch, Valeska My Oh My, OFC displaying a working trot; long stride, low to ground and light on her feet. Winner of the 2019 Borzoi Fall Classic (OFC Major Event)
284 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , D ECEMBER 2019
Reflections on Borzoi Type
BY PRUDENCE G. HLATKY continued
One-year old bitch Valeska I Lightly Sparkle. Matured to win 2014 & 2016 NACA Borzoi Fall Classic (OFC) - Classic type, nothing overdone
CH. Ah-Gwah-Ching Snow Falcon. One of the top open field coursing athletes ever. Borzoi Spring Cup Winner -1990. Multi group placer.
Before the advent of the Czarist hunts, with the wildly extravagant 100s of dogs participating, the Borzoi were originally expected to be multi-functional hound, working alongside huntsmen. It could be said for most, that life was difficult and Borzoi were expected to assist you. They fed you, clothed you and protect- ed you. If you grew crops, you or the hare could eat them. Borzoi helped keep their numbers under control, besides giving you meat of the hare kill to eat and they pro- vided you with fur pelts for clothing. If you were raising ducks, chickens, sheep, goats or other food sources that were subject to prey by foxes, lynx or coyotes in America, once again the Borzoi kept the predators under control and again provided you with fur. If wolves were eating your cattle, horses
and, yes, even your serfs, the Borzoi were once again expected to hunt them and kept the populations under control. Remember, Borzoi were around a long time before the advent of firearms. Today, live game coursing is prohibited in most parts of the world, but included are some photos of live game coursing from Kazakhstan. This coursing was not for sport, but to feed the family of the hunt- ers. As the pictures show these Borzoi were more than capable of doing what they were bred to do. They are putting food on the table. Borzoi, both in historic Russia and con- temporary times are subject to ancestral and regional style variations. Please remember the purpose of Borzoi when breeding or
judging and not get lost in regional type or flavor-of-the-month type. Select the best combination of elegance, balance and power. Faults negatively affect- ing movement and ability to perform the Borzoi’s function are vastly more impor- tant than faults of bite, expression or color preference. Please select the Borzoi with the most virtues, not the Borzoi with the least faults. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Prudence Hlatky has been breeding and exhibiting Borzoi since 1971. Breeding, owning and handling many champions, BIS, BISS, #1 Borzoi, Top Producers, ROM and BIF winners. She is also an AKC judge, BCOA Delegate and Chair BCOA Member Ed.
“PLEASE REMEMBER THE PURPOSE OF BORZOI WHEN BREEDING OR JUDGING AND NOT GET LOST IN REGIONAL TYPE OR FLAVOR-OF-THE-MONTH TYPE.”
Form and Function
286 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , D ECEMBER 2019
A Brief History of Borzoi: reasons behind the diversity of types By Kristina Terra BREED FEATURE
T he Borzoi, a true aristocrat of the dog world, is a breed that holds enigmatic appeal for its fans and ba ffl es many judges with its variety of types. Th is Russian aristocrat survived against many odds as the breed’s history paral- leled the turmoils in its native land. By tracing the Borzoi’s ancestry, we can better understand its diversity and the importance placed on the functionality. Many breeds of sighthounds were used to develop the Borzoi. Th roughout the breed’s his- tory in the old Russia the main emphasis had always been placed on breeding a functional coursing hound, suited for hunting hare, fox, and wolf on more or less open terrain. As the hunting practices and conditions changed, so did the Borzoi in its finer and cosmetic points. However, the breed had always been prized for its sound running gear and unique ability for the brosok, Russian for “burst of speed”. Imag- ine a dog running at what you think is its ab- solute full speed while pursuing the game. As it gets closer, it seems that the dog shifts gears and, all of the sudden, there is an unexpected acceleration. Th at is the brosok, one of the most important selection criteria for the Borzoi in its native land. Th e original Borzoi, or psovaya, as it has been called in Russia for centuries (literally, long-haired sighthound), was the result of cross- breeding the Saluki-type dogs and native Nordic wolf-like dogs (or laikas). Th e sighthounds were brought to Russia by the Mongols that invaded the country in the 13th century. Th e laikas had long legs, slightly arched backs, narrow erect ears, and tails that were straight and carried down. Th ose laikas served their masters in Rus- sia as versatile hunters that used both sight and scent and coursed their game. When bred to the sighthounds of the Golden Horde, the resulting crosses were e ff ective hunting dogs marked by elegance, possessing erect or semi-pricked ears (which over generations turned into rose ears), thick coats, frills around their necks, and feath- ering on the backs of legs, body, and tail. Th e typical colors were grey or gold sables, most of
the dogs were self-colored, though spotted dogs are mentioned as well in the old sources. Th e original Borzoi had a definite curve to their topline, compact format, narrow but deep chest, shorter neck, and hindquarters set under the dog when standing naturally. Th e breed was so exotic looking, yet so e ff ective in the com- bined hunts practiced in Russia, that it soon be- came a sort of a national treasure. Great speeds on short distances were required of the sight- hounds in order to hunt in the small cleared fields and forest meadows of Russia, so brossok was selected for in the early Borzoi. Th e Greyhound was brought to Russia in some numbers during the reign of Vasili III (1505-1533), and played a role in the Borzoi’s development early on. Also, it is well recorded that the Greyhound was added to the Borzoi stock again in the late 19th century. Th e brindle color in the Borzoi is undoubtedly the legacy of the Greyhound. Th e Chart Polski, a Polish sighthound breed that exists to this day, had also been introduced to the early Borzoi gene pool. False Dmitry, the first imposter to the Russian throne during the Times of Trouble in the early 1600-s, was an avid hunter. He surrounded himself with Pol- ish nobles, who brought their sighthounds to the court. Th e Borzoi (or, to use the Russian term ps- ovaya) had several known varieties and stages of development. Th e original or ancient psovaya was the result of crossbreeding the sighthounds of the Mongols and local laikas. Th e chisto- psovaya, according to most sources, emerged after the original psovayas were bred to the Greyhounds and Chart Polskis. Th e chisto-ps- ovaya were known for their lighter build, very deep briskets with a decent spring of rib, longer necks, elegant smaller heads with large eyes and joyful expressions, plush coats, and shorter but straight tails. Th e chisto-psovayas were enthusi- astic hunters that trotted in search of prey. Th ey were best suited for short-distance pursuits and had a superb ability for the brosok. After the great Northern wars, gaining ac- cess to the Baltic Sea, and following the found-
Kristina Terra and her mother Irina
ing of St. Petersburg in 1703, Russia had devel- oped closer ties to the Baltic region. Peter II, the grandson of the famous Peter the Great, was an avid hunter. At the time, the chisto-psovayas were crossbred to the Courland wirehaired sighthounds or, kloks. Th e kloks were bred by the German nobles residing in Courland, a Baltic region of the present-day western Latvia. Th e kloks were massive, tall, shorter on leg, and had curly soft coats all over their bodies, heads, and legs. Th eir tails were sickle-shaped. Rus- sian hunters of the time were very impressed by the size, width, strength, and fierceness of these impressive hounds, although their speed was inferior to that of the Borzoi. Th e result of the systematic crosses was a new breed that emerged in the 1750-s named “Courland Long-Coated Sighthound”. Th ese new dogs had short coat on the head, fronts of legs, and tail, but profuse and very curly coat on the body. Th e Courland Long-Coated Sighthounds were somewhat awk- ward, shorter on the leg, and generally inferior to Borzoi in the overall appearance and speed. So, it was only natural for the Russian breed- ers to continue crossbreeding them with their psovayas (Borzoi). Eventually, that led to a complete disappearance of the Courland sight- hounds and the emerging of the gusto-psovaya. Th e gusto-psovaya, which literally means “thick-haired sighthound”, represents the next stage of the Borzoi’s development. Th e gusto- psovayas were considered a rare, and highly val- ued breed in the early 1800-s. Th ey were tall and
Nagradka, owned by G. S. Chertkov, 1879
The Sighthounds of the Golden Horde come to Russia
Laika, Poimanka owned by the Grand Duke, 1879
wide dogs with thick, curly, and long coats furnished by profuse, wavy, or curly feath- ering. Th e gusto- psovayas had very high-set small ears and beautiful chis- eled narrow heads with excellent vein- ing. Th e rise to their topline began closer to the shoulders in males, whereas the
hounds with the gusto-psovayas. By the 1860-s all Borzoi in Russia had Mountain or Crimean sighthounds in their pedigrees. Th e gusto-ps- ovaya type was lost in its pure form. Th e Borzoi gained more stamina but, unfortunately, many exhibited looser ear sets and ring tails. Another Russian sighthound breed, which had already been in existence then and exists to this day is the Hortaya Sigthhound, or, simply put, the shorthaired Borzoi. Th e Hortaya was the result of crossbreeding the chisto-psovaya back to Chart Polski and the Greyhound again. With the abolition of serfdom in 1861, most landowners in Russia could no longer a ff ord to keep large kennels, some of which housed up to 400 dogs. Th e number of old kennels was stag- gering, as most self-respecting landowners in Russia hunted with sighthounds. Th ere were many distinct lines of Borzoi. After 1861, the breeders could no longer keep di ff erent lines and varieties of sighthounds. Th e result proved rather disastrous for the breeds. Basically, all varieties and/or breeds of sighthounds (Chisto- psovayas, Gusto-psovayas, Mountain, Crimean, and sometimes even hortayas sighthounds) were consolidated and crossbred rather carelessly. Many excellent lines of Borzoi were lost all to- gether. At the first Imperial Hunting Society dog show in 1874, not a single gusto-psovaya, which then was considered the purebred Borzoi of the old type, was present. Th e members of the Im- perial Society agreed that no more drop-eared sighthounds should be mixed with their beloved native breed. Th e fanciers concentrated their ef- forts on making the breed a more uniform and started bringing back the breed’s lost features while holding on to some positive traits ac- quired from the Mountain and Crimean sight- hounds. Th ey put the beginning of the modern psovaya, or as we call it, the Borzoi. By 1888, the first standard for the modern Borzoi was written by Nikolai Petrovich Ermolov, an un- disputed authority on the breed, whose family bred Borzoi for over 200 years. Th e members of the Imperial Society accepted the standard and used it as a guide to bring the breed to a more uniform state. Th e Perchino kennel of the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, the Tsar’s uncle, was in- strumental in the process. Th ey had bred many truly remarkable Borzois in the early 20th century. Th e Grand Duke was able to achieve results because of the enormous resources that were used in his breeding operation. Th e ken- nel manager, Dmitry Valtsev would later write a book Th e Perchino Hunt that has been trans- lated into English and should be required read- ing for all Borzoi enthusiasts. Th e Grand Duke
was able to acquire the best breeding stock of functional Borzoi from the most distinguished Borzoi breeders. He then selected for the cos- metic features that were typical of the original Borzoi before the addition of the Mountain and Crimean Sighthounds, but at the same time kept the positive influence of those breeds. Mr. Valtsev led a very sophisticated breeding pro- gram, at the center of which, he placed the dog’s hunting abilities and breed type. So, in addition to breeding structurally sound animals that had the ability for the brosok (an original Borzoi feature) as well as the bonus ability for long- distance pursuits (inherited from the Mountain Sighthounds), in attempt to bring back the orig- inal Borzoi, the Perchino dogs were also selected for such beautiful cosmetic features as overall el- egance, nice heads with veining, dark eyes, high ear sets, hare feet, good straight tails and proper silky coat texture with profuse feathering. Th e process of bringing the breed back to a uniform state had not been completed by the time the Russian Empire was nearing the begin- ning of its end, first marked by the 1905 revolu- tion, then its involvement in WWI and, finally, the 1917 Bolshevik revolution that devastated the country and nearly destroyed the Borzoi breed in its native land. Approximately 150 Borzoi exported from Russia are behind all the current dogs. Th e variety of type exists to this day and one can see the di ff erent cosmetic fea- tures of the Borzoi’s ancestors in the dogs of to- day. However, presently, few hunt with Borzoi, and it takes a truly experienced and dedicated breeder to understand and ensure the continu- ation of the functional sighthound, which was an absolute priority for all breeders of the old times. Kristina Terra is a professional simultane- ous interpreter and translator. She has been involved in dogs since early childhood. Dogs and history are Kristina’s main hobbies. Kris- tina and her mother Irina Terra are originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, where Irina was a second-generation dog show person herself. Th e Terras have moved to the United States more than 20 years ago and have bred Borzois under the Zabava prefix most of that time. Zabava Borzoi is located on Camano Is- land, on the shores of Puget Sound in the beau- tiful state of Washington. Bibliography: D.P. Valtsev “ Th e Perchino Hunt”, 1913 L.P. Sabaneev, “Hunting and Nature” magazine, 1895-1897 L.P. Sabaneev, “ Th e Hunting Almanach” 1899 P.M. Gubin “ Th e Complete Guide to Hunting with Borzoi”, 1891 P.M. Machevarianov “Notes of a Hunter and Borzoi Enthusiast from the Simbirsk Region”, 1876
Vasili III hunting with Borzoi in the early 1400s, from the Chronicles of 1570
bitches had flatter backs, though their toplines never sagged. Th e typical colors were grey and gold sables, and all shades of gold, and they came in self-colored and spotted varieties. Th e gusto-psovayas had a supreme ability to acceler- ate on short-distance pursuits. By the 1830-s, due to the deforestation of Russia, hunting practices were slowly chang- ing. Th e Russian breeders were beginning to be dissatisfied with the gusto-psovaya’s inability to pursue game on long distances. So, the drop- eared sighthound breeds, which were brought into the country after the Russo-Turkish War of the late 1700s, were to play a central role in the further development of the Borzoi. Th e Mountain sighthounds, or gorskayas, were the ultimate answer to the gusto-psovaya’s short- comings. Th e Mountain sighthounds were both fast and had great stamina. Th ey were beautiful, elegant, graceful, and well-proportioned dogs. Th ey had a slight rise to their topline and were longer in the body. Th ey had gorgeous chiseled heads with a marked seam, prominent eyebrows, and occiput. Th eir beautiful eyes were coal- black. Th e ribs had both good spring and depth of brisket. Th e Mountain Sighthounds were known for their good tuck-ups, sickle-shaped or ringed tails, and short coats with feathering on ears, tail and rear legs. Th e Mountain Sight- hounds are thought to be the ones that brought the black and tan pattern into the Borzoi. Another breed that was brought to Russia around the same time was the Crimean Sight- hounds (krymka). Th ey were much like the Mountain Sighthounds, except coarser. Th e Crimean Sighthounds had amazing stamina and good speed on long distances. However, they lacked the elegance of the Mountain sight- hounds. Th ey had smaller heads, level or sag- ging toplines, ring tails, great spring of rib, but shallower brisket. So, when the drop-eared sighthounds ar- rived in Russia, a sort of frenzy began among the breeders, who started crossbreeding Moun- tain Sighthounds, as well as Crimean sight-
The Mountain Sighthound
The Crimean Sighthound
ModernPsovaya(Borzoi),Nagrazhdai owned by V.N. Chebyshev, the only Gold Medal recipient at the Imperial Hunting Society Shows.
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