Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated April 3, 2009)
It may be surprising to some to learn that the exotic beauty of a Borzoi with its aristocratic look is actually a hound. In its native land the breed's purpose was to hunt wolves, hence its common name—Russian Wolfhound.
The exact origin of the breed is unknown, although it has been recorded in Russia for more than three centuries. It was first listed in England in 1875 and later America. Many believe that the Borzoi may be a descendant of the earliest dogs known to modern man, the Greyhound type pictured in early Persian and Egyptian art. Where the rough coat came from is open to argument. There are those who believe it may have evolved through centuries of adaptation to the rigors of the Russian winter; while others think it may be the result of cross-breeding with a wolf. With either theory, many centuries must have elapsed between the time man and his dog left the Middle East until he described his dog in written language in a country far to the north.
Men always have guarded jealously the secrets of their hunting dogs. This, along with great distances, slow means of travel, and quarantine laws, undoubtedly tended to prevent earlier distribution of the breed throughout Europe and this country. Probably the first dogs to be exported from Russia were gifts to very important people.
In the eastern part of the United States the breed is known principally as a show dog and pet. In the West ranchers and sheep men have used it successfully to hunt coyotes. (The breed has been advocated by the Department of Agriculture for that purpose in the past.) Borzois have been trained successfully for both theatre and movie appearances. Their lithe grace has blended well with the showing of glamorous gowns by fashion mannequins.
Around the middle of the 1900s it was found that the term "Russian Wolfhound" was a misnomer. It was thought that the exact Russian word for the breed "Borzoi" would be a more appropriate description so the name was changed formally to "Borzoi".
The general appearance of the Borzoi is one of elegance; a graceful aristocrat among the dogs. They possess courage and combine muscular power with extreme speed. They can be any color but usually white is the predominating color. The coat is long, silky not wooly it can be flat, wavy or even curly. The male dog's average height at shoulder is from twenty-eight to thirty-one inches with an average weight from 75 to 105 pounds. The female's dog's height is between twenty-six to twenty-nine inches with the weight somewhere between sixty to 85 pounds.
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