Borzoi Breed Magazine - Showsight

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

The Chisto-psovaya

ǬDzǮt4øÿć4ù÷øĄ.ñ÷ñĊùþõ 4õĀĄõýòõĂǬǪǫǫ

Powered by