The Borzoi is a rare and unusual-looking breed. You don't come across them very often, but their affectionate, even-tempered nature will certainly capture your attention if their appearance doesn't.
Origin and History
The Borzoi can be traced back as far as 1650 when the breed standard was recorded in Russia. They were bred for hundreds of years and, in the past, were referred to as the Russian Wolfhound. They are thought to be a cross between the two ancient breeds, the Russian bearhound and the Oswtchar.
The first member of the breed to be imported to the United States was named Elsie, a female who was purchased in England by a Pennsylvania man named William Wade. In the 1890s, C. Steadman Hanks visited Russia and imported Borzoi dogs to establish his own kennel.
In 1891, the first Borzoi dog was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 1903, Joseph B. Thomas made several trips to Russia to purchase more dogs. Shortly thereafter, the Russian Wolfhound Club of America was established.
This gentle giant will gladly hop on your lap for a movie-filled afternoon, but don't get their temperament confused. They are equally happy doing a quick sprint in the backyard.
The Borzoi has a narrow, slightly domed head with a long muzzle. Their nose is black. They have dark eyes that are somewhat slanted, and small ears that lay on the head. The backline is arched slightly upward with a deep but narrow chest. Their appearance is striking and slightly resembles that of a Greyhound.
Borzoi have a long, silky coat that can be any assortment of colors. The coat may be wavy, curly, or flat. Regardless of type, short hair covers the head, ears, and the front of their legs with thick feathering on their tail.
Males are at least 28 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 75 to 105 pounds. Females are about 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 85 pounds.
The Borzoi's temperament varies based on each individual dog's personality, but overall they are known for their affectionate, gentle demeanor. Keep in mind, they are sighthounds and were bred to hunt, so unless they were raised with cats and other small animals, they tend to chase. Some dogs of this breed don't mind small animals, like cats, if they are running outside while they're inside. Then, once the Borzoi goes outside, they may try to chase the cats down using their hunting instincts. Others would rather watch cats run past, especially when they have been raised with them.
Borzoi are known to be good with kids, but due to their size, they may knock small children over accidentally. If you have young children, that's something to keep in mind before bringing a Borzoi home. Like other dogs, they don't like to be handled improperly, so ensuring your children know how to handle a dog correctly is important. This breed isn't known to be snippy, but will become less trusting if handled roughly or without consideration.
The Borzoi is easy-going, but not necessarily easy to train. As with any intelligent dog, they are independent thinkers and can have a stubborn streak. Despite their willful personality, they still look to their owners for reassurance.
As far as housetraining, that part is simple. Crate training is recommended for this breed, as they tend to develop an attachment with their crate or den. Plus, it saves items at home from puppy destruction. If you do use a crate, don't forget to add plenty of padding to support their bones and joints.
Borzoi aren't generally a high-energy breed -- though members of the breed tend to be extremely athletic -- and most will exercise themselves if left out in a fenced-in yard. Others don't have a lot of energy and would rather you take them on a walk around the block or at the park. Most Borzoi are completely content with 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Lure coursing has been a recommended sport for this breed, as it allows sighthounds to compete as if they were chasing and hunting. The course is usually about 500 yards long, consisting of a zigzag path with a lure. Some members of the breed also enjoy agility, rally, and obedience competitions.
Borzoi dogs are typically healthy, but they are susceptible to some health issues:
- Gastric torsion: A condition also known as bloat that affects deep-chested dogs and can be fatal if not treated quickly.
- Progressive retinal atrophy: A degenerative eye disease that often leads to blindness.
- Osteochondrosis dissecans: A joint condition caused by a lack of blood flow.
- Sensitivity to anesthesia: Due to their low body fat percentage, Borzoi are highly susceptible to adverse reactions from medications, especially anesthesia.
Borzoi typically live an average of 9 to 12 years, though some members of the breed can reach 14 years of age or more.
Brush your Borzoi weekly with a pin brush, carefully checking behind the ears and hind legs for any mats. Don't use a wire slicker brush as it can destroy their beautiful coat. During shedding season, brush more frequently as needed.
Brush their teeth two or three times per week to avoid periodontal disease. Daily brushing is recommended if your dog will allow it. Trim your dog's nails as needed.
Fun Facts About the Breed
The Borzoi is a rare breed only seen on occasion, but if you get the chance to visit, remember the following facts:
- They were once royal in Russia.
- Borzoi means "swift" in Russian.
- The breed was developed for hunting purposes.
- They once hunted wolves for their owners. The dog would pin the wolf on the ground and wait for their owner.
- Due to this ancient wolf-hunting sport, they almost went extinct.
- It takes approximately three years for their head to stop growing.
Purchasing or Adopting a Borzoi
If you're looking for a Borzoi puppy, a good place to start is the Borzoi Club of America. The club maintains a breeder directory as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $1,500 to $3,000, although higher-end show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $5,000.
Because this breed is so rare, it may be a bit difficult to find a Borzoi at a rescue, but there's no harm in searching. Take a look at PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue. You can also search the following breed-specific rescue organizations:
Is this the Breed for You?
The Borzoi is a large-breed dog, so if you're not prepared to handle a statuesque canine with a stubborn streak, this breed may not be for you. This is also a breed that will leave fur throughout the home, so being prepared for that is a must. On the other hand, if you're searching for a large-breed dog that is devoted to you and enjoys the company of others, you may want to get started on your search.