Russian Wolfhound (Borzoi)





The holiday season is a time of beauty, elegance and extravagance, so what better time than this to introduce the Russian Wolfhound, the dog of the Czars and other nobility.

One look at this dog and your mind wanders to thoughts of luxury cars, jewels and fine living.

In the United States, Hollywood has used this dog whenever it wanted to portray elaborate wealth.

Magazines also exploited the beauty of the Russian Wolfhound in luxurious ads.

The regal beauty of the Russian Wolfhound is well known, but who knows the real dog?

In order to get an idea of what this dog is all about, we will go back in history for a bit and learn what we can about this beauty.

What is a Russian Wolfhound?

Most historians that study the breeds of dogs will, for the most part agree, that the Russian Wolfhound is a cross between a Greyhound and a native Russian dog that was similar to the dog we know today as a Collie.

Sometime during the early 17th century, greyhounds were imported into Russia. The cold Russian winters and the sleek furred dogs did not get along.

As a result they were bred to a native “furry” dog and the end result was, what we see now.

The Russian nobility loved the beauty, grace and size of these dogs, not to mention that they were great hunters. Some say they hunted wolves.

In days gone by, one of the main entertainments for the nobility was “fox and hare” hunting and the Russian Wolfhound was perfect for it.

These dogs were known as Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya, which in English means “hairy swift one.”

Since no one could decide on a proper name or pronounce the Russian name, breeders in the U.S. and England started calling them “Russian Wolfhounds>”

In 1936 it was decided that the proper name should be Borzoi, though today most Americans still call them Russian Wolfhounds.

Going back in history, in 1861 the Emancipation Edit not only freed Russian serfs, but many of the Russian nobility lost their lands and were forced to leave their estates for smaller quarters.

Unfortunately the dogs and kennels were abandoned and many dogs perished.

Of those that survived, many were killed during the Russian revolution, because of their association to the czar and other nobility.

In the early 19th century, Queen Victoria was presented with a Borzoi by a czar and for the next 50 years the English royal family raised the dogs in earnest.

In 1890 the first Borzoi arrived in the United States and the legend here began.

The Borzoi were bred as “coursing dogs” as they are hunters by nature.

What is a coursing dog?

A coursing dog is a “sight hound” that chases things it sees.

Greyhounds, Basenjis, Afghans, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, along with other dogs are considered sight hounds.

Fields are set up as courses with twists and turns, a lure is used to excite the dogs, sometimes it is a live lure such as a rabbit, (it gets away) and away they go.

I am not into the “coursing thing,” but you get the general idea.

In 1970 a Borzoi breeder here in the United States, named Lyle Gillette, organized lure coursing as an official sport for hundreds of sighthounds.

Besides its elegant beauty, why would you want a Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound)?

They make excellent house dogs in spite of their large size.

They are well mannered in the house and seem to know how to behave appropriately.

Their tails are low hung and so they do not knock things off coffee tables.

They are gentle and some are used as therapy dogs.

The Borzoi are very intelligent dogs and at times seem to out-think their owners. They seem to have a natural instinct to know what to do to get what they want.

Health-wise they are relatively healthy with a few exceptions. Heart problems, bone cancer and bloat seem to be the “big three.”

It is important that you get your dog from a breeder that has annual checkups for the breeding stock. Be certain to ask if the parents have had a thyroid check, cardiac and eye exams during the year.

Now what are the negatives to owning a Borzoi?

My biggest complaint would be “hair.”

Russian Wolfhounds shed mound and mounds of hair. Brushing at least 3 or 4 times a week will keep the hair loss down and the vacuum running.

Exercise, they need long, long walks and places to run. You have to remember that these are dogs bred to hunt and run.

They cannot be off leash in areas where there are small animals around. Their hunting instinct gets aroused if they see a small animal moving fast.

Sadly to say your neighbor’s cat would not have a chance if it encountered the Borzoi.

Though the dogs will behave very nicely inside the house, they are wild and wooly outside.

They really like cold weather, but can tolerate warmer climates.

They are not good watchdogs as they seem to bark only at other animals.

Puppies need a great deal of exercise in order to develop physically and mentally.

These are not dogs for the faint of heart, as they are big and very strong.

They are fine around children, as long as the children are gentle and fairly quiet.

Due to the dog’s size, toddlers can get accidentally hurt and unless the dog has been brought up as a puppy with children, I would be cautious where babies are concerned.

Vet bills will tend to be a bit higher as they are big dogs.

They are good candidates for obedience training as they are extremely intelligent, however they have been bred to be “independent thinkers” and they do tend to do that at times.

The Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound) needs activity, it is not a lap dog nor does it tend to want sit sedately in front of the fireplace for any length of time.

If you are active, have a place for a big dog to run, are interested in utility training or lure coursing, this is the dog for you.



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