Is there any dog more luxurious than the borzoi? From the lavish homes of the Russian aristocracy to a spot onstage alongside rock 'n' roll royalty, borzois have been revered and admired for hundreds of years. Learn more about this dignified breed.
1. RUSSIA PERFECTED THE BREED.
While the dog's exact origins are up for debate, we do know that the breed standard was first officially recorded in Russia in 1650. Some believe the dog was crafted by the Russian aristocracy. According to that account, a Russian duke was looking for a fast hunting dog and ordered a collection of Arabian greyhounds. Although they met his speed requirements, the dogs were not suited for the cold weather and perished. He ordered a new batch and crossed them with Russian sheepdogs, which had thick coats to keep them warm during the unforgiving Russian winters. These new dogs were both fast and well equipped to deal with the snow.
Others believe that the borzoi actually has a more complex lineage. Some breeds thought to be ancestors of the borzoi include the southern coursing hounds of the Tatars, the Owtcher, or Russian Sheepdog, and the bearhound, as well as other sighthounds.
2. THE BREED'S MONIKER WAS CHANGED.
, Americans knew the dog as the Russian wolfhound. Their name was later changed to borzoi to match the rest of the international kennels. Borzoi literally means “swift” in Russian.
3. HUNTERS USED THEM TO LOCATE WOLVES.
Borzois might look fancy, but they were bred to hunt. During said hunts, the dogs were kept in large packs of a hundred or more. These large parties would hunt wolves, foxes, and hares. Borzois were expected to find and pin wolves, then wait for the hunter to catch up. Sometimes the wolf would be released so the hunt could continue in the future. This sport was very popular until the emancipation of Russia's serfs in 1861. Without their free labor, nobles could no longer afford their lavish outings. The breed almost died out as a result, but a few devoted fanciers kept the lineage going.
4. THEY’RE HUGE.
Standing at over 32 inches from feet to shoulder, the borzoi is one of the tallest sighthound breeds in existence, second only to the Irish wolfhound. They can weigh about 120 pounds.
5. THEY'RE CALLED SIGHTHOUNDS FOR A REASON.
As the name “sighthound,” suggests, these dogs have an amazingly wide field of vision. They have almond shaped eyes that are frontally placed on the head, giving them a 270-degree field of sight. Compared to the human’s measly 180 degrees, that’s pretty impressive. Borzois also have what's known as a visual streak (a line of vision cells) across their retina. This feature is unique to sighthounds, retrievers, and other hunting dogs. This quality helps the dogs spot their prey from far away, even on wide plains.
6. PUPPY HEADS NEED TIME TO MATURE.
It takes about three years for a borzoi head to mature and reach its final shape. The head starts short, with a bent nose. By five weeks, the nose begins to straighten. Over the next few years, the head grows another 10 inches.
7. THEY'RE GLAMOROUS.
The borzoi is a fairly rare breed today (they are the 93rd most popular dog in the country, according to the America Kennel Club), but they enjoyed a brief stint as a status symbol in the U.S. in the early 1900s. The unusual look of the borzoi fit perfectly with the decade's art deco aesthetic. Silent movies stars like Jean Harlow and Sarah Bernhardt could be seen mingling with the graceful, long-legged dogs. (They even graced the pages of Vogue and other fashion magazines.) But it wasn't just starlets palling around with these pooches: The Titanic's Captain EJ Smith had a borzoi that was given to his daughter by Benjamin Guggenheim. Luckily the dog wasn’t on the ship when it met its end.
8. YOU SHOULD ASK ONE TO JOIN YOUR BAND.
In 1971, Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett took a break from vocals and let a borzoi sing a song. The tune was called “Mademoiselle Nobs” (previously known as “Seamus”). It was named after a dog named Nobs, who belonged to circus director Joseph Bouglione’s daughter, Madonna Bouglione. Nobs whined and yelped along to music with David Gilmour on the harmonica, Roger Waters on the guitar, and Richard Wright on the keys.
9. THEY’RE PRONE TO BLOATING
Borzois are slight dogs, and therefore can’t fit that much food in their stomachs at once. To avoid painful tummy aches or bloating, give your borzoi multiple small meals a day instead of one or two big meals.
10. WATCH OUT FOR ESCAPE ATTEMPTS
Borzois are fast and independent dogs. They were bred to follow their nose, so it’s not unusual for one to run off when they catch a scent. To avoid losing your pup, keep them on a leash at all times, or confined to a fenced-in area.